Thursday, January 10, 2013

The world next door. Part I

I realize I really need to start posting about our every day life here. We now consider it 'just life'... but it really should be documented because it is so far from what our 'norm' is, right down to the smallest of details.

Yesterday, we took a visit to a beautiful orphanage and the slum it resides in.

The slum is Huruma. We were told it is Nairobi's second largest slum, next to Kibera. George Hussein Onyango Obama, Barack Obama's half-brother actually resides in Huruma.

Much of Huruma consists of tin/rubbish houses that have no electricity, running water or sewer connections. In 2010, an innovative slum upgrading project was completed, providing improved block wall houses to over 200 homes. All with running water, sewage, electricity and drainage. Including renovated toilet blocks. In the old part, there is one toilet per 1000 people! Can you imagine what that would be like? I certainly do not want to!

Our drive in to the orphanage gave us an introduction to the slum. Right outside the gates of this little oasis, otherwise known as Missionaries of Charity, we saw the following.

To the right of the gate.

To the left of the gate - women waiting for any type of handouts from the other side of the gate.

Once inside, we discovered beautiful rose gardens, play areas, grass, school rooms, sleeping quarters, rehabilitation areas, and work areas.

Nuns run this orphanage. The lovely young nun who gave us our tour was Canadian and so very sweet.

The first thing I noted was how well dressed the children were. There were triplets there and they were dressed identical! The clothes were clean, fit well and were gender appropriate.

The youngest school class.
From the school area, we went to visit the baby area.

Very clean. All the bedding was exactly the same and the cribs were adorned with clean, good condition toys. You can see the walkers in the back ground. They did not have any jolly jumpers though, so I donated one of the ones we had recieved for a donation. They were very happy to recieve it. Thank you to the donors!

Every child had a Miraculous Medallion tied around their wrist.
From there we were shown the newborn room.

All babies were snuggly sound asleep and content. :)

Newborn twins... so tiny!!

From there, we were taken to the area where they house women who are mentally challenged or have severe disabilities. Some were conditions from birth, while others were from substance abuse. (long term glue huffing.) Understandably, this area was full and they did not have any more room to accept any more women.

Behind this area, Sister told us is where they keep fatally ill women. AIDS, TB etc. We did not see this area, as I assume it is a bit overwhelming.

After this, we were taken to another building that is home to children with severe disabilities. This was the hard part.

This photo is of the least challenged children. It shows the level of care that these children receive. 
This sweet little girl was the youngest in this ward. Very engaging and happy. She kept saying 'HI!' to us. I assume she has a minor case of holoprosencephaly, but that is mearly a guess.
Beyond this room was a room with a very large bed surrounded by rails. In this bed, were a handful of children who were essentially bed ridden with severe disabilities. I will quote what Muffin recalled in an email to a friend.

"A few days ago we went to an orphanage and we went and saw some cute, tiny babies. After that we went to go see the children in need and with disabilities and
when we first walked in there was a bed with a bunch of children on it but there was one girl named Jaklon who was 16 and she had serious things that she was born with. Her legs were twisted,she had a huge head,twisted arms and fingers.There were also lot of other kids being fed because they could not feed themselves. It was very sad."

This was very eye opening for the children. I don't think it is likely that they have ever seen anything like this even in a photo. Their eyes were as big as saucers, and they instantly clung to us in shock and sadness.

On the outside of the door of this ward, was a beautifully decorated frame casing the photos of all the children and a description of their personalities, likes and dislikes. A little reminder of how loved and well taken care of these once discarded children are. 

I cannot say enough about this orphanage. The children are loved and are raised in a way where they are able to maintain their dignity. How refreshing to see children raised in a home where toys were well looked after, clothing was in good shape, and not once did I smell urine soaked mattresses, blankets etc... or any other unwelcoming odors that are quite common in many of the orphanages we have visited thus far.

However, as Sister said when I was commending her on such a well run facility, 'We do what we can for them. We can give them clean clothing, bedding and a few possessions. It is the least we can do for them when they have lost everything. However, we will never be able to give them enough love.'

Children don't belong in orphanages. They belong in families. 
Bless those who are commited to doing their best for the children who have lost theirs.  
 Moving on... Huruma Slum to be continued....

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