Thursday, December 3, 2015

"She fills our lives with sunshine and our hearts with love. What else do you need to know?” — Mama Africa (Karen Wiggins) talking about Charlini

Some really good news—after a two-hour family session with Juliana, she finally agreed to let us send Charlini to a very good boarding school here in Bunda.  She was afraid she’d never see her, but it’s just two kilometers from here and when we promised we’d even drive her to see her, it was okay with her.  Shaban went to the school and got the forms and fees and it will cost more than we thought but family and friends back in the U.S. have already sent more than enough money to cover the extra stuff like buying a bed, having a foot-locker built, three uniforms, admission fees and stuff like that.  She even has to supply her own aluminum plate and spoon.  We are pretty excited as she will start on January 4th.  She will need lots of prayers as it is a big change for a nine-year-old, but she is strong and will have lots of support.  She will be in a room with four other girls watched over by a Matron who will call us if she needs anything or gets sick (another worry for Juliana until we explained things).  Juliana’s neighbors fill her head with horror stories that we have to deal with one at a time, but when she heard that even if Karen and I die, John with the help of my son, Chris and his wife Brenda, will continue to take care of Charlini and put her all the way through university—she realized what a good thing it would be for Charlini.  Shaban told her that Charlini was getting the equivalent of a Willy Wonka “Golden Ticket” and was therefore blessed.  He didn’t really use the Willy Wonka analogy but a Swahili expression that means the same thing.  I will never forget the day I held her mother’s hand the day she died at just fifteen years of age not knowing she had even been pregnant.  Juliana’s had some really tough times losing other children and her husband to malaria and AIDS.  She has one son who is doing well in Mwanza as a dolla-dolla (fifteen passenger taxi) driver who is married and has children.  The other two living children of hers are a prostitute and a drug dealer.  She has a mentally ill sister she cares for as well.  A sister of hers was married to an Anglican priest, but she passed away at the age of thirty-six just last year.  Life is hard here, and we understand her fears for Charlini, but we love that little girl and want only the best for her, if we can provide it.  Charlini has certainly blessed our lives and thinks of John as a father/brother figure and loves him deeply.  She may be the reason (or one of them at least) that we are here in Africa.  Now, she can become whatever she wants to be and that has been rare here for a long, long time and still is for most girls.  One of the things that changed Juliana’s mind was Shaban telling her that when he was a little boy, his father refused to send him to school making him herd the goats every day.  At just eleven years of age, Shaban ran away from home and made it to his uncle’s house who took him in and made sure he had an education.  His uncle became his father for him and put him in a boarding school, too.  That pretty much clinched it because Shaban is so well known and successful here in Bunda.  Not that there weren’t tears and not just on Juliana’s cheeks, but we all want the best for Charlini and love her dearly.  With God’s help, Charlini will have a real shot at having a great education and a real chance at a good life.  We do love her so.
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