It Takes A Village
Today, amidst playing cards, and watching football, and pumping water, I was reflecting on two simple words that carry deep meaning: “thanks” and “village.”
We asked one of SMK’s expert lettering artists, Petra, to create some thank you cards for the gifts and supplies that friends in the US generously donated and that Team 7 volunteers delivered on this trip. The kiddos were eager to add their names to the cards and take pictures to show their appreciation for gifts of colored pencils, games, soccer uniforms, soaps, cough drops, shoes, toothbrushes, cameras, and many other much-needed items. I could learn some techniques for writing my own thank you notes from the SMK kids.
Emily and I helped Douglas Tony Blair, SMK’s clinic nurse (who grew up at SMK and was sponsored by Change the Truth), unload all of the donated supplies that he will use to treat children for minor illnesses and injuries. Douglas was deeply grateful for the Costco-sized bottles of ibuprofen, ointments, and other clinic medications. He knows that he can relieve the discomfort of sick or injured children for months to come. Think of the last time you opened your medicine cabinet to give your child a Motrin to lower her fever or a dose of cough medicine to help him sleep, and how grateful you were that you had supplies on hand. Now, multiply that by hundreds of times and dozens of sick children. That’s how thankful Douglas is.
When I first visited St. Mary Kevin two years ago, it took me a few days to grasp why the daily scene at the orphanage seemed unusual. Then it hit me: I was an adult walking through a village of children.
During our stay each December, the kids are on holiday from school, which means there are no classes, no teachers, no cooks, and only a very small staff of dormitory matrons and Change the Truth’s amazing coordinator, Melissa Mosher. Can you imagine your neighborhood elementary school being occupied almost exclusively by 180 children, ages 4 to 18, for three months? Sounds chaotic (at best) and terrifying (at worst), right?
But at SMK, neither description is true. The teenagers look out for the older children, who in turn look after the youngest kiddos. The teens referee arguments, set boundaries, and explain projects. The older children do their daily chores and take care of themselves just fine. The youngest ones are accompanied to meals and brought along for games and songs.
It all works because in the richest definition of “village,” everyone is cared for and no one takes more than he or she needs. In the SMK village, Emily and I watched an older child Macgyver a brilliant repair for a 4-year-old boy’s broken sandal. Without that assistance, the little boy would have gone without one shoe until it was his turn to receive a new pair.
I am thankful for each day I get to be here to witness the joy and tenderness of these young friends. When I leave, I remain grateful throughout the year for the eye-opening and heart-opening experience of being a Change the Truth Team member.