Aimlessly Down Some Dirt Road  (#1)

I took an excursion today, intent on giving out the 65 lbs of clothing that I brought over.  My plan  was to drive into town and hand out to the street kids.  As I was driving, I thought that maybe it wouldn't be such a good idea to start handing out clothing in town, attracting a crowd and maybe starting a frenzy in the process.  So, I turned away from town, not having a clue as to where I would go but knowing that the right place would reveal itself.  15 minutes later I ended up in a small township called Epworth, which is an area that has this amazing landscape of balancing rocks EVERYWHERE around it.  I'm talking massive balancing rock croppings for as far as you can see.

I turned off aimlessly onto some dirt road and kept going.  I was thinking I would find some little community and just hand out the clothes to a few households.  Of course everyone was staring at me as I drove by, giving me this look of 'what is this murungu (white man) doing out here' and then waving with big smiles and faces all lit up when I put my hand up to say hello.

So I'm driving down this long dirt road when I come across this really old madala walking alone.  I stop and offer him a ride.  It takes a minute for him to figure out that I'm offering him a ride and not asking for directions.  "Where do you want to go" he keeps asking me.  I tell him "I have no idea, but I'm going that way (pointing down the dirt road), do you want a lift?"  Surprised and looking a bit confused he jumps in.  "So where do you want to go" he asks again.  I tell him "I'm going where you're going" and then he just looks at me and says "Oh.  So let's go straight."   We drove and talked for a little while and then turned off onto another "road" that didn't really look as if it had been driven in a long time.  There was deep water erosion which made it more of a 4-wheel drive situation.....which I didn't have.  Nevertheless, after some slow and precise navigating we finally pulled up to this little gate with a couple small buildings down a driveway at the very edge of the township. Behind the buildings and on either side were these balancing rocks scattered for miles....the scene was amazing.

I give the guy a shirt from my bag of clothes, he says a heart felt thanks and walks off.  As he's walking away into the rock garden, another man is walking up the dirt driveway in a suit and cap.  I'm backing up and I see this suited chappy now jogging towards me.  I'm assuming he needs a ride and since we're a long ways from anywhere I wait for him.  He jumps in (with the classic Zimbabwean smile that makes you feel as if you've just met the happiest person in the world) and introduces himself, "I'm Mr. Maulana and this is my school".  Whoa.  "That's a school?" I ask in disbelief.  "Yes!" he says (and now not only is he the happiest person in the world, he's the proudest). 

Turns out it's a school for orphans.  We get out of the car and he introduces me to his family and gives me a tour of the school. He and his wife started the Maulana Primary & Secondary School (and orphanage) four years ago when they realized that there were hundreds of orphans and other children who had no means to go to school and in fact no school to go to in the community.  So they got a "Protective Custody" license from the city and opened the school.  Now they tell me there are as many as 1,600 kids in the community that come there, with 13 teachers volunteering their time.  Okay, so the math on that is just a bit mind boggling.  I'm thinking that they meant 1600 over the four years they've been open....but even that is ridiculous!  They've got a garden, a natural spring, a "theater", a parking lot (which is hilarious because I just don't see any wheeled traffic coming there), a kitchen, bathroom and 3-4 little classrooms.  They talk of all the plans they have for expansion, but with the economic situation in the country at present, their plans are on hold.

What gets me is how positive and dedicated they seem, despite the overwhelming reality of the situation.  The Maulanas still possess that glow in their eyes. The number of orphans in the country has risen exponentially over the last couple of years with the AIDS epidemic.  Apparently orphanages are over capacity virtually everywhere throughout the country....especially near the city. What the Maulanas have done with next to nothing seems astounding.

So I gave them all the clothes that I had and asked that they give me a wish list of things they really needed for the school (confessing that I wasn't with some big organization with deep pockets, but that I'd help where I could).  The list included the obvious....pens, pencils, paper and exercise books, as well as blankets, tarps and gas lamps (they have no electricity).  The big Jesus painted on the outside of the main building made it pretty obvious that their school was a Christian based organization, so I wasn't surprised when they asked if they could pray with me.  They were so stoked!  When asked how I had come to find them, if I had seen their school sign, I said "No, I was just driving, turned down a dirt road, picked up a guy who needed a lift and he directed me to your gate."  They threw up their hands, made all kinds of gestures to the sky and then informed me that God had directed me there. I couldn't really was pretty crazy how I came to be there.

I gave Mr. Maulana a ride back out to the main road and to his church, where he tried to invite me in (there were a few hundred people sitting out in the yard of the church having mass where we pulled up).  He wanted to introduce me and tell everyone what I had done.  I told him that I was late for lunch back home and had to get going (I wasn't about to get paraded out in front of a few hundred people).  We shook hands, he 'God bless'd me and I promised that he'd see me again within one week.  5 hours had gone by since I left the house....of course I didn't mention the first hour or two where I stopped off to play foosball with some of the township locals.

Crazy what can happen when you drive aimlessly down some dirt road.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

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Maulana School for Orphans
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