I'm finding that as I near the end of my service, I have an even greater appreciation for the experiences I've been fortunate enough to have here and the people I've been blessed to have met. I'd like to share some stories that highlight this.
My friend Elia is one of the most hardworking and caring people I have ever met. She is from Werda and returned here after school and working outside of the village for sometime to help orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and their families. She has been working very hard to start an NGO to serve this population, and in the meantime she visits families in need in the village to see how she can help them. She doesn't get paid at all and is doing all of this out of kindness and love for her community. She also has a young son she is raising herself. I have had the privilege recently of visiting OVC families with Elia and of helping her to document that there is a need in Werda for an NGO serving OVC families through interviews with families and photographs. There are 95 documented orphans and vulnerable children in Werda right now, and this doesn't include the OVC at the junior school who are from other villages but board in Werda. Though many of these families are getting some type of governmental assistance, usually in the form of some food each month, it often is not enough to sustain an entire family.
Since visiting more of these families with Elia, I've been reminded of what true poverty can look like: Children taking care of children and living in a one room house without any bed or even a mattress/ sleeping on concrete floor, a child who is unable to walk and has no way of moving around so he can't go to school, and grandparents struggling to raise their late daughter's three young boys even though they themselves aren't well. Yet, these families are still trying so hard. Some of my PACT students are in OVC families and despite some difficult situations at home, they do well in school and are among some of the most polite, intelligent, and creative students I have ever met.
I also found out, through this experience of visiting these families,that some of my former junior school PACT students who have graduated had been cooking and cleaning for some orphaned children during their school break because they saw that there were hungry and alone. They told Elia they wanted to give back to their community. The fact that there are times when people do step up and help each other renews my faith in humanity and warms my heart. Although there is a lot of sadness that exists here, there is also a lot of strength and hope. If people who have so little can remain so hopeful, then I certainly can.