Trip Start Dec 18, 2010
28Trip End Dec 01, 2011
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The orphanage houses about 600 children. 75% of which are boys. It is run by an Italian priest and a nun. As we arrived at the long road that leads up to the orphanage, there were a few children there waiting and they ran beside the cars shouting and waving greetings to us as we approached the orphanage
We pulled in and parked our cars off to the side of the "road." By the time we could open our car doors and get out, the cars were already surrounded by children. Nick is a hero to these kids and they were all over him from the moment he opened his door. For each of us, there were 3 or 4 kids that immediately latched on to us and wouldn't let go for anything. They loved just touching us. We walked around the grounds for just a few minutes with our "posse" of kids (that was growing by the minute as word spread that Nick was there and he brought Mundeli - white people)before we headed to the outdoor chapel where mass was to be held. The children that are able to are required to attend mass.
We arrived at the chapel surrounded by about 100 children at this point. We walked in and sat where we could. Each one of the 5 in our party were sitting in a different location surrounded by dozens of kids each. They were on our laps and wrapping our arms around them. About 1/2 of them would smile when I smiled at them, but the other 1/2 just looked empty and desolate when I looked into their eyes. That tore me up the most. There was no hope in those kids. There was no joy. There was no love. There was nothing. They had even passed the point of desperation and despair
The priest filed in with some of the older boys that were serving as the altar boys. Following them were two men carrying a tiny white casket. They set the casket down in the front of the chapel and then brought in a large white cement cross with a boys name written on it. The boy was 18 months old and had died the day before from complications of AIDS. I was horrified and shocked at the sight of the casket. The children were not phased. I later learned that they average about one funeral per month. For the first hour or so the casket was basically ignored and the service went on as usual.
There was a lot of singing. Boy, can they SING! They dance and sing at the tops of their lungs. There is nothing else in the world like it. They were accompanied by a keyboard, African bongo drums, and various shakers. They were born with a rhythm I do not possess.
Various priests and ministers got up and prayed and read. The service was in French and Lingala so we were not able to follow along. Caleb had a boy on his lap that slept. The kids on either side of him figured out that if they slapped Caleb's hand, it would turn red
After about an hour, the "funeral" portion of the service began. The priest did some things over the casket and then the two men came back and carried the casket out. The priest followed the casket and all of us followed the priest. They carried the casket up the hill to a truck where the priest went with the casket to bury it. A couple of the girls wailed for the casket. They believe that there must be someone to wail and mourn when a person dies. It validates that life.
After the casket was taken away, we walked down to a grassy area and the drums were brought there. Everyone gathered in a circle and the dancing began. It was a celebration for the life of the little boy. At one point, the man that was in the middle leading the dancing began to draw people from the crowd into the center and had them dance while everyone watched
From here we continued on with our tour of the different buildings of the orphanage. It is built on the side of a really tall hill so all the building are spread out on different levels. The kids were still swarming us and hanging on and crowding us such that walking was difficult. We made our way to the volunteer area where the children are not allowed. We sat in there and ate some spaghetti, rice, and bread with Nick and two Italian men that were also there for the day. It was a much needed time of quiet and peace before going back out to the waiting children.
Just outside the door to the Volunteer room, there was a monkey tied up to a tree. It was awfully cute but didn't look too friendly so I stayed just out of reach. I don't know if he was a pet or dinner.
As soon as we went back outside, the kids were waiting for us. We went up to the baby ward. I couldn't believe what we saw once we got there. By this time my camera was dead and I was unable to get any photos, but I will get some when I go back, I promise
After we finished that part of our tour, we needed something uplifting so Nick decided he would pass out the candy he brought. When we arrived to his car we saw that about 200 kids were already in queue there
The next part of our visit went much more calmly. It was the areas for the older boys, maybe ages 10 and up. When they were in their little kitchen eating their small portion of rice and foufou (that's all they get, 3 meals per day) we snuck into another room and laid out cups of milk and sandwiches and cheese that Nick had brought. When the boys finished their meal, they were told to go to the other room where we were waiting. They were so excited! They drank the milk like they had never had a drink before. Many of them stuffed the food into their pockets to save for later. They were so thankful and sweet. They told us "thank you" in English, as Nick had taught them. There was one boy I met there that would mimic everything I said. He wanted to learn English words so he would copy the sounds I made. It was great. At the next building we went to, Nick handed out Milk and Rolos and chocolate to the kids.
Like I said, they only eat rice and foufou for each meal. They get no protein whatsoever. Their beds are ripped up plastic mats. Most don't have sheets and there are no pillows at all. The clothes they have are the rejects from Goodwill and places like that in the USA. Most of the children don't wear shoes. The kids just grab what they can find in the morning and that is their clothes that day. They don't own anything for themselves
Two weeks ago, Nick came to the orphanage and took about 20 kids to the TASOK campus so they could play futbol and go swimming. He fed them pizza for the first time in their lives and they took classes on music and different crafts, etc. Well, as he was leaving the orphanage with a van full of kids heading to TASOK, two 7 year old boys went running after the van because they wanted to go. Nick did not see them chasing the van. Once they left the gate of the orphanage, the two little boys were never seen again.
The 7 hours that we spent with those kids was life changing. I saw in person the horrors that we see on those "sponsor a child" commercials. I can't wait until I can go back to that place and love those kids and touch them and hold them. I want to get involved and hopefully be able to do something that will make a difference for a few of those kids.
Some of you have expressed a desire to help. I am going to try to go back and take the kids some Peanut Butter sandwiches and some fruits and veggies. Milk would also be great. Those things are super expensive here. I know Nick must've spent almost $1,000 of his own money on Sunday giving those kids what he did. Nick is leaving the DRC for the summer. I would love to pick up in his place. I do need transportation. We don't have a car here and we are dependant upon everyone else if we want to go somewhere. You can't just take a taxi and there aren't cars to hire. So that is a big prayer request right now. I will find a way to get back and to get to work there. If you are interested in helping purchase needed items for the kids, just let me know. The need is overwhelming. THIS is why we came to the Congo. I pray that we can make a small difference.
Again, I am sorry we ran out of camera early in the day. I will take more photos next time to post for you.