Monday, 4 April 2011

Mama G's

Yesterday we took a trip to the outskirts of the city to visit a more rural orphanage, Mama G's. Mama G is a professor at a nearby school, and my understanding of her story is that there were a number of kids in her area without parents or a home so she began taking kids in, feeding them, and showing them God's love. Soon she had a full house.

The car ride to Mama G's was long, but interesting. We got to see another part of the city we had never been to, and enjoyed the new sights. The hills were a bit frightening to drive on, we had a very close miss with a crazy driver, and got stuck waiting for an accident to resolve ( and by resolve, I mean a whole bunch of people gather round and yell about what happened, and everyone within walking distance has an opinion that must be added to the cacophony until someone is blamed and carted off). The hills were also beautiful. There were trees and plants and scenic views- it was quite lovely.

Mama G lives on the side of town that has severe water issues. Where we live in the city we have access to running water all the time. It isn't necessarily clean water- in fact it has a decidedly brown tinge and leaves a sticky residue when you shower. But, water is water. At least we have it (and in case you wondered, we do not drink it, the guest house provides us with filtered water that we carry around in reusable bottles). Here, they don't have water. Our guide informed us that in these areas they have the infrastructures for running water, but shortages require conservation, so the water will usually be turned on for only brief periods each day, say from 2 to 3pm. All washing of bodies, laundry, watering of plants or crops, and collecting of drinking water must be done during this time.

Water poses a problem for Mama G's. Their water collection system is currently broken because they are missing a small piece of pipe. Now, if it were as simple as running to Home Depot to grab some pipe and screw it on it would have been fixed long ago…but nothing is simple here. Even fixing the smallest thing is a huge undertaking, because few people have access to basic supplies and tools, and when they do they are exorbitantly expensive and difficult to get. If Mama G's water collection system worked, here is how it would work. Rain would fall on the roof of the orphanage. That water would collect in pipes and those pipes would funnel the water into a few different collection areas- two big tanks covered tanks to collect "clean" water for drinking and cooking, and a large cistern for laundry and cleaning water. Now, "clean" water for drinking does not mean "clean" water. It means water that has fallen from the smoggy sky onto a roof that is covered with dust, sand, grime, and bird poop, run through a system of dirty pipes into a tank that has probably never been properly scoured. This is the "clean" water that the children drink, and it is probably better and cleaner than the water that many of the people around them drink.

Now, water is only one of many problems faced by the children and caretakers at Mama G's. This orphanage is easily as poor as "Orphanage B," but the huge difference is that the kids at Mama G's are loved and happy. When we arrived we were enthusiastically greeted, and welcomed into the main room, where they gave up their chairs and insisted we sit down. We began to take out the goods we brought for them- cans of formula, little toys, clothes, and shoes. They stopped us, and the main caregiver there, C, told us that we needed to stop giving the gifts, because they had something we needed to do first. We needed to open with prayer.

A number of the older children prayed for us. They began by giving thanks that we had come from so far to visit them, and they thanked God that we cared about them, and that he was keeping us safe. Many of the children took the time to pray for us, and to sing. It was incredibly beautiful and touching. The sincerity of their prayers of gratitude in the face of immense poverty and hunger were humbling. It was so obvious that they loved Jesus- in fact they risked offending us by interrupting us to thank Him for our visit. They have nothing, nothing, yet they still believe that God is good, and that He cares for them...and the evidence for them, the thing they were eager to thank Him for, was a pile of used clothes, a bag of McDonald's toys, and some infant formula that most of them won't get to eat. I wonder if I could pray like that if I lived in their circumstances. Aside from meeting Mtoto, this time of prayer is the highlight of my trip so far.

After the prayer, we continued to unload our bags (we managed to fit three large duffels in the car with us). It seemed like so much when we were all squished in around it…but so little stacked up on the one table in the whole building, and even less when one of the children motioned to one of us that they were hungry…and we had no food. We meant to bring food, and had specifically asked our guide to stop when he saw a market where we could pick up some supplies, but for some reason he never did. We made the best of it- we toured the building. Part of the group examined some future projects, and some people got to work photographing the kids and taking names and ages for a school sponsorship program that should be up and running soon (and in need of monthly sponsors, hint hint). The rest of us hung out with the kids. They were busy with two things- playing with these little happy meal toys that we brought, and taking pictures with our cameras. I have some of the funniest pictures of eight year old boys posing holding cans of infant formula (why they thought this was a great prop I will never know), and of the kids trying on clothes and carrying our babies around. They loved the cameras and pictures so much, and I can't wait to print out the photos they took and send them back with another traveling family.

The needs at Mama G's were so great. They have a decent structure, but few beds (I think twelve for 40 to 50 kids). They have a wonderful piece of land, but most of it is unutilized. Their pit latrine is disgusting. It is full to the very brim, and this is not sanitary (or pleasant, as you can imagine). Mama G's has a wonderful, loving atmosphere. Since it is outside of the city proper, the air is clean, and the view is breathtaking. On a quick side note, I would be much happier here if I could get outside of the city more often. The landscape is truly beautiful- you just can't see any of it from where we are staying/the places we frequent. However, extensive travel with our children is simply not advisable and thus we stay put. Anyhow, at Mama G's there is a gorgeous view of the countryside, and you can breathe without choking, and the kids have space to play outside and soak up some vitamin D. Just to give you an idea of the atmosphere there, while we were taking pictures of the kids, we kept pointing to one child or another and saying- what about that one? We missed that one. Then our guide would explain that that child did not live at Mama G's, he or she just liked to play there. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind going to play at orphanage B.

When it was time to go, the children walked up to our van and sang us a farewell song. Ask me sometime to show you the video. I would love to share the joy of these kids with you.


Katie said...

I love that orphanage. The spirit there was so different than the other large orphanages we visited. G and C have such heart and have those children well handled. At other orphanages the children are wild and without any discipline but C is like a firm, loving father that the children love and respect. Going there was definitely a highlight for me and I think about the children there often.

Candi and Skeet said...

I have been checking your blog every day for updates and reading about the conditions these children are living in really breaks my heart! I wish I could help them all somehow!! Praying that things move quickly with your Visa and that you can get your new little man home with you soon!!

Stori said...

This is such a loving environment! It was so uplifting for us to visit. C & G are just wonderful! Glad you got to visit them and see some of the beauty of country.

Jonathan said...

Hoping I get a chance to visit! I have heard so many great things about this orphanage but have not been able to see it for myself yet. Did the pipe get fixed? Send me a message of what I need to bring to see that it is done.