4 February 02     Miriam had three good days. 

My colleague has been in contact several times with a saintly woman, Sister Augusta, a Benedictine nun who runs a children's home for abandoned babies and street children. (More about my visit to the home in another message)

My friend told the Sister about Miriam last Sunday and was told to take her to the home. They have the equivalent of a grade one class, Miriam could stay safely in the home during the week and go to her family at weekends.

Imagine how thrilled we were! A safe, clean place to stay, lots of loving attention, food and a regular classroom. It sounded too good to be true.

I walked down to the literacy project this morning and found many more children. Miriam had spread the word, and six new kids were on the benches. But Miriam wasn't there.

She had attended faithfully Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and disappeared on Thursday. The teacher thought she might be sick and sent one of the new kids to enquire, since they live in the same area. Miriam had gone to Kisumu (the
big town 50 km away) The next day, the story was she'd left with an "aunt." The teacher thinks that someone offered the father money to have her work as a maid or "housegirl" She told me she would go to the home and try to talk
with the father, but didn't hold out much hope of getting the truth or of ever finding Miriam. The teacher was to call in this afternoon to let us know if she had any news, but so far we've heard nothing.

The plight of girls working as maids is sad indeed. They work from dawn to dusk, are rarely paid, and are often mistreated. They are also vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse. We have offered scholarships to three girls in
this situation. One has not responded and we suspect her employer may be destroying the letters. We are going to try to find her tomorrow.

I swing between deep sadness and anger. I'll let you know if there's any more news.

6 February