A Trip To Madagascar
We think this year is the year to try something new, maybe get out of your comfort zone and try something you wouldn’t normally do. Amanda O’Reilly (sister to Lara who works in the lab) shares her experience of traveling to Madagascar to help out at an orphanage. Read her story below.
For Dan and I Madagascar has been on the radar for 4 years. Ever since my old college roommate helped to start a child house there for abandoned children it has had a soft spot in our hearts. The stories we heard coming out of Madagascar were unbelievable.We wanted to help but how do you help a whole country?
Along with my family we began to sponsor a child there because doing something is better than doing nothing. We wanted to do more, though. We were able to hear first hand from Jessica (my former roommate) all the needs that were there, but it was difficult to get a big picture or real sense of the overall need, so we decided to see it for ourselves.
In July we hopped on a plane from Vancouver to Paris where we spent a day and then got back on a plane to Antananarivo, Madagascar. In hindsight it might have been more wise to spend a day in Paris on the way home. We had just been to the Eiffel Tower hours before arriving in Madagascar and upon arrival it was completely dark. We got to our accommodations without really seeing anything (street lights aren’t exactly priority) and awoke the next morning to absolute culture shock. After a brief orientation we headed out to the garbage dump to do a weekly ministry with the Iris Center.
The garbage dump does not have bears as ours does, it has families. Whole families live and work in the garbage. The children take care of each other and the parents find garbage. Garbage to eat, garbage to sell, garbage to wear. I watched a 4 year old carrying his toddler sister around and I thought of our 4 year old and if he had ever carried his 2 year old sister in his life. It broke our hearts. We played with them, sang songs with them and held them. They do know that the center is up the road and each day the kids are able to come and get lunch there as well as see a Doctor if necessary.After the dump we were in a bit of a haze and frankly couldn’t fathom that we were just eating crepes in Paris. It was all so surreal!
We then went to the center and were overwhelmed by what they had. By our standards it’s not a lot but by Malagasy standards it’s wealth. The kids at the Iris center each have their own bed. They live in rooms of 6 kids and 2 house parents that work one day on one day off. This is to create a sense of family and reduce the sense of institution. Each meal the kids had was balanced. I was especially relieved to see that. Breakfast was similar to what I would feed my kids; oatmeal and a piece of fruit. Their snack was yogurt (which they pay a couple of local women to make fresh each day). Lunch and dinner is always rice (which this half Japanese girl was very happy with), a piece of meat (often mystery meat to me but always tasty), and veggies.
Dan and I were able to meet our sponsor child, Luca and it was such a blessing! He was really shy at first and without the language we could really only play to communicate but he came out of his shell quickly and we played for a week! We brought 20 soccer balls! Which a wonderful fundraiser from our church and Nutriva Group helped us buy. They are special balls designed for 3rd world countries so they don’t pop. The kids were ecstatic and grabbed the balls as I expected they would but then each did something completely unexpected. Each child came to thank us. I was moved and thankful for what an amazing job Iris has done with these kids. Every single child in the center has come from neglect but more devastatingly from abuse that we wouldn’t even think of.
I thought these kids would be withdrawn, entitled, greedy, and basic. I thought that would be how a human would need to adapt to survive such circumstances. I was wrong. These kids are the least entitled kids I’ve ever met (our Canadian kids could learn something from them), they loved us lavishly and unashamedly. Each day I was met by hugs and kids hanging all over me. These kids are something to live up to. These kids changed my life and way of thinking. They are not rising to orphan standards they are soaring to any height they dream of. One child was offered a position with an elite French soccer team. They can do anything the want to.
We didn’t come away with a grand plan of how to help but with a true understanding of Iris Ministries motto, ‘Stop for the One’. Stopping to sponsor the one child, to love each child, to keep each child safe the way we would our own, that is where we can help. They will help their own country because they understand it and they are capable of it. Dan and I left Madagascar having seen it’s good and it’s bad but being hopeful for the country and for the kids that we met and being thankful for our country, government (no matter which party is in control in Ottawa!), and the safety we enjoy.
– Amanda O’Reilly