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.