Orphans are common in Lesotho, largely due to the high incidence of AIDS. We volunteered to spend a day of service with World Vision, and our day was spent helping a family of orphans.
Living alone in a small village about a 10-minute drive from our sponsored child and not too far from Ts’ehlanyane National Park, were four children: a 15-year old girl, 12-year old twin boys, and an 8-year old girl. (Their brother, 18 years old, was off on an initiation program for 6 to 8 months.) According to Julius, our translator, there is much child abuse in Lesotho and advantages taken of children, even by family members. The neighbors watch out for these children but have little food themselves.
With World Vision employees and other community volunteers, we spent the day cleaning the children’s space, their hut, their clothes and the land around them. Because of the cold, we didn’t meet until 11 a.m. when the land was warmed by the sun. When we arrived, the hut the children share was surrounded by trash. Inside, the brick rondavel with straw roof and dung floor contained a shelf, a trunk for clothes and a twin bed with a rusty frame and broken springs.
My husband cut and gathered fire wood. My children and I picked up trash, my husband and son washed dishes and cleaned the hut’s soot-covered ceiling while my daughter and I washed the children’s clothes (see related post “Washing Clothes by the River in Lesotho“).
Just off the road, the hut is vulnerable to litter from cars driving by. We found bits of old shoes, wrappers, bottles, broken glass and plastic, a film canister, old workbooks, fabric, a metal spoon. I gave the plastic alphabet stencil to a grandmother who sang the ABCs to the child (in English) on her lap and pointed to the letters. The clothes, the ceiling, and the dishes were filthy and required much scrubbing. Between jobs, we played Frisbee and laughed with the three youngest orphans.
When our job was done, we gathered together inside the hut where World Vision supplied the children with new school uniforms, two new mattresses, four comforters, eggs, beans, sacks of maize and a lock for the door. As the 30 or so community workers gathered in the hut, they sang a song and although we didn’t know its meaning, it evoked powerful emotions in all of us. One of the World Vision workers wiped away a tear as she lectured to the group. She said that we (the Americans) were not just rich but that we love the children and are asking the community to watch them. She said that it is the responsibility of everyone in the community to look after and take care of the children and reminded them that they would want the community to take care of their children if they died.
After my husband said a few words and gave each of the children a small toy, lunch was served to all the workers. We ate before returning to our hotel, saying good-bye to Julius and Lesotho and crossing the border back into South Africa.
Photos on this post by Tommy Taft.
Trip taken August 2011.