On Tuesday morning we travelled to Jane Olevolo’s Orphan Centre, the orphanage we’d visited in the first few days in Arusha. Here we began work planting a vegetable garden; this involved hoeing the soil, picking out weeds, creating shallow holes and putting ground nuts into each hole. It was a messy process (as we laboured on through a heavy rainstorm) but also truly rewarding, especially when we saw how deeply our work would be appreciated in providing a sustainable food source. Sarah also planned to allocate some of the funds she’d raised towards providing a fresh source of drinking water.
On Friday, we spent the morning finishing off the gardening by watering our freshly planted beds. There we were introduced to a seventeen-year old boy named Lucas, an orphan who had grown up in Jane’s care. For some reason, Lucas’ difficult life struck a resonant chord with me. Lucas was an incredibly friendly and vibrant individual with an enviable work ethic. In his position, it would be easy to resent a group of privileged individuals such as ourselves. Yet he showed no signs of hostility or even indifference towards us, greeting us with a wide, genuine smile. He is a huge credit to Jane’s orphanage, proving it to be a caring and nurturing environment, but he is also an admirable character who we could all do well to learn from.
We organised a few games to play with the kids; the boys in particular loved our impromptu game of football- even when Troy kicked the football over the tall cinder block wall a grand total of three times, the nimble kids easily scaled the wall to retrieve the ball so the game could continue. We also organised a game of ‘Red Light, Green Light’, and a game of ‘Lions and Gazelles’ which provided some well-needed exercise.
Bella had brought some gifts for the women of the orphanage- reusable cotton sanitary items. For many women, periods are an unnecessary burden, and are so stigmatised that it is rarely discussed. Consequently, many women have no access to basic sanitary products. Again, seeing their immense gratitude for these gifts made me seriously rethink my own privileges, in taking such things for granted.
Our weekend activities were, as usual, plentiful; we spent Saturday traversing the streets of Arusha in search of a barber (Troy and Valerio braved the shave), jewellers, hairdressers (for Sarah, who got half her head braided) and shoe shops. We were yet again immensely grateful to Jimmy and Mbassa, who effortlessly navigated through the streets of Arusha to find us the local favourites and best bargains. On Sunday, we headed to Lake Duluti where we hired canoes and spent a languid afternoon rowing and sunbathing, while Sara went for a stroll in the surrounding forests. Bella, Pip, Charlie and I occupied one boat, and we had the privilege of witnessing a beautiful ceremony on the shores of the lake. It appeared to be a baptism, where adults were being fully submerged in the water whilst the voices of the local people rang in unison. It was a very apt ending to a very thought-provoking week.