HI! We have been in Chuilambo for about a week now so we’re starting to feel at home. It’s very different than Neema since we aren’t just focusing on one place and one group of kids, but that can make it more exciting too. It is so strange to think that our trip is already half-way over. Looking back at our time in Kenya I’ve noticed that the memories that have stuck with me the most are the small, seemingly unimportant moments that couldn’t have been planned or expected.
We left Neema house almost three weeks ago. Our last day there was also the first day for three new children. Two of these were the smallest babies I’ve ever seen, the third was a little boy named Wellington. He had soft hair, long eye-lashes, and a stomach bloated from hunger. He was accompanied by his father, though he was held by the social worker. We later learned that his father was an alcoholic who had been buying drinks before buying food for his son. When he first arrived at Neema, Wellington was, understandably, a little dazed. He was given food, asked question after question in a language he wasn’t used to while surrounded by staring strangers. He drank porridge sitting next to his new mother and watched his real dad drive away without even saying good-bye.
After he had had porridge, Wellington got his nails cut (he really didn’t like that) and we put him to sleep on my bed. We tried to give him a sucker but he had no idea what to do with it and chucked it across the room before drifting off.
We woke Wellington up about an hour later and were surprised when he let Callie carry him to the changing table. After being cleaned up he went onto the porch to watch his new brothers and sisters get tea. They all asked his name but he was shy around them. He was surrounded by nameless strangers, not knowing that they are the only family he has. After the kids went back to school, we were on the porch with Penina (the house mom), the babies, and the other toddlers who were napping on the rug. Wellington was still sitting in the chair. He wasn’t strong enough to walk, he could only sit and stare at the stickers and silly band that we had put in his lap. I decided to try and talk to him.
I used my limited Swahili vocabulary to start a conversation. I showed him the sticker and told him it was a “kitty”. I asked him to say “kitty” and even Penina was taken aback when he did. Then I showed him how to put the sticker on his shirt. He handed me the rubber band. I said thanks and put it on my wrist. Callie had put a sticker on his arm that said “WOW.” He peeled it off and handed it to me as well. His skin was so weak that when he took off the sticker, the first layer of skin came with it leaving a hexagon mark on his arm. I asked him to say “wow” and he said it. We were all so surprised because he hadn’t been talking at all.
10 minutes later Wellington was sitting on my lap chatting merrily. We were pretending that a rattle was a car and making engine noises as he made it zoom across my arms. I asked him all the Swahili questions I knew: what’s your name? Where’s Annie? Where’s the cat? Where’s the car? I was sad that my new friend had arrived on the day we had to leave, but I was also happy that this sweet little boy was being given a second chance. He had the chance to learn and develop. He had the chance to be taken care of and loved.
Last Wednesday, Wellington passed away. He hadn’t been able to eat and he only stayed at Neema for three days before being moved to the hospital where he died. I can’t help thinking about the what-ifs. What if he had come to Neema one week earlier? What if his dad had had one less drink? We could spend all our energy wallowing in the unfairness of it all and regretting things that we can never change, but that doesn’t help anyone. I think that Wellington should help remind us all that victims of hunger aren’t just statistics. I think that some people believe that if they aren’t able to make a huge difference and save lots of people, then they shouldn’t try at all. But just helping one person actually is making a huge huge difference. Hunger is 100% preventable and I really think that everyone can play an important role in putting an end to it.
So, like I was saying, in this trip (and life in general) it’s the little moments that mean the most. Like doing laundry with a friend, holding a sleeping baby girl on a crowded bus, watching a child smile as they color for the first time, walking down the street singing a favorite song, and teaching a little boy how to say “wow.”