We’ve been at the orphanage for a week now, and there is so much to write that I could fill an entire book. As it is, I’ll try to relate as much as I can without overwhelming you, dear reader, with boatloads of information. I have seen so much, heard so much, felt so much, prayed so much, that I feel as though we have been here for eons rather than merely days. More stories will come. I will tell you all about my kids, and my fellow volunteers, and the nannies, and the villagers, but for now I will take you through a typical day in the orphanage.
The day starts early (compared to my usual summer mornings) when we get up around 7:00 or 7:30. Someone throws together breakfast and we all make our way into the main house at 8 for morning bible study, led by Thomas, the missionary who started this orphanage with his family ten years ago. We are reading in the Psalms and Proverbs each morning. The kids have snack at around 9, and I begin school with my kindergarteners shortly afterwards. I’ve adopted the playroom as my schoolroom. My supplies include two wooden tables, six tiny wooden chairs, my laptop, alphabet and number flashcards, crayons, and workbooks. I am teaching six precious – if a bit rambunctious – kindergarteners named Henry, Janet, Sandra, Beauty, Jennifer, and Moriah. Each has their own story and their own unique personalities, quirks, and talents. I’ll write about each of them individually as I grow to know and love them even more than I do now. Unfortunately, they are all fairly behind in their education, so we have a lot of ground to cover, but I’m optimistic about their futures.
My kids are in school until Circle Time at 11:00. Circle Time takes place in the dining room and is taught by Troy and Jasmine. Troy and Jas are the two American high-school aged kids who live here at the orphanage. Their parents are the missionaries who run the place. They’re great fun; I’ll write more about them later on. Circle Time consists of worship, a Bible lesson, prayer, and a short science lesson on different animals. I generally take one of my kids out of Circle Time to tutor them individually, as they all do better learning on their own rather than in the group.
Jennifer, during tutoring time.
The kids then eat their lunches and go down for their naps, so I’m not with them again until they wake up and finish their snacks at 3:30. From noon to three is our lunch and rest time. Two people prepare lunch for the group, and two clean up afterwards. After lunch, I prepare for school in the afternoon, outlining my lesson plans, identifying which workbook pages I will do with the kids. There is also always a project somewhere on the property to work on during this time - weeding the garden, cleaning the nursery, picking up after the new puppy.
This time is also the best time of day to rest and have a quiet time – and trust me, by the time school is out for the morning, I am certainly in need of some prayer. I love my kids, but they have had very little discipline, which means that at the moment, much of school time is spent enforcing discipline and training my students to be, well, students. We still use the “naughty chair” like we did last year, and I am using the same smiley-face/sticker system as we did with the kinders last year. Each child receives three smiley faces on a whiteboard at the beginning of the day. They can lose smiley faces for misbehavior and disobedience. If they manage not to lose all of their smiley faces by the end of the day, they each receive a highly coveted sticker. Admittedly, the first few days were pretty rough. Quite frankly, absolute chaos ensued. No one would stay in his or her seat. Achieving quiet or peace was an impossible task. At some point during school, every kid found a reason to cry for seemingly no reason at all. After a week, however, I have the crying limited to two kids per day instead of six, and there is a marked difference in their behavior during school. This is encouraging, and I hope to see better behavior as the summer continues.
Regardless of the behavior of the children that day, this time of quiet and prayer is incredibly refreshing. Following nap-time, it’s time for more school in the playroom. On good days I can tutor two more kids after school time while the rest of playing on the playground or watching a movie before dinner. I’m generally done with school by 6 at the latest – just in time to slip out the front door and meet the new friends we’ve made amongst the children of the village for a game of Frisbee or Duck, Duck, Goose. This is a new development and I’m excited to see where these new relationships may lead. Again, more about them later.
The day is also filled with taking care of the children, cleaning up mess after mess, and fighting off bugs and spiders. And of course, nothing ever happens on time, and nothing ever goes as planned. It’s all part of living in Africa.
After dinner – another fairly large undertaking – and after the kids have gone to bed, we enjoy fellowship with one another. We play card games, watch movies, or just hang out in the kitchen enjoying a delicious dessert made by our very own Jas, who can make basically any dessert out of thin air and a little bit of milk powder. By the time 10 rolls around, I’m completely wiped out and am ready for bed. Despite the sounds of geckos squeaking at each other, rats skittering through the walls, and bats swooping through the air, I sleep soundly until the sound of the children wakes me up again in the morning.
Life here is full of strange mixtures. Technology is juxtaposed against quasi-frontier style living. We have laptops, but we don’t have power on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. We have an international version of U-Verse, but we kill our own chickens behind the kitchen where the nannies hand-wash the laundry in basins and on Sundays we milk the persnickety goat that lives outside my window. Wealth clashes with poverty – cameras snap photos of hungry children and dirty hovels. Laughter echoes tears as we remember those we have lost and celebrate those we still have.
Life in Kazembe is constantly challenging, invigorating, encouraging, confusing, fascinating, and beautiful. Every moment if another opportunity to serve. God is doing great things here, and I am so excited to see what He has in store for the rest of the summer. It is going to be great.