Gathiga Children's Hope Home is the 2nd orphanage that we helped at during our time in Kenya.
This orphanage is pretty different to Kihara.
Some of the differences are obvious:
- The orphanage is bigger (they have about 3x as many kids...so that is expected)
- There are a lot more buildings (Kihara only had one building and a small "kitchen" structure")
- They have cement, not just dirt
- They have a kitchen, complete with a stove
- They have animals (1 cow, 3 pigs, and some bunnies)
However, some of the differences also lie in the children. At Gathiga, the children were much more timid at first. They didn't really warm up to us until the 2nd day we were there. Compared to Kihara where we could barely get out of the van the first day because of the flock of children waiting to greet us. I think most of this comes from the fact that there are older children at Gathiga. Kihara is mainly 3-8 year olds--when they want attention they have no problem running up to you, grabbing your hand, or sitting on your lap. Gathiga has children from 2 all the way up to 18 or 19. There are a lot of middle school/high school aged children, who have the same feelings of wanting attention and wanting to feel cared for, but they aren't going to come sit on your lap.
Once they felt comfortable enough with us, we had some great conversations and memorable times with the children at Gathiga. The younger children are very playful and sweet. They love getting their picture taken and actually it is one of the only English words the little kids know: "peecha! peecha! peecha!" :) One thing I soon realized is that a camera brought even the shyest child out of their shell.
The women that run the orphanage work so hard! They rotate between cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry (by hand for over 160 people)! I will never again complain about doing laundry!
On any given day there are between 3-8 women working at the orphanage. Unfortunately, the women are always soooo busy that it doesn't give them much time to spend time with the children. A majority of the day the children left to entertain themselves (except for during school times). While we were there we did see a few children getting in fights which really broke our hearts. Of course, if you have 169 children living together with very little supervision there is bound to be some problems. There are a few children under the age of 2 (who are sooooo sweet) and they are at an age when they still have a lot of needs to be cared for. This responsibility is left to other children. I saw a girl who couldn't have been older than 7 or 8, giving a little boy (maybe 18 months old) a bath, changing his clothes, helping him get his food, and carrying him around. When I could, I relieved her of this duty, I would carry the little guy around and play with him, I sure didn't mind! She would happily skip off and play with her friends. As soon as I had to leave and put the little guy down I would see her come check on him right away. She is a very caring little girl. She wasn't "assigned" this duty of taking care of him, she just chooses to.
This is the girl carrying around little Mwema--you can see they are quite fond of each other :)