Saturday, January 29, 2011

A day's work at the orphanage

On this latest trip to the orphanage, I brought with me my aunt, Lynn Hebner, and friend, Bernard Petersen.

From about 7 a.m., my aunt would go to the house where the 11 babies stay. She folded laundry, helped bathe and dress the babies. While there are several House Mothers in that house, my aunt was able to fill a gap because one of the House Mothers was away and another had a flu that was making the rounds with the children.

When the babies were ready for the morning, my aunt would head to the laundry basins out back. In fact, all three of us, found ourselves at various points scrubbing children’s clothes. Every day, this was my aunt’s routine and she was commended by so many people at the home. They told me she works so hard and because of her they were able to be more efficient in their chores.

Bernard spent a lot of his time teaching Veronica how to use a computer that had been donated to the home. She’s planning to take a computer course next month and so those introductory tutorials will surely give her a head start in the class. He also got her online and showed her how to set up an email account. I left her some pocket money so that when she is in town, she can use the internet cafĂ© and send us messages. She is a sponge for knowledge and was excited about learning, for the first time, about computers and the internet.

For me, I tried to spend as much time as possible with the students whom we will be sponsoring their education. I was able to interview each of them and learn more about their aspirations, families and likes/dislikes. For example, Veronica aspires to study overseas, Patricia is moved to tears when she talks about her mom who died of AIDS and Pelucy has a fun-loving spirit and especially loves listening to Top 40 music, such as Rhianna and Jay-Z.

I also brought a craft project for the girls, buying most of the materials from the community. We spent hours making beaded stars, which will be sold at Christmas for a fundraiser. It was amazing to watch their teamwork and creativity shine.

At the end of our stay, Auntie Milly, told me how encouraging it is to have visitors to the orphanage. It was also encouraging for us, and I think each of us came home resolved to continue supporting the orphanage in whatever way we can.

Volunteers are always welcome!

Friday, January 28, 2011

How much can change in a year?

When I first arrived to the orphanage just a few weeks ago, the first thing I noticed was how much their situation had changed. Last year in December, they had just recently moved into their new homes – there were four small houses with approximately 20 children per house. Today there are 5 houses and a sixth is being built. There are also more House Mothers, but there are also more children.

The water situation last year was dire. The children would go to the river in the morning and load jerry cans of water for the day. Now they have a truck outfitted with a device that pumps the water into a vat and hosed into a tank behind their home. From the tank, the water moves through hoses into each house. There is enough water for taps to run and toilets to flush, but the truck has to make four trips per day to keep up with the needs of the orphanage..

The children overall appear more healthy then they were a year ago, but still the babies have stubborn colds and fevers. They are so vulnerable, and four died this year due to illness. However, most are thriving.

One of the new babies is Brenda, two months old. She came when she was two weeks old and weighing just two pounds. Today, she is still so incredibly tiny – the size of an average newborn. Baby Charles is another new arrival. His parents died of AIDS and he is HIV positive. Another toddler, Samwel, arrived just two weeks before I got there. His parents had attempted to sell him to a witch doctor for sacrifice, but the doctor turned the child over to police. They are in jail and Samwel is now at the orphanage, likely to stay for many years to come.

One of the most obvious signs of change is children playing. When the children first moved into this home a little over a year ago, there was so much work to be done and little time for playing. Today, with so much progress having been made, the children are finished their chores by noon and playing in the afternoon. (Right now they are on school holidays.) The local Rotary Club donated a playground, and the kids flock to it. Sometimes the boys like to make their own “band,” marching up and down the walkway singing and drumming.

I have more blogs to post in the coming days! I had an incredible stay at the orphanage, and I am excited to share these updates with you.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We did it!

Dear Friends:

We did it.

We set a goal to raise $10,000 in 2010 so that we could send the older boys and girls of the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre to school. We did it! Not only did we reach our goal, but we surpassed it.

Already, some of our funds have been used to enrol four youth - Patricia, Priscilla, Pelucy and Ellen- into their final years of high school. And, if her application is successful Veronica, one of the eldest children at the orphanage, will be attending university in the fall.

By paying for their education, we are helping to give these children a future with opportunities they never imagined.

We are also helping to relieve the overall stress of the orphanage – that means all other funds can go to provide 85 orphaned children with a sturdy roof over their head, a bed to sleep in, nutritious food and medicine when they need it. It means the newest arrivals – the tiny newborns who arrive, often abandoned by their families, will have a fighting chance to survive.

This year, our team – Monica Kahindo, Aynsley Morris, Cecile Peterkin and Tanya Elliott -- got to see so many of you rally behind this cause. You did what you could to support us. Some people used fitness classes to raise funds, others held garage sales. Others shared amazing hand-crafted work and many of you helped us sell Mother’s Day cards and bookmarks. Many more of you bought bookmarks and cards, and shared them with friends and family.

All of you have made a difference. Every single contribution mattered; you helped us develop the Nzirambi Orphans Fund and reach the goals set for our inaugural year.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, and for inspiring Monica and I to keep this fundraising going. It would be impossible for us to stop now; we’ve only just begun.

Please keep in touch with us. You can follow what’s happening on the blog or on Facebook at We’re really excited about some new events we’ll be having in 2011.

Karen Snider