I remember being a sixth grader at Trix Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan, anxiously awaiting the bell which signaled the end of the day. Anxious because I was a bit of a fraidy-cat back then. As it rang, I ran to my locker, making sure my friends were in clear sight for the journey home. We would walk to the first corner, being relieved that Drew, the school bully, was headed in a different direction.
In the first few blocks, one by one my friends would peel off to their houses. Finally in the last block of my journey my anxiety subsided, as only my closest friends were with me, and I passed by the cat woman’s house, Mr. Opelinski’s finely manicured lawn and Mrs. Fucinari’s multigenerational dwelling. As I walked up my driveway and entered my home with the declaration “Mom, I am home” with her response “How was your day?” I knew I was safe and secure. I was home!
This memory came to mind while visiting the Huruma Children Development Centre, Giving Hope program in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Three young girls dramatically shared the following poem they had written:
Narrated and written by: Mary Wamaitha (14),Vanessa Mugasia (13) and Jane Njeri (13)
Today I am called homeless
They speak in cheeky ways to me
Counting food that goes to my stomach; just because I am not in my shelter
They say I do not have the right to grow: But it is not my desire to leave my shelter
Oh!! Did God create me for such? To be comical here?
Oh! No no! no!
Like under a sun turning like a ball
Today it is me but tomorrow it is somebody else
Today you confront the shell less snail; and he will confront you tomorrow
I’m not like the white ants,
I will return home, when God answers my cry
And all the beauty will sway with the sound of drums
When there is no war, no pain; after a heavy harvest
Mary, Vanessa and Jane are beautiful young women, sharing empowerment through the Giving Hope program, supported by CWS. Life skills, education, micro-credit loans and peer-to-peer mentoring help to equip these children – who are often head of households – with some of the tools to make strides toward their dreams. In the midst of tremendous obstacles, their word and witness speak of their determination, dreams and desire to live a hope-filled life.
My mind reverts back to a time when I was Mary, Vanessa and Jane’s age, sitting in school, waiting to go home where it was safe and secure. And my heart aches for their dream to become reality. Their words mirror those of the prophet Zephaniah:
“At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the LORD.”
Zephaniah 3.1-19 NRSV
I believe God‘s heart aches for their dreams to come true too, inviting us to come along side these children with the resources we have been given. There is no better investment we can make than giving children a place to call home and a heart of hope.
Rev. Lary Jackson, Associate Field Director, Michigan region, CWS