Last Friday we went to visit the orphanage where Hannah is volunteering for a few months. It is a couple miles outside Buea in the middle of the bush. The orphanage is called HOTPEC which means Hebzibah Handicapped, Orphanage Training Production and Estascy Centre.
There are 69 children at the orphanage ranging from about one year to 18. They have a primary school on site and the older children go to the local secondary school. The children sleep two to a bed in bunk beds, so four to each bunk bed. They have 3 changes of clothes, two for day to day wear and a Sunday best. A couple of the children are handicapped but most are orphans of one parent or both. There are some very sad stories about how the children came to be in the orphanage and regularly people bring more children but there is no more space. The few who are handicapped still have both parents but are often abandoned as they can not help on the family farm, they cannot bring anything in to the household only take. This results in parents deciding it costs too much to have them at home and someone else can look after them. Many of the orphans who have lost one parent cannot be placed with another family as their parent will want them back once they have been through school and can come on work on the farm. In other words they do not want to have to feed them while they cannot work but are happy to take them back once they are of use.
The children were very happy to see us and soon were hanging off our arms. One small girl Esther was really sweet, Joe had to help her up the hill on our walk around the farm. She then sat with me while Joe played football with some of the boys. We bought a football to give them but the valve fell in to the ball while we pumped it up. This was very annoying as we really wanted to leave them something. I plan to post out some clothes to them once we get home, so if you have any unused children clothes send them my way and I will send them on.
The orphanage is run by a family of brothers and sisters. One brother lives in London and works in Sainsbury's as a shelf stacker. He sends nearly all his wages to the orphanage and that pays for food, clothes, teachers (they get about 20 pounds a month) and everything else. It amazes me this man can live in London on his wage let alone feed 69 children and the workers in Cameroon. I dread to think what circumstances he is living in. However I am sure it is better than most here.
We had a great time visiting them, the children all appear quite healthy and happy but life is hard and the staff struggle.