Although today’s blog is a day late (we’ve been without internet for a day, so was unable to post anything until now), we’d like to focus on the children more than what we’ve done. Its not like we’ve done nothing, of course, but I’ve had a few messages asking about the backgrounds of the children and I know that Nicole has too.
First we’ll get out of the way what we’ve been able to do do for them on day 17. It was a particularly satisfying day to be honest. We finally rolled and brushed on the very last bit of blue paint on to the final bedroom. With rising damp, bare & dusty concrete walls and 17 children running around whilst trying to paint, we are finally able to say that its done. Its not my finest bit of work, but its good enough and bright enough and most importantly the children love it. When the last room was finished, it just so happened to coincide with some of the kids coming home from school and they walked in with eyes wide open and smiles from ear to ear barely able to believe that this was the same place as they’d inhabited just a week ago. Its a small change and some have questioned why we bothered at all, but its that look that makes it all worth it. After all, would you like to wake up in what looks like a prison cell, or a place with colourful, bright walls? I know which one we’d choose. Plus it was all part of allowing the children the chance to feel like they actually owned something as they chose the colour for us to paint.
We also had a ton of visitors on day 17. Whilst I was painting with the new boy (more of that later) and Nicole was playing with the two youngest children, it seemed as though the whole world descended on the orphanage. It made for a very pleasant change as we’d been the only visitors for just about the whole previous week. We had two ladies come from the local social services department. They didn’t actually really seem to want to know much, more it was just to have a look around. We pressed upon them that the house was still without running water, despite all our best efforts, and that it didn’t seem right to allow that to happen to an orphanage. After all, its not their fault that there is a blockage in the sewer below their house. If it was a bill payment, you could understand perhaps and fingers could be pointed, but a blockage can only be down to the council and hopefully our calls and chats with the local officials will get something done about it. We can only hope.
We also had a former resident come back to say hi. He was smartly dressed, ambitious about his future studies and was visiting his brother who was still staying at Tariro. It was good to see that being an orphan in Zimbabwe didn’t mean that your chances of a good life were all taken away from you. He had just finished his studies and wanted to go on to bible school in China. Finally there was Mary, a kind volunteer who does all she can for the children. She popped in to give us all a delicious fruit cake and the children some welcome fruits and vegetables. It was also a great opportunity to put a face to a name as we’d all be chatting in a WhatsApp group specifically set up to keep all the volunteers communicating and setting up new ways to help the children.
In the day since we were last at the orphanage, there was also a food delivery from some of the other volunteers. Basic essentials but also treats like biscuits and peanut butter. This, unfortunately, means that I have to go back and put a lock on the storeroom door. The children have been raiding the goodies when no-one is looking, but rationing needs to go on when you never know when you next meal is coming.
We are here to help as much as we can, but we’ve decided that our involvement needs to be on a more long term basis rather than short term. This means that money raised from our donors (if you haven’t already, please donate here) will go on items that have a long term effect. This has meant us getting all their much needed kitchen utensils, a new gas stove, steel bunkbeds and water proof mattresses so that every child needn’t sleep on the floor anymore, pillows, curtains, storage space / cupboards/ draws for their rooms, school uniforms, school fee’s, clothes that they have picked for themselves and more. All these have a long lasting effect long after we have gone as we are really keen not to have the children depend on us too much. We know that we are going to be back in Ibiza in 4 weeks time, they perhaps don’t really understand that too well. Certainly if we were bringing them each a pizza or fancy food every afternoon for the next 4 weeks instead of all of the list above, not only would the money be “wasted” but the minute we leave, they’d be back to square one and without the goodies that we’d bring and the depression that may come as a result. We’re really keen to leave a lasting impression on their lives and work around their support network they already have in place. We want to compliment the sterling work that is already being done, voluntarily, by the local community, not replace it for a few weeks and then leave them to pick up the pieces. I hope everyone understands the logic behind this as I’m sure there are a few that would like to see us take them out for dinner and food every day of the week or something else that would be a quick fix rather than a long term one. We are doing everything we can for the futures of these children, not just trying to fix the present.
That brings me to the present, and the addition of a new boy to the house. His name is Tanaka and he was sat quietly on the sofa as we arrived at 8.30am to start painting for the final day. Sometimes, not often, there is a residents friend visiting the house, so at first I wondered if this was the case with Tanaka. It wasn’t.
He’d been brought to the house the previous night after being found by the police in “a bush” where he’d been sleeping rough. He’s 14 years old and his father had died some time ago. After that had happened, his mother left him with his grandmother and hasn’t been seen since. His grandmother has since died and he was left alone with no way of finding his mother, even if she had wanted him. He had made his way, somehow, 40km away from where his last known school was and where his grandmother had died. Perhaps looking for his mother, perhaps just trying to get away from his old life. Either way, he made it to Kadoma and then to Tariro Orphanage. We’re not quite sure what will happen with him yet, but certainly the Police have no intention of doing very much about the situation, or locating a family member, so until something happens he is a new addition to the already overcrowded house.
Being new, I think he was keen to fit in and with the lack of anyone else to “fit in” with, he offered his help to me to paint the remaining walls. His eyes lit up when I showed him he’d have his own overalls, like all of a sudden he was a grown up because he got to wear the same overalls as most of the working men in town wear. Each set only costs $19 in the shop and for that reason EVERYONE doing any kind of manual job has the same outfit. So, with his new kit on, and a surprisingly happy face, he started painting. He was, to be fair, the best of the children that I’ve had help me this last week or so. He understood, for the most part, that a roller shouldn’t touch, let alone go over, the light switches and plug sockets. There was also minimal paint splats on the floor to scrape up later, so I was pretty impressed and we made quick time of the rest of the house. When we’d done, we exchanged a high 5 and I asked him a little about himself. His accent was pretty good when he spoke English, but this disguised the fact that he couldn’t say very much. I did, however, get to ask him if he thought he would like to be here at the Orphanage until he was 18. He said yes. I suppose anything must be better than sleeping in a bush without a penny to your name and no way to earn that penny either.
The new boys arrival gave up the opportunity to ask what had happened to the rest of the children. Up until now, everyone had been vague as to the specifics, but now they opened up. As there were only a small number of them at the house on this morning, it was easy to talk about those present. We’ll try to find out about the rest as soon as its appropriate, but this is what we found out about the very youngest children.
Makanaka (AKA Grace). 9 months old.
Makanaka, as she is known now, was left at the train station. But she wasn’t left to be found by a kind passerby, she was left on the tracks to die. Her screams were heard before that moment ever came and she was brought to the orphanage at only 3 days old. She has never known anything other than living in Tariro, and likely never will. Her mother, for some reason, left a note with the intended name of the child (Grace), but it was decided that she should be renamed given the circumstances. Makanaka means “very good” in the local language Shona.
Macdaniel. 22months old.
Readers of this blog, and following our travels thus far will be very familiar with this cheeky faced chap. He was the first to come running to Nicole as soon as we stepped through the doors 2 weeks ago. His smile is incredibly infectious and sweet, but he can be jealous when he is not centre of attention. He’s such a loveable little character though. He does have a father, so is not strictly speaking an “orphan”, but his father is very ill. We didn’t want to ask exactly what this illness was, but it was something that stopped him from taking care of his own son. He visits every 2 weeks if he can, but for how long he’ll be around for this to carry on, we just don’t know but its not thought to be long. His mother died when he was not even 1 year old. We imagine that both his parents have fallen victim of the HIV/AIDS virus given the limited info we have to go on, and its prevalence here in Africa.
Thomas. 2 years old.
Again, Thomas has featured a lot of late in our blog. He was, at first, overshadowed by Macdaniel’s lively character, despite him being slightly older. He has such a quiet yet fun character. He’s really come out of his shell in recent times and now, finally, has all the excitability of a regular 2 year old. He has been at the orphanage for around a year. Nothing is known of his parents at all. He was found by a policeman named Thomas, and took his name as a result, at the local train station. He’d been abandoned by whoever was meant to be taking care of him. Who can imagine ever wanting to leave a child as amazing as this?
If you’d like to help these children, please donate here and all proceeds will go to making their lives better, easier and more productive. We are trying to make sure that they all attend school, have happy lives and each nourishing meals each day until they are old enough, and wise enough, to move on to the next step of their own lives.
If you can help, then please make today that day.