We have had an amazing time at the orphanage – challenging, frustrating at times… but most of all fun and rewarding.
We were lucky enough to all be here at the same time and forge together well as a team: Nathan and Janet from New Zealand, Rebecca from Sweden, and Mike from England.
We worked hard to make a number of small but significant changes that have made a major difference to the environment, atmosphere and general wellbeing of the children. Central to this was making the orphanage feel more like a home rather than a school or institution, which we did by:
– Turning the classroom into a playroom by removing the bench tables and seating to the dining room, putting down carpet on the concrete floor, putting cushions on the floor, putting up posters and pictures at the children’s level, equipping the room with building blocks, toy chest, reading books, colouring-in and other arts materials. This has become a fun room where the children love to go and play.
– Putting tables into the dining room for the children to sit at for meals. This has made mealtimes a more social event, with quieter and better behaviour.
– Putting carpet down in the children’s bedroom and giving them their own chests for their clothes and personal items.
– Improving the hygiene level e.g. Getting towels placed in the bathroom area, putting a stool at the handbasin so children can reach into it, getting a set of racks by the basin for toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, ensuring soap is always available in the bathroom and kitchen.
– Putting in place a bedtime routine that changed what was a chaotic time into a peaceful, happy, settling time. This includes time for washing hands, faces, teeth, legs and feet, before spending half an hour reading with the children on their beds and settling them with one book each. The children are now quietly going off to sleep without argument.
– Providing milk and fruit on a daily basis.
– Getting the children warm leggings and stockings for winter.
– Providing lots of tender loving care and attention in addition to establishing boundaries and sanctions to promote good behaviour. The children are now playing much more cooperatively, are sharing more, there is less hitting, crying, destructive behaviour or tantrums, with the place being much calmer and happier as a result.
What we were most excited about was the dramatic improvement in the children’s English. We increased verbal interaction with the children through use of play, arts and crafts, and reading with the children. They love the books with ones like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt being great hits – they are able to recite lines and recognize words, colours and objects.
We very much hope that future volunteers will continue in maintaining what has been achieved so far. Detailed guidelines have been left in the volunteers’ rooms to explain daily routines, provide profiles of the children and advice on what to do.
May your time at the orphanage be as much fun, and as rewarding as we experienced it!