From time to time, I find myself feeling torn about this organisation.

Sometimes I feel like it has so many minuses that I can’t wait to see the back of it.  There are days when it seems like the place is a total train wreck, or a house of cards that is held together by chewing gum and paper clips.  Any minute, I expect it all to fall apart.  Am I being harsh?  You judge.

First of all, there’s the “boss” and the Big Boss, both of whom have no respect for any of the people who leave their homes in distant countries to come and run their centres.  They have no respect for the people who keep their locations going day after day and year after year.  They have absolutely no regard for the people who work from dawn to dusk for this place.  None.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  I speak from personal experience, of course, but I’ve also seen it in action with my colleagues.  I don’t think anyone escapes an experience with the “boss”; just about everyone has their own story to tell.

And, of course, there are all the critical processes that are dependent on 1 man, who by the way, micromanages everything.  Not a prudent way to run a business of any kind.  What if he keels over?  What then?  Who will step in to take over and how will they know what to do?

Then there are the physical conditions of the centres themselves.  I’ve now been at 2 of them, and I know and have spoken to people who have been at all of the others, save 1.  They are in a disgraceful condition.  You know a place is filthy when there are strings of dirt hanging from the ceiling in some spots because it hasn’t been properly cleaned in so long.  Even the floor, which is swept and wiped every day, isn’t clean.  You know why?  Because only the sections of floor that can be seen are cleaned.  So there’s grossness accumulating in the unseen areas.  Every morning I open my laptop, I have to wipe it down because it’s so dusty.  Every morning.  Why the heck should my laptop be dirty every day?  Because the surroundings have all this hidden dust that is circulating.  I seriously don’t know how someone hasn’t developed asthma yet.

Not only is it unhealthy for people to live in this type of dirt-ridden environment, and not only is it disrespectful to have people leave their clean, well-maintained homes in distant lands and expect them to live like this.  It’s also unwise for an organisation to ignore proper maintenance of its physical assets.

Of course, we can’t ignore the critters.  The lizards, I don’t mind.  Lizards know their place and rarely feel the need to invade humans’ personal space.  How do I know that?  They freeze when you come around, or they scurry away.  I have extensive experience with lizards and 1 has never run at me or tried to climb me.  Not so the numerous cockroaches around here.  Or cockroaches anywhere, for that matter.  But I’ve already talked about that quite a bit so I won’t bother to get into that 1 time the roach tried to climb my leg while I was showering.  And yes, of course, the rats.

Do you know why roaches and rats are unacceptable?  I mean, besides the basic fact that they’re gross and disgusting.  It’s because they carry diseases!  Leptospirosis, anyone?  How about some salmonella or staphylococcus?  No?  Do you want some polio instead? Ya?  Sounds good?  No.  Just, no.

So people leave their good-good homes to spend 1 year living and working in a roach and rat (and in some centres, termite) infested house that’s literally dripping dirt from the ceiling, while being disrespected by the higher-ups.  Paradise.

Those are the HUGE minuses and I know I come across snarky when I say it all, but it’s the raw, honest truth as I see it.  So what am I torn about?

It’s the kids.  It’s the children who come here.  There is absolutely no denying that they’re getting something really valuable from these centres.  These kids are from low-income families and their parents are trying to give them an advantage by sending them here.  And many of them (the ones who are committed, work hard and attend class regularly) get a lot from coming here that they probably wouldn’t get elsewhere, since our classes are absolutely free.  And, of course, the children who live at a couple of the centres benefit greatly from it because their lives may be quite different otherwise.

And there are the local volunteers.  These are the people who give of their time for free every week to come and help us to help these children.  They come and they teach classes and they patiently deal with unruly children.  Some of them go out of their way to help us in so many other ways, extending their hand in kindness, expecting and wanting nothing in return.

The children and the volunteers tip the scale back towards the positive.  I’m not going to lie and say that they manage to outweigh the negatives, because for me they don’t.  The negatives are pretty darn heavy.  But the children and the volunteers engage my heart in ways that will make it hard to leave without a backward glance.  Yes, I will be happy when I no longer have to deal with disrespect and roaches every day and I will gladly say goodbye to the dirt.  But I know now that it will not be as easy to go as I originally thought.


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