Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Truly Happy Story.....The Children's Home - Taiping Malaysia

Finally, a happy story about an orphanage!  Actually not just a happy story, a really wonderful story. As some of you might know, we have a small family run foundation that helps support and educate orphans around the world.  Well, around the world sounds a little grand, truly we work mostly in the U.S., Malaysia and now, of course Mongolia... which only makes two continents so I think maybe we'll have to tone down the "around the world" stuff.  Either that or find some orphans who need help in Europe of Africa.. like that would be tough to do!  But I digress...this is the story of our recent visit to the Rumah Kanak - Kanak or The Children's home in Taiping Malaysia.
The Ruma Kanak-Kanak currently is home to 64 disadvantaged children.  A number of them are true orphans, but the majority are 'fiscal' orphans...meaning they have one parent living but that parent (usually the mother) is unable to provide for them. Many of them come from more than humble beginnings - many have suffered abuse at home and a lot of the older ones are long term residents. 

Ok, ok...I know, so far this is not looking so much like a happy ( didn't I say wonderful before???) story..but hang in there - I'm getting to it. 

There are 2 dorms - a boy's and a girl's, each one at the moment (somewhat coincidentally) houses 34 children ranging in age from 3 to 18....and because of the wonderful atmosphere in this institution, that makes for a pretty big family.  And I use that word deliberately, because when I was there it sure looked (and felt!) like a family in action. ( FYI....that's the really wonderful part!!)

There is a staff of  about 8 office staff, administrators, housemothers and maintenance personnel most of which live away from the home and merely come in to work. What I saw though, when I was there visiting, was, without a doubt, family.  Large, complicated, boisterous and sometimes rambunctious ( good word idn't it? ) but nevertheless a family.

Some of the boys in their dorm room with their house mother.

And the view from the girl's floor.

I love it!  This completely reminds me of a huge  sign I had on my bedroom door when I was 14 or so....Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here..... Some things are a constant and I guess 14 year old girls must be one of those things!

Some of the girls with their house mother.

...and with their visiting Canadian / Mongolian auntie!

This girl had personality plus!!   She was happy to show me her locker..the only corner of semi private space in the place  - all  the children share a locker with one other child. She was very proud of how neat hers was and was thrilled to show it to me, but not everyone was so eager!  All in all though, the place was immaculate, the kids well dressed and clean ...and just so happy!  A far cry from a lot of what I have seen here in Mongolia!

Lots of joking around with the girls once the ice had been broken.  The boys were very shy with me, but I spent quite a bit of time laughing and joking ( and snapping pics!) with the girls.  It was really lovely.

Of course, we had our serious moments too.

But mostly, just fun!

As you can see, the beds (bunk beds) are very close together leaving little room for privacy, but lots of room to run around and muck about in...and of course, at one end of the room is the study corner.  The kids work very hard to try and get into good schools and colleges.  At the moment they have 3 children in college and one, Sudha, in University in Russia studying to be a doctor!  The Veloo Foundation has been helping her with her education for five years now, and she will be graduating in June of 2012 and I really hope we get to be there for her graduation ceremony.  I do kind of feel like she's one of ours too!  It is a wonderful feeling to see so many more of these kids really striving to follow her example and get a higher education. I am trying to coordinate to get some more books to them - they could really use a library!

We were very lucky to be in town on a school holiday so we got to see all of the kids mingling together at lunch.  Lunch was a big deal that day...KFC donated by one of the many sponsors in the community.  And yes, it was delivered in this van!
 Actually, that is truly one of the great things about this orphanage, every time I have been there, someone shows up with a package or a bundle or a bag of clothes or food or school supplies to help out.  The community not only supports the home, they feel invested in it and many individuals make it a habit to give generously and frequently in kind, if not in cash, to help out.  It is wonderful to see. And the kids know it too..they know that people really care, even if their families don't or can't.

Lunch time... one of the few times for boys and girls to mingle... and mingle they do!

Really, I didn't want to go there but don't it look Finger Lickin' Good?  Just sayin..uh huh

And then... it was time to let the kids get back to their lives...and, with a will of steel, walk away without taking any of them home!  I really enjoyed my time there and seeing this orphanage  and its relationship to people and businesses in the local community, especially in contrast to what we are working with here in Mongolia, has given me some very valuable pointers as to what is needed here to make the orphanage network more viable and humane......oh, and more fun for the kids too.

It was truly a wonderful visit. * sigh*


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