"Eres la Madriña de Jessica", the girls and one of the directors tell me. I am confused because I think this means I am her adopted mother, or that I should/will adopt her in the near future. The subject of taking her has been raised numerous times by some of the older girls in the last few days. I have managed to get baby Jessica a 40 pack of pampers, another 2 litres of milk, and on Monday I am bringing lotion for her dried out face. "Si, Madriña", I answered hoping I did not just commit myself to some unkonown and impossible situation. Then as we spoke further some of the pieces of Jessicas life began to fall into place.
I have noticed that another woman who seems quite vacant, as though she were on drugs or ill, has been around the orphanage. She cleans dishes, hangs laundry, and once I have seen her feed Jessica broth. As it turns out that is her mother! They found her with Jessica and her son (who is also at the orphanage) on the street with Jessica sitting on the sidewalk buck naked in her own urine. This woman when asked does not want to give Jessica up for adoption; although, she is completely mentally ill (and I suspect mentally handicapped based on her interactions). Truly it is heartbreaking. The problem is that Peruvian orphanages are not state run. The folks who run them receive some funding but there are no guidelines like we have in the states. Therefore, the conditions between programs can be vastly different from really well run to very poor and disorganize (mine falls in the latter camp). Even so I can tell the director wishes that Jessicas mother would let her go to another family as she is severly underdeveloped, and this woman is completely incapable of caring for her child.
My fellow volunteer Jon has been amazing and now every 13 year old girl in the place has a serious crush on him (which I love to tease him about). But then again how many of them have watched a man clean a kitchen floor by hand with a wet towel and then help them with their chemistry homework? Since we had such a great time playing kick ball in the dirt alleyway that runs along side the orphanage Jon finds out that there is a park we can take the kids to next week. He suggests we become startegic in our plans for following week to which I wholeheartedly concur. Monday we plan to take the kids to the park which will cost 20 Soles. I am going to buy a bunch of tooth brushes so we can teach them about dental hygeine, and today on our trip to Machu Pichu we are going to work up a plan for structured English lessons with the younger kids.
The last several days have been both rewarding and frustrating. I have learned phrases in Quetchuan, kids card tricks, laughed a lot and been able to tease the kids even with the language barriers, received 6 hand made cards from the girls saying how much they love their "hermanita Shanne", held baby Jessica in my arms as she feel asleep two nights in a row, and watched Jessica laugh, practice walking, and feed herself two pieces of fruit. I have had the pleasure of working with Jon who has brought the children watermelon among many other gifts, but more importantly his never ending enthusiasm and love. Unfortunately I have also seen my first 2 litres of milk spoil as it was left out all night, the birthday cake hoarded and not completely gone after the party, no diapers for Jessica, and discovered that Jessicas mother is, as they say in Spanish, an imbecil.
However in the end I am glad to be Jessicas as well as the other childrens Madriña, because after all it is a wonderful gift to be given the title of Godmother.
*To see a picture of Jessica check out my Face Book page at Shannon Kinnie Foster