I have had the honor of spending time with some of the children from a local orphanage, in which The Humanity Exchange has partnered with. I also spent time with some of the children from Living Stone School, a school located right next to the orphanage. Sophie and Pippa, 2 of the volunteers, have worked there for the past few weeks (school is now over). Beatriz and I had the opportunity as well to visit both the school and orphanage children after many of our school days.
The orphanage is called Word Alive Orphanage, and was founded in January 2000 by Reverand Charles Nyane. Originally from Ghana, Rev. Nyane attended seminary in the United States, and shortly after returned to Ghana where he established the World Alive Mission in 1996. By January 2000, the mission quickly expanded, and included 2 schools, 1 orphanage and 10 churches. They are all located in the Western Region of Ghana.
The children in the orphanage live like one big family. There is a host mother who lives with them, and is sweet and kind. The other volunteers and I have noticed that it seems to be the bond the children have amongst themselves that provide the strongest support system. There are 21 children in the orphanage and they range in age, and sex. The orphanage consists of 2 bathrooms, bedrooms, a kitchen, a space to eat and a playroom. There is also an outside play area they often use as well.
I expected there to be a strong camaraderie among the children, but it’s even more moving seeing it in person. The older children take such sweet care of the younger ones; when one of the little ones may fall and cry, one of the older ones are there to pick them up. Sophie and Pippa hung out with the children during the evening and were amazed at how involved the older children did in fact get. They helped cook, clean and prepare the little ones for bed. Though it must feel normal for them now to play the adult role, it’s unfortunate that they don’t get a chance to really be a child.
The orphanage has been around for a handful of years, and most of the children have been there since it opened. These kids are so sweet and were such a pleasure to work with. When visiting the orphanage one most likely has the image of a child sitting alone and crying, covered with flies-like they show in commercials, however it’s a lot different than pictures. Kids in the orphanage may cry, but mostly for the same reasons that our kids cry…maybe someone hit them, or took their toy. A lot of the times, almost all the kids are laughing and having fun all together, just like any other child. These kids are just a little bit different. Ownership of things and people mean more to them. Though they are often happy, sometimes expression of feelings can be a little harder as well, and sometimes their moods will vary as they may have a hard time regulating them ; some are always happy and smiling, some are quiet and don’t say much. We have found that some of the children have a hard time showing some emotions, most likely because they haven’t properly been taught. Even more so, some have trouble showing affection, sadly because they most likely haven’t received much all their life. The days we were able to break through to some of the quietest kids, have been the most rewarding! Many of these children have experienced difficult losses, but overall there really is such a warm, noticeable camaraderie among the orphanage children that seems to provide comfort to them all. Though from the outside the orphanage doesn’t look like much of a home, it has very much become a home to the kids who live there. They have been very lucky to spend time with Sophie and Pippa for the past 3 months, who are so warm and loving. Though my time with them was not as long, I too have created some bonds I will always remember as well.
There was one child in particular who was loved by all of us volunteers and is one we will always remember. Because I am leaving a little earlier than the other volunteers, I had to say goodbye to the children at the orphanage yesterday. It was so sad and so very hard. Savior in particular had a very hard time with it. When I visited the orphanage for my last day yesterday, he was being quiet and was acting less friendly than normal. I had a feeling it was because he was sad I/ all of us, were soon leaving, and turns out that was exactly right. When I heard he was sitting alone, crying in the other room, it really broke my heart. At the same time, I was happy he was able to allow himself to do so. He’s a 17 year old boy, but at the orphanage he’s a brother, a father, a role model, and a leader to all the younger boys and girls. It’s good for him to learn that it’s ok to let his feelings out sometimes. Him and I spent many afternoons talking about different things like what he would want for his birthday if he could choose anything (he choose a bible and a cellphone), questions he had for the kids I work with in Harlem, what life is like in the orphanage, his future plans, etc. He’s a great kid and I want to try my best to write him a letter. Him and I made a video that he asked to show the kids in Harlem Link, and I can’t wait to do so this fall. I am so glad I had the chance to meet him.
Here are some pictures of both the Livingstone school children, and the Word Mission Orphanage.