Monday, June 30, 2008

Rainbow in the Storm

Another Monday, more drama surrounding the orphanage. We began the day hopeful that the kids in the baby class (kids 3-5) were going to be having their first round of testing completed at the local hospital. Megan, Magnus, Morgan, and I split into pairs, with Morgan and Magnus heading to the hospital and Megan and I to the Village. On our way to the Village, Megan and I received a call from Morgan informing us that there were a handful of kids who had arrived at the hospital that she didn't know. This was immediately a problem as we had explicitly told the orphanage director and the representative from the hospital that we only had enough funds to test the children who attend the orphanage school, not every child in the Village. We told Morgan to take a headcount and call us back with the number of kids who did not attend the orphanage school. Minutes later we received the news that 3 students who arrived at the hospital did not attend the orphanage school. Megan and I were thus left with the task of confronting the orphanage director on this error.

I'm not a confrontational person and have a tendency to allow people to walk all over me. Despite being very upset and frustrated with the orphanage director, I knew I didn't have it within me to deal with the orphanage director. The task would have to be left up to Megan. When we arrived at school, the kids were playing around and we were notified by our teacher that the kisd would not be having school today as there was going to be a visitor. After the orphanage director greeted us, Megan immediately began questioning her about the extra children at the hospital. She reminded her that we could only pay for the children who attend the orphanage school and asked why there were extra children at the hospital. The orphanage director's response was a look of shock and denied having anything to do with the situation. She placed all of the blame on the secretary, even while Megan reminded her that she had attended the intital meeting where the doctor was present and where it was made known that we would only pay for the children at the school to be tested.

I was really proud of Megan for standing up for us and the children. To ensure that no extra children would be snuck in later in the week, we created a master list of all the children who should be tested. Thinking we were out of the woods, we proceeded to play with the kids. Nearly 20 minutes after Megan's initial confrontation, an older student came to me saying that the orphanage director had requested my presence. I nearly fainted. I'm being brutally honest when I say I don't do confrontation and conflict. I bit the bullet, though, and headed to the orphanage director's hut. The meeting was brief and included one of the new volunteers from Europe. The orphanage director played completely dumb with me and asked me what was going on. I informed her that we were frustrated with hearing different things from different people and not having our requests respected as volunteers. I probably wasn't the best advocate for us, but I let her know that we didn't appreciate having things happen behind our backs as we were being transparent with her and wanted the same from her. She simply nodded and smiled as if there weren't any difficulties at all.

After the meeting, Megan and I stood around playing with the kids until a huge coach bus arrived. This is an incredible feat as the Village is incredibly rural and has very narrow paths. How this bus made it to the school is beyond my imagination. At the sight of it, the kids began screaming and shouting as if they were meeting Santa for the first time. Inside the bus were our guests-- 8 white women from Virginia who were on a missionary trip. Missionary trips are totally not my thing and I knew I was in for an experience when I saw their t-shirts ("born to serve") and heard that Megan was greeted with the phrase, "May God Bless you." A pastor from the Village ushered our kids into the one room schoolhouse and introduced our guests. For the next 45 minutes, the kids performed for our guests by singing and dancing to traditional Tazanian and Biblical songs. Megan and I snuck out when the guests began their Bible session by teaching the kids a lesson about being sinners and using the blood of Jesus to protect them from the bad deeds they do.

The orphanage director was nowhere to be found when we left and so we called Morgan and Magnus to check on the situation at the hospital. Morgan informed us that things were not going well at the hospital and that our help would be greatly appreciated. Megan and I bought some bananas in the Village and headed to Arusha. When we arrived at the hospital, Morgan informed us that we had not been given the adequate number of doctors and counselors that we had been guaranteed and for whom we had paid. She also told us that the kids had not eaten or drank anything all day (by this time it was 1:00 PM) and that the orphanage director had forgotten to send food or money for the kids.

Helping with the kids at the hospital was a surreal experience. On top of the corruption, poverty, and poor politics that are happening in Africa, the horrendous and unsanitary conditions at the best hospital in town make it evident why HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB are ripping through this continent. The hallways and rooms were packed with people. There was no security anywhere. There was blood on the floor in certain areas. People roamed through the building freely, moaning and groaning, obviously in pain. Our poor children were obviously hungry and scared. When Megan and I arrived, they were finishing the HIV tests, which consists of a finger prick to draw blood. I led two children into the room to have their fingers pricked and each of them wept while gripping my body tightly. I nearly cried myself. We then moved to a different area of the hospital to have the kids' vision checked. I'm not sure how accurate this test was as all of the kids were in shock from the HIV test and many of them refused to talk to the doctor. Our little Baracka trembled as the doctor asked him to identify the letters.

Magnus was oru hero today as he bought all of the children two bananas each for a snack. The kids were so famished that they ate the bananas in less than a minute. At 2:00, the doctors decided they were finished for the day (urine, malaria, HIV, and eyes were the only tests completed today) and ushered us all out of the hospital. Having eaten nothing but bananas all day, the representative from an international orphans program (on-site at the hospital to assist us with logistics as he speaks fluent English and Kiswahili.... he's totally wonderful) bought each of the children a plate of pilau. We lined the kids up under a shelter on the hospital's premisis, had each of them use some hand sanitizer, and fed them their lunch. The shelter was absolutely quiet and the kids ate with wonderful manners and patience. Knowing they were probably dehydrated, Megan and I purchased abotu 10 bottles of water to pour into cups for them. They drank these in one big gulp.

After lunch we hung around for another hour waiting to hear when the remaining tests were to be completed. It was fun watching the kids horse around and interact with the few parents who were there (all kids had to be accompanied by a guardian.... the orphans' guardian is the orphanage director and her husband). By request of a few kids, we sang 5 Green and Speckled Frogs to a raptured parental audience. Magnus and Morgan were the tickle monsters. Megan passed her sunglasses around to her adoring fans, Clinton and Freddy. I managed the entrance to the shelter and the choo. It was a spectacular end to a crazy day.

Before leaving this evening, we were told that only one child tested positive for HIV today, Baracka (which we already knew). We also found out that one child had an eye infection. The remaining tests will be completed tomorrow at no additional cost to us since the doctors were slow today. We may not have had everything go as planned today at the hospital, but we're very happy the testing is happening. Tomorrow is another day and we hope things run smoothly and that our children remain healthy.


mom said...

Be strong and true to yourself. Confrontation is not always bad and depending on how you handle it may work to your advantage. Do Not let anyone walk over you, remember you are a strong Hennick woman. You've come so far from that little girl who couldn't even order her own frys at McDonald's. This is a great learning expierence for you and the lessons your learning you will use when you have your own classroom here in the states. Remember you get more with honey than vinager and it always helps to work it so they think it's their idea. Never waver, make your decision and then sell it to whomever you need to. You and Megan should make a great team, you bad guy/good guy and use it to your advandage.

LifeTrek Coaching said...

I like it when you celebrate what's right with the world you are visiting. Would you be willing to spend one full day noticing, focusing on, and blogging about only those things you appreciate? That would make me smile. Remember Dewitt Jones! Be well.