Wednesday, September 9

A Year (or Two) in Kenya: Orphans with families

Working at an orphanage is demanding. Seeing to the children's health, safety, education, happiness engrosses you, sometimes to the point that you forget why you're doing it. During the past school holiday, we allowed many of the children to return to Pokot, a chance to get away from the city and return to their tribal culture. About a week and a half ago, we visited the villages to pick the children up, and a mother refused to return one of them, a pre-schooler, to us. My hackles went straight up. She hadn't been able to provide for him and given him up to us. He was our kid now. She had no right to him.

We informed the founder of the Foundation of this the next day. She was glad. It was a much needed cold splash to the face. The boy shouldn't be in an institution. He should be with his family.

I hate my job. Absolutely abhor it. It's not the long hours or the dulling government paperwork. It's not even the children who decide that the best possible time to break the rules is after midnight. It's that my job exists at all.

I'll let you in on a secret. Despite the title of orphanage, the vast majority of the children who live here have living parents. No more than ten have no parents whatsoever, and they still have other relations that would be willing to take care of them. The children should be with their families, immediate or distant, and not in an institution with a hundred others where they can't get the particular attention and all the care that they need. But they can't because their families are subsistence farmers in a drought-stricken land, because the nation lacks a strong economy with jobs for the educated, because the government is too corrupt to protect water sources, much less provide adequate social services.

We and the center are only here because things are wrong with the world. If everything were right, we wouldn't be necessary. We should dream for that world.

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