June 1, 2008
SALY, Senegal -
Today, we visited the orphanage. Many of the infants and children who live there have lost their mothers at birth due to complications or were brought to the orphanage from broken homes. In this particular orphanage, the children are only suppose to stay up to one year, but many stay much longer than that because they cannot find good homes and/or their parents do not come back and claim them. It was very sad to see the conditions in which these children had to live in and made me appreciate all of the opportunities and blessings that I have been fortunate enough to receive.
There were about 150 babies at the orphanage, and every one of them was smiling and laughing with us as though they didn't have a care in the world. And they didn't. Even though they had no parents and the orphanage struggled each day to provide them with care, they lived in the moment. And at that moment, we were able to brighten their day with our company.
One of the infants that really stood out to me was named Babacar. He was always smiling no matter what and all the women loved him, especially Ashley. He was quite the lady's man! Lexi befriended a beautiful baby girl named Amina, which means "princess", and Devanei got the opportunity to change a dirty diaper. They didn't have Pampers, so she had to use cloth. Trell fell in love with a newborn, who was only 3 days old and had lost her mother during birth. She hadn't even been named yet, so the caregivers said that they would name the baby after her.
Kelsey and Krista played with the toddlers and were moved when they crawled to the door after them when it was time to leave. And, while we were all inside with the babies, Mooch was outside with the older boys playing soccer. Overall, it was a very emotional day. We all wanted to take every child in the orphanage back home with us, and it saddened us to know that we couldn't. From this experience, I learned the value and importance of appreciating each day and never taking anything for granted.
After our tour of the orphanage, Rama addressed the older children in her native language, Wolof, and stressed to them the importance of staying in school and getting a good education. She has become a great role model for young girls in her country, and it was amazing to be able to actually see how much she is looked up to.
At the end of the visit, some of the older kids taught us some of their native dances, and we all attempted to perform them, but we clearly needed a little more practice. Then we showed them some of our American dances ("Superman" by Soulja Boy). It was fun interacting with them and learning about their culture.