A hospital for malnourished children

Thursday 1 July 2010

Hello, everyone,

So there we are again six months later. Time flies and I couldn’t bring myself to write. A lot has happened and writing is always a self-reflection but also an emotional event so it took a while, but here is a fresh update from the banana trees.
The composition in the house has changed, Maureen has returned to school and at the moment Ivan is the one who helps me with all the domestic problems. We sponsored Ivan in high school, now that he is finished he wants to earn money so that he can eventually go to university to study.
At the end of December we bought 450 (one day) chicks to start a chicken farm. Julius came to live with us to help with this project. We had him as a security guard for a month and it clicked, after he had shot off his fingertips in a company accident he quit the job and moved in with us. What a hassle, those chicks need 24-hour surveillance. Because they are small, they need a lot of warmth and they sit on top of each other to keep each other warm, which causes the bottom chicken to get crushed and suffocate. We place large pots of cabbage which give them warmth but which can also be a great danger. The first night the men (Sunday, Ivan and Julius) offered to sleep with the chickens. Fine then I could sleep on, at 6 o’clock in the morning there was a knock on the door and Ivan was wobbling on his legs and could just say that things were not going well in the chicken house. He ran like a spear to the chicken coop where Sunday lay lifeless on his mattress. Carbon monoxide poisoning, Julius had already knocked out at night and Sunday and Ivan were also in bad shape. The chicken house was so cut off from fresh air that the poisonous smoke from the coals intoxicated the boys. Luckily we were there on time but the party of sleeping with the chickens was over. Every hour one of us went out to give food, drinks and new coals, exhausting but now after 5 months we have 380 chickens left who lay an egg every day so we can start doing business. The demand for eggs is high and we have been able to do quite a bit of business (and… every day egg on the menu). The chickens will be very productive for a year and a half and then they will go on sale, if this continues we want to take 1000 chickens next time and then hire local people to help and become a demonstration farm for the community.

Speaking of the community, my plan to do something for them is expanding. In 2 years time I hope to have transformed my current home into a hospital for malnourished children run by the locals. We want to start a goat farm for the meat and milk. The people here don’t know any goat’s milk while it is very nutritious, we have to introduce that.
We want to buy cows for milk, start a large banana, potato and other vegetable plantation so that we have enough food for the hospital nearby. It will take a while to train the local population but it would be great if they can run this because in the end I want to go back to the Netherlands (yes really!) and I would like to train a nurse. If all goes well Rosah and Babirye will come with me then they are still young and I hope they can integrate and get used to a whole new culture and environment.

During my stay in the Netherlands (last April) it all came to me a bit. Normally I plan 6 appointments in one day and run from hot to here. Sorry for all the people I haven’t called or visited anymore. I had finally offered some time for myself and a friend that I could live in his house as long as I was in the Netherlands. How wonderful, really a place for myself and being alone for a while. It was also quite a confrontation and I thought about many things. Of course also about the adoption… Am I really doing the right thing? It’s a rather selfish decision, in the beginning I shouted “But everything is better in the Netherlands! Now I’m convinced that it’s not so, yes, medically speaking, but I also notice that we are very materialistic and have very little time left for each other. The children here have complete freedom and live in their own culture among their own people. They are doing just fine. Should I be the one to disrupt that?
Well yes. enough thinking material and that all came to me and because of that I didn’t really feel like meeting and I also took some time for myself.

It was also a great disappointment that my girls were not there. Everything was arranged and it was (almost) certain that the couple would come to the Netherlands for a visit. Until the gentleman from Immigration hadn’t finished the passports in time and had run off with the money, very frustrating. The whole process of getting all the signatures for these passports was a tragedy. Always say Yes and Amen, keep laughing sweetly and do what they say. There were days when I wanted to shout at the police officer who had made me come for Jan asshole again, but then you never have to expect cooperation again. I hate that dependence so much, here at home you go to the town hall and everything is arranged (often within a week), here you are at least four weeks busy with getting 4 signatures, well we keep going.

The children are doing well. Frank is puberty and would like to go to Boardingschool next year (where he stays overnight and comes home during the holidays). He wanted to visit his family so we hop on a moped to his village. His grandfather and aunt didn’t recognise him anymore. He stood there like a shy boy and after 10 minutes he wanted to go home again. Fine, I was already very proud of that boy that he wanted to visit the home front. During my stay in Holland he was with his family for a week and since 3 years he also saw his father again. I expected it would leave quite a shock but as it turns out, Frank is ok with it and he doesn’t mind having contact with his father (who set him on fire). I hope it will stay that way because we encourage him to have contact with family members of the children.
Babirye’s mother of the week was at the door as well. After three years she came to fetch her child, I went crazy for a moment… But after that she understood that this lady can’t just take her child with her. The local mayor came to the rescue and Rosah’s grandmother also came to assist in the conversation. Yes we are still in Africa and everything is possible here.
Here briefly a possibility why Babi was picked up. Babirye is one of twins. Her twin sister died of malnutrition and her youngest brother was thrown in the toilet by the mother and then died. Twins can swear at family members who have done them badly. Babi’s mother came up with the story that she has problems, nothing works in her life and even cooking burns everything on. Normally different rituals have to be performed on a child and that can even go so far that the child has to be sacrificed. In short, we feared for Babirye’s safety and yes, I love that girl very much and I do not want to lose her just like that. Nevertheless, she is her biological mother and I believe that everyone deserves a second chance. The local mayor was a mediator and told the mother that she cannot just take Babi with her and that there are other (herbal) means to get rid of her problems.
The people who were present at the conversation told me that she had done a nice piece of acting and that she came to take the child purely for her own sake and not to give Babirye a good future. She has seen Babirye and Babi knows that Nalongo is also her mother, we are open about that, but you can’t force a child to be “sweet, nice and kind” to someone she barely knows. I find it a difficult situation (I have never wanted to take someone’s child away from me) and I am in it with a double feeling, she is her biological mother but what will happen to Babirye if the mother has bad intentions and can she handle it financially? At the moment I am in my right and on paper I am the “legal guardian”. Of course I hope that Babirye can stay with us but on the other hand I think that is a rather selfish thought… I will keep you informed.

Saige is having a great time at his new school. He has already eaten his 3kg of sugar (meant for 3 months) within two weeks and sells all his other delicacies to his classmates. He is growing up and I am very happy that he is joining the social events at school. He is the worst of the class but I don’t care as long as he can join in socially. He is heavily traumatised and I was afraid to let him go but he is enjoying himself and behaves like a well-mannered boy if we can believe the teacher.
Rosah is an enormous rascal but gets more and more sweet traits. Tuberculosis was diagnosed in Rosah last March. I was shocked but I was glad that we finally had a diagnosis for all those coughs and her bad appetite. She has to
Eight months on the medication, it is already much better and she coughs a lot less.
She is a little spunky girl who will let everyone at home know who is in charge, her favourite spot at the moment is the garage which acts as a “naughty corner”, hurray for the supernanny!

I still appreciate every day that I can live here and that I can live my dream. Of course it is sometimes difficult but this work gives a lot of satisfaction and it is unbelievable how you can help people here with small things and how grateful they are for that. There are many other stories to tell about the past 6 months, which I will save for my next report.

Thank you for all your support in whatever way you can!

Enjoy every day and appreciate the little things that can make you happy……