Today is the 26th Anniversary of the existence of the children’s ward at Hermano Pedro. The nurses have been preparing for this for weeks, and in a way I’m glad it’s finally here so many things will get back to normal. I can’t help but wonder what this place would be like if the workers put as much effort into everyday care as they do into special celebrations.
|Nurse working on decorations for celebration while the kids are in bed|
The orphanage is not a horrible place. As Dick reminds me, many of these kids would not be alive if it were not for Hermano Pedro. The people working here are not horrible people. The longer I’m here the more I see the real affection most of the caregivers have for most of the kids. But there are horrible things that are done here.
Not the active abuse we sometimes hear about in homes in the US—but a kind of “passive abuse” by clinging to ineffective and sometimes harmful practices for the sake of “tradition.” I know the caregivers believe their ways are the best (at least for them). I cringe, however, every time I pick up a bottle to feed a kid, knowing that if I’m not careful, I’m just as apt to pour the liquid down the child’s airway as I am their esophagus. I often bring in nipples with smaller holes and use these when I feed a child, but that only addresses the problem for those particular children on that particular day. I want to scream every time I hear a kid choking from the liquid flowing too quickly—and it’s getting worse for me, not better. The more I get to be friends with the caregivers, the harder it is for me to watch them do things that I believe are harmful to the kids. I like these women, I know they care, and I believe they are sometimes dead wrong.
The American in me, wants to confront this directly and forcefully. But I’ve seen others try that, and believe me, it only makes things worse. The last thing to do is come in as a foreigner and try to tell the nationals to change things they’ve been doing the same way for decades. But I am not Guatemalan enough to be content with the status quo. I DO want change, but am not sure how to bring it about. It seems like some of the staff who have been fighting for years are just tired and overwhelmed by what they have to do each day. So I pray, asking for not knowledge of what is best, but wisdom in how to initiate changes. I’m beginning to think that the only way to get the nurses to try something different is to appeal to our friendship. . .but that only works when I’m physically there. Come, Lord Jesus, into this situation. . .come in Your power and authority. . .change us all (both the nationals and the Americans) to do what You know is best for the kids. Help us remember it’s not about us, it’s about Your children.
I also went upstairs to malnutrition to see Jessica/Vanessa. Every time I see her, I marvel that she is still alive, she is so frail. Every time I see her she is absolutely alert and usually active. I fear she burns every calorie she consumes. But she’s a fighter, and it’s a good thing, or she probably still wouldn’t be alive. Mom had called first thing this morning, to make sure I was going to check on her daughter. . .the more I talk to Mom, the more I realized how very difficult this is for her. It was so nice to call her back and tell her Jessica is eating and sleeping, and seems content enough. It was great fun, to hold her and play with her and discover that she babbles when she’s content. Again, something I didn’t expect, but was delighted to discover. I can’t bare the thought of leaving this little one for two weeks, though I know Dick will be checking on her. I’m hoping I won’t recognize her when I get back, because she will have gained so much weight!