Saturday, July 11, 2009

The John E. Halgrim Orphanage

Rachel Jones, the Knight Fellow, working here with the Nation Media Group and I went to the area of town known as the "pipeline" to visit the orphanage, named after a young man who died in Ft. Myers awhile ago. This teen and members of his church founded this orphanage and his family, friends, sponsors continue the work this teen envisioned. I took donated school supplies, toys, shoes and clothing for the kids.

I have worked in poor areas but I have never been to an orphanage and this was a moving experience. Saturday is cleaning day so everyone had a task. All youngsters were having their heads shaved very closely for health reasons. Beds were neatly made, and everyone was happy, smiling and many were dancing with two American church missionaries from the Memphis area...both are teachers in their real lives and are here helping tutor and play with kids.

The pipeline is a slum area not too far from the airport. The streets are filthy and the kids walk about 30 minutes too and from school. Their housing and the church are in one building and it was rather clean and neat. Two young people are interested in being journalists and Rachel is going to invite them into town for a tour of NMG.

My neighbor's grandaughters' gave some girly girl things...purses, cute shoes, little skirts etc. When we unpacked the suitcase, a little girl came in and saw the pink purse. She picked it up and just beamed, tucking it under her arm and sashaying out of the office. Another picked up a white baby doll and told Pastor George that the baby had "no color" but she would love her anyway. I cried. I thought of my grandaughter, Addison, who has an American Girl doll which she loves. Two different girls, thousands of miles apart, loving their babies, no matter what color or type.

Although each bunk bed had some personal item on it, few have their own of anything. Toothbrushes are stuck between the wood bed frame and the mattress. I hadn't thought of this...but how do you keep 60 toothbrushes separate? They have a system.

The bed in the photo belongs to a budding journalist...each kid can decorate and he has put up articles from newspapers and magazines. All have blue mosquito neetting...malaria and cholera are widespread here.

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