Sharing volunteering experiences at an orphanage in Africa, recently. Tearful yet beautiful, deeply touched my heart. Located in slums, orphanage school for street children had well-structured programs, schedules. Volunteers welcome to participate in as much or as little as desired. Plight of street children feels like an ignored tragedy.
Activities included tasks like helping in kitchen, assisting in classrooms, counselling. My favourite engagements – helping with home-works, teaching English, playing games, compassionately listening to stories, loving hugs. Playfulness made us laugh!
Kids were simply amazing but their stories were hard to imagine. Vulnerable children put on streets by families to steal or sell drugs, 8 year old girl sold into marriage with an older man, 2 year old abandoned in a field, 10 year old raped and left for dead, 12 year old running to escape domestic violence. Street children on the verge of starvation, perfect targets for sexual exploitation, abuse like trafficking, marriages.
Toys were broken balls, sticks, stones, tyres, ropes, wooden planks. Played soccer with bare feet, a few blistered. Had so little, experienced horrible hardships, yet smiled courageously, dared to dream. Inspired by their sensitive spirit, look of loving appreciation in their eyes.
An overwhelming, heart-breaking feeling, almost apologetic. Wish I could bottle, give it as a dose of medicine to people who complain about not having enough, in a house full of things we don’t really need. Reality check!
Shockingly, many children in orphanages are not actually orphans. Instead, separated from families to attract fee-paying volunteers. In Nepal, an estimated 80% of all children in orphanages have at least 1 living parent. Perhaps, couldn’t afford child-care or allured by financial gains.
When volunteering with children their safety, rights, comfort, well-being needs to come first. Local communities can do more to become solution focused, support whole-heartedly to make a difference, a long-lasting impact.
“I am only one but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.” Reminds value of giving back!