On Thursday Riley, Mattea and I went next door to the Happy Life Children's Home to help feed lunch to all the babies. You know this isn't going to be an easy nor fun experience but they're so desperate for the help we wanted to go. There's no question it was difficult, but there's also a reality that sinks in that you just cannot take home 70 babies. So you do your best.
The conditions of the home were clean, but shockingly run down. They have next to nothing as far as furniture or toys and what they did have was just, well, to me unacceptable. We got there about half an hour before feeding time so we were led into a room into which the toddlers would come when the production of toileting them all was over. It was a room with two ripped up couches, an old china cabinet that was empty and a small fuzzy TV in the corner playing American Christian programming.
There were two older kids in there playing, but they paid us no attention whatsoever. I spoke to them a bit but they didn't seem interested in us at all. When the 20 toddlers entered the room we had instant friends; on our laps, touching us, looking at us. The caretaker came in the room and instructed (in Swahili) for the children to sit on the carpet. They listened immediately and waited patiently - so did we! What was happening?? She came back with a big tray of Mandazis (a local favourite snack) and each child had 2 or 3 if they wanted. They then waited patiently again until lunch time. When she left the room, they were told to sit on the carpet. They were so cute, you could squeeze them all.
I know that a friend brought the concern to my attention of people coming and going in an orphanage and what that does to their attachment. Unfortunately, it seems as if there are just so many babies that the alternative is the kids just don't get any attention or have to wait forever to get fed. So this 'children's home' will take in anyone willing to come for feedings/changings or for internships. One man was there from Minnesota (though was local) and he was there for a 2 month internship.
Soon the caretaker came back and brought all the kids and us into the dining room where the children sat on the floor (no chairs or tables) and mostly fed themselves their lunch of rice, beans and bananas. Riley and I helped feed two who couldn't quite do it. When they were finished we headed upstairs to the baby areas. The building seemed to be like an apartment building where all the rooms were divided up and full of cribs or change tables or laundry facilities. There were also guest rooms and staff rooms.
In the crib rooms we were given a bowl of the same type of meal and just started on one side of the room and worked our way around. There were two other women in my room helping and the same in Riley's.
Mattea worked her way around the room keeping babies happy who were not so patiently waiting their meals. These babies were in the 5-8 month type category. They could sit in the Bumbo (there were 3) to eat but usually didn't have teeth or flopped around a bit. They ate a shocking amount of food and then went back to their cribs to lie around by themselves. My room had about 10 cribs. Once they were done eating the ladies came and worked their way back through the room changing diapers.
Not to pick favourites but I must say we fell in love with two particular babies… if only the process was easier. The orphanage has both adoption and sponsorship programs. Here in Kenya you must stay 6 months before being able to take the baby back home. If you were interested, the location where we're staying next door would be ideal, especially for a family.
I want to look into the sponsorship program they have, because meeting the babies face to face makes it very real. I love our World Vision babies, but it's much different. Maybe I could sponsor and Mom could look in on them. Though I don't know what happens if they get adopted.
Most of the orphans are boys, unlike some other countries where girls are left behind. Apparently girls go to the families they marry and boys get the inheritance. Adult males don't want to share an inheritance with adopted siblings so families opt for females.
One baby was so tiny. They said she was 2 weeks old but there's no way she was full term. Heart breaking. What are her chances if she can't get the 24-7 care she needs? I will have to go back to check on her.
However, in general the babies looked healthy and loved. A couple of babies, in my not so professional opinion, had disabilities, but in general they were growing, responding babies. I was impressed with how much they got to eat, plain as it was, and I got the sense they were truly cared for - to the capacity available anyway. It was the conditions of the house that broke my heart.