3 February, 2002 --
This is truly a ‘good news’ message.
Miriam reappeared and there was possibility she could stay with Sister Augusta at the Children’s Home. We left on safari last Thursday and hoped and prayed that Miriam would make the appointment to go with my colleague on Friday morning.
We returned home yesterday (Tuesday) to learn that Miriam had slid into the life at Divine Providence like a fish to water. So much so that she did not go home as intended for Saturday and Sunday. My colleague had occasion to go back to the home on Monday (more of that in a moment) and said Miriam was unrecognizable. She was clean, had two new outfits, and was busy looking after some of the young children and babies when she wasn’t in class. The two classes (pre-school and grade 1) are taught by two wonderful teachers and are full of kids of all ages, because so many start school so late.
Nancy, my colleague, received a visit on Monday afternoon from a girl of about 14, Sophia, and her aunt. They had walked for six hours to come to CHES House. A "neighbour" had told them there was a scholarship here for the girl if they would give him 1000 shillings (about $20Cdn) It was the last money they had, but they handed it over. Of course when they found out it was all a lie, they were in despair. The girl lost her mother in 98 and her father is dying of cancer in Eldoret. She has no other family and the aunt is unable to care for her. Sophia wept bitterly, not knowing where she would live, not to mention go to school.
Nancy thought desperately about what she could do, and of course Sister Augusta came to mind. They all piled into a taxi and were welcomed by the Sister, who took in the girl (‘there’s always room for one more,’ she says) and will send her to school as a day student at the local girls’ high school where we send many of our students. The girl was truly caught up in a miracle. That was why Nancy saw Miriam again.
We have gone to great lengths to find all the girls we selected for scholarship, sending regular and registered letters as well as messengers to track them down. We found all but one, and as the deadline of the new term came and went, we reluctantly decided we had to hand the scholarship to another girl on the waiting list. Before we left on safari, Nancy and I confided to each other that we really hoped the last girl wouldn’t turn up. Of course, last Monday morning she arrived. Someone had intercepted her letters and held them. Apparently this often happens through jealousy, spite or plain indifference. Of course, there were no more scholarships. But I said this was a good news message. Nancy has a friend from Canada staying with her, who listened to the girl and to Nancy explaining that it was ‘too late’. The friend stepped forward and offered to sponsor the student. So she is now happily in school.
We are now working with our sister organization, ACCES, to try for sponsorship for a brilliant boy who has been out of school for a year. He may well be in school next week if all goes well. Truly, the compound seems to have a magic about it these days. (After I wrote this, the phone rang. It was our colleague from ACCES saying she had just received an email from someone in Canada who had gathered some money for a boy to go to High School and did we know of anyone? If Robert comes back as planned next Monday, he will almost certainly be in school a couple of days later. Another small miracle!)
We helped a young girl a few months ago as she traveled away from home to start a nursing job in another city. The administrator of the hospital absconded with the funds and, after working for a while for no pay, she came back home. But she is a strong and determined girl and did not want to be idle. She took herself to the literacy project where Miriam began school and will volunteer with them to do health, nutrition and AIDS awareness. She will also work with ACCES on AIDS awareness in other projects and will receive a little money. She is pleased, and the coordinator calls her "wonderful, a real find."
I should not finish before I tell you just a little about Sister Augusta and her Children’s Home. She is a Benedictine nun and came from Brazil about twelve years ago, speaking no English or Kiswahili. She goes out to look for abandoned babies, or the police bring them to her. She has babies that were left in empty houses, thrown into bushes, into an inhabited compound or in the forest. Some are left healthy and with clothes, others are half-starved and injured. When I visited, the newest arrival was about two days old, left by the side of the road. She has twenty-two babies at the moment. The inner courtyard has about a dozen of those who can sit, while the tiny ones are in rows of white cribs inside. There seem to be babies everywhere.
In addition to the babies, there are over forty street boys. Street boys, abandoned and orphaned often through AIDS, are the rejects of society, growing up unsocialized and unskilled. The Sister goes looking for them and brings them in, feeds them, cleans them up and offers to house them and school them if they follow the rules. She says she gives lots of love and lots of discipline. We could also see that she provides lots of fun and laughter in her "family."
The remaining children are mainly orphans or from families too poor to keep them at home. Some go home at the weekend while others have nowhere else to go. All are expected to help in the house and compound and take their turn helping the sisters care for the little ones.
The Sister somehow finds the funds to keep the Home going. It is in a lovely quiet compound with a play area for the children, two brand-new classrooms and dormitories for girls and boys. A truly amazing place.
I feel very blessed to be finishing my tour here on this happy note. We are preparing a workshop for all our new girls (there will be about seventy-five new CHES scholarship girls this year, thanks to extraordinary generosity). It will be wonderful to see the girls we interviewed barely a month ago as they come fresh from their first weeks in school, something most of them never dared dream would come true. This should be a very happy weekend.