Monsters and Dust

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Day 5

Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror this morning, I can't remember anything I'd been stressed out about in New York before I came here. Or, what I can remember, I can't fathom as being very worrisome anymore.

Today we first head to an orphans' school where we distribute bags of VitaMeal to the students and the villagers with whom the children live. It does not take long for word to spread that there is food, and soon the twenty long, orderly lines with hands outstretched, swell to double, triple the number. And so we keep handing out food, taking armloads down from the beds of pickup trucks as fast as we can, becoming dusty with porridge mix from leaky bags. When we finally finish and drive to our next destination, we follow a stream of people holding their food aloft on the long walk home.

Our final stop on this trip is the Home of Hope, the orphanage that Madonna is adopting her children from. The problem, I learn, with what Madonna is doing, and why there has been more than the accustomed amount of fuss about her adoptions, is that the orphanage system simply isn't built for that here. “Being an orphan is a temporary problem,” says Father Chipetas, the founder of the Home of Hope and an orphan himself. He expects every one of the orphans to get an education here and then go out into the world and make something of themselves when they're of age. When someone like Madonna comes in, twice, to adopt children, there instead emerges a hope in the community that others like her will do the same, and simply transport these kids to a better life. This could prompt a huge influx of children into orphanages, dropped off there in the hopes of securing a future for them outside of this poverty-stricken place. It would totally overwhelm an already struggling system — and there simply aren't two million Madonnas coming to Malawi any time soon.