As I don't know if I'd be that good writing an actual review, I've chosen tho share just my thoughts. I wrote this 3 months ago in the airport, when I was coming back home frome Ghana. I belive the feelings I've tried to share here will give people a much wider insight on what this experience was for me (forgive my english, I'm not really good but I really did my best):
Just a month ago I was arriving to Ghana both excited and scared, maybe even more scared than anything else. I was afraid that I wouldn’t feel comfortable and that I’d have spent money and time ina a bad experience. I was afraid the reality would be absolutely different from what I had imagined. Now I can only say this: the reality was different from what I had imagined, but how lucky I am that it was! How lucky I am that I had the guts to fight for this adventure when I came across with the idea of going to Africa. How lucky I am that I didn’t back down when I still didn’t know how the pros would overweight the cons. I don’t know what why I chose Ghana, I don’t know why I ended up in the program that I did end up. I guess it was thanks to the most absurd and beautiful accident. How beautiful, sometimes, randomness!
I remember the first day at the orphanage, the new volunteers arrived after a long trotro ride and, suddenly, a bunch of kids appeared from nowhere running, chasing the vehicle. They’d rise their little arms trying to reach us as if, in some kind of way, the first one to touch us would have the right to have us. What I found that first day when I got out of the van was much more than what my mind could process. New faces all around smiling and hands pulling me everywhere, kids already asking me to pick them up or that, as soon as they saw my suitcase, had picked it up and where taking it to what would be my home for the next four weeks. It was unthinkable for me to see such small kids carryint that big suitcase but before I could notice they were gone. And after that all I could do was sit down smiling, overwhelmed by that amount of kids jumping on me joyfully asking always the same question: ‘What is your name?’. And all I could do was keep answering ‘My name is Berta, what’s your name?’, trying to match all the names with the faces. And laugh, laugh seeing in their confused looks that my name was as strange to them as theirs was to me, and they’d ask me to spell it so they could write it down in the sand. Justice, Esther, Sabina. Three names is all I could withhold from that first contact.
The following day I’d start what would be my routine for the next four weeks. Wake up at five, get the kids ready for school, eat breakfast, go to the clinic, com back, have lunch and try to invent a thousand ways of keeping them entertained during the afternoon until dinner time. I felt so lost that I didn’t think I could help more than putting toothpaste in every kid’s tooth brush. I was afraid of everything. I didn’t dare to make any decisions because I didn’t feel I had the knowledge for making any. Until one day something changed, I could almost hear the ‘click’ inside my head. I didn’t know anything but the people who I shared the days with knew almost as little as I did. And that’s when I realised that whatever I did would always be better than nothing. And with advise from other volunteers and workers I started to learn how to act in every situation. How to handle a kid that cries because he’s fallen down, how to take care of the two-hundred kinds of wounds they’d show me every day or decide if a kid needed a trip to the clinic or not.
They days would go by and I would become more and more comfortable with myself and with the people that surrounded me. Seth and his smooth talking, every time he spoke a whole room would go quiet, it was magic. Just as seeing him get home in his motorbike and how the kids would just jump on it. Mercy, who always had absolute control on each kid she took care of every day. With one word from her they would all stop complaining and obey. And the love they had for her and she had for all of them had no limits. She’d let it show when she’d try to hide her smile every time one of the kids would run away laughing, or when we took them to the beach and she spent two whole hours counting that they were all there. Bridget, always so sassy and joyful. She would get angry every time our food was ready and we didn’t rush to eat it, as she said it would be worth it if it got cold. Francis, always ready with a smile to help us if we needed something, from bringing us water to chasing a teenager who had stolen our phone. It was easy to find him dancing around to the music that came from the headphones he always brought with him. Or Joe, warning us that the world also had bad people and letting us now that he had arrived with an angry ‘Lock the door!’. And the kids, most of all the kids, teaching me how easy it is to love.
As the days went by I was able to get to know them all. Now I know who will spend half an hour crying because I told him I wouldn’t pick him up or who prefers to follow me around with his best angry face. I’ve learnt to tell apart a cry with a clear objective of getting what I’ve just denied them from a real cry. And their way of shaking their arms and turning their faces when they’re angry that would confuse me at first, now makes me smile. I’ve learnt that coming back from the clinic after a shot they’ll be angry at me for two hours, but later they’ll look for me even more. I know who’ll come running asking for his medicine and who I’ll have to chase to make him take his. I know who hits me because he’s angry at me or who does it because he can’t find any other way to have my attention. Or I discover that in the middle of that uncontrol, the little one’s will always follow the bigger one’s orders. And that, although I can see fights and slaps every day, they love each other and take care of each other as brothers and sisters do. And I see it clearly when they always notice on one of them is not there at dinner time and save him his food. Or when a little boy from town decides to bother one of the little one’s throwing stones at him and they all appear from everywhere trying to defend him. And when they found me because that little kid is still crying scared, I realise I have a new and brutal protective instinct that is born from somewhere inside me and that would make me run in front of them until I found whoever hurt them. And that’s how, suddenly, I realise that those kids are now my kids forever. That I inevitably love them in a new and surprising way and that taking care of them is now a priority. Their names and their faces, their way of laughing and crying... they used to be so unknown and now they’re family. And then waking up at five is not awful anymore and my usual morning moodiness disappears. And not having time to rest is now appreciated, because I don’t want to rest anymore. Time is now what I don’t have.
There are some images that are stuck in my head and I hope will never forget. Like seeing them playing in the distance as I was walking to the orphanage and how they’d run shouting at me as soon as they’d see me. ‘Berta, up!’. Or their sleepy faces in the morning as they’d get naked and ready to get a shower. Or how they’d gather around me when it was time to heal their wounds, always ready to help me with anything I needed. Or how fast they were when we got to the beach and in five seconds they were all naked in the water. Or the joy in their faces while jumping the waves. It was the only afternoon in a month that nobody asked me to pick him up.
But we shouldn’t forget that we’re talking about kids with a brutal lack of constancy. Used to the fact that the people who take care of them come and go constantly. Kids who fight rough infections every day due to the lame conditions in which they have to live. Kids who don’t enjoy a health system who properly helps them overcome these infections. Kids who find it really difficult to take care of the material they’re given, but how can we expect them to take care of it if they have nowhere to keep it? Or when we just can give five books to more tan forty kids?
But the lack of resources only makes them kids capable of enjoying the most simple things. A balloon, a lollipop or a book is always a party. And, against all odds, when given a cookie they’ll give you half of it. And every time you go see them when they’re eating they’ll offer you some of their food. Or when they found two coins in the street they’ll go find their best friend and give him one of them. They make you understand what they need with how they act. They just want to have exactly the same as the others, no more no less.
The unfairness of the conditions in which they have to live is frustrating. Forty kids sharing one single room and sleeping in tiny matresses is just frustrating. Kids who only have this as a home as a few months ago were kicked off the place they used to live. Having lunch, playing and going to the toilet are things they have to do outside. Kids who are 10, or 11, or 12 and help cooking and carrying water everyday. But the thing they lack the most is love and attention. And you can see it when the biggest fights are about who’ll get to take your hand or sit on your lap. And I found myself inventing new ways of sitting down so I can be with as many kids as I can. Now I know I can have four kids on my legs, two hanging from my arms and one climbing my back. And they have enough with this little touch to feel a little bit more protected, a little bit more loved. It is frustrating to see how they have to live, all they don’t have, and not being able to do anything. And although I’d give everything I have to change it, I can’t do it on my own. And this frustrates me, because I can’t help this kids who clearly deserve more than what they have.
But from their kisses and their hugs, from their laugh and their tickles, from their huge sharing spirit and ability to take care of each other, something is born. My motivation to fight, to not give up and try in every way I can to get money to make their lives a bit easier. Just imagining them in the new home that’s now being built I could not help it but cry. Because the day Seth took me to see the new home all I could see between those half-built walls was possibilities. A bunch of possibilities for them that they really deserve. Possibilities to be healthier, happier and safer. They joy I experienced when I saw that bunch of possibilities between those walls is something that cannot be explained. It is a kind of love I didn’t know and they’ve taught me.
I’m so afraid of forgetting what I’ve been feeling while I’ve been here. I’m afraid of this as from one minute to another my routine becomes just a memory. It’s frightening. Thinking that now they probably are going to bed or trying to sleep while I’m here alone in an airport waiting for the plane that will take me home. But home is not just the place I’m coming back now anymore. It’s not just this when some part of me will always be with this kids. It’s strange to think that I wake up from a dream and I go back to reality. Just a few hours ago that dream was my reality. That’s why I found it so necessary that the reality I come back to is not the same one I left four weeks ago. That although I come back and find that everything’s just the same, what I’ve learnt during this time in Ghana will stay with me forever.
I won’t let myself forget.