I need your help to stay on track

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?

7 responses to “I need your help to stay on track”

  1. Oh Steph, you are making a difference! It must be very hard, but don’t give up… This is 10 weeks of your life – but this IS their life. Any small thing that you do will make a difference to the children, and for them just knowing that there are kind people in the world must mean something. I am SO proud of you… xxx

  2. Hi steph,
    What advice can I give one so wise? I will share something off Tessa’s sport psychology “mental toughness”. Confidence is certainty and freedom: The enemies of confidence include: Worry, uncertainty, fear doubt, anxiety. The brain is hardwired to be negative, build and maintain positive…..images related to your field. Champions find the positives in everything they do, its the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. Champions drown out the negatives and constantly talk to themselves…Daniel Abrahams. I guess it relates to more than just sport?

    Otherwise thanks for sharing, I understand why you are feeling doubt. I believe that by sharing yourself, such a sunny nature with genuine kindness and genorosity, the people who come in contact with you, will benefit. Love Heather

  3. Not sure if this qualifies as wisdom but I have some thoughts.

    Learning about Buddhism lately, and totally buying the idea (as I’m sure you have) that it is best to cherish others instead of oneself, I’ve been eagerly waiting for the part where you get stuck in and start helping people directly.

    We’ve just done step seven of the eight steps to happiness, which gives instructions for a meditation in which you imagine taking the suffering of others into your heart, where it destroys your own self cherishing, and transforms you into a wish fulfilling jewel that can then give happiness to people. You imagine giving people whatever they might need or want, without holding back: delicious food, comfortable living conditions, good health. Even believe for a moment that you have given it to them.

    I was totally surprised that you’re just supposed to imagine it instead of actually doing it! I thought, “So how can I satisfy my need to make a difference?!”

    But it makes sense. Basically, the idea is that, positive actions have positive results in the future, and negative actions have negative results. (Sure we’ve all been burned once or twice by trying to help, but thinking big picture, isn’t that a nice thing to believe?) And the most important actions are mental actions.

    I’ve started making donations to some charities, and as much as I want to donate more, my resources are limited and my efforts to help in a big way always frustrated. I was waiting for advice on how to be more effective at helping my chosen charities. But what I got was the advice to think bigger. In the long run and thinking globally, it’s a mental shift that the world needs to make. If I donate money my contribution might be like drop in a bucket. But if I have a mind of love and compassion, something which naturally spreads, I think my contribution will be substantially bigger.

    Remember you’re helping by:

    – showing that western people care just be being there
    – teaching your friends back home about the conditions there
    – improving your own compassion by seeing (and enduring!) the suffering that goes on
    – creating memories that the children will cherish
    – inspiring others to do similar things

    These are real impacts and you should feel good about them straight away! You are a wish-fulfilling jewel! Everyone back home loves you and what you are doing.

  4. Hi Steph; I really feel for you at the moment, having to bear wittness to the inequality of goods, sharing, compassion, and lack of unity you are expriencing. I dont know how long your committment is, but if it is in your heart to connect with those children; then thats your work. Dont under estimate what your presence ‘gifts’ them, nor what they take from it, or how they might draw on it, in later life. I think the difference between the macro and micro levels, is the type of relationship we are interested or compelled to focus on. In other words, in this case, political or heart to heart relational. Think about what it is you can leave, and your part in a long term ripple effect of change.
    I need to race off, but I have much food for thought on this.
    Keep in touch, and take care
    Sandra V 🙂

  5. Thank you Sandra, Heather, Oran and Bry for your support and encouragement. I am hearing the message from you all that it is the positive intention and inner mindset that makes the difference – and my test has been to try to keep that when the day to day situation prompts a different response.

    You keep me going – you are all wonderful wish-fulfilling jewels!
    Much love to you all,
    Steph x

  6. Heya Steph,

    Many wise words already shared above – I just wanted to say we are thinking of you. And of course you are going to feel the way you do – any normal person would given similar circumstances! But as someone has already said, this is a short period of your life, and yes you are meant to be there for this time so dont be discouraged hun (((hugs))). Such a brave thing you have done – many would only think and dream of stepping out and doing something different like you have. And no it isnt perfect, and yes people do what they can to survive – including being dishonest and whatever….

    You have no idea the positive impact you are having on various children Steph. Yes there seem to be loads of problems and issues, but what do you see in the individual children? You may have been called across the world to make a diffference for one child because you are the only one with the specific traits and abilities that would make a difference for that child – but it wont be just one ;). Can you shift your focus a little bit from the injustices and focus on the intangible gifts you are bringing to various children? It would be very difficult to bring change in a corrupt system in the short time you are there, but you can make a massive long lasting impact in the lives you touch.

    Hang in there my friend – you are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing…..
    Keep in touch
    Sue and Nic xxx

  7. I just have a simple question…. Is the experience more for you than it is about them? Perhaps you are dissastified because your expectations were very high.. maybe you are not being properly recognized or respected.. Is it a bit of pride? selfishness? Just inquiring…………

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