So I've had a desire to volunteer at some other orphanages here in my (currently scant) time off, but we haven't really been able to get a plan together. I was kind of waiting on someone else to figure it out for me. I should have realized I *am* 24 and need to take a little responsibility for my own event planning....although, I thought it would be pretty complicated. Ok, it still might be, but FINDING orphanages apparently is really, really easy.
It all started on the way to AWANA today. (For those of you who haven't read the archives, we do AWANA at a local public school. Pretty cool, but super chaotic. Imagine a blender without a lid. Imagine 200 kids in afterschool care - not all AWANA kids - we have between 30 and 50 - but all running around anyway. Pray for us.) The person taking us turned a block or two earlier and caught a backstreet, the one Sunnyside Primary School is on, a little sooner than our usual route. A brightly colored building caught my eye - it looked like the typical daycare, or creche as they say here, but it wasn't. A sign on the side said "Sunnyside Orphanage Home." Reminds me a little of Toy Story...but anyway...
I am just so grieved that it is so commonplace. You can happen to drive by one on the street. Sure, the same thing happens on our street...I mean hello, I WORK at a baby home. And I'm not saying the kids there aren't well cared for - it looks quite small, so that's good. But you can just walk down the street, and there's an orphanage. Tragedy isn't tucked neatly away like in America...yes, I am aware group homes and orphanages still exist in the States. One is only an hour from my house. But I think they're less commonplace, and less obvious. Most U.S. kids removed from their families are placed in foster care. Yes, I'm also aware that not all foster homes are good. I've met a number of U.S. foster families. Some were great. At least one was...not so much. I'll just leave it at that.
My point is, orphans are more obvious here. The raw reality of hurt and pain stares you in the face - but then again, only if you take the time to notice. South Africa can be very "first world" and it's easy to live a "normal" life by American standards. Yet there is a thinner veil here between my "normal" life and the many hurting lives that spend the same days as me in the same city as me. People sleep on the corner of our street a few hundred meters away. Some of them may not even have blankets or even adequate clothing. Why are they on the streets? I have no idea. It's easy to say "Oh, people beg because they don't want to work." Yes, this is likely true in many cases. But who in the world WANTS to sleep on the streets when the temperature drops to freezing at night? I don't know. I don't have the answers. No, I don't give money to street beggars, for those of you who are wondering. (I have, however, considered handing them my yard-high bag of Twiggies - stale Cheetos without much flavor - that I bought and decided I hated. That would be kind of weird, though.)
So I got home, and I Googled it. What I learned floored me - and kind of made me want to kick myself, for not realizing that Google was such a simple solution to my ignorance of available opportunities.
Ok, so this is it:
THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN IN INSTITUTIONAL CARE WITHIN 30 MINUTES OF WHERE I LIVE.
They are in a number of different orphanages, safe houses, children's homes, campuses, baby homes, places of safety, whatever you want to call them.
I am just not ok with this. It didn't bother me before I knew, I mean, it kind of did, but now I know how many kids go to bed every night without a mom or dad, within just minutes of me. Sure, none of the places looked too bad - I'm not talking Eastern European level of care here. (I couldn't, however, find stats on government orphanages - I'm sure there are a number of those, as well, and they are almost assuredly under-staffed...) But, orphanages. And big ones, not just small, 6-is-the-limit places like ours. Places with hundreds of kids.
Please pray for me as I'm here trying to comprehend this and understand how God wants me to respond. I cannot help every one. The problem is, I want to help every one.
While we are talking big orphanages, please pray for my niece Sarah's former orphanage. They are working to change things, but it has been a place of horrendous, criminal neglect in the past. I just think...those people need Christ, too. They are doing better, changing, and I'm glad - no child should have to suffer what my baby girl and so many others suffered, but without Christ, well, it's just the here and now. Many Christians are involved in the fundraising, the motivation, yes. But I ache for the Bulgarian workers too...they need adopted...into Christ's family. That being said, THAT PLACE IS EMPTYING OUT!! Soooo many kids have been adopted from there. It's my crazy impossible prayer that every last child from there will have a family, even the ones who've aged out, because my God is the God of the hopeless and impossible!
Oh, and happy news - my visa extension application was accepted and should be processed and ready for me to pick up within 4-6 weeks! I was originally only going to stay for 5 months. My visa was good for about 6. Crazy me, thinking I could leave this place. ;)