It was a chilly morning, the dark has not subsided fully, and the birds had started singing their early morning songs. The cocks could also be heard from different homesteads as they made their early morning crows. All the living creatures, even the cricket in the fields, seemed to have woken up early as their cries could be heard. I had set the alarm so that I would wake up early and join my classmates for the long awaited trip to Africa. I remember distinctly that I hardly caught any sleep that night since my excitement was way beyond ordinary. As soon as my alarm went off, I jumped out of bed, as this is the moment I had anticipated for the entire night. I hummed sweetly as I ran across the corridor to the anger of all the other occupants of the house who felt it was too early for them to be woken up. It was a trip to the orphanage that we had received news about from a missionary who was in Africa.
After traveling for many hours, we were finally there and we headed straight to the orphanage where there were many desperate and destitute children who were more than delighted to see us. Shockingly, they clearly displayed their hunger upon seeing us as they immediately started ravaging our bags as if in search for something. Upon inquiry, one called Jean admitted that they were looking for edibles. My immediate encounter upon entering the gate was Jean, and she went straight for my bag. She was a beautiful, tall, blonde girl but her attractiveness was a bit covered by the emaciation, which she suffered. Her big, brown, beautiful eyes and wide angelic smile made her stand out. In fact, the first thought that crossed my mind upon seeing her was that she should enroll for modeling courses and contests for she is well bestowed with looks and height, which are the primary determinants of success in the field. Moreover, upon speaking with her, I could tell that she was highly intelligent; way above the ordinary kids. Her slender physique also added to her qualifications, as she was by far the most stunning girl in the facility. However, I will add that this was my view as the adage says that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
What struck our eyes upon entering the premises was the destitute state of the facility. Albeit the compound was not littered, the structure was badly kept, and some of the buildings looked as if they were falling off. Inside, was even worse as the beds were squeezed with some of the sleeping facilities being spread on the floor for the kids to fit. Moreover, the pungent smell in the dormitories indicated that some of the kids wet their beds and there was no one to ensure that their bedding was cleaned regularly. Consequently, in my description, the place was inhabitable, but with the few choices life had presented these kids, they had to do with only that.
In short, there was only one word to describe the situation: desperate. The kids had empty expressions in their eyes as though fate had robbed them all hope. They had almost nothing to look forward to because despite the fact that many had reached the school going age, they could hardly afford to be in school as there was no one to support them. As one of them later confessed, they felt forgotten, and as they compared their lives with those of their age mates, they had everything reason to complain and wallow in self-pity. Some of them said their greatest wish was to have parents like other children so that their daily needs would be met. However, they complained that this was highly unlikely, as most of their parents had either died or abandoned them. They felt that fate had thrown all odds against them. Upon enquiring, we were informed that most of them were HIV positive as the disease had taken the parents and they were rejected by other family members, making their only solace this deserted home.
Well, I know you would wonder who the homeowner was and how they could be so careless to raise children in such deplorable conditions. Well, that too was the first question in our minds as we entered the gate. We wondered how this could be a rescue center as per their signboard at the gate indicated the name of the institution was ‘Hope Kids Rescue Center.’ The irony was that the kids looked trapped as opposed to rescued, and hope was the last word in their vocabulary. Instead, they looked robbed of all the good that life could offer any human being. She is an elderly woman, who has known pain sorrow, rejection, and tears all her life. In her eyes are rays of hope that seem to defy all the tragedy and loss that she has so far borne. She had been a beautiful girl, and in the eyes of her peers, she was described as an outstanding woman. As if to reward that, she had been married off at an early age to a wealthy man in her society. As a culture in the Turkana setting, the parents choose the person to whom they want their daughter to settle with and as long as he can meet the dowry requirements, the girl is considered his. This was Damaris Otieng’s fate as a little girl.
Damaris: I had hardly begun receiving the love of my parents when I was married off at the age of eight. The man was so big for me, and I remember the first night as he pushed himself on me, I could hardly fathom what he was up to, for I wondered why a man as old as my father would be throwing his weight on me. All I remember was excruciating pain, and I recovered the following day. Unluckily, I had no one to talk to, and this became the order of the day for me. At the age of 11, I was pregnant, and as I went into the childbearing stage, I was too tiny to bring forth, forcing my uterus to be removed at that early age. Consequently, he said I was useless and claimed that he needed a refund of his dowry. My parents refused and stated he needed to keep me now that he had already caused my uterus to be removed. In turn, he said that he had been given a girl with defects and could not keep her. With my parents and husband’s rejections, I found myself in the streets, seeking for help from well-wishers. I remember days of rummaging through dustbins to look for anything edible:
Me: (With tears in my eyes: It must have been difficult
Damaris: That was not the hardest part of the street life; the worst was being assaulted by men in the night.
Me: That is sad
Damaris: It became the order of the day, as I was tiny in comparison to them. One day I was adopted by an old woman who left me this structure when she died.
Me: how did you meet?
Damaris: she had me cry after being beaten by the boys and rescued me
Damaris had then become very passionate about rescuing kids, and that is how she had started the structure. She told us that this is what had led her to pick all the kids in the streets although she had nothing much to offer them. She had fears that if left out there they would be abused. She said she had no resources to provide for them and they explained the poor state. Since that day, I decided to partner with her, and once I came back home, I explained to my parents, relatives, and friends who helped me in funding the home. We have since rebuilt it and ensured that the children are going to school and have supply. I also look forward to raising more money to enlarge the structure.
This trip entirely changed the direction of my life as I stopped wasting money as all I save goes to the orphanage. I also developed a new passion for children as every now and then I talk to them by calling them to visit us and by visiting them every so often.