|The baby of the house|
Yesterday was our third day at Sarita’s, the orphanage. The kids continue to greet us with excitement and enthusiasm, and welcome us through the gates with hugs. In the afternoon we focused on reading, as most of the kids have an English exam in school tomorrow. A few of the younger children don’t go to school yet, partially because it costs $280 a year for each child to get an education - a cost that the orphanage cannot afford. The older kids have all been “sponsored” by past volunteers, and Anna and I are hoping to help at least one or two of the younger ones so that they can get an education, too.
|At 12, Manik is one of the oldest in the house|
Two of the kids that really stand out to me so far are a 12-year-old boy, Manik, and 6-year-old Rajip. Manik is smart, curious, and mature for his age. He is incredibly sweet and seems well adjusted. He told me proudly that he is studying computers at school, and he wants to one day go to university in America. He also told me that the other kids at school make fun of him because they have laptops and he doesn’t, but that its okay because, instead of using the internet he reads the newspaper. I haven’t seen any of the bad qualities in him one might expect in a boy his age, but I have seen so much good in him.
I showed him on a map where I live and how far I had traveled. He asked me yesterday, “Why did you come from America to Nepal?” I explained that I wanted to see Nepal because it is a very beautiful country, but also because I had heard of Sarita’s and him and the other children, so I wanted to come to meet him. He was blushing and visibly happy to know that Anna and I had traveled all that way for him.
|Rajip smiling for the camera|
As for little Rajip, he makes me melt. He is quiet, shy, and doesn’t fight for attention like the other kids. He has warmed up to us and wants to be near us and included, but he avoids competition with the others in favor of sitting quietly in the corner until we are free to sit with him alone. He doesn’t speak much, but I know he’s listening. On our first day, we tried to teach him the “itsy bitsy spider” song and hand motions, but he didn’t play along. Then suddenly yesterday he walked up and started singing the song and doing the motions, wanting us to join in with him. He’s a smart little boy with the most adorable face, and I would take him home in a heartbeat if I had the chance.
Tuesday, Anna and I brought crayons and construction paper for the kids, and I can honestly say that I have never seen any child so excited to have the opportunity to color. When they saw the boxes of crayons in our hands, they began screaming with joy and yelling, “Painting! Painting! We are painting!”
|Anna reading to the girls|
They sat down to begin coloring and I was surprised to see how well they shared. The kids counted out crayons to make sure they each got some and carefully put them back in the boxes when they were done. They drew cows and elephants and people and were quiet for the first time since we met them. It made me so happy to see how happy they were, but it also broke my heart a little that a box of crayons meant so much to them because they have so little.
After each drawing, they would hold up their papers to show us and call out, “Sister, sister, look at me!” They call us sister. And they are so desperate for our attention and approval that we do our best to cheer on each one and spend a little time each day paying one-on-one attention to each child. If there is nothing else we can do for them, at least we can give them that.
Anna and I have also started trying to recall our days on the playground so that we can come up with some games to play with the children. Yesterday was Red Light/Green Light. Once we got over the language barrier and explained the rules, the kids loved it. Of
course, most of them spent the majority of the
time trying to find ways to cheat so that they can win. Cheating or not, they all had a blast running in the yard and playing this game, so it didn’t matter to me that the rules went out the
window. That seems to be a common thing here, anyway.
Our first day in the orphanage was the most difficult. How do we divide our time to make sure each kid feels loved and important? How do we know what to do for them or give them when they need so much? I left that day feeling physically and emotionally drained because I know that no matter what I do for these sweet, deserving kids while I’m here, at the end of this I’ll be flying home to my fiance (soon enough!), family, friends, warm bed, stocked refrigerator, and safe home. Once I’m gone, they’ll still be parent-less, packed into a small orphanage and sleeping on the floor because there aren’t enough beds, needing an education, and sometimes sick without enough money to get the necessary medical care. This is a tough reality to accept.
We have ended every day with the kids
asking what time we will return the following day. Whatever time we tell them, they always ask us to come earlier so that they can see us sooner. They send us off with, “See you tomorrow!” I like the satisfaction of knowing that I will be back the following day, both for my sake and for theirs.
I worry, even if they are used to saying goodbye to volunteers, about explaining to them on our last day that it may be many tomorrows before I see them again.