Field Trip!

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But finding kids who were worse off? Really? Who would this be?

Recently Vitalis requested funds to take all the C4C children on educational trips during school vacations.  His hope was for the children to spend more time bonding, but also for them to see people who are worse off than they are “so they might appreciate what they have.”

The bonding part I understood. Years ago children met at Tsungirirai Orphan Care Centre daily for meals and homework. This created a sense of community.  Older children helped the younger ones, and they all looked out for each other when they left the centre. These days, however, the library at Tsungirirai is rented out to another school and the food program is limited to monthly food packs for families. It’s true, there are fewer bonding opportunities for our 50 or so children.

But finding kids who were worse off? Really? Who would this be?

Vitalis suggested we visit a Leprosy Center and the connected Mother of Peace Orphanage, both 4 hours away.  We agreed to fund a trial trip.

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Life is a journey, not a destination.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday arrived and although the plan was to leave at 7am; excited voices woke me at 5:30. Despite a sign indicating “22 passenger capacity,” we piled 48 people into a small commuter bus. The bonding began with our sheer proximity to one another.

The first couple hours it was fairly quiet, but then we stopped for food, giving each child $5 to spend.  As they burst into the grocery store, with whispers and wide eyes, they examined prices and options. The younger ones asked older children for suggestions.  Some pooled their money to share items, some bought bread, others chips.

When they began eating, the mood lightened. Vitalis encouraged them to “joke and have fun and enjoy each other.” They did. At one point I sent my laptop to the back of the bus with the Photobooth application open (a program  that distorts your image into funny shapes such as “nose twist”). This sent screams of laughter through the bus.  Later the kids broke into song.

Once we arrived, the C4C children listened respectfully while a staff member at the Leprosy Centre talked about the history of leprosy, the mission of their organization, and the people who lived there.  The children asked questions of a blind resident who talked about how the centre helps her.

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As the C4C students disembarked, small children ran up and grabbed their hands.

Our next stop was an orphanage.  As the C4C students disembarked, small children ran up and grabbed their hands, dragging them to the place where a staff member would talk to us.  We learned that all the children living at Mother of Peace were taken into care as a result of the extreme neglect and abuse they suffered with extended family members.

As I looked around, I thought our C4C kids looked almost polished in comparison.

On the way home we spent some time discussing the experience. It was clear the children felt uncomfortable at the orphanage. They expressed sadness when they admitted that the small children were asking them for food or for the clothes they were wearing. Although most of them are also orphans, we support extended families so children can live in the community.

The conversation shifted and a small child fell asleep on my lap.  I watched the small huts zip by out the window, saw women carrying buckets of water on their heads, and children selling tomatoes on the side of the road.  I listened to the rising laughter from the back of the bus and the shy girls telling stories. So much of life really is about the journey…

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