Saturday, October 17, 2009

Christmas in October

Today's task was to prepare a Christmas package for Mirriam, our sponsor child in Zimbabwe.

Last year, the orphanage sponsored by our church didn't get their gifts on time, so this year we're sending them even earlier. The package will go out on Monday, in hopes that it will reach them by 12/24.

There are many rules about what we can and cannot send, or say in our letters. We can't send anything of value, so I can't pack Mirriam a pretty bracelet or necklace, because the customs agents will take it. We can't send the children any money, because the officials will take it. Last year, the inflation rate there reached 231 million percent, meaning prices doubled every 24 hours, and the government stopped releasing year-on-year data at that time. Since then, some small stabilization has occurred, but the desperation and corruption is still so severe that officials will still stoop to stealing gifts, money and food from the children it is addressed to. If we mention anything remotely political in the letters we send, the entire package would be destroyed, and the orphanage could be put in danger.

That limits our abillity to send any real presents to the individual children we sponsor pretty severely. We can each only send an envelope so the package won't be too large. This time, I packed a musical card with letters from Josie and I, photos, slim headbands, stickers, nail decals, and a few other flat things. The school will also receive money to purchase things that the children would like, but are too large to ship.

I would like to be able to write to her more often, so she knows that we really do care about her, rather than just seeing her as some charity project. The things that I can't say to her in these letters, that we know how hard it is for them, that we want to help them have better lives, that we know how unfair and suffocating and frightening their government is, make me feel that my letters are silly bits of fluff. It doesn't seem enough to wish this child, who watched her mother die as they fled fighting in theri village, a merry holiday. It is hard to tell her about is and our lives without simultaneously, unintentionally flaunting our gross prosperity.

Sometimes I wonder what will happen when she is grown and too old for the orphanage. Will we still hear from her? Would she want to leave Zimbabwe? Our church does mission trips every year to the children's village, which is in a compound with other similar schools. I hope to be able to go when our children are older, and meet Mirriam. What would I do if she told me that she wanted to come here? Would that even be possible?

I don't have any unrealistic expectations of swooping in and being a savior to this girl and her sister. I know that if such a thing ever did happen, it would be a very difficult time of transition for everyone, and may be downright impossible. I do know, though, that when she is grown, if she wants to come to university here, there would be no way I could tell her, this girl whose photos and letters are on my refrigerator, that I would not do my best to help.


d e v a n said...

Wow - that is so sad! I didn't know how corrupt and smothering the gov't is there!

desperate housewife said...

The kind of mentality you'd have to have to steal food and gifts from orphans is pretty mind boggling. It's just a whole different world there, really- that's all I can think to avoid wanting to KILL mean people like that.
I sure hope you get to see Mirriam some day. I'm sure she knows you care for her.

Not Your Aunt B said...

Wow. I did not know it was that bad there. These are children. I hope they achieve more stabilization so you can communicate with her more frequently and get her more valuable items that she needs.

justsomethoughts... said...

but good for you that you make the effort to figure out what might fly under the radar.
it's such a warm feeling to get something - however small - that says you care.

lastchanceivf said...

That's so great what you're doing for her..I am sure your letters, however 'fluffy' you might feel they are, are worth gold to her. And maybe, just one day, she can come here.