Friday, July 17, 2009
Azungu Azungu Azungu
First full day - July 15: As we drove into our first community we were greeted with 100 children shouting Azungu Azungu. We were smiling and I turned to Mary, our interpreter, and asked what they were saying and she replied, "white people white people."
We started our day at Somebody Cares headquarters. Theresa Malila is Executive Director. Her team of volunteers are bringing us to the communities that we will be working at. Today we had Mary and Ramsey. I wanted to understand some basic words to say before we reached the community and so Mary helped me with that and while we were driving the entire team got a lesson on their native language - Chichewa. Everyone is taught english in school but this is their native language and pretty much the only language spoken in the communities and villages we are visiting. muli bwanji? How are you?; mwadzuka bwanji Good Morning; ana child; yesu amakukonda Jesus Loves You. We went on and on. Before we got out of the car Mary made me promise to practice and she wrote all the sayings on paper for me but I had to teach it to the team that night at dinner. I of course agreed. Cheryl decided she would wait for the lesson that evening with everyone else.
We went to the Deya Center. This is a location of Somebody Cares and it is where the orphans come for their daily feedings. They have over 100 kids that come to the center every day and then there are those from the village and they never know how many will come day-to-day, but there are a lot! The children were so excited to see us. They wanted to touch us - they don't see many azungus (white people). These children, dressed in rags and all bare footed, where so full of joy it was inspiring. The chidren had to go for their lesson and Ramsey walked us around the grounds of the Deya Center. They have a new well donated by Operation HOPE so the entire village has access to clean water; we were all excited to hear that. However, the latrines where few and far between. There is no electricity at this center or in the community. We walked to the fields where the youth were getting the gardens ready for planting season, which isn't until October. There are these wonderful men who volunteer their time from the community to teach the youth how to garden. It is a wonderful program and incredibly needed here.
After our tour we played with the children who were on break from their lessons. I played soccer. We really didn't have a field so it was soccer random. These children are fast and so quick with their feet. We had a blast. We then, and don't laugh, did the hokey pokey and they loved it! These children are vulnerable orphans but you wouldn't know that by their laughter...it honestly was contagious. Azungu Azungu they shouted over and over again and would laugh and run away when we looked. As I mentioned, we had received our lesson for communicating at a very basic level and so whenever we would say something to the children they would laugh. We thought Mary taught us wrong words but it was actually the children getting a kick out of azungu speaking in their native language.
We then fed the children. It was one 10 oz cup only 1/2 full of cream of wheat type drink. That is their one meal a day and that is what keeps them coming to the center. Now I don't know about your kids, but when mine are playing sports when they come home to eat I know it is more than 1/2 cup full of cream of wheat - oh, and if there is not enough to go around, the teacher must take from other cups to feed the ones that didn't get any. The children never once complained. They wait very sweetly until eveyrone gets their cup. And when the teacher says to eat they all eat. They lick their bowl clean. It was a very humbling experience. These small children show so much grace; so much humility; so much understanding at such a young age it makes your heart ache and rejoice at the same time. The children went back to their lessons and we went into the community to help with home-based care.
We had to get 'wraps'. It is unacceptable for women to go in the community not wearing a dress, and here the widows sew wraps. Our entire team of 12 ladies bought wraps from the women that are trying to work and are living with (on ARVs) AIDS/HIV. They sang and danced for us. Their joy and obvious love for one another was beautiful to see. We had fun dancing with them in our new wraps. When we were properly clothed we went to the community in teams of 6 (1=community leader; 1= pastor; 4 of us). This home-based care is a program that reaches out to those in the community who are sick and suffering. As we walked the path to these homes I couldn't help but wonder what it must be like in the rainy season; when it was cold; when it was hot; when someone was sick and dying what do they do. It was very disconcerting to know that life is dispensible. It has to be. With a life expectancy of 37 years old what would you hope for? There are no streets as you may know them. There are dirt paths everywhere. The huts are made of straw and pretty much any material they could find. So imagine with me: you are a small orphan child responsible for taking care of your brother or sister...no parents to care for you. You live in a dirt hut and have no furniture. You can't lock a door so anyone can walk into your home anytime they want. The night falls and you are enveloped in complete darkness...no blankets only a cold bug ridden floor. Can you imagine your children handling that? Can you picture with me what must be going through these children's minds? I'm not sure I could handle it with the maturity and matter-of-fact attitude that these children have and they smile every day. It is incredible. They are small miracles full of joy.
I was surely blessed and humbled by childen this day. On the way home Mary had be make sure to continue our lessons. We promised. I wonder if we will?
Peace and blessings to you all.