08.11.2012 34 °C
Growing up on the beach front one of the most idyllic islands in the world with a vast open readymade water playground would surely be any child's dream, but this can't possibly come close to compensating for starting out in life with no family.
The orphans of the Seychelles are a lesson to us all in coping with what cards we are dealt in life. Some arrive as young as 6 months old at the Presidents Village and know of no other home for the first 18 years of their lives. Some are shy, some are cheeky, some are smiley, and some just like spending their days doing back flips in the sand, but behind their big brown eyes and scrawny bodies must lie some fear of the unknown or just blessed ignorance of the wider world they have been born into.
Regardless of the individual stories behind their fate the clear appreciation and laughs from these kids as a result of just a little individual attention and an afternoon playing in the water was enough to humble even the hardest of hearts. Just a few hours spent splashing around in the sea and actually interacting with these children as real human beings brought some of the biggest smiles and squeals and pure enjoyment I bet many of us (worldy adults) have lapped up in a long time.
They might be children of the Seychelles but these children are not naturally children of the sea as many of their care givers lack their own experience and competence in the water - perhaps they themselves as children never had an early introduction to the water and so don't have the confidence to take the next generation into the unknown.
At GVI, living just a few minutes from the Presidents Village, it is the least we can do to once a week bag up all our snorkel gear and introduce these parentless youngsters to the wonders of their beautiful ocean world.
As we coaxed tiny feet into size two fins and showed them how to fit their own mask there were hops and jumps and shouts of excitement in Creole splattering across the beach. Encouraging them to then walk backwards and 'slowly' down to the water's edge was more than entertaining as many just bounded in tumbling on top of each other and themselves, right foot tripping over left and nose diving into the sand until they eventually just 'sploshed' into the edge of the cooling sea.
Seemingly fearless at first it became clear not many had real faith in their swimming ability. We held them up in the waist deep water, wizzed them around and up in the air and rescued them from bobbing underneath the surface relieved when they kept on popping up again with wide and infectious innocent grins.
Half breastroke, half doggy paddle, masks on, masks off, snorkels abandoned in favour of jumping off the big boys' shoulders, scraps over the body boards – as these little ones clung to us for a rest and a breath between splashes the hugs and love passed between us (privileged young adults and a bunch of local orphan kids) was illuminating; was two hours really up already!
Grins as wide as shark jaws, eyes bright with excitement and enjoyment, eyelashes dripping with the sea and little bodies just freely playing in their own backyard - it was more than a special afternoon.
The orphan children of the Seychelles thank you for your support in whatever way you can - http://www.justgiving.com/capternay2012
Be content with what you have. If only we could. Try it.