Celebrating Susan

Yesterday, on Mother’s Day, I spent the evening with Susan, the most incredible woman I have ever known, and her children. Susan and I became friends a few years ago under some traumatic circumstances.

On that visit to Nairobi I found a young boy in the darkest situation you could ever imagine. Suffering from severe mental illness, his aunt left him tied up by the ankles and locked in a hut by himself for months. He was being abused on every level and it was clear that if left there he would not survive. Obviously I knew I needed to get him out of this situation, but Kenya is tricky when it comes to these issues and I was unsure of what the best steps were to save him. That’s when Susan came to the rescue.

I called a friend in the U.S. who had contacts in Kenya and she suggested I call Susan. We met up, and within an hour she snapped into action. Police, children’s homes, hospitals, she had all the connections and courage we needed to save this boy.

Susan is HIV positive, and at the time we met her husband was as well. Years back when Susan discovered her diagnosis she decided that as long as she was healthy and living she was going to do all she could to make a difference in this world. She’s started clubs for street boys and other mothers with HIV/AIDS. She has adopted four children (in addition to her two) into her one bedroom home from friends who have passed of AIDS.

Even though she didn’t have the space or the means she took this boy into her home because she knew that with his mental illness and the trauma he suffered it would be near impossible for him to get the attention, love, and care he’d need to recover in a children’s home among hundreds of other kids.

The boy is now her son and she is one incredible mother to him. R.E.A.D. sponsors his school fees but it is Susan who is doing the real work. It’s been a year and half since he joined her family and although he is the sweetest, silliest, goofball you’ve ever met, he still is a tremendous handful that suffers from mental illness and a horrendous past. Susan handles him with such patience and love it awes me.

This winter Susan’s husband passed away from AIDS. She struggles to put food on the table, pay the rent, and provide for her children but she won’t give up. “These children give me all the strength in the world,” she told me. Although it’s been a tragic year, if you met Susan and her children you would never believe what they have endured. Each child has survived their own nightmare but spend an hour with them and you’d be nothing but impressed by their behavior and charmed by their bright personalities. Their house is full of laughter, love, and unity

Her family is so full of love and kindness it makes me believe in greater things and inspires strength, courage, and goodness in me. This Mother’s Day I’d like to celebrate Susan, if I grow up to be half as good as her I’ll be one lucky lady.

 

Kayli

 

 

New Girls Club in Soweto!

Launching the Girls Club (litworld.org) at Good Samaritan yesterday was such a blast. The girls were all so excited to learn, read, write, and participate.

The club is a great way to get girls excited about education and empowered to raise their voices and share their ideas. Lydia, one of the girls from By Grace who has already completed the first cycle of the club, told me, “I love the meetings because they taught me how to love myself.” What is better than that?!

The first lesson is about what it means to be different and how to embrace our uniqueness while recognizing the similarities that unite us. We read The Peace Book by Todd Parr then discussed what peace means to different people.

Initially getting the girls to open up and share their personalities with the group took some coaxing. I have a large nose for anywhere in the world but at Good Samaritan in Nairobi I think it is safe to say that it is the longest. I shared my talent of effortlessly reaching my tongue to the tip my nose to impress the girls and allow them to let down their guards and open up about what qualities they have which are unique. It was amazing getting them to open up and share what they love about themselves and what they struggle with.

It was a great afternoon and I look forward to getting reports from Leandra, the volunteer who will be facilitating the club meetings for the next few months. I passed out journals to the girls for them to write poetry, stories, songs, letters, whatever comes to mind. The journal project has been such a pleasure for the girls at By Grace, I can’t wait to read what the new Girls Club comes up with at Good Sam.

Observing Change!

This morning I went to the Kibera slum to check in on St. Catherine's Children's Home and primary school.

 On my last trip In December we supplied the school of over 200 children with textbooks and library books to begin their new school year. When I arrived all the students were hard at work in their classrooms with their beautiful textbooks open and their full attention given to the teachers. It was so exciting to see them in action.
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Back in Kenya!

I've been back in Nairobi for two days now and there's already been so many exciting developments.

There is no better feeling than reuniting with the kids. They’re all so full of energy, love, and appreciation. It startles and humbles me every time.  A new school term began this week so after having a nice long break the kids are focused and ready to take on their studies.

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