AIDS Orphanage: Intern Post by Megan Wilcken
They called it an office, but I am convinced it was an oven. If I had been in there just ten more minutes I would have come out a nice golden brown. I shouldn’t have been surprised–the building was constructed entirely of metal sheets, and metal is such a good conductor. : ) I don’t think we visited any other place as miserably hot as this “office.” But I would gladly go back (just maybe earlier in the morning or later in the evening).
Paige (a fellow intern) was filming an interview with Charles, the Co-Director of the orphanage. As I listened to Charles I noticed a hand-written sign behind his desk. This is what it said:
Charles and Mary, his wife, live by that motto. They are the kind of people who constantly inspire others to do more. At least, they inspired me. They are both university-educated and licensed social workers. With their education, they could have chosen to pursue more lucrative careers in one of Kenya’s larger cities. Instead, they have dedicated their lives to creating a home for children who are rarely welcomed into any other home: children whose parents died of AIDS.
In Kenya, these children are usually taken in by relatives. But they will often be the last person in the household to be given food, clothing, or an opportunity to attend school. Charles and Mary are giving them so much more than just a safe place to sleep and food to eat. At the top of the sign in the picture it says, “In a family.” Charles and Mary are giving these children a family. If you ask the children, they will enthusiastically declare that they do indeed have a mother and a father, brothers and sisters.
When we were given a tour of the facilities, we noticed how clean everything was. That, alone, was more than I expected to find. The overwhelming feeling of love and happiness was another surprise (maybe I’ve read too much Dickens). The children were so obviously content, secure, grateful, and happy. I find it is often difficult to get Kenyan children and adults to smile for a picture. Daniel, apparently, didn’t get the memo that he was EVER supposed to be serious.
Another surprise was their English. When we first arrived, all the children were at the orphanage on their lunch break. A few minutes later most of them returned to school. But there were three girls who were not in school yet. They spoke and sang to us in English. It wasn’t until later that I realized that Mary and Charles must be teaching them English at the orphanage. A few days later I had a chance to talk to Mary at a dinner party and I asked her about it. She confirmed that they do teach the children English (as well as other subjects) before they even begin school. They want to give them the very best chance at succeeding in school and escaping the cycle of poverty.
Charles told us about some of their needs at the orphanage. They hope that we can help them get more indoor games, especially educational games. They said they would love scrabble because it would help the children learn English and practice it. When I asked Mary for specifics about what they could use, she listed several things but then said that we couldn’t send them anything that they would not use and appreciate. I feel a great desire to provide them with whatever resources I can. I do not know exactly how I will do that, but they are in my heart and I feel that I can and should help Charles and Mary in their selfless work of helping so many children.