I am the web developer here at the Alpha Children's Home and I live in the United States (Not Guyana). About 2 months ago my mom and I went down to the Alpha Children's Home in Guyana, South America to get updated photos, videos, and biographies of the children to update our website with. Our founders provided me with partial information on some of the children; however, several new children have been added in the past few years. I had unsuccessfully tried before to retrieve update photos, videos, and biographies for all 32 children before but our founders were so busy running this orphanage that they did not have time to provide me the information I had requested. I finally decided to go down to Guyana myself (along with my mother, to assist me) and get the information I had requested Myself. I went August 5 of this year for one week. Here's what we did.
We arrived in the capital of Guyana, Georgetown at approximately 8 am. As we flew in, we were struck with the beauty of the area. There was a "Welcome to Guyana" sign made out of the bushes. The weather was hot but not unbearable. We were greeted by Pastor Lucius, the co-founder of Alpha Children's Home. Immediately we were shocked at the fact that we were driving on the opposite side of the road. In fact, when my Mom got into the car at the airport, she instinctively got into the right side of the car. In America, she would have been getting into the passenger side; however, in Guyana, she was shocked to find the steering wheel in front of her. She quickly moved over to the other side.
Pastor Lucius took us first to exchange our American currency for Guyanese currency. This was done at the local market by a man on the side of the road. It was quite amazing seeing the open air markets. There were little children walking around everywhere. One little boy and girl were selling a local fruit called Genips. The little boy sold the fruit while the little girl trailed behind him with a basket for customers who wanted to sample the merchandise prior to purchasing. The basket was for the customer to dispose of the seed and casing of the fruit. The fruit in Guyana is amazing. The pineapples there are long, skinny and delicious. They also have a fruit there, I forgot what it's called but after research its been figured out that if inhaled the juices of this fruit are better than chemotherapy. We saw one at the market that was $3,000 Guyanese dollars which is like $15 american dollars. We were going to get some but Pastor Lucius said he wouldn't pay more than $1700 Guyanese dollars for one ($8.50 in America). It was so expensive in Guyana because of the research results.
We purchased two large cokes and a beverage for Pastor Lucius. To our surprise, it cost us less than $1, 000 Guyanese dollars. That is less than $5 USD. It took us a little while to adjust to the currency difference. At the market, Pastor Lucius showed us some local fruits and vegetables. Some fruits were purchased to eat right away while others we took back to the home.
Before leaving Georgetown, Mom wanted to go see a local grocery store. Our host took us to a local grocery store that resembled an American grocery store. It was interesting to see the store. The costs were very reasonable compared to those of America. We were also taken to a local restaurant to get something to eat and to freshen up. Pastor Lucius stopped and got some rolls from a bakery for the children.
Afterwards we drove to the orphanage which took approximately two hours. The orphanage is located in a town called New Amsterdam, one of the largest towns in Guyana. New Amsterdam is located in the East Berbice-Corentyne region. This is 62 miles from the capital, Georgetown.
The trip to the orphanage was very interesting. We saw animals walking alongside the road along with people. I was shocked to see animals mingling with people on the roads. Sometimes we came across cows right along side of the highway. I was afraid they would get hit. We saw many roadside markets. In addition, one thing that struck us was how many roadside fruit stands we saw in front of people's homes. People would set up fruit stands in front of their homes to sell the fruit that grew on the fruit trees in their yards. It was quite an amazing sight.
We saw many homes with different colored flags in front of them. Pastor Lucius told us that the homes with the flags were HIndu homes. It was something to see. Right beside the Hindu homes, there were Muslim mosques. Mom was amazed to see the Muslims and Hindus living right beside each other.
When we arrived at the home, all the kids ran out and yelled "Daddy" as they hurried to hug Pastor Lucius. The children were very helpful. They rushed to take our bags out of the car and into our room. Before we headed up to go get settled in our room, we were greeted by many of the children in the home. Once we got semi-settled in, we were taken on a tour of the home and introduced to the other children and to Auntie Joyce, one of the house mothers.
The children all speak English. In fact, English is the official language of Guyana. The children, though, speak with a very strong accent. To my uncultured ear it sort of sounds like a Jamaican accent but it is slightly different. Most of the children, especially those of Indo-Guyanese ethnic descent (Guyana's is chiefly comprised of individuals of African, Indian, and Amerindian descent) seem to have difficulties pronouncing the "th" sound. The speak very fast and use many English words and phrases in unique ways. For instance, all shoes and footwear are termed "boots". One "cuts off" the lights. One does not "turn" them off. The children are somewhat used to visitors from the United States so when speaking to Americans, they tend to slow their speech patterns down a little. They all seemed to have no difficulties at all understanding me but I had some difficulties understanding all that they said. After awhile, though, my ear got accustomed to their speech and their unique colloquialisms and I was able to understand them much better.
The orphanage has electricity and running water but the water pressure there isn't very good. Also, water is only available from the town system at periodic intervals. For that reason, they get their water from big tanks and reserviors. Each tank can hold 100 gallons and they had 4 huge tanks plus a reservior that can hold up to 24,000 gallons of water. So their maximum storage capacity for water is about 24,400 gallons! But they barely have enough water saved up to fill that. They rely on the little bit of water that gets pumped out by the city at periodic points in the day and rain water. They use the water to supplement the town's sparse and irregular supply. They use rain water to wash their hair and flush their toilets. As water is not in abundance, the children too have learned to conserve it. This was illustrated painfully to me later in the week when my mother and I traveled to Georgetown with Davika and Rakesh, an Indo-Guyanese sibling set (8 yrs old and 6 yrs old respectively). When brushing their teeth or taking a shower, they immediately turn the water off when not using it. My mind flashed back to life in New Jersey. At home, I often would let the shower run full blast BEFORE even getting undressed to get into it. We are so wasteful. I feel somewhat ashamed.
The older boys live a little bit up the street from the main Alpha home. They live there with one of the workers who assists them with their daily needs. The older boys live there because they have medical issues such as physical disabilities, autism, deafness, etc. Pastor and Mrs. Bruyning have them stay at the house because if they left Alpha, there would be no where for them to go but the streets to beg for money or worse. The Bruynings do not want harm to befall them therefore they stay at Alpha. Eventually , Pastor Lucius would like to have their home closer to the main house. He is hopeful to someday be able to purchase property near the main house so that they can all be together.
The children were excited to show us their rooms. They were very proud of their rooms. I took pictures of them in their rooms. They took great pride in making sure their beds were made. The kids love pictures and cameras. They love to take the camera and video camera and take pictures/videos of each other. When you take pictures and video everyone wants to take some too. When you look at pictures of video its a big affair, everyone crowds around you too look at the pictures with you. Sammy (Samuel Murray) was like the protector. He made sure the kids are doing what they were supposed to be doing and told me to watch out when taking pictures out in the open because everyone would want to use my camera and he didn't want that. I had to laugh because anytime you asked the girls if you could take a picture of them, they all struck the same pose. It was very cute.
We opened some of the toys and went outside to play with the children. A big hit with the children was catch with a ball and two saucers. The children took turns playing. We played with them and then stopped and took pictures of them playing. The older kids played with Mom's camera. They took the camera with her permission and ran off taking pictures of each other.
Later Auntie Joyce and Elizabeth, one of the older girls made dinner. Auntie Joyce takes care of cooking all the meals for the children. She runs a very efficient kitchen. Auntie Joyce took her food last after all the children had been served. We later discovered that she does this at every meal. Her first priority was to make sure the children, other workers and guests were fed first. Dinnertime was amazing to watch. It was very well organized. We had curry and rice. We watched a movie while we ate. Although we ate, we were more interested in watching the children. They made sure everyone had their plates before they all bowed their heads and said grace prior to eating. The food was delicious. Mom and I felt right at home with the cuisine.
After dinner, we played games with the children and watched movies in the dinning room which is really an all-purpose room. We took lots of pictures of the children playing games and watching movies. The girls played with Mom's hair and braided it. Many of the girls had long hair. We laughed at the fact that several of the girls love doing people's hair. Parbattie is one of the girls who loves doing people's hair. Parbattie wanted to play with my hair so she made whoever was playing with my hair at the moment stop just so she could play with my hair by herself. She did share playing with my hair. She and Latchmi and Assante and few other girls loved to play with my hair. They would play with the hair on my head and the hair on my legs. Latchmi even said once "It is fun playing with his hair" and Parbattie replied, "I know right?". It was funny. I was amazed at the fact that such simple things brought them such joy. They did not need electronic devices or other gadgets to make them happy. In fact, I did not even hear them say one time that they were bored. That is a phrase echoed in America too often by children of varying ages.
Later that night, we walked around and said good night to the children before we met with Pastor Lucius. He gave us a history of the building and of the orphanage. It was very interesting learning how he and his wife followed God's leading to start this orphanage. We asked him to recount the story again on video tape. We thought people would be interested in learning how someone decides that they want to dedicate his life to running an orphanage.
Mom and I felt so honored and blessed to be able to be at Alpha. You know coming in that there is something different about this home. The love of God is all over. You see the love and compassion in the eyes and in the deeds of the workers, in the interactions between the children and in Pastor Lucius' eyes. The children rush to be with him wherever he is and are very affectionate toward him. He reciprocates. You can tell that he genuinely loves these children.
After our meeting with Pastor Lucius, Mom and I went to bed for the night. The little boys, Daniel, Terrence, Mahendra, Rajunior and Boyo wanted me to sleep in their room. I slept in a spare bed in the boys' room. I was initially afraid that I would not be able to sleep because the boys were still awake when I went to bed. It took a while; however, I did go to sleep. I actually slept very well to my surprise. The busyness of the day tired me out. I could hardly believe that I was in Guyana and at the home. This home has been a part of our lives since 2007. Now I was finally here meeting the children. This was such an amazing feeling.