Monday, March 4, 2013

Those who deserve an education and those who do not

I wanted to repost something I wrote in 2011 while I was living in DRC after visiting one of the small schools in the same village where the orphanage is located.  We went there because some of the children we had been supporting with school fees attended the school (and some still do).

I thought that this post from years ago was very applicable to our efforts of raising school fees as they  are some of the stories of the lives of orphans/vulnerable children in eastern DRC.  Please consider donating to the school fees of the children who have moved out of the orphanage we support and back to their families.  We started out needing fees for 77 children, and we now need fees for 25 (all 12 are in secondary school and fees average around $25/trimester depending on the school the child attends)!  I am amazed and humbled.  Thank you so much for giving and for sharing!  There is a donate button on the right of the blog or you can donate directly here.

Here is some of that post---

"  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.  

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.    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.  

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.  "

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