We are now very well settled at Neema House, it really does feel like a home to us and I can’t believe we only have two and a half weeks left here. The past two days have been interesting because we have been spending the mornings at the AMPATH (American Model Providing Access To Healthcare) clinic with a few of the children who are HIV positive. Living at Neema, I’ve gotten to know all of the kids pretty well. They are all so active and healthy that I rarely think about HIV. It’s hard to remember that a lot of these kids are going to struggle so much because of it for the rest of their lives. The clinic visits aren’t very dramatic. They are made up of three stages. First the kids get weighed, measured, and have their blood pressure taken. Then they are each inspected by the doctors and the caretakers are asked about how the children eat and behave. The third stage of the visit is when the hospital checks to see how regularly the kids have been taking their medicine. The caps of the medicine bottles actually have a device in them that, when plugged into the computer, reports all of the times the bottle was opened. I thought this was pretty cool.
During our stay we are trying to learn as much as we can about the various stories that brought the children to Neema. We’ve already shared some of these, but the one that I am going to tell tonight is probably the most heartbreaking story Neema has to offer. Since it is such a personal story I am understandably going to change the child’s name.
Natalie is a really sweet girl. She laughs often, loves talking, playing, and learning, and the only clues to her having a past different than any other child are the large scars on her legs and the slight limp when she walks. When Natalie was five years old her own aunt attempted to murder her by throwing her down a well. The aunt pulled her up to find that she was alive, but terribly misshaped with a broken back and broken legs. She then proceeded to take Natalie into the house and keep her hidden. She provided no medical care whatsoever and Natalie’s broken bones began to set in the completely wrong way and her wounds became infected. Joshua told us that Natalie would not have survived if the neighbors hadn’t forced entry into the aunt’s house to rescue the child and take her to the hospital. Five-year old Natalie required immediate surgery resulting in the large scars on her legs. She was kept in the hospital for two months. The police never found her aunt or uncle, though the uncle has tried to visit Natalie at Neema two times. With such a terrible past, it’s amazing that Natalie has become such an amicable and normal girl. I’ve been wondering about whether or not she remembers the incident and, if not, how/if Joshua and Miriam plan to tell her. It is questions like these that I’m sure are the hardest part of the Mbithi’s job.
Every child at Neema has a story to tell. Almost all of them are heartbreaking, but each one has a similar happy ending at Neema. “Neema” means grace in Swahili. It is really an appropriate name for a place that provides children who have nowhere else to go with a home, a family, an education, and a future. I’m so happy to be involved in some small way.
Love and miss everyone!