Friday, December 16, 2011

Visiting Days

Yesterday Rose (one of our social workers) and I spent 10 hours in town. I estimate it at 6 hours in taxis/minibuses/boda-bodas, 1 hour walking, 2 hours waiting, all for the purpose of having 2 half-hour visits.
First visit to Silas, a special child in our program who has always gotten extra attention because of his health problems – cerebral palsy among them. After several phone calls we found him at his uncle’s house for the holidays. They live out in a village where the children called me “Sheila” after a muzungu character in a soap opera – the only white woman they knew of. Silas is shy and didn’t have much to say, but it was good to see him there. He is healthy and when asked what he does for fun he replied “playing football.” This on crutches is quite an accomplishment!

Second visit was to Joseph, my boy from long ago. I was looking for a little terror of an 8-year old, but was happily surprised to see a tall and calm young man walk toward me in the back roads of his town. He is fifteen now and growing every minute, quite a bit taller than me already, and he says he is also growing up in other ways… that he no longer “disturbs” all the neighbors or keeps them from sleeping with his raucous behavior. Needless to say, they appreciate this and praise him for his maturity. I was glad to see, however, that he still has a fresh young sense of humor. In chalk he had drawn a TV screen on the bare wall of their house, complete with advertising slogans.
As we visited, his two little cousins came in and sat wide-eyed across the room staring at the muzungu visitor. I would turn around every few minutes to see another child or two had joined them. It is sobering to consider what a difference COU makes in our childrens’ lives, looking at how much better dressed they are then their neighbors, and seeing the hordes of undersupervised children in need of care.

When I realize how long I spent traveling (and how much money spent on bus fares) I wonder what makes these visits “worth it.” Maybe it was the smiles on their faces, or the surprise when they realized who the “important visitor” was, or just the chance to see little kids growing up. The visits definitely WERE worth it, traffic jams and back roads and all.

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