Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Counting my blessings

I am a grateful person.  Whether by dumb luck or divine intervention, I was born in a free country, to good middle-class parents, educated in decent public schools, had access to health care and never went to bed hungry. After spending time this week at the Childcare and Adoption Society Transient Home, as well as the Lions School for the Visually Impaired in Ndola -- I am even more grateful.

Through InterNations, an on-line expat club, I met a lovely young woman who works with non-profit organizations and who offered to take me to the orphanage.  The director explained the lengths they go to in order to protect the 15 children in his care from child trafficking rings, and the challenges keeping them all fed on a meager budget.  I've offered to volunteer a couple of times a week, and am waiting to hear back from him.

What is this precious child thinking about? 
Can eyes get any bigger?
Most of the children were very outgoing and didn't hesitate to come to me
There is not a blade of grass on the playground, and the equipment looked like it was from the 50s.
This little girl was quite a loner
 The youngest child is the 4 month old baby seen in the photo who arrived shortly after her birth.

The little boy in front of me grabbed my hands, and didn't want to let go

 Roger and I were invited to a braii (BBQ) on Saturday and met the parents of Roger's Safety Officer and some of their friends. It felt good to meet people and enjoy an evening of great food and gin and tonics.  I quizzed the women about where to source things and one of the women, Yvonne, offered to take me around to other shops.  She is an ardent fundraiser for the Ndola Lions School for the Visually Impaired, and she brought me along to a business meeting today.

The school opened in 1974 through the Lion's Club funding.  Since then, involvement has been limited and fundraising is crucial.  What do they need most?  Food.
There are approximately 140 children at the residential school and I was struck by how quiet, and how clean everything was.  Paths throughout the grounds were uneven and there were potholes everywhere that I had to keep my eyes peeled to avoid going headfirst.  Yet the children walked confidently -- sometimes arm in arm as some have some sight and help those who are totally blind.

I noticed several albino children and learned there is a high incidence of albinism in sub-Saharan Africa.  These children are at high risk on many levels.  Not only because of health issues including blindness associated with albinism, but the fact that albinos have been killed in order for body parts to  be used in witchcraft, and the misguided belief that raping an albino woman will cure a man of HIV/AIDS.

The Jacaranda tree brings beauty to the grounds
One of the classrooms.  Where are the books?

In an effort to make the school partially sustainable, maize, vegetables and bananas are grown and tended to by the children. They also raise chickens that supply eggs to the school and the chickens when butchered are sold to the hospital.  Pigs are also part of the school's "farm".
Crops of maize are grown in the field
Bunk beds were recently donated and the kids were excited to show them to us.
The girls dorm showing the new bunk beds
There are usually 2 children per bed so the bunk beds have made a huge impact.  More are being made and donated.

The dining hall

Door to the office - the headmaster is also blind and it was fascinating seeing him use a Braille typewriter to record information during the meeting.
Yvonne would dearly love to raise money for a playground, but it's hard to justify asking for such "luxuries" when simply having enough money to feed the children is the biggest need.
The only piece of playground equipment
When we approached the children, we would call out "good morning" to them.  Often they would stop and shake our hands.
The school has a talented group of singers who are recording a CD next week as a fundraiser.  I plan to videotape the recording session and then post it on YouTube to try and broaden their exposure.  Fingers crossed it is successful!

I learned about the dangers many African children face, and held hands with the lucky ones who are safe.  Roger and I may not be sitting down to a Thanksgiving turkey dinner this weekend, but we will give thanks for many things.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
Winston Churchill

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heather, your such a Blessing to all who meet you..
I am sure these kids are loving you.