The first time I ever went to visit an orphanage we were going to spend our spring break in the Dominican Republic. Donny was a freshman in high school and Jack was five. I had never in my life been to a third world environment. It was a shock going from upscale Scottsdale AZ to the neighborhood outside Haiti. When we were going my first instinct was to bring as many wonderful gifts to the kids as I could collect. I had a strong urge to give them “things”. People from our church left all sorts of great toys on our porch the week before our trip and when we delivered it we saw it all go into storage because the children already had so much.
Ouch. We spent the week not playing with things, but developing relationship, and sharing love and laughter. That was my first lesson in orphan care, they don’t need things, and they just need my smile and my whole heart. We read a lot of books together. They taught us how to make kites from trash. They showed us how to make a car from the junkyard treasures.
Now as I am on the other side of the equation and I meet people who want to help with our kids they too have the strong urge to shower the children with things. My hope is to direct those urges towards the sorts of things that will help them grow and develop their minds. This is why there are three things on the list: books, dvds, and legos. The good news about these items is they can be shared by all so there’s no problems with sixteen kids crying “mine!”. (ok, soccer balls too…)
In our home Kiah is training the children to read to each other. So now when she is not around they do it without thinking much about it. I can’t express how happy that makes me. Two nights a week they get to watch movies and it’s their favorite activity. While I was there they couldn’t get enough of the Princess Bride. I am hoping they will be like our family and begin quoting lines from that movie all through life. (“as you wish” is my favorite, I wish someone would follow me around and tell me “as you wish”)
The legos are the most fascinating item for them. Hours and hours they spend huddled together searching for the right piece building any toy their minds can imagine. I brought books with ideas for lego creations and it sent their creativity soaring. They become so proud of what they make. Dickson built a house that was so detailed he said, “this is the kind of house I want for myself some day.” His smile was full of dreaming wonder. When they finish their creation they come find me and shyly want me to see their new treasure. Of course I have to take their picture with it and they feel so important. The other children are inspired by what each of them can create and a healthy competition develops.
As a mom of boys who were lego crazy their whole lives it is a great blessing to me to see how universal the activity is. Each time I visit Uganda Jack packs up a couple of Ziploc bags full of fun legos from his own stash. When I present them the children pounce with glee and sort through to see what’s new. Then they are occupied for as long as they can go without having to do chores.
I am suggesting if anyone out there wants to bless our kids in our home gather up some legos and put them into gallon sized ziplocs and send them to me with a photo and a note from you. No amount of toys could be better than that for them. They think they are so spoiled because they have legos to play with and considering they once had only nature to play with for toys surely they are spoiled.
I think of Andy from the toy story movie and how he was off to college no longer needing his favorite toys. He gave them new life by giving them to a little girl with a big imagination. If you and your friends have kids who are able to collect up used legos and donate them to our children’s home, trust me, the new life they will experience will look like cars, planes, homes, and spaceships. And they will teach the children that with a little imagination and perseverance anything is possible. Tell me, what “thing” is better than that?
If I were Buttercup and Wesley was following me around I would ask him to fetch me some books and legos for our children in Uganda. And he would say, “as you wish”. There may be a short bald guy saying, “inconceivable” but trust me, it is possible for a child in America to pack up some legos and for children in Uganda ot receive them with great joy! Clothing is easy to buy second hand there. Who needs candy when they can suck on sugar cane? And other toys get ruined, but a good story with beautiful pictures will stay with them in their minds forever. The sense of accomplishment when they build a great creation with legos is indeed photo worthy. And the little bricks are indestructible.We even ran over one with the van and it was fine.
If you are interested in donating legos or books to our children, contact me and I can give you the shipping information. firstname.lastname@example.org
I will hand deliver them on my next visit.