Multiple visits to orphanages made me realize something Important
Since I have made the decision to dedicate sometime yearly to helping out and volunteering in different humanitarian projects I ended up going back and forth to Arusha and Zanzibar.
Each visit I had a different group of friends or family with me who wanted to visit as well and help out.
Well one of the orphanages in Arusha, had a special place in my heart let’s say, it is the one I mentioned in my previous post when I decided to improve the lives of these children in any way possible. So here is what happened.
I decided to sponsor some children along with some family members, it came to a total of six children who were at an age suitable for KG and Grade1. They were at the orphanage receiving no education, however provided for through clothing, a place to sleep and food.
So the sponsors and I have been sending the amount for school fees and necessary items to buy for school such as shoes, the school bag, and soap etc… since they were to be placed at a boarding school. During holidays they were to return to the orphanage as it is considered to be their home.
Keep in mind that I myself and the sponsors do not have children of our own and therefore may not pay attention to school registration necessities and procedures the way a parent who has a child in school would. Therefore, we have placed our trust and whatever was necessary for the children we would pay for it so they can have a good future.
Months have passed and there I was again packing my suitcase and heading to Tanzania again where visiting the orphanage was definitely a part of my schedule during my trip there. So on that day, some of the orphanage staff were informed of our arrival time this time including the owner, whom I have met only once briefly during my last visit( just a hello, thank you and goodbye).
This visit however, has opened my eyes, since I even dedicated myself to doing this I have been very cautious and paid attention to details, so even the minor changes were noticed by me even though they may have not expected that.
As I entered I have noticed an extension being made which was great (more toilets). However, every other part of the orphanage remained the same. My friends and I were greeted once again by hugs and smiles from the children. The day started with a warm welcome and music being played by the children which really impressed me. Later on we distributed the items we have brought with us (items we have bought such as toys and also donations given by friends).
Afterwards, the owner has spoken to us about the cases of the new children and those who are on the priority list looking to be sponsored as they are growing older and have received no education whatsoever. I definitely appreciated the time he takes and the staff who dedicate themselves to helping these children, but since he has two small classes build and also a large number of foreign volunteers coming and going also a portion of what volunteers pay for such programs goes to the project in this case the orphanage. I wondered with all that, how could it still be so difficult to provide a full time teacher to teach basic things to the children?
As for donations, the most common one is clothes especially in this case where it is for children as we all know they grow up so fast and parents are left with piles of clothes that they don’t know what to do with. Can you imagine with every volunteer from abroad at least two clean shirts would be donated to the orphanage (that is in my belief even below the minimum) most of them would bring more. Yet each time I am greeted by these children they are wearing nothing but old tattered clothes most of the time ripped or stained!
So The third part of our visit was the clothes donation, we went to the bedroom of the children ( a room with bunk beds). We asked for this to be organized yet it ended up being a mess and you could not blame children if they are not seated or running around they are children after all, but what shocked me was the staff members who seemed to be more excited than the children and ended up making the distribution process messy and unorganized as they dived through the boxes! It was so frustrating trying to tell an adult to wait and sit and listen, since we took the time at home to go and buy new clean outfits (all full matching outfits) so the children will look neat for once.
Unfortunately the result was some children with mismatching clothes however the clothes were new and clean so the difference in their appearance was noticeable. Then once again there was the owner almost in tears and telling us look how fresh they are and clean etc… since you gave these clothes, you all have solved a big issue for us here. At first I fell for the act, then I told myself two minutes ago he did the exact same facial expressions and speech with tears in his eyes, the same happened before that and before…. Wasn’t he tired of putting on this act repetitively throughout the day?! Also another point came my mind at that moment, when he said you have solved a big issue for us here with the clothes you brought…. I thought to myself what about all the other clothes brought in especially during the months of July and August when all volunteers come from around the world during their summer vacation. It seemed impossible that there would be a shortage on clothes! There are so much clothes being brought down from the Middle East and Europe to Africa that the second hand market is booming. Keep in mind the clothing fashion collections/seasons have moved from clothes for winter and clothes for summer to 52 collections a year ! that second hand clothing in Europe and the US is almost of no value, clothes are being thrown around and disposed in the speed of light, which opened great doors for the market in Africa to boom. [Look up the documentary on Netflix: Minimalists] you will find the main source of this info there and much more useful info regarding this issue.
To be continued….
[More about the clothing issue and the multiple streams of profit through orphanages]