Today I should be on my way to Mombasa, Kenya, dedicating the Mercy Maternity Ward on Saturday in honor of mom and the third floor of the hospital (administration, general surgery) in honor of dad. Instead, I am on my way home from Africa due to an issue with my Kenyan visa – bad website that would not accept payment for my visa for days, no matter how hard we tried, from two different continents. The embassy didn’t help, either, despite repeated calls. I am currently in London, waiting for my last flight home and my heart is crushed. The honor of dedicating the hospital falls on someone else and I am sad not to be there with my friend Veronica Wanjiru, who heads up the hospital.
My parents have been beside me always. Encouraging, helping, loving, and supporting me, even as I cruised around the world, working with Habitat for Humanity and Shelter for Life. When I started work with AFCA, dad was the first to sign up as a volunteer, followed closely by mom. Stuffing envelopes, doing the accounts, sorting through mail, providing childcare so I could work, making meals on long days…they were there, hand-in-hand with me. They attended every auction, every music festival, every 5k. They volunteered at our warehouse, sorting donated medical supplies. They filled countless medicine bottles with change. They wore AFCA t-shirts and hats constantly, telling anyone who asked about our work and about their kid “who loves children and wants to help as many as possible”.
As their health waned, dad still insisted on helping and his last AFCA job was to stamp Thanksgiving letters to supporters. The stamps were crooked and sometimes in the wrong place on the envelope, but he did the work with joy and pride, smiling every time he’d see photos of the kids we served together. He’d sometimes look at me and ask, “where did you come from? How did you end up here?” And I would remind him again and again that it was his and mom’s love for children and for the oppressed and needy that led me here. It was them who introduced my sister and me to this type of work, raising us in an orphanage where they loved and cared for abandoned children. It was dad who’d donate blood weekly so a needy person could be seen in a hospital, using his blood as payment. It was mom and dad who welcomed anyone into our home, for a meal or to stay as long as needed. It was them who loaned money without expecting anything in return. Dad taught us planning and forward thinking. Mom taught us about beauty and color. They both showed us how to love without lecturing and they instilled in us a sense of justice and compassion. I am indebted to them for this rich inheritance.
This work is theirs, as much as it is mine.
I trust that many mamas and babies will receive the care and love they need in the Mercy Ward. And I trust that others who will be seen in the general hospital will know of the sacrifices made by so many donors to make this dream a reality for them – a decent, clean, well-appointed hospital where they will be treated with dignity, even though it sits squarely in a slum, a place my parents would have approved of wholeheartedly.