This is a story of collected events and emotions in the life of a new child at Otino Waa Children’s Village. They often arrive with ragged clothing, ringworm, hungry, intestinal worms and dirty. Often times a child is bewildered, not knowing what will happen to them next.
My name is Angie. I was a tiny girl of 4 when my soldier father was killed. The next two years I cared for my mother who was very ill. I was trying to give her a drink when she died in my arms. I heard my uncle say “HIV/Aids,” but I didn’t know what those letters meant. He was from the big city and city people knew those things. After my mother died an auntie made me live with her. I didn’t want to leave my home and sister to live with my 8 cousins. My little sister and big brother went to live in the city with that uncle. But I had to live with this Auntie who seemed to always be angry with me. To her I was just one more mouth to feed. She blamed me for my mother’s death. I only got to eat if something was left over. I usually went to bed hungry. But she knew that I could work and care for her small children.
I shared a reed mat with the smallest of my cousin sisters. Sometimes I could cover myself with a corner of the blanket my little cousins had. The mat was usually wet by morning.
One of my jobs was to fetch water from the spring a half mile away. The jerry cans were so heavy and I had to rest often. But I knew that if I took too long my auntie would beat me. I had to wash all the clothes for my cousins. My knuckles were always sore!
One day my Grandmother came to visit with a man called Reverend Dickens. He asked about me and if my auntie would like me to go live somewhere he knew about for orphaned children. My auntie smiled and said she would be glad for me to leave. I was so relieved when Grandmother told that man I could go anytime they wanted me.
Rev Dickens said I didn’t need to take any clothes because I would have all new clothes. I waved to my auntie and cousins but it did not make me sad to leave even though I didn’t know where I was going or who would take care of me.
Rev. Dickens drove about one hour. He talked to me so gently and told me where we were going. He even made me laugh. I liked him already. Rev Dickens took me to a place where a lady poked me with a needle. The nurse told me it wouldn’t hurt, but it did. They wanted to make sure I didn’t have the disease that my mother had. We drove a little further and he turned the vehicle into the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. There was a big gate and smiling children that came to greet me. Rev Dickens took my picture and a lovely woman took me into this house that had nothing but stacks of clothing on shelves. I had never seen so many clothes not being used.
This same woman told me that she would be my new mother and that I could even call her “Mom.” I wasn’t so sure about that because I missed my own mother and couldn’t imagine anyone else taking her place. There were so many children around wanting to know my name. I tried to hide behind my new mother. I didn’t know these new girls and there were so many of them. And already they seemed to like me.
My new mother helped me learn how to bathe in this tiny little room with a tub of water. She scrubbed my head with a dry corncob. I had a big towel to dry my body. My new mother smeared some crème on my itchy head and told me not to scratch my head any more. She helped me put on the most beautiful clothes I had ever had on. There was not even one hole in my new shirt. I had never had a shirt that was so new.
Where were my old clothes? I wanted to keep them but this kind lady told me I wouldn’t need them anymore.
An older girl told me I was her new little sister. She showed me how to squat over this hole, use a funny roll of white paper and never to wipe my hands on the wall of that little room. I thought that was a very strange thing.
My new big sister showed me the school and the church. I had never even thought I would ever be able to go to a real school but there it was. There were boys and girls playing games, they had a real ball to kick and beautiful grass to sit on. I smiled inside of myself when I heard Mother call the children to come eat. I even got my very own plate, a big pile of poscho and beans. I looked to the girl on each side of me and they each had their own plates of food. No one was looking at my food. I could eat all of this myself? Oh, it felt good to be so full. I could not remember ever having my own food. I ate it all even though it was too much. I am the luckiest girl in all the world!
My big sister took me into this big room for sleeping but I didn’t see any mats. She showed me how to make this wooden thing called a bed. It was high off the ground where I would have to lay down. I wanted to lay on the ground but she told me this is how to sleep now that I lived at Otino Waa. I was so afraid to crawl on top of it. She told me to lay down between the sheets and pull the blanket over top of my body. No one was going to sleep beside me? I had a blanket all to myself? I think this is how the President’s children sleep.
I woke up and was so happy that I didn’t fall off my new bed.
Another bath? And more food? I didn’t know that people got to eat three times a day. In the village we ate only once a day and that was very late at night. I think I’m going to like this place.