Saturday, April 9, 2011
We have report cards for almost all of our children (Oddo promises the rest before I leave) and I will post results once I am home. Most of our children are doing well, some extraordinarily well and celebrations are in order! Some struggle still but the changes I’ve witnessed in nearly all of our children over the past 21 months are remarkable/outstanding/inspiring . . .
Many of our children came from “homes” where they were unattended all day, left to fend for themselves, sometimes with other siblings or even no one, and at as young an age as three. Many of them had no food and waited for Mama or big sister to come home, hopefully with enough money from the day’s labor to purchase supper. I have visited homes, MANY homes where not a bite of food has been eaten, at times for DAYS, and there is not a crumb in the house. YOU have helped me help children who might not even be alive today without our assistance . . . little Mary, Rashid and Glory come to mind. Tumaini’s children have grown to know security, stability and most importantly love. Coming from families who stole the food we provided (before our children moved here) and then sold it for pumbe (alcohol) many of our children couldn’t conceive of “love”. They are beginning to look into the future with a sense of self worth and with confidence that they will HAVE a future . . . that food, and safety and health care and a good education and LOVE is theirs now and YOU have helped make that happen . . .
The children’s English progresses at a speed beyond our wildest imaginations! They often use English now in play, in their sub-conscious, giving instruction or making a request of each other. They are funny! They have learned to hug and to cuddle . . . to love. The children work on sharing and we are working on telling the truth. Always . . . Unfortunately, this is a country full of corruption, of lies and of liars. It is a cultural phenomenon . . . perhaps desperateness (or the choice to prey on the desperate) precipitates such ugliness, and so we struggle to teach our children about integrity and morals, about the value of character and they are learning . . . do we humans inherently WANT to be good people, if given direction? If given a chance? I hope so.
Grace, Oddo and I have recently asked for counsel with our parish priest in the hopes of working through some problems we’re struggling with. Father, experienced in the cultural dynamic of this country reminded me (Oddo and Grace are well versed on the realities) that there are many people who, without a second’s thought for the well being of the children will do whatever they can to extract whatever they can from mzungu (me), they will lie, cheat and steal to get what they want. In the end it is ALWAYS the children who suffer.
We have experienced some WONDERFUL volunteers so far this year and I must say thank you SO very much for your love, your contributions, your support . . . some of you brought a measure of expectation and once here, felt as if you were not contributing enough . . . please, I ask you, try to remember that you came as a teacher and the cultural pace of Africa, including that of our children, is a much slower one than we are used to and that Latifa, or little Aisha, or Zawadi or Priska came as virtual intellectual infants for, how can a mother teach a child to read without knowledge of reading or access to a book? How can a Bibi (grandmother) teach a child to count when she cannot herself? (Jenna, Latifa STILL thinks the name for “L” is “for Latifa”!) If one must compromise ones values time and again, simply to stay alive, from where does the initiative come to teach a child values? It is easier for me to “do the right thing” perhaps, because I don’t have to worry about eating tomorrow. I have every confidence (and expectation) that my needs will be provided for. Jenny and her mother didn’t have that confidence when I met them . . . Nelson, Mary and Reward plodded forward determinedly, even living alone when Nelson was just 13 and 14, with absolute BLIND faith that God would help them with their educations which is the only opportunity they have, as poor orphans, to escape poverty. Nelson, by the way was 5th in his class in February, in the 16th BEST secondary school in this country and WE helped him get there! HIV+ Glory came to us miserable . . . gloomy, dark and often raging . . . she bounces through most of her days now with laughter and that dimple of hers evidences a big smile!
For our outreach Ndelio, crippled by polio and desperately poor, and brain injured gets assistance from us so that he can eat better food and learn to read and write in the hopes of having some sort of a future and Rashid and Neema, from Majengo now get to their monthly clinics, ensuring they receive life saving ARVS. Do you remember the Chikira family of Glory, Wema, Ayubu and Carol? Their home is safe, they eat every day, and attend school. Pretty basic human expectations right? Then why do they feel they’ve died and gone to heaven? Food? EVERY day? No more beatings for unpaid school fees?
Liadi learned to ride a bike. Christina learned what number comes “kabla” before another. Many, many, MANY times, I have seen a child share a bite of food or a toy . . . that is new.
And the biggest change? I visited another children’s home recently where every child I came upon asked, looking into my eyes, “and what is YOUR name”? They have been at it a few more years than we have, been loved and empowered longer, and so possess more confidence, but I see it beginning here . . . fewer lies . . . heads are not downcast so much . . . there is less “mumbling” and more handshakes and hugs . . . and speaking of hugs . . . I had to stop writing for the troops have risen and dressed for church and brushed their teeth and galloped to my door for our morning kumbatia (hug) . . .
Support continues to grow for these wonderful children and for that and from the bottom of my heart . . . Asante! We have experienced some problems during this oh so very important “growth” stage . . . some people have joined our family and some have departed. We’ve struggled to adjust to cultural differences, paces, practices and are still developing our long term vision for Tumaini and I assure you we have not been perfect, but I promise you I have done my VERY best as Mama here and so have these children I love so much . . . I’ll see some of you soon and you’ll see some of US badaaye, when you visit us here . . . be well, God bless you and Thank you SO very much for loving us . . .