Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Experiencing the life of an orphan at the Dar-ul-Muslimeen Orphanage

After the 3 hour bus ride, the Peak 4 Poverty team finally arrived at the Dar-ul-Muslimeen orphanage to be greeted with the cheerful faces of 34 children. The team had been up and about since dawn, eager to hit the road to Morogoro where we would be spending two days volunteering at the orphanage. We arrived at the orphanage close to noon, and were immediately ushered in to the living room where we gathered together to recite a prayer of hope. After the Peak 4 Poverty team introduced themselves, each child shared a few words by stating their name, grade and their performance in school.
Once we had exchanged introductions, we all came together to recite our afternoon prayers. The older boys led the prayers while the younger ones followed behind. I couldn’t help but smile at the unity and togetherness among the children.

 We spent the next couple of hours playing board games and socializing with the children. Upon hearing the call for lunch (the clanking of a spoon against a metal piece), the children grabbed their plate and assembled near the kitchen entrance to receive a piece of ugali, a famous East African flour cake, which was served with beans stew and spinach.

 After enjoying a hearty meal together, we split the children in to three age groups and spent the rest of the afternoon coloring, drawing and writing essays.
We concluded the evening with a game of soccer at a nearby field. Soccer is a common passion among the children and they were all delighted to share their passion for the sport with us. After a delicious meal, the older boys settled in the living room to watch a movie. The younger kids where tucked into bed.

            We woke up the following morning to the sounds of the children sweeping the floors and washing the clothes. It was 6 AM and all the kids were already busy finishing their chores. The youngest child, 4-year old Karimu, was walking around the foyer with a toothbrush in his hand, looking for his slippers. He finally found his shoes and started walking towards the common washing area to brush his teeth. I noticed he had worn the left slipper on the right foot and vice versa. I went over to him and put him on my lap where I switched his slippers. He was the most adorable child I had ever seen, always smiling and cheerful. He went off to brush his teeth on his own and watching him made me realize that most 4 year olds are busy playing with their toys, pampered by their parents while here, Karimu had his arm outstretched, trying to reach the tap to rinse his mouth.
            Once the chores were done, we all grabbed a plate and cup and waited in line to get a slice of bread and tea from dada (which means sister in Kiswahili). We all ate to our hearts content, enjoying the chit chatter among the kids. After finishing their meal, each child would wash their plate and cup and return it in the kitchen. The most heart-wrenching moment was watching young Karimu scrubbing his plate. How often do you see a 4 year old child fetch his own plate, feed himself and then wash the utensils?
Before setting off to hike up the mountain, the Peak 4 Poverty team distributed water bottles to all the children. We also gave the younger kids beach balls.The smile on their faces on receiving the beach balls was simply heart-warming.  The little things make such a huge difference in the lives of these children.
Water bottles in hand, we started our hike up the mountain and after several detours, we finally caught a glimpse of our destination- a beautiful   water fall which was perfect for taking a dip. The boisterous kids kicked their shoes off and jumped into the water, where they spent a few hours swimming and playing. Some of the younger boys would slide down the rocks into the water and listening to their shrieks of laughter and joy brought a smile to my face. The hike back to the orphanage was less entertaining as most of the children were tired and hungry.
      After a hearty meal that consisted of goat meat, ugali and spinach, we all gathered in the living room to say our farewells. After reciting a prayer of hope, one of the guardians gave a speech of appreciation. The moment we were dreading the most had arrived- having to say our goodbyes to the kids. We shook hands and hugged the kids, promising to return soon to spend time with them. The Peak 4 Poverty team piled in to the piki piki, a 5-wheeled vehicle owned by the orphanage, and waved goodbye for the last time as we drove through the gates of the Dar-ul-Muslimeen orphanage. 

Written by: Leila Datoo

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