I apologize for the lack of pictures to accompany this post. I’m currently in the library of my shopping town. Maybe my next post will be only pictures. 😉
Yesterday, I hiked for an hour up a mountain to visit one of the three Neighborhood Care Points (NCPs) in my community. Supported by UNICEF, World Vision, and several other national and international NGOs, NCPs serve the orphans and vulnerable children within the community by offering a breakfast snack & lunch in addition to a school lesson of some kind. Most have at least one teacher who has received some training from World Vision, and typically between 20-30 children are served.
After hiking the mountain (and stopping along the way to pick up some of the beautiful crystals that litter the path), my counter part and I finally reached the cinder block building. Nestled on the mountainside high above the main road, and doubling as a church on Sundays, the dilapidated building barely provides shelter from the rain. Two large window holes (where exactly is the line between a hole in a wall and a window?) frame the busted front door, and illuminate the grass mats covering the crumbling concrete floor.
We arrived at 10, the time that was agreed upon last week when I visited, and found no one. Unsurprisingly, they had forgotten I was coming and we’re tending the fields. But, one by one, eight women showed up as well as two men, and about 20 children. At 11, the front door was finally unlocked. The kids sang a few songs, then I opened my backpack and distributed some toys, books, and teaching materials graciously sent to me from friends in America. (Thanks Morgantown Wine Club & Brandee McCoy!)
The kids were very happy to receive the toys, and I was happy to help. Still, there is so much work to be done… Although I haven’t yet been able to help the NCP acquire the chairs or tables they have requested for the kids, I’m working on persuading the community leadership to donate the children sized chairs currently sitting in a storage room collecting dust (“but who will replace them when they break?” Sigh).
A very important fact, and the reason no one was there when I initially arrived, is that they have no food. Food aid is typically provided by the World Food Programme and I attempted to call them, but no one answered. Then the email I sent was returned. Double sigh. This system is not sustainable. When the food rations run out, they simply have to close the doors, which unfortunately means the kids miss meals and the cycle of stunted, sick children continues.
I am hopeful to make an impact by teaching about and helping build water efficient permagardens for the NCPs. Although we still have very little water reserves, the terrible drought that has plagued us for months and months seems to be ending. Rain fell several days last week, and even this morning the ground was wet- it’s a good sign. Oh how happy I would be to see cute hungry faces eating carrots and beans they grew themselves. I believe I can help, and I want to do it the right way.
So what is the wrong way? I will share a story that happened a few months ago. As I mentioned earlier, there are three NCPs in my community. One of them is a very nice, new building that was built by a volunteer 6 years ago. My counterpart and I toured the building, and sat in for a few minutes as the children played. There was only one small set of blocks on the ground for the kids, which I didn’t think anything of…. until we were shown the storage room. Inside this room, three trunks contain a multitude of toys, puzzles, clay, teaching tools, even a soccer net and little jerseys….. all of them still in original plastic. Nearly all the toys had not been touched in the past 6 years. The teacher told me, “You see? We are rich!” and the blatant disconnect between receiving aid and utilizing aforementioned aid smacked me in the face, hard. I’m disappointed that the kids didn’t get to use a majority of the resources in those trunks, but I believe its mostly because the teachers don’t know how. So, that will be my next undertaking… show these teachers how to use this stuff!