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The Hotpec Orphanage

Looking back at some of our favourite moments in Cameroon.

The priority of our visit next month to Cameroon, Africa will be the orphanages and schools of Buea. I’ve been visiting this area for many years, and as we prepare for our trip I’d like to share some of my favourite blog entries with you – reminding our long time supporters and introducing new ones to the projects that are closest to my heart. Below is the story of my first visit to the Hotpec Orphanage. Since this visit there has been much progress at Hotpec and the conditions have greatly improved. Revisiting one of my earliest encounters really highlights the amazing work that we’ve accomplished over the years.

My visit to this orphanage is almost too much to bear—91 abandoned children living in absolute squalor. The babies are in one room, crammed into the few cots that are available. Most of them are docile and lethargic; many seem to shrink from human contact. I can’t tell if this is due to malnutrition or a conditioned response (probably a combination of both). The rest of the children are separated into two small rooms, one for boys and one for girls. They sleep four to a bed, with no sheets, no electricity and often no food.

hotpec nursery

In Cameroon, all children must pay to attend school, and this orphanage earns tuition money through sponsorships and also raising chickens to sell at market. I find an older boy alone in his bed, trying to study in the twilight, desperate for an education, because he knows that is his only hope for a future. Twenty-seven of these children, some of them as young as five-years-old, walk one hour to and from school every day.

hotpec boys

 

By six o’clock at night, the area is submerged in complete darkness. The headmaster is hoping that electricity will help protect against two main threats of the orphanage: dangerous animals and being abducted.

hotpec ext

Meals are cooked in a barn that is more of a shack, and this is where I find the girl. She’s scraping old rice and dirt from a bowl and spooning it hungrily into her mouth. I pick her up as I would my daughter, but this little girl is much more delicate and fragile than any child I’ve held. I can actually feel the lack of density in her bones. She clings to me, craving human interaction and revelling in my touch.

Something about this little girl pierces my heart and speaks to my soul.

I can’t put her down, even when Ryan comes to get me, telling me it’s time to go. She begs me to keep holding her and I’m in tears as I drag myself away. I do not want to be that person. The one who abandons her, again.

Docas

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