Friday, July 07, 2006

Orphans

The past two days have been thoroughly amazing, and have summed up the reason I came to Africa in the first place, that is for the children. The past two mornings we went to watch them at their sports week, which to be honest was very boring, but the afternoons have come to life, and have evoked every emotion in me imaginable. Yesterday was my first proper time spent at the orphanage with the kids, and in truth I was quite nervous about the whole thing, not having had much experience working or playing with kids at all. Imagine this: all the volunteers in a big army truck going through the town. We reach the start of the townships, which are basically the poorest areas with the worst conditions. The kids on the street spot the truck and run along side it shouting, “Muzungu”, which means white people. The orphanage is quite a way in to the townships, so by the time we have got there the word has spread, there are dozens of kids running behind the truck, and dozens more going to tell their friends that the Muzungu have come. So at the orphanage there are loads gathered around, waiting for us to get down from the truck, and then about half an hour later when the word has got round, scores more arrive. What an experience! I honestly felt like royalty, and at the same time totally humbled at the fact that a tiny amount of our attention would make them so happy. When we first got there and they were all gathered around the truck, I did feel a bit awkward. I don’t really know how to interact with children, and where I’m confident in social situations with adults, I go in to my shell when I’m with kids, and I did that a bit yesterday when we first got there. It only lasted for about ten minutes though, because with these kids you don’t get the chance to be shy, and within half an hour I was sitting on the ground surrounded by little bodies and cradling a three month old baby in my arms. We spent three hours there, and in that space of time I received a lesson in Nanja, from the ones who could speak good English, became the new best friend of a twelve year old called Yvonne, learned several new games and tried to remember those I played as a child, and got as filthy but as elated as you could ever imagine. At one point I started up a game of ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’, and apparently I had the attention of the biggest group of kids ever at one time, and totally impressed the other volunteers, having just as much fun as the kids did in the process. All the kids took the fact that I can’t see in their stride, and took it upon themselves to guide me everywhere which was lovely, and one said at the end, “I’m very sorry that your eyes don’t work.” I came away feeling happy, sad, dumbfounded, privileged and totally honoured to have the chance to interact with them.

Today I got up looking forward to going, and felt a lot more confident about the whole thing. When I got down from the truck, several rushed forward to hold my hands, and when I called, ‘muli bwanji’, which is how are you, they all chorused in unison, ‘bwino!’. Today I had a little girl who wouldn’t let go of my hand, a little boy who climbed on my knee, wanted the biggest cuddles ever and refused to ever get down, wanting to be carried anywhere that I went, I was tickled, pinched, fort over, and had lots of dirty little hands constantly in my hair. It is no exaggeration when I say that the kids literally fight each other to get close to you, and when your hands and your lap are filled with kids, others walk with their hands on every available inch of you, just trying to get close. If they think one child has been cuddled too much, they forcibly remove him or her from your lap, and sit there themselves. Today I’ve had a child on each knee, one at my back, two either side, all with their little arms around me all at one time. Bare in mind that there can be up to fifteen volunteers there at a time, they all get the same treatment, so you can imagine just how many kids there are, just dying for a cuddle. It breaks my heart, and it makes my year to put my arms around a tiny body, or to feel a tiny hand slide in to mine, or to have a child wrap its arms around my neck and cling on for dear life. If I can do that for just one child every day, and believe me I get to do it for a lot more, then I have a reason to be in Africa. I can’t lie and say that it doesn’t tire me out, because they really just don’t leave you alone once they take a liking to you, and by the end I’m usually knackered and dying for a shower, but I love every second of it. They love playing games, and there is one in particular called knock knock, where we all make a circle and join hands, and you tap the persons hand next to you, going around the circle while singing, ‘Tuesday policeman wants to get a letter from you’. The persons hand that is tapped on the word ‘you’, then has to point at some one, and that person is out of the game. They always leave the Muzungu until last, and will play the game for hours on end. They are also fascinated with cameras, especially digital ones, and will take photos of anything. The only annoying part about today, was that there was a man, who was there simply to chat up the white women. From what I could gather, he had just wondered in off the street, and unfortunately took a fancy to me, much to my irritation. He came and sat next to me, and tried to monopolise any conversation I was having with the kids, and at one point was stroking my hair like they were. It was on the tip of my tongue to say, ‘you are not a black child who is fascinated with a white woman’s hair, so please take your hand off me’, but I didn’t, I just got really shitty with him, and told him that I was there for the children, not to talk to him. He then said he wanted to marry me, and I laughed in his face, and then turned my back and did my best to ignore him, wanker! Anyway never mind, I didn’t let it ruin my time there, and when I left I had to have about a million hugs from the kids before they would let me anywhere near the truck. I’m there again tomorrow morning, but then next week I’m teaching everyday and won’t be able to go until next Saturday! I wish I had a video camera so I could show the footage of them back home, it’s an experience you have to see to believe. I totally love it here and I can see why the project leaders chose to make a life out here doing what they do with the kids. Words can’t describe the way I feel, except to say that my heart is full.

2 comments:

Sean said...

One word - woah. That must have been an absolutely amazing experience. The kids sound adorable, and I'm happy to hear how quickly they've embraced you! Wonderful news. ^____^

-Sean

Anonymous said...

Cool guestbook, interesting information... Keep it UP
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