A lot of what we did during our stay in Tanzania was working in one of the three schools: Irente Rainbow School for disabilities, the Children’s home, and Irente School for the Blind. I particularly enjoyed working in the children’s home, where most of them were babies that were either abandoned by their parents or temporarily placed in the orphanage until their mother or father were capable of providing for them. This orphanage also housed some of the older students that attended the Rainbow School, and one of our tasks was to pick them up from their school and walk them back daily. The children’s home was a safe place for the kids to grow up and they had a whole system that even provided education for teenage girls and women to learn life skills and English in exchange for helping out in the orphanage—because the system was so well-structured, our team really couldn’t do much to help out besides playing with the children and helping out during feeding time and their occasional baths. Some of us helped mow the lawn and chopped firewood that the home would use to cook meals (the women usually cooked all day long) until they got blisters on their hands, while others of us ironed their clothing (not so that there weren’t creases, but to eliminate any bacteria that might have washed onto the clothing from the water that they were using).
It was so great to see the babies grow day by day and to see that they had such loving people caring for them around the clock. At the same time, it pained me to see that they had to grow up in such harsh circumstances. They were changed into new clothing once or twice a day because they would either wet themselves (they only used cloth diapers) or had dried-up residue from their meals. I found myself hesitant to hold a baby if they started to cry because I wasn’t sure if they had peed until after all my clothes became soiled. It was a terrible feeling because the babies actually sat in their wet diapers for hours and I was worried about a small stain on my shirt. I would repeatedly tell some of the girls that were working that the babies needed their diapers changed, and I’m not sure if they just never understood me because they didn’t change their diapers until much later. Nonetheless, it was truly an incredible experience watching some of the older girls working so hard in order so that they could in turn go out and provide for themselves and their own families. It was also just inspiring to see them learning English passionately. Some of them even spoke fluently enough to have extended conversations with our team members. I can’t imagine the orphanage running without these girls/women, and I can truly say that the small-scaled orphanage was running mostly by their help. It made me wonder if there was anything that we did to help out at all, but I’m still glad that we were able to witness this and help out even in the smallest of ways.