Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Today is my last full day in Kenya and I don't know what to say. I am very excited about going home to see my family and friends. But I am also depressed about leaving the children at the orphanage. It is very bitter sweet.

One of the Sisters is interviewing the SNDs and the volunteers about their various ministries in Kenya. She asked us to describe the ministry. And that was easy: every day I wake up and make the 90 minute to 2 hour commute to the St. Albertos Children's Home and work in the baby wing. Mama Angelica took care of the little babies (under six months) and I would take care of the six month to two year olds. I would tie up the bed nets and wake the everyone up. Then I had to strip the cribs and change the sheets. Then Mama Vivian would give the kids their baths while I got them dressed. After everyone was changed we served our breakfast of porridge. From then on the day consisted of doing dishes and laundry, changing diapers, extra feedings, rocking fussy babies, and playing outside with the older kids.

The other question we were asked for the interview was what developments do you see in this ministry and I had to pause and think about my answer. In terms of finding homes for the children there is rarely improvement. For every child we find a family for, one more makes his or her way to us. It is not like we can work harder and tada there are no more orphans in Kenya. We have to accept that there will always be orphans in Kenya and the needs are greater than any single orphanage can provide. But every day each child has new developments and makes a little progress. The first time Matthew used the toilet was a day to celebrate. And I watched Monica learn to walk. The first time a new arrival manages to cope without screaming all day is a big step forward. Seeing Andrew come out of his shell and actually smile or even laugh every now and then is amazing progress. These things may not seem small and trivial to some people but that is what my work in Kenya was all about. Being there to witness the little milestones in a baby's life and simply loving these abandoned and discarded children.

For a long time I was just thinking about the good stuff that comes with going home: seeing my family, having modern conveniences again, not being gawked at for being white, etc. But I didn't stop to think about what I will miss. I will miss the peacefulness of walking the deserted road into town and the smell of pine and fresh cut flowers. I will miss Sunday brunch with Sue, Tom, and Michael. But mostly I will miss my babies because I worry what will happen to them. Will Kelly get his braces off and be able to walk or will he always be in a wheelchair? Will Monica take to her adoptive family right away or will it take time? Will Child Services find the family that abandoned Mohamed? How long will it be before Mathew forgets me? How many of the infants will live to celebrate their first birthday? I just have to hope that in the future they will be surrounded by people that love them. And although they will not remember me, I will always remember them and I will always love my babies.

So tomorrow I say goodbye to Kenya and get on a plane. It will not be as easy to leave as I thought it would be. Still the thought of what is waiting makes it better.

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