Friday, 25 April 2014

It's cold in the Congo!

We arrived back in Beni late last night after spending the a few days at the orphanage at Rwese - high up in the hills of Lubero. This is the main orphanage in North Kivu that REACH Italia supports and it is nothing like any other place I've visited so far in the Congo. Far away from any towns, the orphanage is nestled into the hillside in a small village high up in the hills and is surrounded by sloping fields full of crops. The view from the top is incredible but it is also really, really cold here. Thank goodness I brought a couple of jumpers with me!

The welcome that we received when we arrived at Rwese was out of this world. All the children from the orphanage as well as all the children from both local primary schools were gathered to greet us at the top of the road that led to the orphanage and they put on a wonderful military style dance routine and then marched whilst singing all along the road that was lined with children all the way to the orphanage. I should think there was well over a thousand children there - it was mayhem!

We then had an hour long welcome presentation at the orphanage where children of various classes sang, told stories and did African themed presentations to welcome me. Some of them had even learned some English which they shouted at me with such enthusiasm it was hard not to laugh! Once the presentation was over it was down to business...

The orphanage is home to 80 orphans and the first thing we needed to do was drive to the market in Lukanga to buy them some food as they were running very low on supplies. Two hours and $250 later they were fully stocked with rice, beans, maize, cassava, flour, sugar, salt, oil and soap. It's amazing how expensive everything is here - sometimes even more expensive than England prices but they have to import almost everything they need so the prices remain high. The rice I bought was from China and the sugar was from Brazil - crazy when you think that both products grow here in DRC.

Next on the list was clothes. Thankfully some very kind people had had the sense to donate some jumpers and jackets for me to bring with me so I gave them to the children along with long sleeved T-shirts and trousers to protect them from the cold. Unfortunately there wasn't enough to go around and some children had to go without as I didn't have much in the way of clothes for older children. That was really sad so I promised I'd bring more for them next time. After that I gave them all some toys - bouncy balls, colouring books and crayons for the little ones, bracelets for the older girls and a football for the older boys which went down REALLY well and I left them all for the evening busy playing with their new toys.

The following day we started off by visiting the clinic in Lukanga where I donated over £350 of medical supplies which will be used only for the orphans to treat them for free when they are sick. This is a great partnership that we have started with this clinic and will really help the orphans in the future.

After that it was back to the orphanage to deal with the issue of education. The children at the orphanage range in age from 11 months to 14 years, 37 of which are already able to go to school thanks to support from sponsors in Europe and now another 29 children get to go to school thanks to the generous support of those of you who donated the £25 per year school fees for them. It was wonderful to be able to show them all the photos I had brought of the people that had given money to send them to school and take photos of them for you all. Unfortunately that leaves 14 little ones who still can't go to school at the moment although they are only nursery school age at the moment but soon will be primary school age and will need sponsors to help with their education. This little one has been sponsored by my nieces Olivia & Eva...

While I was here I found out that there are a further 190 orphans that cannot live at the orphanage as there isn't enough space so they are living with host families throughout the area. These orphans can't go to school as their host families cannot afford to pay the fees as this is an incredibly poor area mostly made of of rural farmers. We systematically took photos of all 190 children giving them a special code with which to identify them and took down their names, sex and age. It was a mammoth task and we were all exhausted and hungry by the end but it was worth it. Now we just need to find people who are willing to donate £2 per month to send one of these orphan to school. If anyone would like to donate to this project then please let me know.

After a quick lunch I wandered back to the orphanage as I wanted to spend some time playing with the children after all the hard work that we had done. We had a wonderful few hours playing with toys, the football, and group games in a big circle similar to our Ring-around-the-roses or Farmer-in-the-den. It was so much fun and so nice to see the children relax around the 'Mzungu' and let me play with them, hold their hands and even pick them up! It was also really lovely to see them cuddling the soft toys that I brought out with me...

Unfortunately we couldn't stay any longer as we had to drive back to Beni yesterday as I was supposed to fly to Goma today. When we arrived back though we found an email saying that my flight had been moved to Tuesday so I now have 4 extra days in Beni. That isn't such a bad thing. I'm completely exhausted so a rest day is just what I needed today, plus I was in desperate need to do some washing as I had no clean clothes left! The other great thing about have some more time in Beni is that I now have time to take the little girl who cannot walk to the clinic which we are going to do tomorrow. The main clinic for the disabled is in Butembo which we drove through yesterday which means another 2 hour drive to get there and 2 hour drive to get back but it will be worth it to finally make some progress with getting treatment for this little one...

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