Maybe it was all those “Save the Children” ads I used to watch on TV, but I always figured that at some point I would be snuggin’ orphan babies in Africa. Not that it was exactly a goal, but just something that seemed like I would do at some point in my life.
So that’s exactly what I did today! The Motherless Babies Home is about twenty minutes from our hotel, and tucked away in one of the neighborhoods. It’s a large compound with seven or eight two-room buildings and a large courtyard with play equipment. There are older kids who attend school on the compound, though I’m not sure what age range they go up to.
The room itself was very, very warm despite the ceiling fans running hard. The first room had cribs and a line of car seats on the floor. The second room was for the toddlers, and bunk beds lined the walls in there. With no air conditioning and barred windows, the African sun heated us up pretty quickly.
As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a few of the women I’ve met through various expat activities here and the sound of many, many toddlers and babies playing with new toys. And within thirty seconds, I was handed a preemie baby with the explanation- “Here, this one needs lovin'” Well lady, I love everything, so you’ve picked the right girl.
I didn’t catch the name of my little baby, but she was adorable. Very tiny with little curls of hair all over her head. She tracked with her eyes and was very content just to be cuddled. However, she was just one of forty babies and toddlers in the room, so there was a fair amount of multi-tasking going on.
The toddlers came in every shape and size, and most of them would run up and hug you. Sitting on the floor with the preemie in one arm and a toddler on my lap was pretty much how I spent my morning. The other ladies brought toys that had been donated by the kids in their compound, so our toddlers were ecstatic to play with all the fun stuff. We didn’t see any toys or other items like that, so I’m not sure if the orphanage doesn’t have them or if there is a schedule for playtime.
Since things like strollers and baby carriages are not a cultural norm here, women have become creative when carrying their babies. They tie a length of cloth around their bodies and the little one is carried on their back. One of the little girls was trying to get to a bag of bandannas that we brought. (These bandannas were makeshift burp clothes and saved me from a rather unfortunate preemie diaper blowout.) After a while, we figured out that this sweet girl wanted us to tie her baby doll to her back, just like how the other mamas do it. And once the baby doll was tied on her, she was pleased as pie with her little doll right where it should be.
This was definitely an amazing experience and one that I look forward to sharing in every Thursday morning for as long as we are here. As The Hubs and I aren’t having any kiddos until we’re back in the US, I might as well love the little ones that have already been dealt a tough hand.