Joey and I volun- teered at an orphan- age in Abuja yester- day.  I'm not sure if it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be because my standards have dropped considerably since moving here or because I've been so desensitized over the last three months or what; regardless, I definitely have to say it was my most rewarding experience since moving here.  Joey and I definitely plan on visiting on a more regular basis and my ultimate goal is to improve those kids' lives, if only a little.  It was the first time since moving here that I actually felt like I could contribute something; like there was a good reason for me to live here for the next two years. 

The playground
The first thing I noticed was an adorable little boy with a huge cut on his ankle.  Luckily, I carry a first-aid kit in the car, so we were able to get some Neosporin and a band-aid on it.  Simple first-aid supplies would make a world of difference for those kids.  Their playground, which consists of rusty and beat-up, if not completely broken, old equipment donated by the British School several years ago, also happens to be covered in feces from the goats and cows that are raised on the property, and I can't even imagine the infections that must ensue from open wounds mixed with fecal bacteria. 

Also on the playground
The kids' arms and legs were coated with mosquito bites, scabs from scratching those mosquito bites and scars from the repeated scabbing and reopening of said mosquito bites.  I got a quick peak into their bedroom, which looked like some cribs with mosquito nets, but considering how bad the mosquitoes can get in our air-conditioned, well-built house, I can only imagine what it gets like around dusk in their hot little building.  Pre-treated mosquito nets and even some fans, preferably battery-operated because the electricity is so unreliable, to help with some circulation would help tremendously. 

Once I got past the basic health concerns, I noticed the kids' shoes.  It's not like the kids don't have shoes; they do.  But none of their shoes seemed appropriate and certainly only few of them actually fit.  The same little boy with the cut on his ankle went to put on shoes (note I did not say "his shoes" - they don't have their own shoes, just a cabinet of shoes from which to choose), and couldn't find a matching pair.  He ended up with a blue flip-flop that was slightly too small on his left foot and a green flip-flop that was at least three sizes too big on his right foot.  He was happy as a clam as he waddled out to the playground, but I was more than disconcerted.  Especially because I'd been told that large donations of clothing had been made in the past, only to have disappeared by the next visit.  How do you even begin to address that problem? 
This little girl slept on the floor the whole time we were there. 
 So then, last in importance when you have health concerns and shoes that don't fit, but still incredibly sad when you consider these are just children, is the lack of toys and books.  All I saw was a small stack of dusty plastic tricycles in the back of the room.  No crayons, no books, no balls, no games.  So I am going to build them a library.  There's a space in the administrative building and even if the kids can't read right now, without access to books they certainly aren't going to learn.  And I believe that not only is there far less incentive to resell donations of books, but the power of reading and learning gives these kids the best chance to improve their lives.  I haven't figured out any of the logistics yet and I have no idea where to begin, but by the end of our time here in Abuja, I'm bound and determined those kids will have a library.

Click on the photo to see the rest of my pictures.  I didn't publish any recognizable pictures of the kids to my blog just in case of safety/legal concerns.