Our time in Kaziba was short and meaningful. All of my anxieties about being in Congo seemed to disappear as we drove up the beautiful escarpment leaving behind beautiful Lake Kivu and headed into mountains reminiscent of the Fjords in Norway. It didn’t seem that different from Rwanda, but it was. Somehow I felt safe and secure heading towards the orphanage, yet the reality is it is a lawless region. Vigilante justice is done towards those who commit crimes because the government cannot be trusted. Bribes are the currency of business and so there is no infrastructure, no industry sectors. Except for mining. And mining is lucrative for those at the top, as long as you close your eyes to what happens to those at the bottom. But this is what we heard, not what we saw….what we saw was… (For pictures of our trip please go to - http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150307917392926.413861.760487925&l=cd3eaef862)
A home…full of children…a home that a year ago housed children so malnourished that many of the newborns weren’t expected to live. The one year olds did not receive enough Vitamin D through milk and sunlight that their fontanel lobes were not closing. There were two caregivers for 32 children. That is when Holly Mulford met the children and adopted two twin baby girls. Through the generosity of friends and her own personal motivation, she did a formula drive that has ensured each child receives adequate formula every day. She got medical care for kids who needed it. She raised funds so they could hire more staff – they had 4 last year, now there are 17 women. She raised funds to build a wall around the property so that the home would be safe and therefore they built their own garden and are now supplying the orphanage with beans and maize from their own land. They just recently got chickens for eggs and will have a cow soon. Holly has helped facilitate several adoptions from this orphanage as well as she shares the news of these children who lost their mothers in childbirth. (If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please go to http://www.tumainidrc.org/.
We were there to do a training on building attachment between the caregivers and the children. I structured it around the parable of the Good Shepherd. I believe orphans will receive better care when their caregivers are honored and cared for themselves. So we spent a lot of time holding their hands, looking into their eyes, acknowledging their names, giving them gifts, showing them we see them – truly see them. Yet, there were times when I almost had to look away from their eyes because their eyes were crying out for love and it was almost too much for me to handle. I don’t know their stories. They wouldn’t share what they wrote or drew during our reflection time, but I know God spoke to them. When we talked about how the Good Shepherd walks his sheep through the dark and dangerous places they all began to sway and say, “Amen.” I cannot imagine their dark places. Yet, here they are caring for children and for many of them this is a lifelong commitment. They have been there 17 years, 25 years, 35 years. There are only three orphanages in the whole south Lake Kivu region. There are always new children being brought in. These caregivers are tired, but thanks to the work Holly has launched they said they now have confidence in the work they are doing.
We had them play…a lot…I think that is the best way to learn by experience. This was different for them, but they jumped right into it. Attachment games, sensory building games. Pure joy. We gave them blankets made by their “enemies” – the Rwandans. The irony of it is the manager of Amani in Rwanda lost her husband to Congolese soldiers when Rwanda invaded Congo in 1996. Here she was making 35 blankets for her enemy. But isn’t that how forgiveness happens? One heart decision at a time?
Yet, will what we did be implemented? To move from survival to development is the challenge of any work in a developing country. It is a complete mindset change. As I told the director, if they just spend 15 minutes a day in focused play it will actually save them time in behavior problems for the rest of the day, but he is so overwhelmed by what it takes to clothe, feed and bathe these children that he can’t see the forest through the trees. It is just hard to comprehend. But I believe Mama Lili got it. I believe she will use the toys and methods for discipline we discussed because I sense in her heart that she wants the best for these children.
I could have used a week there I think to really help with the implementation, but that is my struggle here. I have my own children to attend to. Three days was enough. They need their momma. They need their daddy. And when we returned, I held them close.
On a personal note, I struggle. The needs in Congo were overwhelming. The lawlessness prevents any good from surviving here. That is the difference between Congo and Rwanda. For all the critiques of Rwanda’s police state, there is law and order and so civil society can flourish. That does not exist in Congo. Just last week there was a change in regiments in the local Bukavu military base. The new regiment came and robbed the local bank. They shot a local man. Tons of eye witnesses, yet no one comes forward because there is no one to listen. And so my heart feels heavy for this country. My heart feels heavy for the children we saw this weekend. What is their future? I am not sure, but I pray that the caregivers felt cared for and will in turn love on these children.
I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and I can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it
Something on the road, cut me to the soul
Your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
(what I am made of)
and what I know of love
we've done what we've done and we can't erase it
we are what we are and it's more than enough
we have what we have but it's no substitution
Something on the road, touched my very soul
I say what I say with no hesitation
I have what I have and I'm giving it up
I do what I do with deep conviction
Something on the road, changed my world