Thursday, June 30, 2011

in my yard (the water cistern)

During dry season, the water turns off during the day and eventually even at night.  Whenever the water comes on, it fills this storage tank.  We then pump it up to tanks in the house so we can get water out of the taps.  It's never enough for hot water but you learn to live with cold bucket baths.  We become grateful for any water that we have because the rest of the city searches for water at all hours.  

on being a minority (sort of)

I grew up in a small town in the Pacific Northwest.  A small town that was mostly white.  It wasn't until I moved to Baltimore that I finally lived in the middle of a diverse community.  I went to a church that not only represented more than one racial group but also more than one economic group.  My boyfriend lived in the inner city and I remember walking in his neighborhood and feeling like I was a minority, with my white skin surrounded by brown.  I remember feeling like I wanted to change my skin color and blend in, to not stand out so brightly.  Yet, at the same time I liked feeling different because I wanted to feel what it meant to be a minority.  I wanted to know what if felt like to be the outsider looking in, not understanding those on the inside.  I wanted to try to understand.

Well, then we moved to Congo and for the past four plus years I have been a minority in more than one way.  Obviously, being a person with white skin surrounded by people who have all different shades of brown and black skin has given me more than enough opportunity to experience what it feels like to stick out and be different.  Everywhere I go I stand out.  I am noticed any where I walk or travel.  Bukavu doesn't have a huge population of white people, it has even a smaller population of white children (nine to be exact, and after next week, that number dwindles to one child).  It has a population of one double bright blue BOB strollers.  There is one American family (ours).   And it has one adoptive family (ours again).   To say I stand out is almost an understatement.  I jump out.  Even to the chinese UN soldiers I am noticed.  They want to take a picture of our two little blond haired, blue eyed girls whenever I come upon them.  People stare at me everywhere, all the time.  At first it was unnerving, now I am used to it.  Sort of.

Even though I am used to it, it still bothers me.  Lately, I find myself wanting to yell, "I am not so different from you!  I am a person, a woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife.  I am you and you are me.  We are the same!  I am not so different!  Stop staring at me.  Just let me be myself.  Don't just see my skin color.  Look at me, my heart, who I am.  Do you know that I love your country?  That I love the  beauty of the place?  That I also can't stand the problems, the water problems, the roads that are more like holes, the lack of good health care, the lack of free schooling?  That my heart breaks with yours as your babies, your mothers, your fathers die and suffer?  Do you know that I am embarrassed that I can't speak your language?  See me for who I am, please.  I am just like you.  I get frustrated, I get down, I am happy, I am sad.  I love my family, I want to see them happy and healthy, I want to find joy in this hard life, I want there to be peace.  Let me live.  Turn your eyes from my skin and see my heart instead.  Let me walk in freedom without judgement, without expectation.  Please, just today, don't call me mzungu (white person), today call me "mama" like you do the other women with children.  I know my skin color is white.  I know that it means so much.  I know I am wealthy and always will be, simply because of the country I come from and will go back to one day.  I know that there is much that divides us.  But, I am more than the color of my skin, and I am less as well.  I know that it is hard to forget the past, it is easier to put labels on me and to put your hand out in petition to me.  I know that there is a huge divide between your poverty and my wealth.  But it is only of our own making.  It is not real.  I know I am white and you are black.  And I know this is important and beautiful.  But there is more that is important and beautiful too.  Don't forget the rest of it.  Give me freedom.  Let me live.  I feel trapped by who you think I am, and I am suffocating. Sometimes I hate having white skin!  Sometimes I want my skin to be beautiful brown like yours.  I live behind brick walls and barbed wire, but more than that holds me back.  Your country has been my home for four years, and yet it hasn't.  And the truth is, I know my own heart as well.  Come to my country and if it had not been for this experience, I probably would still do the same as you are doing now.  But, now I know better.  Because the reality is that because I lived here, I won't fit in any longer anymore there either.  I think I will always feel adrift.  But I will blend in on the outside again.  I won't be movie star popular any more.  Will I find comfort in the anonymity?  I don't know.  I don't know. "

I often think about our two adopted girls who are congolese, with beautiful brown skin.  I think about their life in America that we will soon be forcing on them (I say "force" only because they have no choice in the matter).  I think about how much they will stand out, how much they might struggle to fit in, to feel like they belong.  I wonder if they will struggle when people make judgements about them based off of their skin color.  When people stare at them and try to figure out how they fit into our family.   I wonder if they will wish they could just fit in better, just belong.  If they will, like me, want to yell, "let me be free!"

I constantly feel grateful that I lived here for four years for many reasons.  One of these reasons is I have learned what it was like to be a minority (sort of).  I learned what it was like to stand out, to have people judge you for the color of your skin before knowing anything about you.  I know what it feels like to have people stare at you and talk about you.  I would never have known that before.  I would never have known what my daughters may feel like one day when I am no longer the minority, but they are instead.

It's funny, I have wanted to write this post of awhile now, but I was hesitant.  The reason is behind why I had to put a "sort of" in my title.  The truth is, I don't know what it is like to feel like a minority as it really means to most people around the world and in the states.  I don't know what my daughters will feel like one day and I'll never be able to completely understand what it feels like to be black in America or to be adopted into a white family.  All I can say, is I know what it feels like to be different.  And I hope that I will remember, that all I ever wanted for myself, was to be heard and listened to with compassion.  I hope this is what I can offer my daughters one day.  A listening ear, with a heart full of compassion and love.  Perhaps, armed with such things, one can change the world to a place where different is beautiful.

a picture I snapped of a good friend one day as we were driving to a wedding

in my yard (roses)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

zawadi (gift)

Zawadi is one of the newest babies.  She came at 3 lbs!  She is hanging in there and slowly gaining weight.
Here are some recent pictures of her.  We are looking for two sponsors for her.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

the other side of dry

Last night I woke up at midnight.  The thunder rolled in and boomed for more than an hour.  Lightening flashed all around the house.  Then the rains fell and fell.  It was an unusually fierce storm for dry season.  It rained and rained.  This morning many people had mud and water in their homes in the more overcrowded poor areas of the city, especially those areas built on hills or sides of valleys.  In the monsoon like rains, mud slides are common.  Flash floods can carry away cars and people.  Our friend told us that in his neighborhood two people had already died because of the rain storm.  Dry season is hard, but so is the rain when it pours without end on the hardened dry earth.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

sponsor progress update

My husband reminded me today that maybe I should do another update on our progress finding sponsors to partner with us at the Kaziba orphanage.  When I last posted on June 7 we had 30 sponsors, now we have 39 sponsors!  We also have another new baby since my last post (a one month old named Benjamin).  That means there are 33 children at the orphanage right now, and we need a total of 66 sponsors.  Each child needs two sponsors (at $25/month), or one sponsor ($50/month) for us to run at our full budget which provides for formula, milk and staff for the orphanage (as well as the manager on the ground).  

I'm so excited about the progress we have made and am feeling so grateful for the people that have committed to sponsoring children.  I am also thankful to others who have given general donations which help us keep running month to month right now as we look for the full number of sponsors needed per month.

Thank you!!

This is sweet Francine who is about 2 months in this photo.  She has one sponsor and needs one more.  

in my yard (amazing plants)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

a city of children at night

The other night, as we were driving home, I saw them.  They were startled against the glare of our land cruiser's head lights shining suddenly into their eyes.  The dust and dark made it difficult to make out their forms, huddled together at the side of the road.  I could just make out bodies of five children, probably ages 5-12.  They were hard to see, blinded by the light.  But I could make out their jerry cans, bright yellow, glowing in the haze.  

This is my fifth dry season in Bukavu.  Each one has been worse than the one before.  Last season it was really awful.  It's hard to believe that we sit on a lake (one of three potentially exploding lakes) but there isn't a reliable source of clean water for the population that can provide enough consistent water when the rains stop falling.  It's hard to imagine that the gov't hasn't invested in providing a water treatment plant to access water from the lake (like they do in Goma).  Or even an NGO.  Last year when it got to August, the city was completely out of water.  For about one week, there wasn't water, even at night.  (Which means more and more people access the lake water, which increases the risk of cholera outbreaks).  For us, because we have about 20 jerry cans and we can search in our big land cruisers for water we made it through.  And we have an elaborate water storage system and cisterns as well.  We did get to the point of having to pull water out of the lake for washing clothes and we were just about to have to get water from the lake for drinking water.  

For the rest of the city it wasn't so easy.  I have to back up a bit.  Bukavu was never built for close to a million people.  It probably was built for 100,000.  The city is surrounded by the lake and the mountains.  The population in the territories where there has been a lot of violence have fled to the city over the years and lived in the hills or squeezed into the valleys. (Or the poverty chases them to higher hopes in the city.)   Houses and shanties were built over the existing water  pipes until no access was available to them anymore.  The current situation is most of the population, living in the overpopulated areas of the city (most of the city), do not have water coming into their house.  They may actually have the plumbing to have it come into their house, but it isn't functioning.  So each neighborhood usually has a common water source (usually a faucet) that all the people use.  Water is hauled in bright yellow jerry cans (by the children most of the time, but also by the women).     

By the time the rains stop and dry season starts, most of the water in the the public water sources that provide water to the neighborhoods stops during the day.  The family is left to search for water.  Often this means sending children to the local neighborhoods (that may have water) to stand in line with the jerry can and wait their turn to collect water (this is during the day).  Then the family uses that one jerry can for the entire family for the next 24 hours (or until they can find water again) for every water need they have.  

The above is a good scenario.  More often, the children will go to the neighboring water source, wait all day and never get water (the line it simply too long, the water comes too slowly).  Then the city begin to fill with children walking the streets at night.  You see them everywhere walking through the dust, with their jerry cans in small groups, searching for water.  

Our friend recounts this story.  Dry season had started.  Her neighborhood no longer had any water.  She sent her children out to get water in a local area that she had heard there was water.  It was the morning.  She went to work, her children went to search for the water with their jerry cans.  They came to the neighborhood.   There was a line of hundreds of children and women waiting with jerry cans.  Her children sat in their spot in the line and waited.  All day.  At one point, a pick up truck came, full of jerry cans.  The man in the truck, paid the guard of the water source a sum of money and the man filled his jerry cans for the rest of the day.  The children went home without water.  This happened often.  So, my friend did what others were doing.  The family went to bed and then at 2am, the children were woken up.  They were sent out with the jerry cans into the dusty night to search the city at night for water.  Why don't the adults go?  Because they work during the day.  And if you lose your job you cross the line from livable poverty to quiet desperation where you no longer have food to feed your family (let alone water).

So, you do the unthinkable.  You send your children out into the dark and dangerous night.  Into the dust and cold air.  You pray they return.  And you pray they don't return empty handed.

It is an eery experience.  Driving in the city at night.  Watching the children wander through the dusty streets with their yellow jerry cans.  A city of children at night.   

Dry season in Essence, one of the more crowded neighborhoods.  People live and work on the edge of this road which looks like this during dry season as it is a main route to many areas.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

what is lovely

These photos catch something so important.  First, there are enough mamas that sometimes they have time to sit and just spend time with the children.  This is so important.  Second, you can see the mama smiling and looking into little Chikurrus' eyes.  Third, she is touching Sabina, who is sitting in her lap.  Fourth, she is also hugging Moise, who is leaning in to her.  And finally, little Jackson is walking towards her.  And, again, she is smiling.  The mamas happiness is also so important and linked to the children's well being.  We all know, even in our own personal lives, that when we feel good and are cared for, we care for others so much better, with more patience and love.    
Such a huge difference!  

too tired

I'm so tired tonight, I'm about off to bed.  We are here for another two weeks or so.  Disappointing, but there are good things to be done in the meantime.  And my mom and cousin are here, so that is wonderful.  We are trying to think of fun activities to do in an empty house, in dry season, with most of our friends gone (or leaving soon).  Fun times.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

status: orphan

There is a lot of information about orphans out there (check out UNICEF for a first starting place).  This post is not going to be about statistics or other information you can find elsewhere.  I want to write about stories I have heard from people here about their experiences and beliefs, talks I've had with friends or others that work in orphan care, or children I have seen and visited at their homes (whether orphanages or foster/family homes).  

I visited a small school at the end of last year in the same village where the orphanage is located.  It was started by the Mwami's wife (mwami means "king") and at first only accepted girls with the goal of elevating the education level of girls.  Eventually, it accepted boys and girls and has about 60 plus students.  I think it is a fairly normal school (a bit nicer actually).   The children did a recitation for us about different things.  At one point, the "orphans" were asked to come forward and do a recitation for us.  It was quite eye opening in many ways to me.  Most of what they recited was something along the lines of this,

"We are orphans.  
We don't deserve the things that other children deserve.  
We must work for our clothes.
We must work for our shoes.
We must work to go to school.
We must work hard when we are at school.
We don't deserve these things.
We must work for them. 
We must work for our food.
We must earn our bed.
We must earn our place.
We don't deserve these things.  
We do not have a mother.
We do not have a father.
We are orphans."

The children reciting.

And the kids said it all so matter-of-fact.  It was heart breaking.  "We don't deserve these things because we are orphans."  It was simply a fact of life they were reciting.  They weren't asking for anything.  They were just telling us.  This is how it is, we must work hard to deserve to go to school, to deserve to have food to eat, a place to sleep, clothes on our body.  They don't deserve any of it because of forces outside of their control.  Tragic circumstances that they had nothing to do with causing, turned the course of their lives.  It struck me how engrained the beliefs about orphans are here (and other places).  The students were merely reciting what they had learned, what they had come to believe, and what others in the broader society and community also condoned.  I think of all my dreams, of having families accept and adopt children, treating them with equal rights, and I get very discouraged.  How can I, or anyone, change the belief of a culture?  How does one change the basic belief that orphans do not have (or deserve) the same basic human rights as children who are not orphans?  How does one change the belief that orphans are less deserving than everyone else, that they are worth less?  How?  

I have easily jumped to conclusions and passed quick judgments living here.  But I have learned there is always more sides to the story and I best be still and listen before judging.  

Often, when I am with my girls (all of them), people comment, "Ah, they are adopted?  Ah, God bless you for caring for and loving the orphans.  God bless you.   It is very good."  It is good to love and care for orphans here, and it is expected.  Probably 90% of homes here have an "orphan" living with them (usually somehow related to them).  Probably more than one.  An "orphan" (as defined here) is a child whose mother has died or father has died (one parent may be living).  An "orphan" is also someone whose parent could not care for them.  

We have a friend here who identifies herself as an orphan.  She is an adult woman with a family.  Her mother had many problems with mental illness and so could not care for her.  Her father abandoned them.  She was sent to live in homes of family members.  She tells harrowing stories of the life of an orphan moved from home to home.  Orphans often play the role of a modern day slave.  They have no rights and they work in the homes of the people that are now their "family".  She was exactly this.  She worked from home to home.  And was not treated well.  Most orphans are not sent to school.  She is now an adult with her own children.  She also has orphans in her home.  She has determined not to treat them like how she was treated.  She sends all the children to school, half in the morning and half in the afternoon.  They all work together in the home.  

I have visited orphan care groups here and in the surrounding areas.  They serve orphans who live in homes but are suffering from neglect.  These care groups are run by local congolese women and men who feed them porridge twice a week and try to do a little school.  There are 1000s of children that are served in such a way.  It is humbling.  

Often, after a child's mother dies, the father remarries.  Unfortunately, what also happens is that the new wife treats the children very poorly (like "orphans").  Sometimes the children are run off (and become street kids).  Other times they are starving and never sent to school.  (This is the case with some of the children that grow out of the orphanage.  See this post.)  On a side cultural note, children belong to the father.  If the father dies (or a woman divorces her husband), the father's family then comes and takes the children from the mother.  I have seen it happen. 

Once, I was at a wedding and we were sitting next to an older couple.  We started talking.  They were interested that we had adopted two children from here and they were so happy we had done so.  They told their story.  How they had six children of their own, but then then took in six orphans as well (distantly related).  Instead of the normal way to treat orphans, they sent all the kids to school.  Then they sent the kids to secondary school.  Now they are sending some to university.  They talked about the children the same way they talked about their own children.  

Muholeza, a little girl sponsored through Tumaini, who lives in an orphanage.

A have a lot of grand dreams, but I am content to work towards them one step at a time.  I could get discouraged, but I am going to choose not to.  Instead, I will look at the faces I have had the privilege to know, the children at the Kaziba orphanage, and I will continue to work towards bringing hope into their lives.  Not only through just meeting their physical needs of food (milk and formula), but also meeting their emotional needs through hiring women that will show them love (and in doing so, help them know their worth and value) and raising funds for school fees for the older children.  One child at a time, change can happen.  That is how you change beliefs.  One child, one person at a time, through relationships.   You don't forget and you don't give up.  Until children no longer live in orphanages, and orphans are treated with the respect and dignity that every child deserves.  

Please consider partnering with us at Tumaini as we do this work.  Thank you.  

I just realized this is my 200th post.  A fitting post I think!  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

never. going. to. leave. (and other randomness)

I have a lot of things I could write, a list of posts actually.  But tonight, I just am sitting here asking myself, "when will we ever leave???".    More and more adoption related delays.  We are about to change our tickets for the third time.  Meanwhile, I keep having to tell people good bye (I was supposed to have left before they all did, but now, I will be one of the last to leave).  And I cry.  Then I think of all the things I wish I had said to them or how I want to tell them how I will miss them and how much they mean to me.  And the moment passes, the words are left unsaid.

I am stuck in such a weird limbo land right now.  Neither here nor there.  Suitcases and trunks everywhere.  All dressers and cupboards are empty.  I sell more and more of our left behind belongings every day.   Dust coats every surface as it comes billowing in from the road.  There are tiny ants everywhere.  On the kitchen floor in the morning, there are literally thousands!  The grass is turning brown.

Random note.  Yesterday Natalie told me that all her classmates and teachers married each other in school.  And everyone wore pink dresses.  She was completely serious (and she is not one to make up stuff, she is quite rational and logical) and told me who she married.  I can't confirm the story with anyone else.  Strange.  

There isn't enough water to get hot water.  The two younger kids think the bath is a torture chamber (ice cold bathing is not their cup of tea apparently).  The two older now tell me that they LOVE cold baths and love to screech and holler as they throw water on themselves.  They are little icicles when they get out.   I refuse to partake in such joy.  So instead, I boil water on the stove and take a small lukewarm bucket bath about once a week.  really.  

I caught one of the littles today trying to drink out of the tylenol bottle.  Thankfully I caught her before she was successful!  Huge panic moment!  Too much packing and stuff out right now.  (Oh, and children's medicine bottles are NOT Mia-proof).  

I don't think it has hit me yet that we really will be leaving one day.

The great part about this is that  I may be able to take my mom up to the orphanage (I really didn't think I would be going again).  That would be awesome!

still some lovely flowers in the yard

Monday, June 20, 2011

things I have seen with my own eyes

Once sitting at the border waiting to cross, I saw women carrying on their backs 100 kg sacks of what looked like flour (220 lbs).  As I was watching them walk across in disbelief, one woman struggled past in the line of women with 2 of those sacks!  Two.  440 lbs.  She was barely bent in half.  Do you know how little these women make?  One dollar a day, if they are lucky.  One dollar.  These same women will stand up in church and thank God that He gave them strength to haul goods one more day, so that they can feed their family.  If this doesn't humble me, cause me to stand in awe of the strength of women,  and want to fight against injustice, I don't know what ever will.

Another time at the border, I saw a man carrying 300 eggs on his head!  The stack was taller than himself.  And then 7 more men followed carrying the same amount of eggs.  Incredible, and did I ever wish that photography wasn't forbidden at the border.

I have seen a number of things on peoples' heads.  Toilets, desks, wood, one shoe, a pail full of soda as the man clanged the metal side to alert people to his coming, a stove, and on and on.

Once when I was driving home from the orphanage, we passed a funeral procession.  In the dust was a small group of people carrying a wooden stretcher.  On it was a very small body underneath a colorful blanket.

my surreal life

The other day I was walking Natalie to school like I do every morning.  It's about a 20 minute walk down the end of the peninsula. It's beautiful and I catch glimpses of the lake as I walk.  Often muddy, I sludge my way through while dodging white NGO land cruisers careening their way to work as fast as they can on the pot holed road.  Natalie walks, and I push my big bright blue double BOB sport utility stroller that has two kids in it.  Sometimes I carry one on my back and bring all four.  I stand out.   A lot.  So, on this particular day I was walking.  It was the beginning of dry season and the dust was billowing.  Coughing, with eyes stinging, I determinedly trudged on (I need exercise and an excuse to leave the compound almost desperately) while Natalie complained about how many cars there were and how dusty it was that day.  We were passed  by a big white UN truck with the canvas on the back, full of soldiers.  Natalie screamed and covered her ears.  This actually isn't unusual at all (the UN vehicle or Natalie screaming).  We live down the road from a big UN base camp, and there is a lot of UN traffic because of that.  It's not too unusual to see a UN truck carrying 50 plus soldiers going to their base (which is on my way to school).  And Natalie is freaked out by the huge trucks, by their noise and by the way they barrel past us (as there are not sidewalks).   The truck passed, Natalie calmed down, the dust settled, and I walked on.  Then I hear another barreling behind us.  It passes.  I keep walking.  Another passes.  Natalie now is screaming non stop.  The dust is everywhere.  I quickly stick her in front of Isla's feet on the stroller foot rest.  She closes her eyes and plugs her ears, safe in her world for a moment.  More trucks pass.  By the time I am at the UN base, I am surrounded by nine of these huge UN trucks full of soldiers.  They are turning around, soldiers in fatigues are getting out, street kids are begging from them, dust is whirling, huge trucks are a hairs breadth from me, and I am trying to pick my way through it all with my BOB stroller and my three kids.  At one point, I just had to stop and stand there.  It hit me how surreal my life really is here.  And how I probably will never live in a place like this again, with all it's contradictions and beauty.  

I live behind compound walls, with one guard every day during the day and two at night.  I have barbed wire on two sides of the compound walls.  Once, I had a man fall into our compound, from the neighboring compound.  He had been caught thieving.  The neighbors were yelling at us to send him back over the wall to them.  They wanted to beat him (maybe to death, another post on that in the days ahead).  We knew that if we called the police, perhaps similar fate waited him, but it was less likely.  We called the police.  I have a gorgeous yard, with a tire swing and a swing set.  We have a big garden (which I completely neglect) and rabbits (which our house mates eat, good for the heart I'm told, I still can't stomach that).  I live in an old Belgium "mansion".  It's gorgeous from the outside and crumbling and moldy in the inside (which has given Mike and I asthma the last four years, him worse than me).  I have a full time cook and housekeeper.  The need for a housekeeper seems legitimate given that we need to hand wash cloth diapers (in the tune of 450 per month) and six people make a big mess.  The cook, less so.  Even so, I've grown to appreciate hand made fresh tortillas and food prepared for me 24/7.  At the same time, I feel like I may go nuts some days, craving privacy.  Then, ironically, I struggle with acute loneliness and isolation.  The same gorgeous compound at times feels like a prison.  I don't go anywhere often.  In actuality, where would I go?  To my friends houses, most of whom work now that their kids are in school.  And when the kids are home, often the kids want to play with other german speaking children.  So, it's quiet.  At times the quiet is so loud I want to scream, and I yearn for distraction and adults to talk to, anything to do, to see, to visit.  I am trapped, my mind argues, many days.  Yet, I am scared of the states and the life to come.  How busy everyone is, all the time.  I rarely hear from friends anymore.  Life is too full, too distracted and rushed.  My current life is the antithesis of the typical american life in almost every single way.  I now cling to simplicity and quiet and am scared of the hurry, the need to buy, to have, to compare.  Here, I am rich and my skin screams the true nature of privilege and wealth. I am reminded of what I "have" every single day and my gut wretches every time.  I know my responsibility.  I learn compassion, it is forced on me in a real, physical way.   In the U.S., I will quickly forget what it means to be rich, to be an American with rights, justice, in a country with little corruption (comparatively), and much infrastructure.  I'm afraid that I will lose compassion, humility, and the knowledge of my fragility, the quickness of this life, the preciousness of this life, the weak inside of me.    I say goodbye, yet I can't.   I don't know how.  

This actually is not the same truck, and definitely not the same road.  This picture is from last week, from a porch of f a building down town (where there is a bit of pavement here and there).  My road is either mud or dust, depending on the season.  In either season (dry or rainy), the potholes remain. 


Saturday, June 18, 2011


This sweet baby boy is Jacob.  He came to the orphanage at 4 lbs!  He is doing well.  He is a smiley little baby boy these days, which is so fun.   We are looking for a sponsor for him.  If you are interested, please follow the links on the right side of the blog.  Thanks!  

Friday, June 17, 2011

What happens when they get old (meaning five years "old")

Once the children from Kaziba turn four or five years old, they go back to live with their families.  Sometimes it works out well.  One little girl, her name is Esther, was at the orphanage when I first started coming.  Her father visited often.  She knew him and didn't run away when he came.  When she turned four years old she moved back home with him and the rest of the family.  Another little girl named Chiza turned five.  She was sent back to her father.  He didn't want her and couldn't take care of her.  She isn't doing so well.  There are 82 children whose stories fall somewhere between the stories of these two girls.  There are a few cases that fall outside.  The director has had a couple children die, from neglect most often.  There isn't a functioning social services here.  And, most often, there isn't anywhere else for the children to go.  Most of the children, fall in the middle.  They are wanted by their families, but also rejected because they are "orphans" (their mother is dead).  So, they are not sent to school, and have to work more than the other children in the household.  The Norwegians who have long sponsored the orphanage have raised money in the past to send these children to school, buy them uniforms and provide notebooks.  This last year is became very difficult to do so.  Tumaini started paying the school fees of the 82 children last September, and we just paid the last trimester school fees in April (the last trimester school fees was raised through a grant given to us from Orphan's Promise).  

We hope that we can continue to provide the school fees for these 82 children in the years ahead.  If you are interested in giving towards the school fees, uniforms, and notebooks for the older children, please visit our website and go to our donation link.  Thank you!

A recent photo of some of the older children who are supported by the Kaziba orphanage.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

regarding adoption, orphanages, and orphans (two very thought provoking reads)

I think much of what is shared in these two articles could be applied to adoption, orphanages, and orphans in Congo.  They are well worth reading!  There is so much corruption in Congo.  I really believe that more can be done to help orphans beyond international adoption.  It is a big reason we started Tumaini.  I have been learning so much about ethics in international adoption, and especially the role of corrupt orphanages and adoptions (especially in Kinshasa, where most of the adoptions are done internationally).  It has been heartbreaking and eye opening.  I continue to be grateful for the relationship we have up at Kaziba and the mutual trust we have in each other.  It is not something I take lightly.  

An old photo of the kids from Kaziba (probably 2009), I love how they have all their arms around each other.  The consistency in their lives is each other.


This sweetie pie is Benjamin.  He is a bit over one year old.  He came to the orphanage right when we started to bring more milk and formula (and hired more staff)  and you can see the difference!  He is growing well and is held often.  The orphanage is right next to a hospital where the kids go when they are sick.  In this photo, he was sick, so you can see an IV in his hand.  Tumaini tries to help pay the medical fees of the kids as we have resources.

Benjamin came to the orphanage the same way almost all the children come to the orphanage; mothers die giving birth to their babies and the fathers take them to the orphanage when they can't care for them (or in some cases someone else brings the babies if the father abandons the baby.)  In Benjamin's case, he was the 10th child when his mother died.  His father was a poor pastor and brought him to the orphanage to keep him alive.  I have met him a couple times and he will often say thank you for the milk that kept his son alive.  He also talks of his intentions of finding a new wife and coming and getting his son.  I hope that happens for Benjamin, so that he doesn't spend the next 5 years living there.  Because, again, an orphanage is not a place for a child.  

We are looking for two sponsors for Benjamin (at $25/month) or one at $50/month.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

growing a garden

Last year we raised money to build a wall around the orphanage.  We only raised enough for about 3/4 of the wall.  But because of the wall, they were able to grow crops (like the ones pictured here).  It was awesome to see the orphanage taking on it's own project that contributes to sustainability.

Then this year, we raised the rest of the money, and we were able to finish the wall (and gate).  Now, no one can wander in or wander out!  It was wonderful to watch the progress and see how fast the project happened.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

watching the cars go by

safety in numbers

I used to run around town in "taxis".   It was cheap and very convenient.  In a town where "ex-pat" goods are extremely expensive (rents are over $2000/month..cornflakes are $8/box), the taxis are unbelievably affordable (if you have a good paying job, otherwise you walk everywhere-which is really what most people do).  They are set by the mayor and the price is very controlled (the population also expects this so it is very difficult to raise the cost).  Right now it cost a bit less than 50 cents to go one way across town.  The funny part is it costs the same amount (50 cents) to go 200 yards or all the way across town.  The main street in the city is one price.  If you go off the main street you pay double.  But if you pick it up off the main street and ride back on to the main street it is still the 50 cents.  And there are so many taxis.  There aren't really buses that do the same route (they tend to go up into the neighborhoods outside of the town).  The wild part is that until recently you had no idea what was a taxi and what wasn't.  Any sedan like vehicle that stopped for you was a taxi.  And you get in and they drive.  Of course, sometimes it all felt a bit sketchy, but I was so happy to have some freedom.  I would take little I with me and off we would go.  In any car that stopped (and most of them don't have doors that open from the inside and many have broken windshields).

Well, about 3 months ago, our cook borrowed some money from us and went into town to buy some supplies (he was building a walkway).  He got in a taxi.  They told him they had to stop one place before going further, so they pulled off on a side road.  They pulled off the road, pulled knives on him and robbed him of his money, phone, etc and pushed him out of the car. Thankfully they didn't hurt him.  And of course, you don't call the police, you don't report the taxi.  If it was even a taxi.  There isn't a way to track the registration of each "taxi" (if it is even a legitimate taxis).

So, I stopped going on taxis.  I really didn't feel safe anymore.  Just getting into a (potentially) stranger's vehicle, when most likely the inside handle on the door wouldn't open, no longer worked for me.  

Then the other day I noticed  a lot of cars had numbers on them!  Suddenly, going in a taxi felt safe again.  Sure, it might be a false sense of security, but somehow knowing that you could potentially follow up with the number of the taxi to find out who the driver is helps.  I suppose in many ways, there is safety in numbers.

Friday, June 10, 2011

of course

Yesterday evening I was sitting chatting with friends and I felt something tingly on my shin.  Wouldn't you know, a caterpillar (see earlier two posts) had climbed up my pant leg.  In trying to get it out of my pants I managed to get all of the little hairs in my leg!  Ouch.  Now I have welts everywhere.  That's what I get, I suppose, for not looking into little girl's shoe last week and letting her get her foot attacked.  :)

what happened to my 2 year old's foot when I stuck it in a shoe that had a caterpillar in it!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

flowers on my table (from my garden)

dreams of finding a home

I'm making some small posters for the walls of the orphanage.  Pictures with a short title in swahili.

Uniikalishe! (Sit me up.)     Unikamate!  (Hold me.)

Unilalishe kwa tumbo! (Put me on my tummy.)

Cheza na mie.  (Play with me.)

Asante kwa kunichunga!  (Thank you for taking care of me.)

I have some nice photos for each word of encouragement and reminder.  Like this one.

Kitanda ni kwa ku lala! Kama minalamuka, unikamate. (Cribs are for sleeping.  If I'm awake, hold me.)

I find it so hard to look at this photo.  This is Gloire.  He just started walking.  I remember when I took this photo.  He just looked at me through the rails of his bed.  He didn't cry.  He didn't try to climb out.  He just looked, laying on his belly.  He knew no one would come.  

Kids shouldn't live in orphanages!  They should live with families, in homes.  Even the "best" orphanage is not a place for children.  A home is the place for children.  

It's hard not to feel angry about the injustice that brings children to orphanages around the world.  Here, in Kaziba, it is mostly because women die giving birth.  In alarmingly high rates!  Can you imagine giving birth to your long awaited baby and then dying giving birth to that baby (or babies)?  From a preventable cause!?  Do you know what women die from during birth?  They bleed to death most often. Or it is a first birth and they are having twins and they try to give birth alone in remote areas.  Or, they have preeclampsia.  Or they have complications because it is their 10th child.  They would not have died in the U.S. or in Europe.  They die here because of poverty.  And so, babies lose their mothers.  They die.  Unless.  Unless there is a place like Kaziba (the only orphanage in this area that takes babies) that will take a newborn from a desperate father's arms.  Desperate to save his baby, as he couldn't save his wife.  It isn't right!  Then they live in an orphanage.  They get forgotten.  There is a new wife.  And the new wife doesn't want the first wife's child.  They are rejected.  They live in a place called an orphanage.  Not a home.  They should not have to live in an orphanage. 

Sometimes I wish I could go live in Kaziba.  I wish I could hike the daunting mountains that are astounding in their beauty.  I wish it were safe enough for me to live there with my family.  To try to reunite these babies with their families.  To find ways to supply the families with life giving formula that would otherwise cost more per month then they earn.  I wish I could help them find a home, talk to the fathers, talk to the new wives.  Open closed arms, so that children will be welcomed back to their families.  Find them homes.

I wish I could say that I was shutting down the orphanage instead of desperately trying to raise funds to keep newborn babies alive.  I with I could be a part of the true solution, not only treating the illness.  I wish I could say my dreams came true.  That the children are back with their families.  That for every child living in this orphanage I found a home.    


enjoying the last days of a green yard

where the babies sleep

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

sponsor progress update

Tumaini needs 64 sponsors to run at full budget currently (this is at $25/month).  We have 30 so far.  Yoohoo!  This is so encouraging to me!   Thank you so much to all of those who are helping us get the word out, who are praying for us, who are giving, and who are sharing the stories so the children are not forgotten.

everyday miracles (amazing first steps!)

Gloire is 2 years 2 months old in this photo.  He is taking his first steps.  

I love this next photo.  It was taken at the recent training.  I love how all the mamas are surrounding little Rachel and cheering on her first steps (and all the smiles).  Rachel is one and a half.  She spent most of her first year of life with her mother.  Then her mother died and she was brought to the orphanage.  

And here is Moise, walking!  Read his incredible story here.  It's hard to believe he was once that little baby!  He will be 2 years old next month.   

Here is Chito Wambili, taking first steps!  She is two years old.  Her story is here.  Amazing!

* Rachel is fully sponsored.  Gloire needs two sponsors ($25/month each), Moise needs one sponsor ($25/month), and Chito Wambili needs two sponsors ($25/month each). Or a full sponsorship for one of these children is $50/month.  Interested in sponsoring a child at Kaziba?  Read here.*

Monday, June 6, 2011

to be known

The children that live at the Kaziba orphanage know me.  And I know them.  They are no longer photos of beautiful children.  They are known, and I am known.  I know that Sifa loves to play and smile.  Out of the 100s of photos I have, I can only find one where she is not smiling, and that was when we first started coming a year ago, when life was rough.  I know the day that Gloire took his first step.  I know when Chantal turned one year old, and I remember when she came as a newborn and all her amazing hair.  I know the day I caught Christian with the hugest smile on his face.  I know that Janvier loves me; that he loves to quietly come up to me and waits for me to notice him and then gives me the most special smile ever given me.  I know he loves to play peek a boo.  I know that Chikuru Kidada is very ticklish and gave up the first smiles I had ever seen on her 3 year old face when I learned that truth.  I know when she walked for the first time at age  2 1/2. I remember the day it hit me that she and her twin sister had been hiding their lovely, bubbly selves deep down inside where pain could not reach, yet they were there and began to bloom.   I know that Muholeza is quiet and sickly, but that she has a strong spirit that often looks out for the younger children.  I know the day I knew that Furaha would die and go on to live with Jesus.  I remember weeping in the quiet night at the pain and helplessness I felt.  I know when Moise was going to live and not die and I knew he was a miracle I was never to forget.  I know when Chito Wambili walked for the first time.  I know that Rachel and Ganza are strong and wise.  I know that Kenga and Leblanc love to jump in my arms and hold on tight.  I know that Noella loves to smile at me.  I know that baby Gloire has a smile that makes the angels sing.  I know that Safari is much loved and watches over the younger children, that he is ready to move out of the orphanage.  I know that Sandrine is not forgotten, that she will sit in my lap for hours.  I know that Chereba and Shagayo love to be thrown into the air.  I know that baby Moise has the most beautiful eyes of any baby I have seen.  I know that Benjamin is terrified by my white skin (still).  I know that Sabina mourns and her heart is long in healing; and that she is very well loved.  I know of three miracles named Jacob, Isaiah and Amani who came to the orphanage at 4 lbs and lived.  I know that when Nyota came to the orphanage as a newborn she was just as chubby as she is now, and that makes me so happy.  I know that the newest baby Zawadi is fighting to live, and has already gained weight, she is almost 4 lbs.  I know that my name from these children's lips sounds like "hotty', and that makes me smile.  I know that my heart will always miss these little ones who I have been privileged to know (and be known by) over the past year plus.  I know that I will always respect and admire the women and men who have struggled to care for these children with very little resources.  I know that I will never never pity a single one of these amazing children.  Never.  I know that my life has changed, that when they look at me with eyes of love and hope, that they know me, the good (the bananas, cookies, hugs), the bad (I leave), and yet still love me.  I am humbled and I am broken.  Who can pity the weak who are strong, the foolish and childlike who are wise?   Who can look down on those who rise above and who laugh when all seems lost, who bravely come out behind walls that protected them from suffering and harm?  Who can face such bravery and not be brave themselves?  Who am I to forget how my faith that was almost too weak to stand, was healed in a small forgotten home for babies far in the mountains in congo?  I am a witness to amazing events, to incredible, indomitable souls.  I will not forget.  I will not forget the arms that held me and knew my name, who welcomed me (running and jumping into my arms).  As I learn to let go and say goodbye, I realize I will never be able to let go, that they will be carried in my heart, always reminding me to stand in faith and courage.

baby Francine

Francine is almost 2 months old now.  We are looking for two sponsors at $25/month (or one at $50/month), to ensure that she gets the formula she needs and that we can continue to pay the salaries for the extra women we have hired to hold and feed her and the other children.  

the royal wedding

Last summer I was invited to the wedding pre-party of the local traditional leader's daughter (known as "kings")  I really enjoyed being a part of a traditional cultural event up in Kaziba.  The local children also enjoyed the party and were caught trying to catch a glimpse of the royal celebration.

Living in limbo

We were supposed to leave today.  But, because of adoption related delays we have moved our trip back by 3 weeks and we may have to move it back more, it's unclear right now.  Meanwhile I have packed up our entire house into trunks and the stuff that is out, is to go into our 16 pieces of luggage.  Because we still don't know when we are leaving (but we know it could happen quickly) I am sort of living like I am going to be here months, but at the same time I am imagining having to finish packing and saying all our goodbyes quickly.  It's really really strange, living in such limbo, and it does a number on the emotions.  Meanwhile, the water is off today.  Dry season is here and I am not ready for it.  I love all the green that surrounds us right now (and of course, hauling water in jerry cans to take baths is never fun, more on that later).  It's a bit like living on a roller coaster right now.  I really miss my family, and I can't even bear to think about how I was supposed to be seeing them in 3 days.  It breaks my heart too much.  I haven't seen my baby brother or my grandpa in 2 1/2 years!  

(Trunks are good for packing up all your belongings but also for playing in spots where your 1 1/2 year old twin sisters can't reach you!)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mom, can I eat these purple things?

Grapes are something I have never seen in Bukavu before.   They were found at the local store this week, imported from South Africa.  I realized that Natalie had no idea what a grape was when she saw them at a friend's house today.  At $12 a bunch, it was an expensive education!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

soaking it in

Bukavu has been beautiful lately.  Gorgeous weather.  The rain has stopped so dry season has started.  Which means we will stop getting water soon.  Today was probably the last day we would be in the pool before there is no more water during the day.  They had a blast!

Friday, June 3, 2011

a little known place

There is a little known place at the back of the Kaziba hospital, next to the orphanage.  There is a door next to a wooden fence.  It's not labeled.  You could easily walk by it, miss it.  I first visited the orphanage in Feb. 2010, and it wasn't until December of that year that someone thought to bring me to visit the children that lived in three rooms behind that overlooked door.  It is a boarding facility for kids with disabilities.  Eleven to fifteen children live there year round.  They are ages 2 to 16.  Their families didn't know how to care for them, so they were brought here.  They receive rudimentary physical therapy.  They have a very dedicated older man who was thrilled to introduce me to the children and show off what they could do.  They don't have regular mamas that care for them.  They are often left alone.  To me it struck me as a dismal and depressing place.  Three rooms.  All concrete, no color or warmth.  There was little to nothing in any of the rooms.  The main room was long and narrow.  It had bars and other old equipment (or hand made equipment).  They told me that there were 100s of kids with handicaps in the surrounding villages that would come for day therapy.  

The children are beautiful and humbled me by their simple joy in the midst of the poverty of their physical surroundings.  I know I have to get the support for the orphanage up and running before starting other projects, but I would love for this small hidden center to be one of our next projects.  One day.  For now I just ask them what their needs are and wait.  I have a friend who is doing amazing work with children who have disabilities in Kenya.  Check her work out, she is inspiring!

Some of the children...

because sometimes you just have to link


"In our feelings oriented culture, it's easy to equate forgiveness with having certain feelings.  Forgiveness is not a feeling.  Forgiveness is a choice to end the cycle of revenge and leave justice in the hands of God. 
Very often we forgive our enemies by entering into the sufferings of Christ who forgave from the cross."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

in my yard (a cactus, blooming)

And her name is Gift

The new little baby at the orphanage (the one who weighs 3.5 lbs!) is named Zawadi Fortune.  Zawadi means gift in swahili.  I continue to pray she survives.

our backyard (the night watchman's hut)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

stories around town

Mike came home today from a trip into town and said, "sorry I'm late but I was held up by hundreds of pregnant women with jerry cans!".   They were all coming out of the large catholic cathedral.  He asked the driver what he thought was going on.  The driver said that they had just got the water blessed in the church and they were on their way home to sprinkle their homes with the blessed water.

He was on his way from a meeting with a partner.  FH, the organization (that does community development work) that he works for here, is doing a project with pharmikina, a company that produces quinine (from local trees).  The project is cool.  It's a long term development project.  As a part of the project, villages will start to plant trees and vegetation necessary for a new forest.  And then when the quinine is ready to be harvested (in five years), the community will sell the quinine.  So, the project will work towards reforestation and also long term sustainability.  The motivation not to cut down the trees?  The profit from the bark of the trees (which will grow back and can be harvested again), which after the initial time period, would be harvested every year.

more flowers