A week of resilience...
This last week started with being thrown in at the deep end when our current social worker decided he no longer wanted to work for Hope and Soul. I had sent his work plan for the week on Sunday evening and then received a response after gently challenging some behaviour that he would no longer like to continue. So Monday morning was an early start to plan how I would manage my communications director role, MY Hope and Soul work and now HIS Hope and Soul work. Always up for a challenge...
I got support to take Luciana and Sara to the dentist Monday morning, I had seen them on Saturday for a cinema trip and Luciana could barely eat due to a painful tooth. The girls had three teeth pulled between them but were all smiles to get ice cream after. My first little ones starting off the week with such resilience in their souls. Just the previous week I had tried to set them up with their mama in a new home. The girls along with their three year old little sister Monica study in our favourite boarding school. They have a mother and a father but due to the multifactorial issues at home including physical abuse we think boarding school is safest for them at this time. They love their mama and we all wanted it to work so much but little did I know that mama struggles from her own addiction and caring for her children only during school holidays was too much for her. The room I set up for them was beautiful, filled with everything they needed - food, new clothing for the girls and mama, a brand new bed, etc. The plan in place supported mama to care for her girls every day but after finding the girls left alone for two out of the first three nights in the room I moved them back to school for safety.
Each of our mamas in Hope and Soul support have an agreement that they sign at the start of their time. It outlines what they will receive from us and in turn the behaviour we expect. Mama Luciana had sadly broken the rules twice in her first three days and from my past experience of caring for people with addiction there is no easy or quick path. The girls really love their school and were happy to return but that made our little cinema trip all that more special, I so greatly want them to know they are loved even by their mama. However, this is not their burden to carry and although their great resilience comes from having no other choice we believe they should be the children they are and only have to worry about focusing in class. The best part that reaffirmed my decision was dropping the girls back to school on Saturday after the cinema and chicken and chips lunch and seeing Monica (3) running off to see the boarding house mama without any hesitation or look back at me.
Resilience (noun) - the ability of a person to adjust to or recover readily from adversity, major life changes etc.
It was an extremely busy week. I am fortunate enough in my communications director role that I make my own hours as long as I get all the work done but I am currently looking after around 50 volunteers and so it is still a highly demanding role. We had a great 'home visits' on Wednesday. A new outreach project I have started at work where we visit five families on Wednesday mornings and deliver a months supply package of rice, ugali powder, oil, soap, sugar and salt. I take three volunteers and we work with the street chairman of a number of very underprivileged areas here in Arusha city. It is extremely eye opening for them to see how people live and the stories are beyond anything you can even begin to imagine. There are often tears - both from the volunteers and from the people so grateful for a basic food supply. A few weeks ago one of the volunteers asked me if this becomes 'normal' for me as I had not shown as much emotion as she maybe expected. The truth is that it still affects me and will never be normal, I probably don't appreciate or acknowledge how it does affect me especially after being here for so long, because I don't give it time. I am busy and I am responsible for the health and welfare of so many people in Hope and Soul like this; my life does not and never has included these types of struggles and so for that I can and will keep going - my own resilience.
On Thursday morning I went bicycle shopping! Deborah, Zakati and Rahma are three of five secondary school children in a new Hope and Soul project linked with a school in America. These children were identified by the school counsellor as vulnerable and in greatest need due to their home situations. The girls live the furthest from school and we had a generous sponsor come forward and offer to buy three bicycles after I shared on social media that Deborah often has to wake up at 3am to walk to school. We went to the biggest supply of bikes in the city so the girls had the best selection to choose from and it was a wonderful hour trying out all different sizes and colours! Rahma can ride a bicycle well, Zakati is good but needs practice but Deborah has never had the opportunity to learn. We all helped and encouraged her and she so desperately wanted to do it independently. We loaded the bikes onto a guta as they are called here (motorbike style front with a small pick up on the back). As the girls were not confident with the bicycles I wanted to drop them off at their homes so they could practice first before coming to school so we set off on what then took another three hours of a very dusty and bumpy journey to deliver three bicycles to their new homes.
A few weeks ago I bought new uniforms for these five children and so now if I include them in my social media videos they look great! The previous sweaters with holes in the elbows, the socks that have lost all elastic and don't cover toes, the shoes with holes in the soles are fixed. Visiting home for the first time was a reminder even for myself about why we are helping these incredibly resilient children. Deborah is who I will talk about today as that was the biggest shock, she clearly lives the furthest although her and Rahma are not far from each other. As we were negotiating the dusty paths, far from any tarmac road I was seeing multiple new builds and some nice looking houses. Then this little blue house came onto the horizon and stood out much like the little house from Charlie and the Chocolate factory but for the reason that it looked so out of place. Made entirely from tin roofing panels painted a pretty turquoise, I quick contemplated that we have sheds at home with more stability than the house I was being welcomed into. Mama Deborah could not open the 'door' well due to a huge stack of plastic chairs inside but was full of smiles and gratitude to meet 'Deborah's friend'. I sat for all of five minutes as I had promised the teacher I would return them as soon as possible but its culturally important to sit down if you are welcomed into a house. Mama Deborah thanked me, blessed me and while Deborah got her brush to get the dust off of her skirt her mother told me she had lost her one and half month year old baby last week. She had no idea why the baby had passed away but was clearly still suffering. The suffering only flashed across her face for a moment, it was replaced with smiles as Deborah emerged eager to get her bicycle from the guta and show her mother. I took a photo (below) of them standing outside the house, NEVER would you know from this photo the daily struggle. The absolute resilience is astounding. Deborah you are a credit to yourself, your family, your future. We are here to stand with you and face this world together, May you know you are loved and thought so highly of by so many you don't even know.
Resilience is silent and deep, like roots.
It doesn't announce itself.
It doesn't explode outward.
It doesn't fall.
It doesn't break.
It simply always is.