The last minute change of flight to Goma on Thursday left me with 4 extra days in Beni that I wasn't expecting. After a much needed rest day on Friday that I spent doing a load of washing and catching up on emails, Facebook, my blog and most importantly the project budget, on Saturday I was keen to crack on and make the most of the 3 days I had left. Top of the priority list was getting the little girl who can't walk (or Roda as I now know she is called) to the clinic for disabled people in Butembo.
So Saturday morning we set off on the 3 hour drive south to Butembo and spent the day at the clinic where Roda was registered and had an initial consultation. We were told by the doctor that she needed to be brought back on Monday for further tests and she would need to stay at the hospital for at least a month while they continued to treat her. After that we returned to Beni so that Mamma Noella could begin making arrangements to move to the clinic for a short while. With 19 other children at her home this is no easy task!
On sunday I wanted to get to grips with exactly who all the children are that live at Mamma Noella's orphanage; their names, how old they are and most importantly whether they go to school. It turns out that they range in age from 2 to 20 with the oldest children being the ones to help Mamma Noella care for the little ones and raise money to support them. The good news is that 12 of the 20 are currently going to school so I only need to find sponsors for the 8 youngest. Some of them are only 2 or 3 and are not ready for primary school yet but by sending them to nursery school, not only does it stimulate them and get them learning earlier which they desperately need but it also frees up Mamma Noella to take in work like washing and cultivating crops to raise money to provide food for the children.
These are the 8 little ones that need sponsoring at the moment…
Once we had taken all the photos and got details of all the children we went to the market to buy food for the orphans to keep them going while Mamma Noella is in Butembo. I really enjoy this part of the project. Everyone at the market is always really surprised when I turn up and I hear lots of people talking in Swahili about the 'mzungu' but I have my regular suppliers now and I can talk to them a bit in swahili and french while we barter over prices the best produce.
On Monday we set off early and returned to the clinic in Butembo. How surprised I was when I arrived to hear someone shout 'Kavira Hannah'!! I turned around and saw Mamma Josephine walking towards me who runs one of the orphanages in Butembo which we visited when we were here last week. She was at the clinic with one of her little boys, Pascale, who is also disabled and needs treatment at the clinic. She was hoping to be treated for free as she cannot afford to pay the costs but unfortunately the clinic refused.
So I spent most of the day with these two Mamma's and their babies making sure that the costs for their treatment were covered. It only cost $28 for Pascale as he lives nearby and is not malnourished so $4 went towards registering him at the clinic and his initial consultation and $24 went towards 24 treatments over the next 2 months.
Roda was a different story. We were told that she is very malnourished and anaemic because she hasn't been getting enough food and foods that are full of goodness to make her strong. She will need to stay at the clinic with Mamma Noella for 2 months initially and will be fed a special porridge every day for the first month which will help her gain weight and get strong. Like Pascale she will be treated 3 times a week for the 2 months that she is at the clinic and will be monitored by the doctor there who will hopefully manage to get her walking eventually. I have paid $126 for her tests, her stay at the hospital, her treatment, medication and months supply of the special porridge. It may be that she needs an operation or leg braces to help her walk which will of course cost more money but we will know more in a couple of months. The doctor said that, like Pascale, it may be a problem with her brain in which case it might not be a simple fix.
After that we went to the market to buy food for Mamma Noella, Roda and Jolie (one of the older girls who will stay at the clinic and help with Roda while Mamma Noella does washing, cooking, going to the market etc). Here is Mamma Noella with Jolie who was making Roda laugh. Such a lovely sight!
Once we had left them set up at the clinic it was time to help Mamma Josephine. The last time we visited her orphanage her most desperate need, apart from food which we bought for her, was mattresses for the bare wooden bed frames and for the children who were sleeping on the floor. We went back to the market and I bought 10 mattresses so the orphans can now get a good night sleep even if there are still 5 or 6 in one bed!
A 3 hour drive back to Beni (in the dark which is never fun in Africa) ended my trip to Beni and this morning I am all packed up and ready to fly to Goma. It's very strange to be updating my blog on my laptop with a portable modem looking out over the dirt runway, army helicopters and jungles beyond but I guess that's modern technology for you!
This is definitely not goodbye for Beni. The project will continue helping orphans here by sending them to school thanks to all of your generous donations and of course supporting the 2 little ones at the clinic. I have also offered to donate basic food supplies of rice, beans, cassava and oil to Mamma Noella's orphanage every 2 weeks for the next 8 weeks while she is not there to help get food for them. This has been made possible thanks to 4 very generous people; Carole Teifel, Lydia Baines, Keith Kelly & Sarah Burton who donated £50 to the project to buy water filters but it turns out that they all have water fountains here and the only orphanage that needs filters has already had some donated so I've used your funds to help by food for the orphans if that's ok. Here are photos of them all…