Immaculee and Richard at the orphanage
Monday 7/1/07 5:45 PM
Strange day. Everyone in our group is so unique. Probably connected to this is the fact that whenever we go anywhere it takes so long to get organized. Add to that “Rwanda Time” (where no one is ever really on time or expected to be on time) and how disorganized all systems are and we end up with so much time and energy wasted – or at least not used even close to potential. The plan for the day was simple. Nothing very far away. Go to Mother Teresa’s Orphanage, visit with children and staff, sort of assess some needs for a party, treats, etc. Take some video footage for the documentary, then go get the stuff for the party. Stop by the place to pay for the gorilla tour. Go back to the orphanage and give the children an “Opra Party” as Cindy calls it.
No reason to write all of the details but so much time was spent between things, riding around (three cars, three big sets of packages, three drivers, ten passengers), waiting at the place where we purchased the passes to see the gorillas. We could only spend about an hour at Mother Teresa’s this morning. We were probably there for ninety minutes for the party.
A child outside of Mother Teresa's
Visiting the orphanage was one of the most important and powerful things I have ever been involved with. There were over well over a hundred infants in one concrete floor room. Steel cribs lined up end-to-end, side-to-side with aisles between. Just a few matrons attending at the time we were there. Some babies just sort of lying there. Some standing up in their cribs. They liked our attention. We walked through sort of stroking, cooing, comforting. I think they enjoyed our presence. I don’t think the caregivers did.
There were lots of flies. Some of the grownups had mosquito nets around their beds. None of the infants or toddlers did. Some of the little ones had flies on their faces and didn’t try to brush them away.
The toddler aged kids really warmed up to us. We all held one or two kids at a time. And we laughed and we smiled. That was the language we shared. Many were wet – cloth diapers. The smell was disinfectant and waste. I saw no toys. It was wonderful to spend a little time with the kids but I’m not kidding myself. But for a few moments, we made no difference in their lives.
People are left almost everyday at the gates of the orphanage. Some are newborn. Some little kids. Others older. Some are handicapped. All are unwanted or parents simply cannot take care of them. The sisters never know what situation will greet them, or who, when they roll back the big metal door to the compound each morning.
There was conflict between Immaculee and the Mother Superior. The Mother said no photos or video. “It would rob them of their dignity.” Immaculee pleaded that showing the world could only help raise money and awareness (the orphanage is a recipient of the Left to Tell fund but you wouldn’t know they had any funding). The Mother was adamant. Immaculee is not used to being refused. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Mother Superior felt that publicity would be exploitation. Immaculee was sincerely trying to help.
We met adults and a few teens as well while we were there. Some with severed arms or legs. One woman wanted, needed, to show us the stump of her arm which she kept wrapped in a shawl. One girl (thirteen or fourteen) who was blind, wanted to smell the women’s wrists for perfume or, I suppose, simply clean skin.