Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A tale of two Mammas...

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…

Well, it's time to fly to Goma now. Next update to follow soon… :-)

Monday, 28 April 2014

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

I know you all love to read this blog to find out what I've been up to in my mission to help the orphans in Congo but tonight is a little different. Instead of writing about the orphans here and the crazy few days I have had with them, tonight I would like to write about all of you…

I am so grateful for the incredible support that you have given me and for all the generous donations that have flooded in since I launched the 2nd fundraising project yesterday. I can't tell you how completely amazed I was when I returned back to the office after another 14 hour day to find that in just 24 hours I have received £750 worth of donations. Let's just say I haven't cried while I've been here but I did tonight!

What I'm really astonished by is the amount of people who don't even know me but who believe in what I'm trying to achieve out here and have donated money to the project to show their support. I knew all my friends and family would but they kind of had to right?! ;-) But to those of you who I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet but who have generously donated anyway this post is for you. THANK YOU so much!

As you'll read from the blog so far and also from the next post which should be up tomorrow, I have finally scratched the surface here and am starting to make a real difference for those orphans that need it most and that was always the point of this project - taking the time to find those most in need and work out the best way of helping them. 

As I'm sure you can imagine after 3 weeks here I was starting to run low on funds as there are so many orphans that need help and often the thing that most of them miss out on is education which is why it's brilliant that so many of you have chosen to sponsor an orphan to go to school. This really is one of the biggest differences you can make for them so once again, thank you!

As it's already 10pm here and I have an early morning flight and still haven't had a wash or packed yet I'm going to sign off now but will leave you with this photo of me and all of the orphans that I saw today. They would like to say THANK YOU too! :-)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Mission Congo 2 Fundraising project goes live!

Hi all,
After huge demand from people wanting to donate money to my Mission Congo project so I can continue to deliver much needed supplies to orphans as well as sponsor orphans to go to school, I have launched another fundraising project for 1 WEEK ONLY. I am only in DRC for 2 more weeks and I want to use the funds generated to help as many orphans as I can during my time here.
For full information on what the project has achieved so far, what I plan to spent the additional funds on and to make a donation please visit: www.indiegogo.com/projects/mission-congo-2.
Please give whatever you can. Even £1 makes a huge difference to these orphans. 

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...

Monday, 21 April 2014

Three orphanages and a funeral… oh, and just a few live chickens!

Yesterday we arrived in Butembo which is a 2 hour drive south of Beni. Once again we passed through some of the most beautiful landscapes to get here - rolling green hills, thick forest and jungle - absolutely stunning. 

The same cannot be said for Butembo. This town looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic war film. The main road through the town as well as all the other smaller roads that criss-cross Butembo are dirt roads that are deep red that is typical of African soil. But here the roads are covered in thick layers of red dust like Mars! The winds that whip through the town create massive dust storms which paint everything their path red - the buildings, the cars, even the people. Keeping your eyes open and even breathing is a dangerous task here! Rubbish is strewn about everywhere and it's impossible to work out whether the buildings are only half built or are half falling down. This is a town that you can't wait to leave the moment you arrive.

That being said, as soon as you drive out of the main town and up into the hills you are instantly surrounded by vast sweeping hills of jungle as well as banana and tea plantations which are just stunning and I have never met such friendly people, so kind and generous and so willing to give something when they have so little as I have met here in Butembo.

We started our day yesterday at the funeral of Geoff's aunt which was weird to say the least seeing as I'd never met this woman. To be fair it was just the wake, not the actual funeral. Apparently tradition here is for the family and friends to gather at the house of the deceased for a week or so and just have a sit-in where all they do is eat and sleep and remember the person who died. So there we sat, and ate and sat and ate but as we only have 2 days in Butembo and a very busy schedule I began to get twitchy so after an hour of sitting and a lot of food I made our excuses and begged to leave.

From there we went to visit a group of women who help support orphans in their area of the town. We arrived at a school which the orphans attend and got a welcome like I had never experienced before in my life - singing, dancing, flowers thrown and my feet as well as gifts of flowers, traditional Congolese artwork, a woven mat and randomly a live chicken! Apparently it is tradition in Congo to give a live chicken to an important visitor. I certainly wasn't expecting that! 

What I also wasn't expecting was that throughout the day as we drove through the town we would make quick stops at various other women's groups to the same welcome - lots of singing and dancing - and more gifts. At one I received a wooden carved statue, at another I received fabric to make a dress and at the others I received more paintings, flowers and gifts of food - potatoes, onions, carrots, beans, bananas, tomatoes, passion fruits and always, ALWAYS a live chicken! By the end of the day we had 4 live chickens and one place had even given me 2 small birds that they say are pigeons but look like doves. I wanted to free them but they said it would be rude as they are a gift so we've kept them for now. By the end of the day we drove back to the hotel with the back of the car stuffed full of food and I had chickens by my feet, a chicken on my lap and a bird in each hand!

During the day we also visited 3 orphanages here, one of which has just 18 children while the other 2 have 48 and 50 but each with only 4 bedrooms for all the children to sleep in. Seeing the conditions in which these children are living was heart-breaking. At one of the orphanages they were using a garage as a bedroom and had 2 sets of bunk-beds pushed up against the wall. Most of the beds didn't even have a mattress for the children to sleep on, just a thin blanket or a piece of cardboard, and I was told that 5 or even 6 children sleep in each of the single beds because they have so many children and so few beds. It's so difficult to know what to do as I obviously want to buy them more mattresses but I know that they, and many other orphans in DRC, need food in their bellies more than a bed to sleep on and I don't have limitless funds.

So today we went off to the market to buy them food, but not before we had visited 4 other women's groups who support orphans in their areas. The visits were much the same as yesterday - lots of singing and dancing and then talking and asking questions followed by gift giving. We received 3 more chickens today along with vast amounts of fruits and vegetables and I was also given another painting, another wooden carving, a beautiful woven basket and tea! I still can't get over just how generous these women are when they work so hard every day and still have so little but are happy to give it to me. 

I in turn have chosen to donate all the food to the orphanages so at the market we bought the items that had not been donated including; rice, beans, maize, cassava, oil, sugar, salt and soap and took these along with all the donated fruit and veg and 2 of the chickens to the 2 orphanages that we had visited yesterday morning and who we had promised food to. This is definitely the best part of being here. I love bartering in the markets in french and basic swahili and I REALLY love arriving an an orphanage with a truck load of food and seeing the faces on the children and staff. They were so happy today it was great.

I also spent some of my own money on milk formula for a set of twins (1 girl, 1 boy) at Mamma Dorcas orphanage as they need proper baby milk and it is really expensive here.

Such a great day! :-)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A busy and emotional day in Beni…

Yesterday we arrived back in Beni after a LONG drive from Bunia as there was no flight available. After 5 hours on dirt roads full of pot-holes every single bone in my body hurt - even my teeth! We did pass through some of the most beautiful jungle in the Congo though so the drive was worth it although I think next time I'll stick to the 25 minute plane journey!

Our last day in Bunia consisted mostly of visits - first to an organisation called 'Hope for Orphans in Ituri' who have a school for 1,300 children - 700 of whom are orphans. The orphans do not pay to come to school here but the fees raised by the 600 children whose parents do pay cover the running costs and teachers salaries. They also have a medical clinic with the same set up where the fees generated by those who can pay cover the costs to treat orphans for free. Finally they have a small house where orphaned babies are ket until they are 3 years old and can be placed with extended families or host families. It's a great system for getting free education and medicines to orphans as well as helping to get orphaned babies through the first 3 years of life which is when most children die in DRC.

After that we visited the site where REACH Italia plan to build a new orphanage, school and clinic in Bunia. It's a huge area - 4 hectares - at the edge of the town next to a village and surrounded by fields. The view from there is incredible - rolling hills covered in forest and fields for agriculture and in the distance lies Lake Albert and the border of Uganda. It's definitely an exciting project for the future.

Today had been a full-on crazy day in Beni and an emotional one at that. We started by re-visiting one of the poorest pygmy villages that we had visited last week where I had promised a delivery of some clothes. I took a few items for the men which were the remaining items of my dad's and the whole drive there I just felt like he was sat next to me in the truck. It was very strange and after saying I hadn't cried all trip I have to say a shed a few tears as I saw these pygmy men putting on his old shirts. It was very emotional. I just wish I'd done this trip years ago so he could have come with me. I think he would have really enjoyed it here.

I also took some scarves and jewellery for the women and some clothes for the children as most of them were running around completely naked. On the way I stopped and bought a load of de-worming tablets as most of the children had round pot bellies that I'm sure were full of worms which is why their legs were like match sticks. I also bought some rice and cassava for them although as always it was just the enough for one day - the village will use it for their Easter feast tomorrow - and after that they will need more but as there are no orphans here I don't feel I can give more than that.

While we were at the village I was helping some of the smaller children to put their new clothes on and I picked up one little girl who was very quiet and she was boiling hot with fever. I mentioned this to the team I am working with here and they all thought the same thing - malaria. So we decided to take her to the nearby clinic for treatment. I gathered her up and carried her to the truck and she just clung to me like a little monkey. I tried to cradle her during the drive as it was so bumpy and her hot skinny little body was light as a feather. We left her at the clinic where she was being seen by a doctor and where she will receive treatment before being taken back to the village.

After that I wanted to go back to Mamma Noella's orphanage as I knew that the food we bought last week would all be used up by now and I wanted to buy more before we head south to Butembo and Lubero tomorrow. This is definitely the orphanage in Beni that needs the most help. Sure enough when we arrived they were almost completely out food and they also had a little boy with a fever who they suspected had malaria so off to the clinic we went again so he could be treated while Mamma Noella and I went to the market and spent over $100 on rice, beans, milk powder, salt, soap, sugar, fish, onions and tomatoes. I also bought her some firewood to cook on. That should keep them going for another week or so but I worry about what they'll eat when I'm not here to buy food for them.  

One thing I was really happy to see was that the mosquito nets I had donated were up in the bedrooms which is great. Fingers crossed this should stop the children needing to go to the clinic with malaria.

While I was there I held the little girl who cannot stand or walk and asked more questions about her health. It sounds like maybe she hasn't been seen by a doctor after all and that they tried to take her to a clinic but they didn't have the money to pay the fees. I'm not 100% sure. I ask the same questions here and I often get different answers so I have to keep digging until I find out what is really going on. It's hard, it's frustrating but it's Africa! I figure we'll get there in the end. I felt optimistic today though as the little girl made eye contact with me and she can move her feet and toes. Apparently she also spoke for the first time since we last visited so these are all good signs. I'm not giving up on this little one… 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Congolese people do not like flying… and a new baby makes 70!

I arrived safely in Bunia yesterday after the most exciting flight ever - tiny plane on a dirt runway surrounded by UN helicopters, Congolese Army (weapons and all) and jungle! Sat next to the only white guy on the plane - a French guy who works for MSF. Kakule on the other hand did not enjoy the flight quite so much. Turns out that Congolese people do not like flying and if you see the state of their local planes you'll understand why. Luckily we were flying with Echo flight - a humanitarian aid flight that transports people and supplies from NGOs across eastern Africa. It was still a tiny plane though - less than 30 seats in total - and with the turbulence it was a pretty bumpy ride. I think it's the first time I've ever seen a black man turn white!

After just 20 minutes or so we arrived at Bunia airport and were met by some of Kakule's colleagues from Reach Italia, the Pastor of the church who supports the local orphanage here as well as Sister Catherine from the orphanage and 2 of the children. Unfortunately some bored customs officers saw that my boxes still had Entebbe stickers on them from when I arrived in Uganda and started demanding all sorts of paperwork and permissions to bring the items to Bunia, which of course I didn't have as I had already got permission from and paid money to the DGM when I crossed the border into DRC which we explained to them but they didn't seem to care. Typical Africa! After 2 hours of negotiations we finally managed to get my boxes through customs by paying a small fee (bribe!) and drove into the main town. After a quick lunch at the UN headquarters we spent the afternoon at the orphanage which has 69 children (most of which are babies and under 3's) and the 15 staff. As it's the school holidays a lot of the older children were not there when I arrived and all of the babies were asleep in their cots.

So many cots in one room - it's incredible! At the moment they have 11 babies under 3 months including a 2 week old and a 4 day old. So tiny and cute!

I distributed toys to all the older children including the football and netball which went down really well! I also gave them the donated clothes and toys for the little ones and some new mosquito nets. We also visited the school where I gave them some of the donated school supplies and then visited the clinic where I gave them their medical supplies. They were so happy and grateful for everything I had brought. 

They were busy thanking me when a man and woman suddenly arrived with a little bundle. It turned out to be a 2 day old baby whose mother died today from complications following childbirth. The man was the woman's husband and the woman was her aunt. They brought the baby to the orphanage as there was no way they could raise it now that the mother had died which is very common here and so incredibly sad. The baby is a girl and her name is Rachel. She will spend the next 3 years at the orphanage until she can either be returned to her birth family or placed with a foster family. She will then come to the school for her education and to the clinic when she is ill and needs medications, the costs of which are covered by the orphanage and local people who can afford to pay a little. It's a really good system and one that could definitely be adopted throughout the country if there were enough funding. So a new baby makes 70 at the orphanage. In this photo Rachel is the baby in the middle.

The sudden arrival of the new baby and the distraught family left a sombre atmosphere hanging over the orphanage for the rest of the afternoon, although the older girls tried to lift everyone's spirits by doing some traditional African dancing. There are some older children here that cannot be placed with families so they live at the orphanage. While we watched I managed to get a few of the younger children to let me sit next to them and hold hands and tickle them which was nice as mostly they are scared of me!

Last night Kakule and I stayed at the home of his colleague which is where we'll sleep until we leave on Friday so I'm very happy and safe here. There is no electricity though and I've only managed to get online with the help of a generator in the garden and a portable modem that Kakule has borrowed from a friend! There is also no running water so bathing is over a bucket full of cold water which is oddly refreshing! Welcome to Africa!

Today I spent the entire day at the orphanage which was just what a needed after a busy 10 days or so. Plenty of time to play with the children and take lots of photos and videos. I started by giving out all the soft toys to the babies and little ones and then gave out all the pre-school toys to the 2 and 3 year olds which they absolutely loved. 

They didn't seem to have any toys when I arrived and to see them all playing with brightly coloured toys was just incredible. Maybe it was just my imagination but they all seemed happier to have something to play with. I also spent some time with the older children (4 - 7 year olds) playing football, with the bouncy balls and blowing bubbles for them to chase around the garden. It was so much fun and so lovely to see them laughing and so happy.

The oldest children were down at the farm helping to cultivate the maize, beans and cassava that they grow there for the orphanage. It's their easter holiday so they spent this time helping and also learning as one day they will need to do this for themselves. It's a really good system. We travelled down there and watched them working before they came back for lunch and then I spent some time playing with them too and teaching them English words for colours and pictures of things in the colouring in books.

Lunch at the orphanage is mayhem. Getting 40 or so 1 and 2 year olds to sit down and eat is no easy task, especially as they only have benches for them to sit on instead of high chairs. Lunch is the same as dinner - every day they have rice and beans. It's really sad to see them have to eat the same thing every day and not have meat or vegetables but this is the reality for most people in the Congo. They simply cannot afford to buy extra food for the children. That being said, this orphanage is better than any other I have seen and appears better funded by the simple fact that they actually have food to give to the children. My plan was to buy food and a water filter for this orphanage but it turns out that they have a fountain for water and had just received a large donation from the famous photographer Marcus Bleasdale so could afford to buy food which some of the other orphanages couldn't so I've held on to my money for now.

I took some time while the others were eating to sit and give the youngest babies a bottle of milk each. This was truly an amazing experience. These little ones that are often left on roadsides and ditches are doing so well thanks to the incredible work of the women who work here and the donations to buy milk for them.

Saying goodbye this evening was incredibly hard. I know you shouldn't admit to having favourites but there were a couple of boys and girls who I really took to during my time at the orphanage. One little girl in particular was just lovely - around 4 or 5 years old, she was very shy and quiet and she would often use sign language instead of talking which I kept encouraging her to do. The problem is that most of them speak Swahilli as their first language and learn french at school so it's often hard to understand them even though I'm picking up Swahilli pretty fast! When it was time to go the little girl squeezed my hand and asked if I could take her with me. 

Telling her that I couldn't was the hardest thing I've had to do so far this trip… :-(