Thanks so much for the comments affirming that I am making a difference. Today I just feel overwhelmed by the hugeness of the problems here and the seeming impossibility of changing anything.
For a start, it’s so hard to give anything to the orphanage children without someone else taking it from them. And it seems wrong to pick out particular children anyway – we wouldn’t do that in NZ; we’d make sure everybody got something. But to do that you need a lot of similar items plus a way of distributing them.
Here’s an example. Lead pencils are sold in the school ‘tuck shop’ for 5c each. I had a whole bunch of lead pencils and the girl who runs the tuck shop said she’d make sure that the children who sleep here would get one each. She sounded very genuine in wanting to share them out, but how do I know that she didn’t just put them in the tuck shop to sell, or keep them herself, or give them to her friends? That sounds cynical, but it seems to be the norm here.
I have just met Mara, a young German volunteer who lives at the orphanage. She told me that Mme Rose was given 100 toothbrushes for the children. She put them in her room. Mara is trying to teach the children to wash their hands and brush their teeth regularly. When she asked Mme for the toothbrushes, she was told there weren’t any.
Mme Rose has told me they need nappies for the little ones – yesterday that was very clear to me when the babies were getting around in wet pants. So I thought about getting a whole heap of nappies, but I knew that if I did they would go to Mme Rose’s family including her well dressed little granddaughter. So I bought 2 packets only. She thanked me this morning, saying the babies had had a good night and this morning there was “no toilet in the washing”. I will have to buy just one or two packets every couple of days, to make sure they go to the children who need them.
There’s a new little boy at the orphanage aged about one. His mother is epileptic and can’t look after him. He spent the last two days screaming and walking to the big iron gates, wanting to get out. At one stage he did get out – Mme Rose realised he was gone and went looking for him. She said she always worries when there’s new one, because if a child goes missing “there are big problems with the government”. I take it that means they could be closed down. She later referred to the little boy as a ‘problem child’.
Mme has told me several times that she can’t afford to pay her two daughters – they teach here for nothing. But one of the daughters let slip that they get paid more than the other teachers.
Today Mme’s brother came especially to visit me. He wants a wife, but when I explained that I didn’t want a husband, he changed it to – he wants a sponsor so that he can travel overseas. I would only have to say that I want this person in my country and I promise to pay his fares etc, and it would be so much easier for him to get a visa. Well, I can understand that from his point of view it was worth a shot, but I’m getting pissed off with the number of strange men who want to marry me. It seems so damned materialistic and selfish.
So I feel I can’t trust anyone and I am struggling with wanting to just give up. I can understand that when people are poor they use whatever tricks they can to get by – but I can’t stand that they don’t have compassion for people who have so much less than themselves. Those poor vulnerable little children are just a means of scoring donations to them.
So please – if anyone can help with words of advice. Why am I here? What can I achieve? I don’t expect to change the world, but I don’t want to become cynical either. I don’t want to leave here thinking this was just an expensive mistake. How can I think about this in a way that helps me carry on?