“Every child has a name and a story; everyone has the right to health, learning and protection, the right to their full potential and the right to participate in the shaping of their world”
UN Press Summary, The State of the Worlds Children 2002.
So last Wednesday we got ourselves sorted with a volunteer project here in Kampala. We had two contacts arranged for volunteer work.....Sanyu babies home and compassion international(more about this later!)
Anyways we started in Sanyu babies home last Wednesday. This is an orphanage that cares for up to 50 abandoned and parent less babies. Their ages range from newborn to 4 years. The children are found in many varied places; from maternity wards, and hospitals; outside houses and, police stations; in taxis, and taxi parks; to rubbish dumps, pit latrines, and often just by the side of the road. We've seen this poor babies and children lying at the side of the roads, waiting and hoping to be picked up and fed.
When a child is brought into the orphanage, efforts are made to find their parents or extended family but in most cases this proves unsuccessful. The main objective of Sanyu Babies Home is to see the children resettled back into the community with relatives or with foster families. Some of the children at Sanyu are fostered and adopted into local and overseas families, the other children move onto other homes and orphanages as they get older.
So, volunteers are greatly welcomed by the orphanage as you can imagine. There are full time staff there who are qualified in certain areas. But you don't need to be qualified to feed, play with and wash children, so thats what we help do. Volunteers are allowed stay and help from 8am till 1pm monday to friday.
Our typical day starts with helping the staff bath and play with the 18 babies that are currently under the age of three. For a man who finds children alot of hard work, I've adapted very well over the course of the past 7 weeks. When you see a baby in a malnourished and neglected state laugh...it would melt your heart. Its tough to imagine how their life will manifest itself from this early age, with so little and no one to bear responsibility for them. They sit in the kindergarten area for a few hours every day and get fed, washed and if their are enough volunteers - played with individually. Their emancipated bones stick out like rocks on a barren hillside, but their smiles and play full happiness are amazing to witness.
After playtime, we help feed them. Their dinner is a small portion of mashed potatoes with some soup mixed through it and some sort of baby milk afterwards. They eat this at a speed that would make someone like me who eats very fast, look very slow. Their are usually alot of tantrums at this stage as a few hungry hands go robbing neighbours food when their own is finished!
When dinner is over, we help bath and change them before they are put to bed for an afternoon nap....which is around the 1pm time.
Its hard to imagine, but we do be mentally wrecked come time to go. We can only imagine how difficult it must be for the full timers who are there around the clock. Its emotional stuff to be honest and it takes alot out of you both physically and mentally. We have saturdays and sundays to ourselves.
We are staying in Kampala for three weeks in total and then we will move to Kigali in Rwanda to volunteer there.
Helping out at an orphanage like this is not only rewarding, but a real life experience. To see life through the eyes of an abandoned child is truly humbling and life affirming.
Regarding the other organisation that we had a contact for....Compassion international. This seemingly is a big enough worldwide group, although I never heard of them before or either did Florence. Needless to say, after our meeting with one of their representatives, I had heartburn in my ears!
We went and met with one of their officers at the Kampala office last Tuesday(day before we started in Sanyu babies home).
We told the man, who was called Jackson about what we wanted to do and and what we had done already in Tanzania. He said that they are a Christian organisation and that they run different projects throughout Kampala as well as the rest of Uganda.
To be "allowed" to participate as volunteers however, we had to answer a few personal questions....if we didn't mind!! We said fire ahead.
First question: what religion are we? Catholic I promptly answered.
Second question: Whats the name of your church? St.Josephs church....obviously not the answer he was looking for, as he looked at me suspiciously! Maybe the correct answer was the Roman Catholic church...I don't know.
Third question: Are we a couple? Yes I replied.
Fourth question: Are we married? No I said as I smiled politely. Obviously another incorrect answer as Jackson looked very displeased at this response.
End of Interrogation!
We were told that we would be contacted the next day.......a phone call that we still haven't received, and do not wish to receive.
What a load of crap! We both knew exactly what this guy wanted to know. He wanted to make sure that we were of Christian/Catholic beliefs and hoping that we were married...before we would be considered to help out in any of their projects! I don't know if this has happened before, or is part of their policy over here, but its a complete disgrace.
So in order to give a helping hand to poor children and babies you MUST be a Christian believer?? It would be appropriate to also be married, because we are man and woman.....a couple...we must therefore be married? Ridiculous. 100% absolutely garbage. This man looked down at us because we were not married. Its not just me thinking this...Florence was there as well.
And also because I said St.Josephs church, which I don't think was the answer he was looking for, he probably thought that we were not Catholics...and just making it up because we wanted to help volunteer with them.
An absolute disgrace this is.
Sanyu babies home is also a Christian organisation. But were we interrogated when we arrived? No, we were welcomed with open arms and all that was expected of us was to sign in and out every day and give the babies as much help at we can...pure and simple. No questions about religion or marital status whatsoever!
And that's the way it should be full stop. I'm really baffled at the way we were treated, considering that we are volunteers, asking for no payment, and wanting to lend a helping hand in some of their projects. Maybe I should return to Jackson's office and demand why we were not contacted as promised by him.
Naturally religion should not come in the way of helping children out in third world countries. I'm not saying that this is the way in which "Compassion international" operate their business(well I hope not), but this man definitely did not entertain us after he found out we were not married, and he probably suspected wrongfully that we were not Catholics....which should be not big deal either. We were there to help and instead got interrogated. Good luck to that I say.
So I got that rant off my chest :)!
No other news really. We are going to head to a little town on saturday, which is about two hours away. Its called Jinja. Its more of an adventure town and is the source of the river Nile! So there's white water rafting, bungee jumps and quad biking trips all to be had there. The quad bikes are definitely getting a good doing. I love them. We went for a quad bike safari through the Sinai desert in Egypt two years ago and it was the brilliant craic. So looking forward to that.
Have a few funny observations about African life that I'll give its own update sometime soon.
So hope everyone is keeping well and thanks for everyone so far for the texts messages and words or support and wisdom :)
Chat with ye in a few days again.