Monday, September 16, 2013

More Adventures in Yako

August 16th.
Today marks almost one week in Yako and over a week in Burkina. I must
say, I’m adjusting well! On a daily basis I discover a new (HUGE) bug
beneath my bed (yesterday it was a scorpion! Yep…), but it hardly
phases me now! I also don’t notice the thick layer of dirt and mud
covering my feet, legs and arms anymore. Since it is rain season here,
the red dirt covering the majority of Yako quickly turns to mud. I’ve
quickly made friends with the young boys at the orphanage and they
come to my door daily around 3 yelling “Em-ill-lee, come and play!” in
their thick accents. They could play soccer for hours and are
impressed by my ability to shoot and play goalie. Only about 3 of them
speak any English, but we are able to communicate pretty well! It can
be frustrating for all of us when they try to explain something to me,
but we’re figuring it out. I don’t typically last too long out in the
scorching African sun. I can play for about 2 hours, and then I’m
sweating to death, burnt to a crisp and covered completely in red
African mud. I love it.
The rest of my day is spent helping Amy and Mike with different
projects (either for the orphanage, school or the TOMS shoes
distributions) and playing with the babies. The babies (ranging from
infant – 5 years old) spend their days outside in a shaded, covered,
cement-floored play pin of sorts. They have a schedule that I'm
quickly learning, and I help as much as I can. The nannies (tonties)
don’t speak English, and only very little French so it can be a
challenge to communicate anything to them, but I’m picking up quickly
on the do’s and do-not’s. Starting this week, I will be pulling
children out to have one-on-one time with them. I have a schedule with
all of children on it and different age-appropriate activities that we
will be doing! Things like beading, puzzles, dress-up, bubbles,
side-walk chalk and more! I am SO excited to start this. I love the
idea of giving these sweet babies individual attention.

Last Saturday I got to participate in my first TOMS shoes
distribution. It was pretty amazing. We passed out close to 500 shoes
to children ages 4-15 (which really ended up being ages 2-18, but that
was the goal!) who can’t afford shoes of their own. This was only ONE
village out in the Bush. Kids just kept showing up out of nowhere! I
was in awe. At around 9:00, Avance (an older boy who was one of the
first orphans at the orphanage) gives a small talk about hygiene to
all of the children. He talks about the importance of wearing shoes to
prevent disease and sickness, and about the importance of washing your
hands and feet (something a LOT of these children don't know!).  Mike
and Amy are trying to center each distribution around the local
village church, so that the children don’t think it’s just the
Americans giving shoes, and so that they will reach out to the church
if they have a need in the future. Once Avance finished his lesson,
the children are individually sized and fit for shoes. I was one of
the shoe fitters. Children come in one at a time with their size
written on a piece of paper and once I have the appropriate size, I
would try it on their feet. It was remarkable how many children had no
idea how to put on a close-toed shoe. Many of them have NO shoes at
all, but the ones who DO have shoes usually wear very poorly made
plastic sandals. I remember putting the shoes on one little girl in
particular. She sat down and stared at me (many of these children have
never seen a white person before! We were deep in the African Bush).
Her feet were scarred from years of harsh exposure to the rocky
ground. When I got the shoes on her feet she smiled the widest smile
I’ve seen and grasped my hands, repeating “Merci, Merci, Merci!!!” And
although I had NO idea how to tell her “you’re welcome” or “you are SO
LOVED” I hugged her and I knew  she understood. In that moment I was
so grateful to be part of such a wonderful cause! We were able to
distribute close to 500 shoes. We were able to improve the quality of
life for close to 500 children. Now that’s pretty incredible! It’s
pretty neat to be on THIS side of the TOMS company. To see first hand
how they give the shoes back. Next Saturday we go back out to do the
same thing all over again. My hands will again be COVERED in dirt and
SO sore from stretching shoes onto feet, but it will be SO worth it.
And, just a little information I learned about the TOMS distributions:
They provide shoes for the SAME villages every 6 months- so that these
children always have shoes that fit their growing feet! Also, the
shoes we passed out are a bit different than the ones we buy in the
states- they have rubber soles on them, as to withstand the African
terrain. And these shoes are only given to children who cannot
purchase them for themselves, as to not take business away from local
I’m sure I missed about a million details, but there’s just no way to
accurately capture it in words. I will have pictures soon, so maybe
that will help.
I’m looking forward to my two “roommates” showing up tomorrow! I’m
ready to not be alone in this big house! I’m sure I will have more
stories about our wild African adventures soon.


Rebecca Gafner said...

Just sat and got caught up on your blogs! Loved reading every single word! You are such a beautiful and gifted writer! SO proud of your whole journey thus far and CAN'T WAIT to hear more! Love you so very much! Hugs and kisses to you! Ps,I'm going out right now and buying some TOMS! SO AWESOME!

Ms. Barbara said...

Oh my goodness, Emily. I was doing pretty good reading your post until I got to the part of the little girl thanking you for the shoes and I just LOST it. What a blessing you are to these children, what a blessing you've been to our children. Thank you for being such a willing vessel to be used by the Lord. I'm loving following your adventure and if we must be honest, a little envious. Please keep sharing! Love, hugs, and prayers. Barbara

Images by Freepik