Things have sure been crazy here as this is my first time connecting to the internet since I arrived last tuesday night. My airplane flight was quite an adventure and a much longer journey than anticipated. I left my house at 4:30 am last Monday (August 13) nearly missing my 6 am flight to Washington DC. Thankfully one nice gentleman let me skip him in the security line which allowed me to catch my flight just in the nick of time. From Washington DC I spend about 17-18 hours on a flight to Joburg from which I caught my last 1.5 hour flight to East London. All that was left form there was an easy hour drive to Komga.
40 hours later, I finally arrived at Open Arms Home for Children at 9 pm on Tuesday.
This was my first time meeting Uncle Jeff and Auntie Suzanne who run the day to day operations for Open Arms Home for Children. I quickly learned that I will now be known as "Uncle Kevin" by the children as a sign of respect. Jeff and Suzanne are amazing at running the Home. They have only been here for 3 months but really enjoy all of the children and wish the best for them everyday.
Recently, Jeff has been teaching me to drive stickshift since the only cars the Home have are manual. My first attempt driving on the left side of the road as well as with the steering wheel on the right side was quite interesting to say the least. I am just glad I didn't total the car in the process. I am making progress however and should be able to drive comfortably soon.
It was only upon waking up my first morning that I had the chance to view my surroundings. I was astonished by what I saw - Open Arms Home is located upon a large hill surrounded by other large hills in all directions with the Indian Ocean poking through an hours drive distance away on most days. As it is winter here in the Southern Hemisphere (and yes the toilets do flush the opposite way for those wondering) the temperature has been between the upper 40s to low 60s but is supposed to get up to 85 degrees tomorrow as the winter season nears an end. I am blessed to live in a modern thatched rondevelle with hot water and plumming. I will try to put pictures on my blog when I get to an internet cafe or something with
high speed internet. I am by myself in the house but am so lucky to have two of my fellow volunteers (Margaret & Anne) live 5 seconds away.
Both Margaret and Anne are amazing people. They have both already done extensive volunteer work within the United States as well as in Calcutta, India and Uganda and probably more places I have never heard of. I am blessed to be with such gifted people and hope that I can learn from their wisdom and experience. Both girls graduated with my this year at Notre Dame but I only met Anne recently and have known Margaret since freshman year but never closely. I am very excited and lucky to get to know them better over the next year!
Currently, there are 45 beautiful children who live at Open Arms. Each one is unique with varying levels of abilities and skills. From the moment I saw them, I knew I had made the right decision to volunteer here for the next year. I will be involved with everything while I am here from working on a new classroom and playground to teaching and tutoring kids. The one thing I know for sure is that I will be quite busy. However, each night is very relaxing as the children go to bed around 8 pm so I spend the nights reading books. I have already finished the second two books of the Girl and the Dragon Tatoo series as well as the second Hunger games in a span of about 5 days.
The past few days have been training but on Monday morning I will begin waking up at 5:30 am to ensure the kids get their breakfasts and head off to school. While I realize working with 45 kids 7 days a week will be strenuous and stressful at times, I am thrilled to develop relationships which each child and grow my family. The children are cared for by "mommas" and "tattas" (pappas) who are assigned to watch over, care for, and love the children. Each momma and tatta really demonstrates a beautiful love and care for the children. The Home even has a pet cat who constantly wanders around being pet by the children and causing mischief.
One thing that I am disappointed by is that I have not yet seen a monkey. Hopefully that will change soon.
I wish everyone and your families the best and I would love to hear updates by email at email@example.com
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