Who Says

I wasn’t sure how I felt about living in the capital city for the next two years; however, after my weekend stay in Praia, I’m more than ready to plant my small town roots in the city! Although city life comes at the cost of integrating into a village community, Praia offers an abundance of culture and a diverse array of people. Over the weekend, I shadowed two PC volunteers who teach at the university, my future workplace. We filled our days with long walks and bus rides, exploring every inch of the city. I took my first shower in six weeks, scoured every store for Snickers bars and M&M’s, attempted to make American cuisine with a few substitutions, and most importantly, learned the ins and outs of life as a PC volunteer. However, the true highlight of my weekend centered on a group of kids and lots of cuddling.
I made my first visit to an SOS center, established as a safe place for children to live and grow if their home lives are dangerous or inadequate. However, any individual can leave his or her children at the orphanage, no explanation needed. Thus, the center has become overcrowded and vastly understaffed, further contributing to the huge problem of child neglect in Cape Verde. For instance, it is not uncommon for financially and physically able parents to drop their children at a center one day and depart to work the next.
As soon as I walked in the door, kids swarmed me. Children were holding my hands, climbing on my back, sitting on my feet, pulling at my skirt — they are desperately starved for attention, comfort and love. Ironically, we all have infinite amounts of hugs and kisses to give, yet there are children suffering physically, emotionally and mentally from an absence of tender loving care.
One brave soul, quite possibly my new hero, lives at the center and is responsible for all 40 children. This includes feeding 15 infants, giving 40 baths (that’s 80 feet to clean and 400 toes to wash), breaking up frequent disputes, as well as somehow managing to get them all in bed. No staff, no fundraising committee, and an ever-increasing amount of children.
As for bedtime, 15 boys share a room with 2 bunk beds — that’s about 4 boys in each bed. In addition, many of the children suffer from mental and emotional disabilities, making it difficult for anyone to sleep at night. In the infants’ room, a 6 year old lies in a crib, not able to talk or walk as a result of big, fat neglect. Frequently, the infants lie all day in their cribs, never held or talked to, merely receiving bottles at mealtimes.
I continually remind myself that the SOS center is most likely better than their prior living situation; however, it is difficult to see. It gives you that heavy feeling in your stomach and a lump in your throat. I visited the center for all of forty-five minutes and a boy who never left my side, who merely makes noises and repeats his name, began to cry when it was time for me to go. He craves and needs attention so badly that less than an hour of individual playtime left him attached to a stranger.
I envision my secondary project emerging around the needs of these children. Imagine the developmental significance even a weekly bedtime story would make in the lives of these 40 kids! The potential to improve their quality of life is immense, especially during their developmental years, yet resources and manpower are currently nonexistent. In two years anything is possible, right? I think I left my heart in the hands of that sweet, young face.

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2 Responses to Who Says

  1. Steve says:

    Dear Krista,I am not at all surprised that you visited the SOS center and were moved by the children there. Your commitment to continue to help them is also no surprise. You have always been about children. They seek you out and you seek them; always willing to spend time with them and love them. What a blessing!Much Love,Mr. P

  2. Joanna says:

    please please go back there and spend time with those babies.. they need you!

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