On Monday May 6, we made a trek to the Irente orphanage. After a long walk through the mud to get there, we were greeted by the MacPhearsons, a missionary couple from the Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. When we had all peeled off our soggy raincoats and stashed our umbrellas, we sat down for tea with the MacPhearsons, the director of the orphanage, and some Norwegian students who had just arrived there. The tea was delicious and suspiciously like Fruit Loops, but that wasn’t our purpose in visiting.
After tea, we were taken on tours of the children’s’ rooms in small groups. First, we went to the 1 year old room, then the baby room, and a 2 year old. In the first room, I sat down on the floor next to a little boy who just couldn’t stop smiling. He grabbed my hand and just looked at it until he decided the rattle was more interesting. In the oldest room, the kids were more than happy to have their pictures taken and play with my earrings. The smiles on their faces made the muddy, soggy trip completely worth it.
When everyone had toured the rooms, we all listened to the orphanage director tell us about how their business works. Personally, I thought it was fascinating. The children who live at the orphanage are up to 3 years old and then they are placed elsewhere. I found it interesting that children who had lost their mothers are considered orphans because they cannot be fed. Irente takes these children and feeds them formula until they are old enough to eat real food and go back to their fathers. For children without fathers or mothers, they are either taken to their grandparents or other family members, taken to other orphanages, or adopted by other families.
Another way the orphanage helps the country is through training girls to be midwives, child caretakers, gardeners, etc. They do this through a long internship sort of program where the girls pay to work at the orphanage and take care of the children. They also milk the program’s cows, do the laundry, run the hostel, and tend the gardens. From this, the girls can then go on to complete more schooling or use their knowledge to help others from their homes. Because of this, the orphanage really serves two purposes: taking in orphaned children and teaching young women how to help themselves or others. I found this particularly wonderful because it means the children are being taken care of and well-fed but women are also gaining education beyond what they would have gotten otherwise.
When we were finished learning about the orphanage, each of us pulled out our backpacks and unloaded 3 tables worth of donations. We completely filled the tables and the looks on the staff’s faces were priceless. I don’t think they expected our donations or even the quality of the donations we had brought to them. I was particularly happy to give away a pile of stuffed animals and flip flops for the children.
Although we only got to spend a couple hours at the orphanage, it was well worth our time and I couldn’t have asked for any more on a Monday morning!