On Sunday, we had VD. It’s not what you think. Here VD is Visitation Day, (which is a relief because when someone tells you that on Sunday you’ll be having VD one tends to get a little nervous). On visitation day, parents come and visit their kids at school. Since we are staying right here at Upendo Christian School, we were right in the middle of VD (I won’t lie, I can’t say that without chuckling).
Upendo has a mixture of kids who come to school just for the day and kids who stay in the boarding section and are there 24/7. Last year, the boarding section was only for kids who were part of the orphanage, but not it’s been opened to the public so that the school can make money to keep it running.
Many of the children received visitors. They were so excited to see their older brothers or sisters, their Aunties, moms, grandmothers, and others. These family members brought little gifts for their children. Some received special food to eat and other small gifts like soap or sugar. These kids were so happy, and you could tell by the smiles on their faces that they had someone visit them.
But then there were kids with tears in their eyes, with no one to come and visit them. They saw other kids having visitors and felt left out. But we couldn’t let that happen. So we became their visitors.
I was the parent to 4 kids. Bet you didn’t know I have 4 daughters. It started with one of the girls joking with her teacher and calling me her parent. And I said I was and went to her classroom to have a conference with her teacher. For another, I knew her mother wasn’t coming so I told her at the beginning of the day I was her mom for the day. And the other two were sitting in their rooms. It was near the end of the day and parents wouldn’t be coming much longer. I asked the girls if they had anyone coming and they almost started crying. When I offered to be their visitor, their faces lit up. They walked with pride to show me where they sit in class, all of their notebooks, and I talked about their grades with their teachers.
One of these girls was Ameri. I’ve known Ameri for years now, and I love her so much. She’s very quiet, and she’d been shy since we arrived. I told her to take me to her class. I sat down with her teacher and we discussed her grades, talking about how she can improve. Then I looked at all of her notebooks and tests. I’m not talking one or two. I’m talking piles and piles of work she’s done just since the beginning of May. When we were finished I told her to treat me like she would her mother. Show me all the things she would’ve shown her mother if she had shown up.
So she showed me where she sleeps: top bunk all the way at the end. She named off everyone else and where they sleep. She told me she’s the leader of the Primary section, so she’s in charge of all the other girls. She took me to the kitchen to show me where they prepare the food, and introduced me to the cooks. She showed me the dining hall where they eat. She took me up to the clinic, and then we walked to the main gate so I could see that. We walked around the entire compound. I even ate lunch with her: posho and beans. She talked to me about the crops they grow and the animals they raise. She told me about what she likes most about living at Upendo:
She can study hard and there’s always food.
My throat caught on that last one. If you’re not familiar with Ameri’s story, a few years ago we found her living alone with her brother, no parents around, and with no food. She was 13 years old. We found her more sponsors and had her moved to Upendo where she could just be a kid and not worry about finding food.
The funniest thing is that everything she showed me, I already knew about. I know where she sleeps. I know where the kitchen and dining hall are. I’ve passed through the main gate. I’ve even been treated at the clinic. I’ve met the cook, and I’ve sat in her class during school hours. But it wasn’t about the tour. It was about the support. It was about being there for her, spending over an hour just walking around with all of my attention centered on her. It was about loving her and supporting her just when she needed it.