Faded Handprint

In November of 2005, in the village of Kalsuin working in a small Muslim orphanage just out side of Chambe changed the way I looked at life forever. This orphanage was in the worst condition out of all the orphanages we were working in. The images of the frail malnourished children are still burned in my mind. I remember after my first full day of working there and being totally exhausted. I was sitting on my parent’s bed, tears streaming my face, overwhelmed by the experience and poverty of these children. I couldn’t understand why they had to endure all of these challenges. I pleaded with my mom to let us take them home to give them something better. Mothers seem to always know what to say. She said, “no son we can’t take these kids home, and we can’t change what has happened to them. All that we can do is try our very best to make their lives a little better”. From that moment something changed and I was determined to follow that advice. I spent the next week sharing my heart with these kids, playing games, doing art projects, and medical assessments. We painted a big globe on the wall, all the kids covered their hands with paint and we spent a whole afternoon laughing and putting handprints on the wall. That was the best day of my life.

I was nervous, almost 4 years later returning once again to this small orphanage that had such a big impact on me. It had been raining in Chamba and all this rain had caused some mudslides. So as we sat in the car waiting for the road to be cleared my anxiety grew heavier. We finally pull up to the wall that surrounded the facility. A little dirtied face with a big smile poked out of the gate. Then as if another mudslide, children came rushing out to greet us.

It was great to be back, memories rushed in to my mind, it is hard to describe the experience and emotion that came with this experience. We met with the warden and inspected the building, assessed the needs, and looked for any further help we could offer. As we had discussed these things we had been standing in front of that big world I helped paint, it was dirty and the hands were faded. In this facility the children are moved from this home after they reach the 5th grade. So even though the children I originally knew and loved were gone, I could hear the whispers of their laughter of that day faded with the mural.

We soon had to go so we could visit some of the other orphanages and schools we are working in. For the rest of that day I was lost in thoughts and memories. I was asking myself, why we were out here? That thought from my mom came back to me , we are “trying our very best to make their lives a little better.”

James Baird