On Saturday I went with Hannah, and the other 4 Neema volunteers and 1 day volunteer to another orphanage called Aston Vision. Hannah and Betsy had stopped in at this orphanage after hearing about it from some other volunteers a couple of months ago. Since then, Hannah has gone to visit them at least once a week.
Astons is a very poor orphanage, but thanks to Hannah, and some other volunteers, groundwork for improvement is being laid, including water pipes bringing water to the orphanage, and two water filters, a chicken coup filled with chickens, and a roof on one of the new buildings. Currently there are only 10 children aged 3-7 (roughly) who live at Astons, with around 35 others living with neighbors or relatives that don’t really have the means to support them. Many sleep on mud floors. Even the children at Astons sleep two to a bed.
Hannah decided to have a Christmas party for the children of Astons. She made a huge pot of spaghetti and meat sauce, and some cake for lunch. Most of the time the children only eat one meal a day, usually beans and rice. But sometimes there is no food and so the children eat a paste of water and flour.
Aston is chairman of his village here, and is doing his best to improve the quality of life for the people and children. His hope is that these children will not just have safe water and enough food, but that they will be able to dream of a better future. He says his dream is to help children because he remembers his time as a street child and he doesn’t want anyone to have to live like that.
It’s days like this that I can let everything feel so overwhelming. The need is huge. I think of all the children at Astons. I think of the abandon babies all over Africa. I think of the ones I hold in my arms every day who have never known their mothers and fathers. I think of Jennifer, 12 years old and never having the opportunity to be in school. I think of the women who are becoming my friends, and yet they have to worry about if there will be enough money. I think of the people I pass every day, carrying water, or selling food or goods, just trying to get by. I think of the children, so many children, who don’t even dream anymore.
Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder, is what I am doing even making a difference? But when I walk into Neema and the toddlers squeal with glee and start yelling my name. Or I walk over to little Baraka and his whole face lights up with a giant smile when he sees me. Or when I greet the Bibi (older woman) on the street with the respectful greeting of “shikamoo”. Or when I looked into these children’s smiling eyes after what was probably their first Christmas party ever. I know that even if it is just a drop in the ocean, it counts for something.
(Photo Credit: Stina Gränfors, www.stinagranfors.se)