Monday, March 22, 2010

Painting

As you may remember, one of the things I brought along with me was crayons, pencil crayons and paint to do art with the kids here. I’ve done coloring with the kids several times already but yesterday I was finally able to pull out the paint for the first time. I had planned on doing painting with the kids several weeks ago but the water went out and has been unreliable ever since and, even when there was water, I felt bad using the little we had for painting. We have had water consistently for the past week or so though and so yesterday afternoon I decided it was time to break out the paints. I gathered the kids and as I was organizing everything I asked the oldest boy (12 years old) if he had ever painted before. He said no, in fact, he didn’t even know what the paint and brushes were. I can only assume that this was a first for most, if not all, of the kids and needless to say, they had a lot of fun…












Monday, March 15, 2010

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight...

That’s the name of a restaurant in Uganda that my 2007 camps team found quite amusing. Out here in the village however such a restaurant would be quite out of place as chicken is a rare luxury that very few can afford. Nevertheless, given the lack of meat in our diet, it would be safe to say that I feel like chicken pretty much every night. Well, on Saturday we had a surprise visit from a group of Pakistani UN Peacekeepers. They didn’t stay very long, just long enough to drop off a few gifts and take some pictures with the kids, but it was nevertheless a nice diversion. Like I said, they brought some gifts with them but they were all wrapped up so I couldn’t see what was in them, although I assumed it was probably the staples – rice, salt, sugar, etc. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was playing in the yard with the kids while the Mamas were preparing dinner and it smelt amazing. I walked over to see what they were cooking and you could imagine my delight when I discovered that it was… CHICKEN! Ask my family and they will tell you that meat is hardly my favourite food but last night was, hands down, the best chicken I have ever had. I don’t know how much of a difference one piece of chicken will make to my body but if nothing else, it did my spirit good. So, thank you United Nations for a delicious treat and most of all, thank You God for giving me exactly what I need just when I need it…

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Swing!


Well, I’m nearing the halfway point of my time here and I am officially running out of things to do with the kids. The kids don’t seem to mind playing the same little games over and over again but I’m just not sure how much longer I can keep singing “Stella Ella Ola” and “Un Éléphant” dozens of times an hour before I go crazy! This morning I prayed a very specific prayer, asking God to open my eyes to some creative way to have fun with the kids. Recently they have been remodelling the “toilet” area and as I watched the kids playing with some scraps of wood, in what I can only describe as divine inspiration, it came to me – we could build a swing! I recruited the oldest, 12-year-old boy and with my limited Swahili and his limited French I managed to explain what I wanted. We found some old nails and he set to work making hooks on either side of a plank of wood while I went inside to dig out some rope that I had brought along (just in case I needed it for something). I was truly impressed with the result and the kids couldn’t wait to try it. I don’t know how long it’ll last but, for a group of kids who had never been on a swing before, it sure made for a fun day!

Ferdi, it seems like swings would be a great attraction for your social-profit fun park in Uganda. And, if you ever decide to bring Tjeko to the Congo, I know a group of kids who would definitely be interested…









Update: We went through several models but, much to my suprise and delight I am happy to report that when I left there was not one but two swings still intact... I don't know who was more happy, the kids or me!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Walungu

I find myself taking on many roles here for which I am totally unqualified however, simply being that I am from the West makes me more qualified than anyone else here. Some of those roles include French teacher, translator, nurse, nutritionist, etc. Today however I took on the role of photographer. Congo Restoration, the organization that runs the orphanage, is in the beginning stages of a new project, providing seeds to women to grow and help feed their families and communities, and today I was asked to go along to take pictures of the first of those seeds being distributed. We left first thing this morning for the village of Walungu, the capital of the Walungu territory (like Quebec City and Quebec). We caught a ride with a truck full of Oxfam workers and the view along the way was spectacular. We drove past women carrying babies on their back and crops on their heads, young boys and old men herding cows along the side of the road and countless mud huts with small children running around naked out front, all to a backdrop of the beautiful green mountains and valleys. It is neither safe nor appropriate for me to pull my camera out in public so as much as I would have loved to take tons of pictures, I didn’t. I soon realized however that even a thousand pictures could not do it justice.

After about 30 minutes the Oxfam truck dropped us off on the corner of the main road and a more rural road leading into Walungu. We then continued the rest of the way on foot which took about another hour or so and was even more breathtaking than the drive. As I walked the red dirt road alongside the Congolese people, a luscious forest on my left and the mountains behind a field filled with African cows to my right, you could still smell the rain that had fallen the night before and I almost had to pinch myself to believe that I was really there. I quickly told myself to take in every moment, every detail; this was an experience of a lifetime. The first 30 minutes were great, then we reached where the road had been washed out and were forced to climb along the narrow, muddy edge that was separated from the road by a ditch which, although shallow, was filled with murky water. As some of you already know, I am extremely clumsy and have absolutely no balance whatsoever, so much so that I have be known to trip walking down a straight, paved road. So, ask me to on walk along a narrow, slippery, uneven ledge… I thought for sure I was doomed. Interestingly enough though, the verse God gave me this morning (although I didn’t understand the significance at the time) was from Psalm 18:33 – “He makes me as surefooted as a deer, leading me safely along the mountain heights…” That’s what I kept repeating to myself over and over again as I walked and, sure enough, I made it without falling into the mud.

We arrived in Walungu and after delivering the seeds we went around, in true African style, visiting various people. One of our first stops was CAMPS (Centre d’Assistance Médicale et Psycho-Sociale), a center providing counselling, rehabilitation, etc. to women who have been victims of rape. It was very interesting to talk to the director there and hear his perspective on what needs to be done to bring restoration to his country. According to him, although the war is over, the people and the country are so traumatized that a lot needs to be done before the country has any hope of moving forward. He believes very strongly that the future of Congo rests in the hands of the women and children and therefore it is of the utmost importance that they are provided with opportunities for healing. His organization is doing a great work among the women however he also emphasized the importance of caring for the children, most especially the orphans. We also visited the mayor of the Walungu territory. Although our time there was short he also spoke with hope in regards to the future of the Congo. One thing he said that struck me was that the children here have lost the ability to play and he spoke of the importance of simple things like teaching them games so that they can move past the trauma they have experienced and be children once again. I had to agree with his observation and I thought to myself, “I may not be able to do much but that’s one thing I can do, teach our kids how to play…”

All in all, it was a good day and I returned to the orphanage this afternoon exhausted yet at the same time feeling refreshed after a day away, filled with gratitude for the awesome privilege it is to be here and, after hearing all that the mayor CAMPS director had to say, filled with a new sense of meaning and purpose for my time here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Field Day

On Sunday afternoons I try to do something fun with the kids. Often it involves me pulling out one of the gifts that I brought along (that I am trying to bring out slowly so that they last three months). So far I have given them the beanie babies you sent along, we have coloured and last week we played with balloons. Once a month however I plan on having a sort of “field day” with the kids, an afternoon of organized games ending with stickers and some sort of treat (cookies, candy, etc.) for everyone. Well, today we had our first field day. I had planned on doing it on Sunday but I wasn’t feeling well and it was pouring out so it didn’t happen. Today however we had our first rain-free day in awhile so I decided to take advantage of it and have our field day this afternoon instead. The theme for the day was relay races and, considering the language barrier and the fact that the kids had no concept of what a relay race was, it actually went quite well. We had a water bottle relay, they did the crab walk, passed a ball (or bowl or whatever else I could find) through each teammate’s legs to the ‘runner’ at the back of the line, they spun around five times with their heads on a ‘baseball bat” (or in this case a stick) before running back to their team, we had a human wheelbarrow race and finally a shoe scramble where we threw all their shoes into one big pile and they had to find their shoes and put them on before returning to their team. It required a fair bit of resourcefulness given the lack of supplies here, a lot of patience to explain/demonstrate each game several times in order for them to (more or less) understand, and every word of Swahili I know but ultimately the kids seemed to have fun and they were especially thrilled with the stickers and cookies at the end :)

The crab walk...




Spinning on a "baseball bat"...




Wheelbarrow race...




And now for the best part... cookies!