We got our tour of the worksite from Caroline, a woman with a head full of dreadlocks trailed by her son Zion. She´s the orphanage´s nutritionist and wife of the founder, though she points out, orphanages aren´t just for orphans.
All of the kids here are 5 or younger and are, as she puts it, “affected by AIDS.” They have it, or their parents have it and are unable to care for them, or their parents had it and passed away.
There´s a psychologist and a social worker and the kids are getting regular medical care. The orphanage is small: only 12 kids that live on site and as many as 6 that come for day care. The idea is to give quality over quantity and for it to feel like a home, though Caroline says it doesn´t yet. There´s been some staff turnover, maybe it´s the AIDS thing, maybe it´s the late shifts, she´s not sure.
And there are two projects they have had on their list but haven´t had time for. One is to start a garden in the yard where they would grow fruits, vegetables and herbs, and the other is to repaint some furniture inside.
¨So you came from America to paint a bookshelf?¨ This was Thomás, the proprietor of the Casa de International where we´re staying and John and I are having Chilean wine with him over cheese empanadas and fruit salad.
We laugh, because it´s true and a little absurd, but I like it. Rather than me coming in to do poorly what they are already doing well–caring for these kids–I´m able to work on something they haven´t been able to do and wouldn´t spend money on.
Whether or not we´ll finish is another matter. Between siestas (which I love), the fact that there are only two of us, one of whom is 85, and the short time we have, I´m not sure we can pull it all off.
But dammit, I´ll try, because the people here have made the kind of committment to this cause that I´m not willing to. So if I can do something that makes their work better in some way, then it´s worth it.
Though in a country where labor is cheeper than powertools, this means sanding off paint by hand and digging holes with pick axes. At least the weather is great for working outside.
In other news: the doxycycline no longer makes me want to throw up every morning, but it´s probably a waste to be on it at all because I haven´t seen a mosquito since I got here.