Friday, April 30, 2010

ah, the rain

The dry season has started earlier than normal and dust has blanketed the house for a couple weeks now.  Going for walks means breathing in plumes of dust left from cars flying past us.  Except today.  It is raining!  As I am from the pacific nw originally, rain never fails to bring a smile to my face.  Especially, when it has been so dry lately.  Now, if only we would have water IN the house!

I wanted to give a brief update as some of you who are following along with me have been asking what can be done to help.  First, because a friend of mine gave a generous donation to the orphanage I was able to talk with the director this week about hiring 4 new mamas!  So, we are hoping that, when the other mamas aren't sick there will be always at least 4 mamas at a time during the day, and 3 at night!  Also, we were able to help him buy mattresses, sheets, clothes, and blankets.  As well as a bunch of formula!!

Tomorrow I am heading up there again; it will be a slippery drive with recent rain.  I am doing a small seminar on nutrition and stimulation (on the request of the orphanage staff).  I want to keep it simple tomorrow as right now they are really doing the best they can with what they have.  I figure, once the other mamas start, we can do a more in depth discussion about nutrition needs and developmental play and stimulation.

I am working on a fundraising letter with the information on immediate and ongoing needs and long term goals based off some recent discussions with the director.  If anyone is interested in this information or want to do some fundraising of their own, let me know at hmulford@gmail.com.  Any money raised will be sent through OFA, which along with helping families adopt, has the primary focus of helping orphans in Congo.

Otherwise, I am reminded again today that so many of the kids there are doing well.  Despite the odds, there are so many faces I can bring to my mind that are full of hope and joy, from the littlest ones to the biggest ones.  The staff there really care about the kids and are doing the best they can and more!

And I also remember the little ones whose faces and spirits spur me on to not feel overwhelmed or discouraged, but to try to do what I can to come along side the staff at Kaziba and improve their situation, so that those little ones know they are loved and precious, too.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some pics from today

a time such as this

So, I unexpectedly went to Kaziba today!  Yeah, a fun surprise getting to visit our little girls, though I didn't spend as much time with them as I would have liked.  I spent a lot of my time talking with the director about their needs, their budget, and how I can help.  I was SO struck today by how much the lack of caregivers is affecting the kids, especially the little ones.  They simply are not held except to be fed, because they don't have enough staff right now.  It is clear they love the kids, and do their best, but without enough hands....  Other mamas are still sick, so there are only 2 mamas for 31 kids, and so many of those are little.  It is overwhelming, and somehow today it really hit me hard.  Maybe because I know their names, and I care about them.  When I find one of the young ones alone laying on the floor it hurts, because I love that little one.  I just simply don't have enough arms to hold them all.  I hate choosing one over the other.  I picked up one little guy and he just sank into me, every part of his body was touching mine as if to soak up this moment and store it in his heart.  How could I put him down then, to hold another little one?  It was hard not to burst out in tears while I was there today, I found it such a heart breaking visit.  But, I have to believe that I am there for a reason, that somehow I can help, that others can help, that together we can help these children.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

two sweet faces

pictures from our visit today, April 24, 2010

This little girl is almost 3 yrs old and can't walk.  She took a couple unsteady steps holding my hands.  

Happy smiles and broken hearts

We had a safe trip to and from Kaziba today; we are very tired now.  But I wanted to try to post a little about our trip.  We brought a good friend with us this time and it was fun watching her play with all the kiddos!  They loved her!  The situation is the same there right now, only two mamas at a time to watch 31 kids (and they have two new babies again!).  So many "babies".  I'm so thankful our girls are in foster care right now.  We could really see the difference in them from two weeks ago.

The director of the orphanage was told by their funder to drop funding down by $600/month.  They already run at a minimum level, with workers only paid $40/month, simple diets of porridge and rice with sauce if they have it and meat rarely, and watered down formula.  Their (off and on) current funders have said that they should keep their staff but cut down in "other" areas.  The only "other" area they have where they could cut down on is food!  I've been bringing up formula each time, so that helps, but it is heartbreaking (they probably need $800 of formula each month and I don't bring up near that!).  They were also told to expect little to no funding next year!

The wonderful thing about this orphanage is how much the staff LOVE the kids.  They really are doing the best they can, and it is heartwarming.

However, with so few staff and too little food, some of the children are really sad and heart broken.  There are a few of the toddler-babies that just really look lost.  When you pick up some of these little ones, they melt into you and hold on tight.  Others, don't really know what to do, and just look at you (or away from you) from a very hurt broken place.

Then there are the ones, that,  despite it all, laugh and giggle and can't wait to play with anyone who has a moment to say hi.  Despite the fact that they are crib bound and can't sit or roll on their own, joy exudes from their faces.

There is a much longer and more detailed post about one of my previous visits there in the archives under "heavy hearts and heroes".

I will try to upload some pictures, it's a slow connection!

I hope and pray we can raise funds to support this orphanage on a regular basis.

Friday, April 23, 2010

a question of love

I suppose that is a strange title considering what I want to write about right now.  If only I were more articulate I could get my thoughts down here so much better.  For most of my life I have felt the support and love of my family and friends as I have made various decisions.  My wonderful mother, has stood by me as I went to college across the country (spending all my college summers away), as I decided to live on the east coast after college, as a married a man NOT from Oregon (yes, big deal!), and then as I moved to Congo with him and our baby.  Though it has been hard, she has stood by me, loved me and supported me (and even come to visit twice!).  When we started talking about adoption she has been behind us, supported us and been so excited!  What means so much to me, is that she loves the girls already as her grandkids.  (And she still has the picture of Moses...)  For the most part, all our family and friends have also been supportive and loving, which I am so grateful for because though we are following our hearts and God, it is a hard path, especially here in Congo.

But....for the first time, I have felt both subtle and overt criticism and judgement.  Whether it be because we are adopting internationally, interracially, or even because we are adopting two when we have two that are young, the judgement is there, hidden and quiet (sometimes not so quiet).  I am someone who avoids confrontation at all costs.  And add this to the fact I have always been a bit of a people pleaser,  it's not a great combination.  But...it is so good for me!!!  Strange, but I am finding my self growing stronger.  I find myself truly 100% believing in what and why we are doing what we are doing.  I find myself standing tall and ready to defend our choices and decisions.  I find myself caring less what people think, and more what God thinks.  I find myself full of joy and peace about following my heart and being obedient to God.  I find myself pulling away a bit from those who would judge and criticize because I know they truly don't understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, and who we are now.  Living in Congo has changed my life.  Adopting from here has changed my life.  I am a different person than I once was before I came.  I've wanted to adopt my whole life, but for the first time I really understand what it means, the commitment, the challenge, the honor, the grief, the joy, the guilt, the love, the hope, the worry, the gift, and the amazing grace I am given.

anxiety

I struggle with anxieties regarding this adoption.  I try my best to guard my heart as we already have had one "failed adoption".  I don't even know if I can call it that as we never even got to the part of submitting our paperwork to the courts.  Regardless, we had to say goodbye to a little boy we loved.  Now, I try not to think of the little girls as "ours" too much, but it is really hard not to do so!!  In my heart they are my little girls, they are named, loved, and wanted.  So, I worry about them.  And this really doesn't have to do with violence or insecurity or even corruption here.  It has to do with two little babies that aren't home yet.  I got an SMS from their foster care provider today that they are sick and please bring them antibiotics when we visit tomorrow.  (Yes, we are going up tomorrow, whoohoo!)  I'm trained as a pediatric nurse practitioner so I'll bring my "bag", but in the end, I feel pretty powerless.  I cannot bring them home yet, and I only can pray that they will okay.  In general, I am a person who loves being in control (yes, poor husband and kids :).  So, I find it so very hard to have absolutely no control over this situation.  I pray and pray, or more like send up to God my worried anxious thoughts, on a regular basis.  I remind myself that I chose adoption, and it comes with risks and worries.  I would not turn away from this path, but some days I find it very very hard.  I pray for more faith, and less anxiety.   More trust, and less doubt.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

an adoption journey?

I realized that though this blog was started as my way of talking about what was happening in our adoption process, it has changed into something much more for me.  It should be titled, the journey that God is taking me on into His heart of love for orphans and vulnerable children.  Because what I have learned most of all is that there are so  so many orphaned and vulnerable children here.  And I've met some wonderful lovely people who are doing what they can, with the little they have, to help all these children.

My heart is often with them and the children they care for daily.  Because, though I am filled up and overflowing with love and hope for the two little girls we hope to call our own, I am also filled with a passion to come alongside these amazing people and join them in their struggles to help these children.  This isn't about adoption at the moment for me, but it is about helping those who "look after orphans and widows in their distress".  It is about all those kids up at Kaziba, the ones in the home and the 82 kids in foster homes that need school fees that are over age 6.  And it is even more about the rest.  It is about the 300 kids that a woman helps through the association she started after the war 5 years ago.  It is about the 100 kids that Nazarenes help two days a week.  It is about the 55 kids the Lutherans help and foster.  It is about the 75 children that another association that I haven't even visited,  helps.  It is about the 84 children that the mama I met last week takes care of in an insecure remote location.  And so many I know nothing about.  All these kids are under the radar.  They aren't helped by any big ngos or aid groups.  They are helped by Congolese men and women who take them in and do what they can.

Here is one story.  One day a woman and her sister were walking along the road.  They saw a bag in the ditch wiggling with what they thought were kittens.  It was a newborn baby boy, thrown away.  Now, this happens everywhere, as we know.  Babies are abandoned in trash cans in the US, too.  However in the US we have an intact social services department which overseas the care of the abandoned and rejected children.  Here, there isn't such a thing.  This little boy has been raised by the sister for the last four years.  He appears to be blind in one eye from cataracts which I assume is secondary to malnutrition (vit. A def.).  He doesn't go to regular school, most of these children don't.  I'm guessing that 99% of the orphaned and vulnerable children in Congo will not be adopted (nor should they all be adopted), but will need support in-country by loving and carrying congolese men and women who open their homes to care for them.  There is a big need for attitudes to change as well.  For orphans to be treated equally and given equal rights as other children, for access to school and health care.   This is NOT the case here, and it is wrong. A lot of orphans move from house to house.  Most orphans are treated as second class citizens and become house help.   There are some families, however, who truly love orphaned children here and make sure they are clothed fed, and sent to school.   I feel overwhelmed by the needs, not knowing the best ways to help, not knowing how or where or when.

Today, I start with Kaziba, and pray about tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

our update and another hero

Our paperwork was submitted to the courts here yesterday!  Our lawyer thinks it shouldn't take more than a month to get a judgement.  Meanwhile, we are in the process of moving the girls to a foster home in Kaziba!  All good news.

On a different note, I've mentioned before in this blog about how many orphans here are cared for in informal foster care settings (I've learned of over 500 at this point).  These are organized and run by congolese (mostly women) who have seen a big need and try to raise funding for food and school fees for the kids.  Today, I randomly met one of these heroes.  She is a tiny woman with a big smile and lots of energy.  She lives in an area where there has been a lot of violence.  She watches and cares for 84 orphans.  Many of their parents have died from insecurity or they were abandoned because their mother was raped by military or rebel groups.  She tries to raise school fees for them so she can pay for the teachers that volunteer their time.  I will probably never be able to visit where she lives and see the work she does, but it was amazing to meet her, and perhaps our paths will cross again one day.

Monday, April 12, 2010

with our girls

pictures from our visit saturday

Trying to hold as many kids as I can.
Lots of "babies" in cribs.
Mama Lili, always smiling

Sunday, April 11, 2010

heroes and heavy hearts

We had a safe trip to and from Kaziba yesterday.  The trip really wipes a person out, being jarred and bumped for 5 hours, I don't think there is a flat part of that road, we were exhausted afterwards.  (And I learned that if I just close my eyes for the 30 minutes of the drive while we are driving along the escarpment, it goes a lot better.)  But, more than exhaustion, we had very heavy hearts after our visit after seeing the condition the children were in this week.  There were two mamas in the hospital sick with malaria, and had been for the week.  That meant there were only two mamas during the day and at night to watch the 33 kids (they have two new babies that are 5 weeks old too...), and somehow feed them all (well, they try)!  The mamas only get paid $40/month, yet the orphanage has so little funding that they do not have enough staff to fill in when two mamas are sick.  They try to feed the kids and babies three times a day.  The babies get fed during the night if they really scream.

We were there about 4 hours and helped as best as we could.  One of the hardest parts was trying to decide who to hold.  We wanted to hold our girls the whole time, they looked sad and skinny.  But, there were all these other "babies" (I use that word to mean all the kids under 16 months old who can't sit independently or roll, and lay in cribs all day-about 12-15 kids) that also desperately needed affection.  It was so heartbreaking.  I think both Mike and I were holding back tears for most of the day.  I don't blame those mamas at all.  They did the best they could, and obviously care about the kids.  Any free moment they had they were playing and holding kiddos.  But the reality is that when you have so many babies, there is NO way you can hold them all.  So, the ones that cry very persistently for hours, get held, but the rest who whimper or just roll their heads side to side in their crib don't.  We did the best we could.  Some, babies, when you hold them,  just grab on tight to you and melt into your body.  Others, don't even know what to do; the neglect over time has prevented them from even knowing how to interact and play.  I have been reading all this adoption literature, and now I can see first hand the effects of institutionalization.  I can see little ones with sensory integration disorders because they have been so under stimulated for so long.  Then there are the resilient ones, the laughing, playing, climbing, and wrestling kids.  The ones that walk before 2 years old, and smile when you smile at them.  There are the 4 and 5 year olds that are desperate to play with you and follow you everywhere, chattering the whole time.   These kids lift your spirits when you visit.

There is one little girl there who is about 13 months old, I remember her the first day I went, because she seemed so neglected.  Anyway, towards the end of our time, we realized that we hadn't held her either, so we picked her up and she just kept her arms bunched up at her sides with her hands in fists, like you would see a newborn do...I cry now just thinking about it sitting here in my house.  She is one that only gets held when they get changed and fed their watered down formula and porridge from a bottle three times a day.  You can see what happens when babies are not held and given affection.  You can see it in her flat affect, her sad sad eyes that just haunt me.  Mike managed to get a small smile out of her, at least that is what we think we saw.

Again, I will say, that the mamas there are wonderful.  They really do what they can, and try to hold and play with the kids when they can.  It is amazing that the kids look as good as they do, that they were fed a meal while we there, in a very organized fashion.  Mama LiLi is one of the heroes there to me.  She was smiling the whole time, as she rushed around trying to coordinate the feedings and meals for all those kids.  She was my hero yesterday, she was amazing.

Leaving the two little girls, who we hope and pray to be ours, behind was very difficult.  They didn't smile hardly at all, and their legs and arms were so thin. We held them almost the whole time.  Turns out that it really isn't that hard to hold two babies at once; we did that a lot yesterday, trying to hold as many as we could for the short time we were there.  And then I get home, and my two big girls come running out to see me, so happy, so healthy, so well adjusted, so attached, so loved, and I cry all over again.  Children should not be neglected anywhere in the world.  They need homes, and families to love them and call their own.  At the very least, they need to be held and loved, they need someone to tell them they are loved and precious.  Even if some of these kids never leave this orphanage, they need more mamas there, to love on those kids, so they know that even if they don't have a forever family, they are loved, valued, and so precious.  I can see now, why children die if they aren't touched, given affection and loved.  I know why now, because even babies can lose hope and give up.  Even little ones can understand that they are alone.   I know, because I saw it in some of their eyes yesterday, and that hopelessness breaks my heart.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Our update

For us, we are going up tomorrow to retrieve one more necessary document and then we are hoping our dossier can be submitted to the courts here on Monday!  The lawyer thinks it should take at least a month to get a judgement.  We are praying!

thoughts at midnight

There are certain thoughts that keep me awake at night (aside from our two babies up there who are always on my mind).  I should say, certain children keep me awake.  For the last few nights it has been the kids at Kaziba again.  I wonder what I can do to help.  I have training, I am a pediatric nurse practitioner with a public health degree.  I could probably raise resources.  I may not speak the languages spoken there, but I can bring translators with me.  I can find transport.  I am here at this time for a reason.  So, what do I do?

I brainstorm a lot with a good friend of mine here.  Here are some of our ideas.

Without any other resources at this point-  First, get the babies out of the cribs...held, sitting, rolling, on tummies!  There are 13 month old there who weigh 10 lbs and who can't sit, roll, and aren't even great at holding their heads up for long periods of time.  They rock in their cribs, they don't smile.  There are 3 year olds who can't even walk.  Their legs look very weak.  This is probably due to long term malnourishment (if you don't get protein, vitamins and minerals-you don't grow or have strength) and under stimulation.  Get the kids outside to absorb some of the wonderful sunlight we have here, even for 30 minutes.  Vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets and poor growth.

With resources- Feed the kids, especially protein food and fruit.  When we've been there the last two times, they have been getting food-but just plain rice every time.  Buy more food and formula more regularly.  I recently priced formula here.  The container they sell here will feed a baby for four days if they get fed 24 oz a day and it costs $7.50.  Multiply that by about 15-20 who need that and by 30 days and you have around $1000 per month, just to feed the babies.  That doesn't include money to buy food for the rest of kids there, which would probably also cost $1000 per month.  Hire more staff.  Right now there are four mamas there during the day and 3 at night.  This may seem like a lot, but remember there are 33 kids there, only 12 or so walk, and 8 more of them sit by themselves, the rest are in cribs.  AND the mamas wash all the clothes (and nappies if they have them to use) by hand, which is time consuming.

There aren't many orphanages in the area of Congo.  I know this because I have done a lot of research and traveling trying to see how orphans are cared for here.  I know of three orphanages in the area.  One is on an island! Katana is 1 1/2 hours away and doesn't take babies.  Kaziba is 2 1/2 hours away and only takes kids under 5 years old (kids over 6 are put in foster care, they have about 85 kids in foster situations there).   This orphanage receives babies from very far away, because there is no where else.

Finally, my mind is often on a little boy who is named Moise who is very sick up there.  I wonder, is there some way I can help him.  I'd be happy to buy the specialized therapeutic milk that is for severely malnourished children, but if it is given incorrectly or mixed incorrectly he could die.  He is 10 months old and probably weighs less than 6 lbs.

We head up there again tomorrow.  I will bring more formula.  What else...what else?