A Day in the Life

Each morning we get up and have breakfast (a few slices of bread and some fruit) then trudge up the hill to the taxi park. (“Taxis” being the 10 passenger vans crammed with 16 people that are the most common transport in East Africa). Then we take the taxi about 15km, all the while praying they don’t try to pick up more people to squeeze in along the way, which they inevitably do.
Once we get to the orphanage we head to the library, where we lead various classes, usually of a crafty nature (today was play-dough, yesterday was beads), and help them with their English. This leads to chaos, because there are always more kids that want to participate than we could manage to supervise (remember– 600 kids at this orphanage), so one of the older kids plays bouncer and lets in a few at a time, replacing the ones who are finished with the next ones waiting. In theory. Neat and orderly it is not, and throughout the activity you have kids yelling your name through the windows, doors and cracks in the wall, hoping they’ll be the next to let in. We always seem to end up with double the number of kids that we started with.

Around 11am we go help the toddlers with their lunch. This basically means entertaining them while the “mamas” bring out the food, and then hand feeding the younger ones who haven’t quite mastered getting the food onto the spoon and then into their mouths.

After the toddlers eat they lie down for a nap in neat little rows, boys in one room and girls in another. While they’re getting settled we help the mamas wash the dishes. Then we head to the volunteer house for our lunch– more bread and fruit.

Then it’s time for more activities in the library, during which we try — almost always unsuccessfully — to remember which kids already did the morning activity so that everyone gets a chance.

Later in the afternoon the toddlers have their porridge (think runny cream of wheat) and then we walk them to the grass yard where they have time to play– time they don’t usually take advantage of because they don’t want to let go. The toddlers love to hold your hand, or finger, or pocket, or whatever else they can manage to grab, and since there are more kids than we have fingers it often leads to ferocious battle and then, inevitably, tears as the kids jostle for the best position. So then once we’ve made it to the yard they don’t want to give up the finger they fought so hard to hold.

Once we manage to pry ourselves away, it’s usually time to go. Now we’re the ones on the side of the road hoping for a taxi to stop. Once it does we head back to town, do whatever errands we need to do, then back to the volunteer house, where we have a little time to relax or take a cold shower (no hot water here). Then we have dinner– by candlelight if the power has gone out– usually of potatoes, rice, beans (starch is big), sauce and a small portion of meat. Then a little more time to relax before we do it all over again.

As I’m writing this it sounds not-so-great, but it’s actually quite fantastic.

A few photos of the kids and orphanage so far…