Nani’s Guest Post!

Guest post from Nani, another fantastic volunteer we were lucky to encounter during our trip, who we hope will stay involved with the kids through The Small Things for many years to come! 

Nani with the kids and Mama Ayo!

Over my summer holidays I decided to take on Africa for 3 months, a month of which I would be spending at Nkoaranga Orphanage. I guess we’ll start at the beginning then: I reached the orphanage in one piece after what would become one of many interesting dalla rides up the hill to Nkoaranga, being only slightly concerned by the amount of coffin makers along the way. So anyway, as I got closer to the orphanage the cries and screaming became audible, and for a moment I stopped and asked myself what I had gotten myself into, but took another breath and stepped into a world of babies, kids, nappies, endless laundry and constant play-time. On my first tour of the orphanage, I made the mistake of picking little David up and subsequently having to put him down to his great disappointment, making it very clear and audible. I also said hi to the babies, and one of them grabbed onto my hands, pulling herself up and walking with me for a little while, as I looked around and asked the others there if she could walk they said no. Looking back it must have been Vicky or Gracie because both are keen on walking and are known to get quite upset when put down, which of course I had to do to continue my tour. In due time I would spend many hours with them walking up and down the halls, and even tackling stairs on occasion.

Peace (left) and Shujah

The next day I arrived at 8am at which time the 6 babies (Franky, Filipo, Gracey, Vicky, Ebenezer and litte Maureen) were getting changed and the other kids stood atop the counter while the Mamas cleaned the floor. The kids were bouncy and very happy to have a new face there, and I was suddenly jumped on, trying not to drop any of them, as well as not have any of them fall off the counter. But miraculously most of the time the kids don’t hurt themselves, not seriously anyway and normally recover pretty quickly. I never knew how resilient little kids were until coming to the orphanage. It’s cute watching the kids interact with each other, especially with Shujah and Peace who seem to be the toughest of them all- being carried around, bounced up and down on their little chair, fed solid foods as the older kids just want to share but don’t understand they can’t eat it yet. Those two were the sweetest babies I have ever come across, they never cry if something is not really wrong, are very patient with feeding, smile and giggle just when you come up to them- it’s the nicest reception and made my heart melt. Thinking of Shujah now with his amazingly soft and curly hair and his adorable grin makes me miss him so much, but I’m gone knowing he’ll bring that pleasure to many other volunteers.

Shujah’s short lived mobile

Often, because he demanded so little, it would be possible to leave him in the chair, or on a mattress to look out onto the world but I realised after a while that he was understimulated. So one day I 
 decided to make a colourful mobile for him, out of bits and pieces from around the orphanage- he loved it! But so did the other kids and it didn’t last much longer than a couple of hours! But nonetheless, that was an easy thing to do, and could easily be made again. Also something the kids really need are walkers or play toys that help them walk, because The 6 who were all around one a half years old while I was there were not walking yet, and only Vicky and Gracie were bothering to attempt this big milestone. I think the main problem is that if no one is willing or able to walk with them, they can’t practice, so it would be great if something like this could be found for them as I looked all over Arusha and couldn’t find anything like it. Also a little support which I’m not sure what it’s called (jumping joey maybe) allows babies to become comfortable with the idea of standing, which is what the kids desperately need! Also the baby bouncer broke while I was there, and now Shujah and Peace, the Two Tinies as I call them, have nowhere to lie down but the mattresses.

Frankie with the older kids

Now to move on to all the wonderful people who work at the orphanage, the Mamas and the volunteers; amongst them Frankie. The orphanage without Frankie wouldn’t be complete- he is a wonderful 18 year old local who is wonderful with the kids, often taking the bigger ones out for a walk or game of football, and he also happens to be deaf. It’s funny to see how the kids act differently around him when trying to explain things to him they do it with more exaggerated hand movements but in complete silence! The mamas love his help, especially with putting the kids to bed! The mamas are amazing women who mostly have their own families and work together to raise this big family of orphans together with all the love and attention they can manage amongst their other jobs of cooking, cleaning, feeding the kids, nappy changes, laundry, bathing and cleaning reusable nappies without complain or disgust as far as I can tell. They have amazing jobs, and really seem to enjoy their work, and always get on with whatever needs to be done with smiles on their faces!

Frankie and Frankie blowing bubbles together

I had some really amazing moments with the kids- three kids stacked onto my lap while on the swing, having the kids come to me with open arms waiting for me to dump laundry in to them, feeding 6 kids at once with 6 separate spoons, bringing out my huge Australian blow up ball and watching them chase it and aim it at a cow which they found hilarious as it was so shocked! The list could go on forever…It really is a great place to be, if only for a month, surrounded by babies. It’s also great the freedom with which you can work there and what changes you can make, your time there is whatever you make it!

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