This week, Emily Butler writes about her recent trip back to Nkoaranga Orphanage (and her recent ambitious fundraising venture!).
For those of you know do not already know this incredible young woman, she originally volunteered in Nkoaranga in 2011, where she taught English as well as doing care-work at Nkoaranga Orphanage! Following this, she became one of the original board members of The Small Things, playing an integral role in forming the charity, as well as doing crazy things such as sky-dives to support it! She returned to Nkoaranga over Christmas last year (her dedication going as far as spending Christmas Day in Dubai airport!), so this is her 2nd time revisiting everyone there…but this time, she brought her family! She is now on our child-welfare committee, continuing to put her new skills towards supporting the kids and Mamas.
“I have now been back from Nkoaranga Orphanage for just over a week and it still feels like it was all a dream. I cannot believe that a week ago I was running around the orphanage playground, laughing with the kids and having such an incredible time.
Over the summer I had the great honour of introducing my family to the Nkoaranga kids and, boy, was I nervous! It had been over a year and a half since I had last been in Nkoaranga and I really did not know what to expect. The village had changed so much and I was so worried about seeing the kids again (as I was scared they would not remember me) that I did not know if I would be able to manage it or not.
But it was amazing. As soon as we walked into the orphanage, we were rugby-tackled by about 20 kids, all screaming with joy to see us again. They took to my mother straightaway (of course) and, before we knew it, we were settling into the routine of things.
One thing that really struck me was how BIG they had all gotten. There were about 6 new babies that I had never met before, and the babies that I had known were now running around and talking in full sentences. It was especially amazing to see how both Ebenezer Kubwa and Peace had grown as they had been so underweight when they first arrived at Nkoaranga. It really shows how hard the Mamas all work to protect the children and ensure they are healthy. Seeing the Mamas again was wonderful and they were so warm and welcoming. They could not believe that my mother was, in fact, my mother and kept asking if she was actually my sister, much to my mother’s absolute delight!
Whilst we were there, my mother and I were able to take the 3 eldest boys – Stevie, Ericki and Eman – out for lunch. They’ve been working so hard at school so we felt they deserved a treat. We took them to a cafe at the bottom of the hill called ‘Tanz Hands’ which is a rehabilitation centre where we are frequent visitors (to the point that the women in the cafe actually remembered me…oh dear!). The boys were all really well behaved and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them eat so much. I was really proud of all three of them that day as their polite and well-behaved manner really reflected what a good upbringing the Mamas are giving them.
The next day, we took all of the kids to a big playground near Arusha where they could jump about in ball pools and throw themselves down a huge slide to their hearts’ delight. We had a wonderful day and the kids absolutely loved it. Once again, I was reminded of how proud I am of the children as they were all so well behaved throughout the day. I got a bit over-excited in the ball pool with the kids and managed to lose my camera. That was fun: rummaging around desperately in the ball pool whilst I am being jumped on by numerous children of all ages and sizes. I eventually found it, but not until the other volunteers had been able to have a good laugh at what a muppet I was. I definitely deserved that.
My father and brother also came out to meet the children whilst we were there and it was lovely. They kids adored them and I think it was really good for them to have some male role models around, especially since they were able to lift the kids into the air quite a bit, which the kids loved! My brother’s back, however, did not.
I remember walking into the playground one morning and seeing my Dad being chased down the hill by about 3 kids, whilst my brother was being chased back up it. The sight literally brought tears to my eyes. My brother said to me afterwards (and he’s probably going to kill me for quoting him), ‘I was really dreading meeting the kids because I’m not really a kid person. But they’re amazing. I can see why you’ve fallen in love with them.’ It meant so much to hear this from him, and to be able to show my family what wonderful, funny, loving, crazy, amazing little beings the children of Nkoaranga Orphanage are. The trip could not have been more perfect.
The children of Nkoaranga Orphanage mean the world to me, so it was really important that I was able to show my family exactly why that is. I think it is fair to say that they now understand.
Our sweet little Vicky was ill the day of the big trip out so did not get to go, so my Mum and I, along with two other awesome volunteers (Mia and Nanna), took her out for her very own trip. We went for a very filling lunch and had a wonderful time. Vicky was so well behaved and sat there colouring quietly the whole time. I became very close to Vicky during my trip there this summer so it was particularly hard to say bye to her again at the end of it. She has grown into such an amazing personality and is hilarious: a really cheeky, funny little girl. It was lovely to meet her big sister, Queen, and see how well they get on and how they played together at the orphanage, despite having not lived with one another for all of Vicky’s life.
It is amazing spending time at Nkoaranga Orphanage but it is also really hard. You’re reminded everyday that these brilliant children do not have what I see as the most important thing in the world – family. This is until you realise that they don’t necessarily have a conventional family, but their own special Nkoaranga family, made up of the kids, the Mamas, the volunteers and The Small Things. This family is so full of love and joy. It’s not ideal that the kids are in the orphanage, but they are safe, they are healthy, they are happy and most of all, they are loved. This is what I feel is important.
Seeing the children with the Mamas is a beautiful experience as you can see what a strong bond the Mamas have with each and every child. It was seeing this and knowing that someday I would return that meant I was able to say goodbye again. This definitely will not be my last trip to Nkoaranga Orphanage. Being back at the orphanage really reminded me of how hard the Mamas and members of The Small Things are working to protect the children, so I wanted to do something to help…
…which is why I shall be giving up alcohol from September 16th for 6 months. This means that, as a student, I shall be celebrating freshers week, Christmas, New Year’s and the end of January exams without a drop of alcohol, which is something that I see as quite a challenge. Please sponsor me to give me a bit of encouragement along the way. This can be done at by clicking here.
Thank you so much for anything you can give, it really is appreciated.”
Here’s a little video to show you just how much the kids have changed since I first walked through the doors at Nkoaranga Orphanage. Enjoy!”