Hilda's or Rachel's?
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
The latest registrant at Rachel’s Children Home is fifteen years old. A month after her mother’s death, she returned to her home village for the burial. Undergoing the trauma of gazing upon her mother’s decaying body apparently wasn’t enough - her uncle raped her on the road before they even arrived at the funeral service. She is now showing early signs of pregnancy, and has the added burden of worrying about whether she might be HIV positive.
But of all the older children at the orphanage, she is the one that offers the warmest smiles, and willingly assists me with the little ones. Her easygoing and caring attitude seems to do wonders for the four-year-old twins girls who were repeatedly sexually abused by their father, and ultimately abandoned by their mother.
It is impossible for me to approach the orphanage in tranquillity. As soon as the children become aware of my coming, they all start shouting “Mae Sharon, Mae Sharon”, and within seconds I have twenty-five or more of them clinging to every available inch of my body. And I don’t even like kids!!! But how could anyone not adore these beautiful children with their big brown eyes, all begging to be hugged and loved
In 2003, Hilda and her husband Godwill built a house for themselves near Maputsoe. Three additional bedrooms were constructed, and The Ministry of Social Welfare assisted in selecting twelve orphans from the surrounding community to live with them. And thus Rachel’s Children Home was born. Why Rachel’s, and not Hilda’s? Hilda told me that she took the name from Matthew 2:18 in the Bible, where Rachel is crying and refuses to be consoled because her children are no more
The twelve children gradually increased to forty-three, and yet the same three bedrooms continue to house them all. A single care-giver is responsible for feeding them, washing their clothes and attending to all of their basic needs, although several of the older children assist with some of the primary tasks.
So how would you go about feeding, clothing, and schooling forty-three children, with no assistance from the government? The World Food Program provides minimal quantities of mealie meal, beans, sugar and oil. Vegetables are grown in the garden surrounding the orphanage, but everything else appears to be dependent on “hand-outs” from those who are more privileged. Just yesterday, a taxi drove into the yard with a huge watermelon, a box of bananas, and several packets of biscuits - you can be sure that the children’s smiles were a mile wide.
Hilda is very keen on gradually making the orphanage more self-sufficient, so she and I have been working on developing a proposal for an income generating project. Of utmost concern is that the additional responsibilities ensuing from this project don’t result in decreased care of the children, so we are including a salary request for an additional care-giver
“It was really great to meet you, and perhaps it was more than chance” was the first line of an email I received yesterday from a young South African couple I met a few days ago. Upon hearing of my volunteer work, they expressed their desire to “do something to help”. Andrew runs a shipping company in Cape Town, and Michelle teaches at a school for the privileged, so they are confident that they can “suss out willing hearts and sponsors” to put together a substantial care package of clothing, school supplies, and vegetable seeds for Rachel’s. Yes, I acknowledge that this might be termed charity rather than development, but everything has to start somewhere, and wouldn’t it be wonderful to see each of the orphans with a pair of shoes on their feet?
And so Hilda’s dream grows.
At the end of the day I hop aboard yet another hot, crowded, mini-bus. The Basotho don’t like even the slightest breeze coming through the windows, so we all sit there in our own personal, smelly sauna. I am nursing a cold and feeling rather sorry for myself, but suddenly a smile spreads across my face as I realize how very fortunate I am to have such rich and diverse experiences.