Jet lag has a grip on me this time around and I don’t sleep more than an hour total all night. When the alarm goes off at 4:30am, I am grateful for it, as I no longer need try to be still so that I don’t wake Naomi up. I shower and check us out, ready for our 5am trip to the airport, where we will catch a flight to Mombasa.
Sister Veronica greets us at the Mombasa airport, where the sky is heavy with moisture and we are instantly drenched in sweat. Vero, on the other hand, comments on how cold the weather has turned and how strange it is to have to wear a sweater at this time of the year. I think she is insane, frankly, but am so happy to hug my friend of so many years. We have so much to catch up on and I can’t stop asking questions about “my kids”. How is Maua? Lucky? Jane? Vero fills me in and asks for Juju and Aiden, amazed at how big they have gotten. Naomi can’t get enough of the scenery, drinking it all in, with camera in hand. We are both dazed with tiredness but our happiness at being here keeps us awake and alert.
With a big smile, Vero asks me if I can guess who will be joining us in the car to do some site visits. I am stumped, and then, flabbergasted, when she squeals, “Brian”! I can’t believe it! 12-year-old Brian has become 22-year-old Brian and he is now employed at CBHC, the organization with whom AFCA has been partnering for the past 14 years. Brian is very familiar with CBHC, as he’s been a client there since he was 12. Thanks to AFCA donors, Brian was given antiretroviral medicine and school fees so he could get an education. In time, though, adolescence and peer pressure led him away and he stopped going to the clinic and school and instead, chose to live a wild life. Like the prodigal son, though, he returned to CBHC and was welcomed with wide open arms. He clung on to the staff there and they held on to him.
In fact, they hired him.
From a lost young orphan to the lead of a new program to help adolescents and youth walk down their road of AIDS gracefully and carefully, Brian just brightened my day. My week! My year! I will be working together with him to see if we can build a program to set up a schoolbook library at a place called Gift Academy, where 50% of the students don’t have schoolbooks and where two of our own children attend. Their grades reflect the fact that they can’t study at home and that they are sharing books with 4-5 others at a time while in school. The idea is for AFCA to purchase required schoolbooks (6 different textbooks per child) and donate them to the school. The headmaster and teachers will sign them out to the children who simply cannot afford to purchase any. If they lose them, though, they must repay them. Otherwise, at the end of the school year, those books go back to the school, ready for the next child who needs them. And, we’ll ask the families who can afford schoolbooks if they will donate their books at the end of the year, growing the little library. I so look forward to working with Brian on this project! Even better, we have offered to help him finish his schooling because that boy is going places. He needs to finish high school and then, he wants to get a degree in the social services. I told him that he if ever feels like giving up to just give me a call and I will cheer him on. He assured us that he won’t give up and that he is here to stay.