Today started with a long journey to try and rescue a 4 year old girl who has been taken forcefully from her mother by her brother-in-law. It’s complicated but this child was dropped off at Nira Orphanage, where I am volunteering, when she was 1 ½ years old by the father. He was disabled and dying. He just passed away 2 weeks ago and the Mother is unable to care for her. I’ve learned that some children in orphanages may have a parent or two that are either unable to care for them or abuse them. After travelling for 3 hours, the uncle did not show up and return the child, named Hawa, as promised. This was a huge disappointment to the director and social workers at Nira. They are deeply concerned for the welfare of this child and the intentions of this relative that has not been in her family’s life or supportive in the past. Last year it was quite a shock for me to learn that the majority of girls and women who are stolen, tricked, drugged and/or kidnapped and sold into the sex slave trade are done so by someone they know. At this stage people are worried, there is no evidence of wrong doing. The caregivers at Nira are now moving to get the authorities involved and will try to retrieve the child again next week. Say a prayer for her and all of the at-risk children out there.

Then it was back to the orphanage in Mbagala, a suburb of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. A few girls were back from school so I decided to try and teach them to throw a Canadian football. I was delightfully surprised to see that most could throw a spiral after one or two attempts. I know it took me a lot longer than that and these kids have never even seen a ball like this before.  Here is a picture of Farida throwing a spiral.

She is finished primary school which goes to grade 7 and waiting for secondary school to start in January. The orphanage did not have the fees to send her to prep-school for the last 6 months so she has been staying and working around the centre. She is 13 years old and eager to learn.

The next victory was baseball. I brought a ball from Canada but no bat. When I mimicked a baseball swing they all ran to the wood pile. This is not a sport that is played here so I don’t know how they know these things. There is no TV, radio or newspaper in the centre and yet they know. Mandala, who is helping to make bricks for the fence around the compound, came over and used the ax to make three different length baseball bats from branches that were destined for the wood burning stove. We were off.

Mandela making baseball bats from the firewood pile

Mandela taking time out from making bricks to make us some baseball bats

This really took me back to my childhood. They swung the bat like cricket, their hands were crossed the wrong way, they stood facing the pitcher straight on; it was one adjustment after the other. Then I thought to myself, this is going to be a long hot afternoon in the sun, at 34c, before each of these 8 kids can hit the ball once. Boy was I wrong. These kids are natural athletes; some hit the ball on the first pitch and most after two pitches. It was so good to see them smile and laugh. There is not a lot of that in their lives.  At times, I see the weight of the world on their shoulders and deep sadness in their eyes. It’s disturbing at times, to see and feel that and know there is little I can do to “fix” it. My best was to stay present and be there for them.

While it was a roller coaster of emotions today, I can’t seem to stop sweating, I’m so dusty, I smell of deet constantly, I’d love to gag the 3 am rooster, and  I’m dead tired; it was all worth the sore cheeks I have from smiling and laughing so much with these warm hearted kids.