Africa is Amazing

August 2015

For me, working in Africa is a special privilege. Not only am I close to ‘home’, but also, I am able to fulfill a soul-deep desire to improve the chances of girls and women to live in more nurturing world. And while helping a few girls at a time might seem almost insignificant because of the sheer need globally, for us at Valvisions Foundation, watching our girls flourish and blossom under our care is incredibly gratifying.

The Kenya girls are now in their third year of secondary school; three years ago, they arrived in Nakuru after a long, dusty bus ride from their distant village of Nginyang. We met them at the bus stop and saw shy, awkward teenagers who could barely make eye contact or speak English. Almost all our efforts to be friendly were rebuffed or met with barely imperceptible hostility. It was a challenge to maintain a positive outlook in the face of such obvious distrust.

How were we going to reach these girls; to be able to communicate that we were not merely sponsors with ‘school fees and school supplies’, who were fulfilling functional objectives? Because for us, putting girls through school is more of a transformative journey for each of them. We identify with all of our girls at an individual level; we celebrate and nurture their talents, we embrace and address their shortcomings. We think of what we offer as soul-healing, an experience that will bring about a fundamentally positive change in the way each girl perceives her place in a world which she has the power to create.

Three years later, with our girls only one year away from completing high school (a huge milestone!), we can finally see with pride, the fruits of our gentle labor. The changes which matter to us are many: no longer strangers to each other, we have bonded like guardians with their children. We give and receive affection and respect. Communication is a busy highway, in both directions words of encouragement and affirmation are spoken and listened to; eye contact and spontaneous laughter no longer strangers in our midst.

On a functional level, we have supported dozens of girls in their pursuit of a higher education. That in itself is a worthy contribution. Yet what sets us apart is how we translate our successes: these girls born into a repressive community that practices FGM, whose inherent idea of womanhood – as experienced by their mothers – was one shadowed by unspeakable acts of cruelty sanctioned by culture, now raised above the darkness to seek the light and spread a new message of hope.

In Africa, we are dancing to a primal rhythm of resilience and ascendance. For me, every morning is the beginning of the day something amazing happens to a woman somewhere; and sometimes, a few times, it happens with our support. There is a purpose in waking up every day.

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