I recently travelled to Congo to visit not only Mwana Villages in Pointe-Noire but also to travel to the newly opened Mwana Refuge: Nkayi. Bear in mind: I lived in Congo for the past 5 years and am familiar with the surroundings, the culture (and the smells). To me, my trip felt like coming home. This time in Congo was different than before, for now I could see all this love and beauty around me. Living in Congo had made me feel hopeless at times: there is so much poverty, corruption and too many people who all need help. Where do you start and where do you stop, if stopping to help is even an option?
But on this trip though…I saw transformations. Mwana Villages is not your typical orphanage. Let me tell you why. Four years ago, I wrote these words:
“He was more dead than alive and weighed nothing, and on the trip back to Mwana in the car we just kept staring at him. So tiny, so incredibly tiny and malnourished. We thought he was a premature baby. He came from a different orphanage, one where they could barely look after all the children let alone the sick ones. So they gave us two of the sick ones. A baby boy and a little girl, both very sick.”
The little girl I wrote about has grown up to be a spunky little thing with so much energy. She was adopted two years ago by a Congolese woman and is now living in France. She is doing great and looks happy, healthy and full of life again.
In that very crucial time where she didn’t have this new mama, she desperately needed to be loved, and the Mwana mamas—and papas!—where there to give unconditional love.
The little boy I wrote about…he spent many weeks in the hospital after he was taken from the other orphanage, where we discovered he was not a premature newborn, but an 8 month old baby! Now four years later, I was able to see Exaucé again, full of life and healthy and strong. Let me tell you about that joyful reunion.
As I walked through the Mwana gate, I heard the big kids laughing and playing and before I knew it, they recognized me from my hundreds of days there as a volunteer and were all over me. It makes me so incredibly happy that these children ended up here at Mwana, where they are loved and taught how to be a child. And this little boy is not so little any more, as he proudly showed me his new dance moves.
Finally, I visited the Mwana Refuge: Nkayi where Mamam Rebecca is currently living and looking after Merveille (a handicapped girl who is now in the care of Mwana). As if it was meant to be, we even found the prefect wheelchair for Merveille, whose world just opened up significantly by now being mobile. Merveille is understanding more and more instructions from Mamam Rebecca; she climbs out if bed herself to then make her way to the bathroom, she understands when being washed how to move to make this easier for Mamam Rebecca. She eats by herself and is able to drink independently from a bottle and she has gained weight. Most importantly, she is gentle and kind. This is nothing like the girl I met four years ago who would hit anyone or anything in her anger and frustration. But love transforms.
“It is getting really annoying Cecile?” my friend Margot asks me.
"What do you mean?” I ask.
“You have this constant smile on your face from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to bed!”
That pretty much sums up my recent trip to Congo…It was a trip full of love! And it reminded me to focus on the good that is happening instead of dwelling on the unfair in Congo.
Bisous et à la prochaine, my Congo family!