Zambian Orphanage: Week 3
Oz Kids Orphanage
Everyone seems to have been sick this week. Kids, aunties, neighbors, sickness is in the air!
There have been running noses, vomiting, sneezing, coughing, tiredness, headaches, and stomach aches. The locals blame it on the change of weather. The cooler temperatures have come in, along with the winds.
Zambia has free health care, and I was interested to see how it all worked. With half of the kids from the orphanage sick, I was able to visit both the local government clinic (free) and a private clinic (pay).
“Free” Clinic vs. Government Clinic
First, I visited the private clinic that the kids usually go to. The doctor is a member of the same church as the kids, and I was told he offers his services for free. However, I was disappointed by the care the kids received. We had four kids with us, the four youngest. The doctor didn’t even take their temperature and weight. When pressured to take their temperatures, the doctor didn’t bother to clean the thermometer off between kids!
To my surprise, he didn’t listen to their lungs when they coughed. No blood tests or malaria tests were performed—nothing. Prescriptions were quickly written for each sick child and handed to the receptionist. The receptionist gathered up all the medicine. Then, she looked at me and gave me the total cost. “Oh no” I thought, “I didn’t bring any money, I was told this was free!”
Fortunately, I was with Clyde, the orphanage manager. He told the doctor he would bring money back later in the day. Clyde was also confused as to why the doctor suddenly decided to charge. The only thing we came up with was that it was because I (a mzungu, white) was with them. Needless to say, on previous trips I have remained in the car and there was no charge for services.
The local government clinic was a better experience, even if it took two hours from start to finish.
The intake guy took Emely’s temperature, got her weight, and asked questions about what was wrong. Then, we went to see the actual doctor. She also listened to the list of symptoms, listened to Emely’s heart and chest, and got her pulse. She sent us to the lab to get a blood test and malaria test. Luckily the malaria test was negative, and the blood test showed her blood pressure (BP) was low. We were given some medicine to administer for the next two weeks. All in all a productive trip.
Time to Eat!
Mealtimes at the orphanage are always entertaining. The kids are like trade experts!
“I will trade my veg for your soya pieces”
“How about your nshima for my beans?”
There is always food trading going on. There is always plenty of food for the kids to eat. Healthy eating is a priority, but it’s hard here in Mazabuka. There are few vegetable and fruit varieties available. We mostly eat the same thing every few days: cabbage, tomatoes, nshima, beans, soya pieces, eggs, bread, and macaroni.
On a side note, here are two other vegetables with odd names—5 year lettuce and rape. Yes, there is a vegetable here named rape. It’s a leafy green lettuce. Since the kids have been sick I have been trying to pump more fruits in them. Oranges, apples, and bananas are bought every week. I also bought a cantaloupe and pears for them to try out.
We are growing a decent garden on and around the grounds of the orphanage. This is to supply to kids with healthy food. It will also provide a source of income for the orphanage, because some of the crops can be sold. Currently 5 year lettuce, carrots, onions, corn, rape, tomatoes, and okra are coming up. What a harvest!
Gender roles are very distinct here. The older girls help out with the cooking, cleaning, and babies. The older boy helps protect the house and everyone in it. The older boys are the authoritative figures. This is not specific to the orphanage, it’s their culture. If a boy starts crying he is quickly ridiculed by the other kids. I have not seen a male cooking at home or doing any type of child care, laundry or cleaning. Girls really do run the world.
My Role at the Orphanage
I must admit, the staff here at the orphanage are some of the most caring, compassionate, and patient people I have ever met. They truly care for each and every child. They have never once raised their voice, or became impatient with any of the kids. They clean up the messes the kids make on a constant basis with no thanks in return. I tip my hat to the aunties and uncles that run the orphanage.
I see part of my role here at the orphanage as simply an affection giver. With 12 kids and one auntie on duty at a time, one auntie doesn’t have much time for one-on-one time with the kids.
Within a minute of sitting anywhere, I have a child on my lap. When I am walking I always have the hand of a child. I have a lot of fun just playing with the kids. Tummy tickles, forehead kisses, a simple hug or high five. Everyone needs and appreciates human contact.
I will also add, the kids still LOVE playing with my hair! Every night I have several girls who want to brush my hair, play with it, or braid it. They put vaseline in it everyday. I am not sure how much my hair likes that, ha ha ha. But, I’m totally game I do enjoy having people play with my hair. It’s a win win for everyone 🙂
I already know it’s going to be a very rough day next week when I leave. I have become attached to a few of the kids. Tears will be shed!
An update on Operation Washing Machine: We are going to pick up the new machine later today, WooHOO!