Valentine’s Day

By Gregory Smith

Valentine’s Day started off with a wonderful breakfast. We were cooked
the usual fried rice and had the freshest fruit, most of which was
grown from the trees at the orphanage. After we finished breakfast it
was time to begin finding ways to be helpful!

The day before I was looking around at projects to do and noticed kids
playing basketball. They were playing on a crooked net that was
attached to a big tree in the front of the driveway. I decided the
project to start with was fixing the backboard, hoping this would
provide a little bit more fun for the children. I needed help and I
asked one of the older boys that was hanging around. Turns out he was
in charge of the workshop and he was able to show me what tools they
had. It was a very limited selection, one saw, a screwdriver and a
broken wrench. I was able to find a few old nails and salvaged some
scrap wood from the junk pile. A few pieces of horizontal metal that
were lashed together with rope provided me with a make-shift ladder.
When I started my first hammer swings, putting up a piece of wood to
brace the backboard, an army of ants emerged from the tree. They were
swarming, hundreds of them and they quickly found me and began to
cover my entire body. I didn’t think anything of it at first because
they were so tiny and I thought I could finish in a few swings of the
hammer and brush them off. That’s when they started biting! It was a
light pinch but when multiplied by a few hundred I realized this was
going to be a very hard task and maybe not worth it. Working quickly
and with a few breaks to freak out and shake them off, my strategy was
now touching the tree little as possible. I managed to fix the net and
right away the kids took note of the job and I saw the smiles on their
faces making it all worth it!

My young partner, then realizing that I was pretty handy and maybe a
bit ignorant for fighting the ants, wanted to show me other projects
around the orphanage. Most of the projects involved broken plumbing
that were no longer in use and rotting pipes with heavy leaks. There
was nothing we had at the orphanage that I could use to fix this and
decided a trip to the local hardware store would be the next
adventure. I counted the number of wash and bathroom faucets and sink
pipes that needed to be replaced. We then set off on a scooter
together. I needed him to act as my translator to the gentleman in the
hardware store. This was the biggest challenge. Most of the children
speak enough English to communicate normal conversations but trying to
describe Teflon tape, and brass fittings was another mountain to
climb. Thank goodness for google translate and using images off web
searches. This took quite some time. So after a long time of
back-and-forth and showing pieces of hardware over and over until we
made the correct matches we were able to get the tools to be able to
finish the project. The rest of the day consisted of shutting off
water valves, unscrewing sinks and faucets, installing brand-new
hardware and stopping all the leaks that we could manage. Most of the
items had to be modified which required a lot of pipe glue. Together
we fixed 4 brand new kitchen hand washing stations and 5 new faucets
and showers for the boys block house. There were a few other minor
plumbing issues here and there which wrapped up a long day.

That night for dinner I watched the children smile at all the working
faucets that weren’t spraying everywhere and also being grateful to
not waste water. The group sat down for dinner and we were treated to
a wonderful meal. Every meal that we had at the orphanage was better
than the last. The cooks, which were the kids, went to great lengths
to provide us with fresh food and a new experience every night. The
head cook, Krisna, was once herself an orphan at the orphanage. When
she finished school she decided to follow her passion of cooking and
returned to take on the kitchen duties for all 80 of the children.IMG_20180214_162651

Since it was Valentine’s Day, the orphanage celebrates with a party
and exchanging of small gifts. They had a set dollar limit, $1 or $2,
with which the children got to buy something to exchange with each
other. All of the kids gathered in the large meeting area and piled a
table full of wrapped presents.


They would then make a line and take turns being blindfolded and spun around before picking one gift from the table at random. You can tell some of the kids had bought gag gifts as there were lots of laughs when the boy picked up a gift for a girl or a girl got something completely uninteresting. Since we were invited to participate we were also given a turn to be blindfolded,
spun around, and pick up a gift. You could really tell this was a
special day for the children as they were walking around with their
toys, gifts, and candy with big smiles. In the end, even the head of
the orphanage, Didi, took a turn. With the day seeming to last
forever, we all decided to call it an early night. The kids however
stayed up late, which is always a huge surprise because we knew that
they got up at five in the morning every day.

It was quite a wonderful experience to share a Valentine’s Day with
the orphanage, although I feel as though they share a special love
with each other every single day of the year. I always see smiles on
their faces and feel love in the house. These kids are truly blessed
and have wonderful care. I was lucky to be loved and welcomed.IMG_3262

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