Today’s voyage brought us to Little Eden, a home to about 300 children and adults who have extreme disabilities. All have intellectual disabilities with some also having the added factor of having mental disabilities. The orphanage consists of 75% of the residents being abandoned or from homes of poverty.
Hearing that so many of them had been abandoned broke my heart, and caused the rest of the tour to be very overwhelming and emotional for me. Seeing such innocent faces and knowing that many of them don’t have parents in their lives really made me think how lucky I am in my life. But it also made me realize how lucky these children and adults are to have the love and care the providers give them. You can see how much they care about them with the games they play and the responses the children have when the caretakers talked to them or even simply sing a quick song with them. It made me happy for them considering there are so many people, not only in South Africa but also in the world, that don’t have such caring people in their lives that are able to take care of them so well!
I wish I was able to take them all home with me and hold them forever, but I know that they have amazing care where they are now. We were able to see a speech therapist work with one of the children, a physiotherapist therapist, and a reflexologist. It was surprising to me how much they did have available to them despite having to fund raise so much for the orphanage since they don’t always get the monthly funds that they are supposed to get from the government. Our tour guide was telling us that it can be very tough and that they are currently going on over 2 months without any government funding! I’m really glad our group was able to donate over 2,000 rands to the orphanage and help them out as much as we could.
During our visit at the orphanage we were able to interact with some of the children and we found out that a boy we met also had his two brothers with him there. I was so happy that the brothers were able to stay together since I have heard that sometimes siblings aren’t able to stay together at orphanages. Also during our interaction with the children one of the boys noticed that his brother was on our pamphlet, so when I took it out of our folder he wanted it and ended up taking it from me! I really enjoyed when he did that since it is how any “normal” child would have acted. It really showed that they are not just “children with special needs” but they are children. They may have a few quirks and differences from the “average” child, but that is who they are and seeing that really did make me happy. Being able to visit these children made me realize how a simple visit can make their day, and make mine as well.
One of the children in specific really made my day! I walked over to where he was and simply knelt down. Although he was blind, he somehow sensed that I was there and jumped into my lap! I was a little taken back at first since I wasn’t sure if I could hold him since I didn’t know his disorder yet. But then I realized that if it was what he wanted, I couldn’t say no. I just wanted to make him happy! Seeing his face light up, and seeing him react to even a simple touch from me made the whole day even more worthwhile than I could have ever expected it to be.
Looking back on the day I’m glad I cried in the beginning because I think it made the day really come full circle. I started out being so emotional, thinking about how awful it is to abandon a child, but then I saw that it was probably what was best for them in the end. If they had stayed in their original homes, they probably would not have gotten the care and treatment they have at the orphanage because of all the amazing staff.
Some people ask, “what is the point in helping them?” But after this visit, I don’t know how any one could ever say that. I think more people should visit Little Eden and really experience a day with the residents, and as Lucy Slaviero, the CEO of Little Eden told us, they aren’t just dealing with a person with disabilities, they are dealing with little miracles and little souls!