Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our Orphanage Christmas - Part 1

For five years our children have forgone giving regular Christmas "Presents".  Instead they draw names and do an act of service for each other.  We post them on our family blog on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.    It has become a beautiful tradition.  The next three entries are copied from that blog.

About 3 weeks ago, I started to focus on what I should do for my Season of Service Family Christmas project. This year I get to do my service to honor our Ashley. I realized I had many facets of her life that could focus on to serve others. I thought about the fact that she is such a great mother and about the fact that she is very active in working at the school and at church with other children. Then I thought about her job and how great she is with fresh fruits and vegetables. I wondered if I might be able to go work in a garden here in the Congo, but I don’t know anyone with a garden. Then I thought about one of my favorite Christmas stories. It is written as if the author was an orphan, and it is about how much she loved Christmas as a child. Her favorite part of Christmas day was always the fresh orange that each child was given every year on Christmas. The story is very sweet, but for now the important thing is that it inspired me for my Christmas service project. We have our own orphanage… and I decided I wanted to buy an orange for each of the orphans.

I decided to expand our horizons and take them in Christmas dinner. Then I decided I might as well go buy them each a little toy, and of course every child needs something fun to wear on Christmas.

A Mormon woman by the name of Philomene started the orphanage 14 years ago. The number fluctuates, but there are now 17 “orphans” in residence. They range in ages from 6 months old to 22 years old. The oldest 5 were some of the original kids and they were raised in the orphanage family. The two boys , who are originals, are both blind. The three original girls now help take care of the younger kids. They are like a big wonderful family.

Two weeks ago we visited the orphanage to get an idea of sizes for the children. We arranged to pick up the oldest 11 “children” on Saturday, December 21st at 9:00 am. They live about 45 minutes away from us. Most of them had never been into the city, some had never ridden in a car. We loaded them up for a big adventure!  It was a great day!

We decided we that these kids have always worn hand-me-downs. We wanted them to get something new. The Congolese women who can afford the fabric, always wear beautiful dresses to church. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of fabrics to choose from. It is a special “waxed” fabric that holds the bright colors, even after many washings. The women buy the fabric and then have the dress made specifically for them. We decided to take the girls to choose their own fabric and then pay someone to make their dresses. The labor is only $5.00 to $10.00 depending upon the style they choose.

We bought for the boys first… see Dad’s writeup. Then we took them all to buy ice cream cones (for many another first) ...

... and then we took the girls to the area of town that is specifically about 50 small stalls filled with fun bright fabrics. They were mesmerized. They each ended up buying their favorite piece, and then give them back to us to keep until Christmas day. 

We were very impressed with how polite these kids were, and how cute they were to take care of one another… especially our 2 blind boys. We really bonded with these kids. It is probably a good thing that we are leaving Kinshasa, because I am getting way too attached to them. The shopping day was a great success!

In the meantime we had to go shopping for the food, clothes and gifts. The food and gifts were fairly easy, purchased from regular stores. However, the shopping for used clothes was an event in itself! If you think the malls at home are crowded on Christmas eve… try shopping the “mall” here the day before Christmas.  Not only are there no stores, there are no tables.  People sometimes have a rack to hang things on... but mostly they just have big piles on the ground for you to look through.

Dad deserves a hero badge for putting up with the heat, the crowds, the French language and the digging through piles and piles of used clothes that miraculously appear from thrift shops around the world. We felt great yesterday when all the shopping was done!

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