This is the story of Naomy.....a little girl who leaped from the Compassion website straight into my heart....and who eventually ended up in my arms..
This was her photo on the Compassion website and when I saw her my heart stopped. It really did. I could not continue my casual browsing of waiting children. I loved her instantly and at the same time knew that she did not belong to me. There was no escaping the urgency I felt to find her a sponsor. I had never had such a strong sense that a child needed rescued and have not had it at the same level since. I lost sleep over her and her face and name interrupted my brain space constantly.
I posted her little slouched being on Facebook.
Her sponsor stepped forward.
You can read the full story that I published back in February called A Fourth Girl .
Come with me now to Kenya, Africa to the very last day of my stay there. It had been a very full week on this tour with Compassion and my senses were on overload. So many life changing moments happened in the space of a few days. I couldn't keep up with it all and I was so afraid of losing all of those small but significant details.
I woke up early on that Wednesday morning, (or was it a Tuesday?) already exhausted but running on a huge adrenaline high. Today was my day to meet the little girl who God dropped like a beached whale on my little path called life. There was no going around her. And I was anxious to lay eyes on Naomy and hopefully discover why God was so intent on setting her before me.
My Compassion escort and driver picked me up at the hotel in Nairobi and we set out for a four hour drive into a land that was eerily remote and yet comfortingly beautiful at the same time. My eyes were fixed on the scenes racing by outside the car window.
We stopped at a bustling little market to purchase food and supplies for Naomy's family. My white skin and fly-away hair drew lots of attention and I didn't have to wonder why it felt like I was being watched. The children either stared or clutched their mother's skirts and hid their face when I walked by. I stared at them too, because I thought they were so stinking cute and I had a hard time focusing on the task at hand.
Thankfully my escort knew exactly what to buy, and after we settled on an amount, I simply followed behind while he dropped item after item into the basket. Salt, sugar, soap, ugali (cornmeal), tea, beans, matches, lard, vaseline and some cookies for a real treat.
I pulled a gift out my bag right away, wanting us to have something to do besides stare at each other. I handed her a soft, cloth doll and she smiled!
The temperature there had to be over 100 degrees. Notice that Naomy is wearing a sweater! Her Compassion assigned social worker helped her peel it off eventually while I had nothing left to peel off without creating a scene.
Boy was it hot.
Here you can watch Naomy in real time, nibbling on a cookie while the adults talk to her in Kiswahili. She looks to be suppressing a smile here and there. Those smiles would eventually emerge later on in our day together.
We had tea, a Kenyan custom I was well acquainted with by now....
...while Naomy's mother watched me like a hawk. This look she was giving me felt like a death wish and I was wondering if she thought I was here to take her child back with me to America.
The Compassion staff brought out Naomy's records that they keep on each of their sponsored children and it was so interesting to look through them. Recorded there were the gifts her family was able to purchase because of the extra donation her sponsor sent, as well as remarks from her teacher.
I pulled out some photos to show Naomy....
...while her mother apparently decided I was harmless and spent the next half hour playing with Naomy's new doll.
The Compassion staff stood before me and expressed how honored they were to have me there, their very first visitor from one of their children's sponsors. They had me write my name and description into a notebook and then proceeded to tell me that we would now head for the playground where they wished to plant a tree in my honor.
It makes me smile to know that there is a fruit tree in all of Africa with a little bit of me to go with it. The staff said that the tree would produce fruit and that the Compassion children would eat it and remember the day I came to their project. I hope the tree lived. It looks rather small and vulnerable there in the African sun. I was ready to stick my head in that hole by that point.
A tour of the project followed the tree planting ceremony. This is the "kitchen" they use to cook meals for well over a hundred sponsored children who are living in extreme poverty. A nutritious meal for these kids is hard to come by and Compassion includes all aspects of a child's development physically, spiritually, socially, and economically.
Water is scarce and here is this project's attempt at preserving every bit of rain that falls from the sky.
Naomy led us into one of her classrooms....
...and then lit up the room with her smile...
We all piled into vehicles and headed for Naomy's home. The drive seemed to take forever and I couldn't imagine how Naomy got from her house to the Compassion project. They told me that she walked. She rose early in the morning, met up with other children and walked two hours one way. She is only seven years old.
When we pulled to a stop and got out of the car, we walked up a dusty hill and then down another into Naomy's compound. I remember whispering under my breath, "Oh my God....."
Here was a family of around twelve people living in conditions that made my head spin. It was hard for me to grasp. To know that these were not pictures in a magazine or even on TV. These were real people living with just the most basic necessities to live from one day to the next.
Here Naomy is showing me the letter she received from her new sponsor!
This day also just "happened" to be Naomy's seventh birthday and I came prepared! Birthdays are rarely celebrated by families living in poverty, but the special day is always recognized at the Compassion project. I unwrapped the heavy cake I had purchased in Nairobi, opened a can of vanilla frosting that traveled all the way from Maryland and a dagger-like knife was brought from one of the huts of the family. I added colored sprinkles from home, placed seven twisty candles which refused to light, and they all oohed and ahhed and clapped over this magnificent birthday cake. I cut it and Naomy proudly delivered a piece to each family member (which took a looong time). I went to hand her a piece at last and she shook her head no and pushed it towards me. The translator explained that Naomy wanted me to eat a piece first before she had hers.
Without me asking, they brought out the brand-new mattress they had purchased the day before I arrived, with the money from her sponsor.
This is where the mattress will go once it is unwrapped, and believe me, it will be shared with her little sister and several cousins who all share this small space to sleep.
I was also introduced to her new goat, a gift from her sponsor. It was obviously the pride of the family and I marveled at the difference a family gift can make in the life of their sponsored child.
I had a flight to catch that evening back in Nairobi, so our day together was brought to a close. We traveled together back to the project where we washed up and had one final meal.
I felt like the luckiest, richest person on the planet, having spent the day with Naomy and her loving family. What a huge gift, to be able to step into their world and talk, eat and walk hand in hand with her. I will never forget it.
Here is another little girl, much like Naomy, who is waiting for you to step into her life and change her story through sponsorship. Her name is Naeku Emily and she is eight years old. She lives with her mother and six siblings in Kenya and she loves to sing and run! She is ABOVE average in school and has been waiting 246 days for YOU. She lives in an aids infected area with a high risk of exploitation and abuse and the average wage is 20 dollars a month.. You don't have to travel to Kenya to make a difference in her life. Sponsor her today and she will begin to know that she is loved....chosen.....prayed for......seen.
Choose Naeku Emily to be your Compassion sponsored child. Follow the link and instructions on the website, and then let me know of your commitment to this needy girl! You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you might have.