Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Methini Orphanage

One of the kids from Methini
This week I had the opportunity to go to the Methini sister orphanage to Watoto Wa Baraka. Methini isn’t really that far away but it takes around 2 hours to get there because the roads are so gnarly. I was surprised the orphanage and this town even had a matatu serving it after seeing how nutty the roads were. Fortunately we had a tough matatu (4wd Nissan mini van) but it surely was full. It’s a fifteen passenger van loaded up with around 25 people, animals and a lot of stuff packed in every cranny.

The Methini orphanage has only been open and having kids there for 3 months, right now there are 7 kids and two staff living in corrugated metal make-shift buildings. The metal for the walls is made of large metal drums that once likely had oil or similar in them and hammered out to be flat, then welded or nailed together.

They eventually want to build more permanent structures made of concrete, likely still with metal roofs but there is a need now, and only so much money to house the kids now, and these type of structures are commonplace and do the job.Methini is more remote and the kids speak very little English only a “hi how are you?” and a few memorized songs that I don’t think they know what they mean.
I was there with two other volunteers and a professional photographer/volunteer who is hoping to assist in marketing the orphanage. While he took his fabulous shots, I played with the kids and took a few simple shots of my own. We were planning to stay at the orphanage as it had been encouraged by most of the staff, but then at the last minute someone called from the main orphanage saying we couldn’t because they didn’t have security set up there yet. Unfortunately this word was a bit too late. We started to wait for a matatu, but we missed the last one. We considered taking motorcycle taxis but the road was horrible and it was getting dark. We ended up staying because we had no other choice. It turned out to be a lot of fun.
Two other kids from Methini
The transportation debacle pushed the kids dinner back a bit and the volunteers and the staff scrambled to make dinner before it got too late. I cut up the onions, tomato and cabbage and washed the dishes from lunch, next to the fire where I believe her name was Zebra, (like Debra but with a Z), made the ugali over the fire. Most rural Kenyans still cook over an open fire. The Pundamilia orphanage has a bio gas stove but, they still enjoy using the fire and don’t feel as comfortable cooking with a gas stove. The Methini orphanage doesn’t have a gas stove, nor a well for that matter and things take time to prepare.
Before bed we “took tea” and the kids sang 3-4 really spirited worship songs. They danced and made sure we participated, then said one prayer and then it was time for tooth brushing and bed.
Sean, Charita, Amy and I all slept in the same room on bunks and on the dirt floor on foam pads. They made us a little nervous regarding security so we holed up in there together creating a teenage slumber party environment where there were all kinds of crazy stories told while we tried to keep our voices low to not wake up the kids in the next room. The metal buildings really were not that bad, and the dirt floor was really not that dirty. Kenyans have an interesting way of cleaning a dirt floor. They sweep it so frequently and wet it a little and add ash that it may be a dirt floor, but its not crawling with bugs and its almost as clean as if it were concrete. I grew up sleeping on the top bunk, so I took that, everyone else seemed concerned they might fall off without a railing! It was a bit hot at first because the metal on the ceiling was still hot from the day. Later though it got pretty chilly as the night went on. Sleeping in a place like this is such a good reminder of how little we need to get by and to still feel happy and taken care of.
The next morning we arose to beautiful mountains and a breakfast of a porridge drink (actually quite nice and filling) and a mandazi (sweet bread).
Then it was time to earn our keep by helping fetch the water from the water hole and sorting the maize. It took 4 people making 4 trips with big buckets to fill up the tank. The water was disgusting, stagnant with an oily film on the top and full of bugs. I couldn’t believe this was the water they had to use. They also trap rain water into a large drum for drinking water but if it runs out that is what they are drinking (after boiling it). Fortunately they are in the process of digging a well to have clean water. It will likely take a few more weeks because a local guy comes intermittently and digs with a shovel to make the well. I’ve seen very little mechanized equipment for what we would usually use, especially well digging. Sorting dried maize also takes forever. The idea is to get rid of the extra stones, bugs, etc. you don’t want to eat from the bag of maize that is purchased from the market. This includes looking through every piece to see if a bug has bored a hole into it. It usually takes 4-5 hours a day for a woman to do this alone. With the four of us it took 2-3 hours. Its pretty boring and your neck gets tired just looking down but it’s the way a lot of families or socialize and is also the way I’m getting to know a lot of the kids. It’s a huge help to the staff to sort maize (beans or rice) to free up time for Zebra to do other tasks around the orphanage.

On the way back we almost missed the last matatu again. We were too concerned with buying a cold drink at the market after drinking very warm, somewhat chunky water .None of us got sick, well actually Sean did a bit, but not too bad.

When we returned to the Punda orphanage, three new kids had arrived. George age 10, Dorkas age 5 and Issa age 3 were surrendered by their grandmother who could no longer care for them as she was dying from spinal cancer. Their mom had passed away 3 years earlier from an unknown disease just a month after Issa was born and their father had divorced their mother and is MIA.

They seem to fit in well with the other kids, though they are obviously really nervous and the younger ones follow George around timidly. When it was time to go to sleep on the first day they arrived I was trying to find open beds and bedding. The kids informed me I made a grave mistake by putting little Abdellah on the top bunk as it turns out he wets the bed every night. Opps! So I had to rearrange even though Abellah was so excited to be on the top bunk, and so begins to cry. Issa and George were in the dorm and almost ready for bed, but George left to try to make friends with a few kids in the hall. Issa was already scared but started balling while most of the other kids were sleeping. There was nothing I could do to calm him. Tears were flowing and he was looking at me and the whole room like ahhhh! Where am I and where is grandma? So I take him to his brother and ask his brother to sleep with him for the night to calm him down. Watching little Issa terrified and sad his first night in the orphanage away from his family while his brother was trying to be tough was gut wrenching. I sat with them for a while just rubbing both of their backs and telling them it’s going to be ok and things will get easier. I do believe life is going to get better for them. The other kids seem to be treating the 3 of them well but what an adjustment to have to deal with -away from their family at such a young age, in a foreign place and rural village. These kids were from the metropolis of Niarobi.

Because I hadn’t seen any of the others arrive, it felt like they must have arrived almost all together when the orphanage started three years ago. But it turns out some only arrived a few months ago and this happens quite frequently. The other volunteers and I left the dorm and just looked at each other and teared up. We tried to talk but we were all really a loss for words. I think all of us went to bed feeling a lot of mixed emotions that night. We felt lucky we have parents – no matter how crazy our families are and felt so sad and horrible for those scared kids. Just as we were about to go to bed, I remembered the kids all still have to take an HIV test. Fortunately the result was negative or they would have had to be sent somewhere else, as this orphanage is not equipped to administer all of the meds necessary. Not to mention these kids play rough and are getting scuffed up all the time and it could be a it would be a hazard to the other kids.

Thank you to those who have donated for the teacher! Every $5-20 goes along way so please help if you can, by donating on the button to the right.

I am finishing this blog from Nyahururu - try to say that one to get on a bus! I am heading to the Lake Turkana region (with Amy and Sean) in northern Kenya for a week or two then will be back at the orphanage. Transportation is hit and miss up there and it will certainly be interesting. Northern Kenya is known for their pastoral traditional tribes including the Samburu and Turkana tribes. I’m looking forward to learning more about this remote and wild area that few people visit.Because the internet wasn't working well before I left the orphanage this blog doesn't have many good photos sorry! Hopefully I'll add a few more after the fact because I took a bunch of fun ones.

Big hugs!