When walking with care workers in their communities, you realize right away that although you're doing home visits, the very presence of the care workers in the pathways of their villages means that children have access to someone they trust. It's not uncommon on the way from one home to the next, to be stopped by numerous children with various requests and greetings. Care workers know the children of their communities by name and where they live, who they live with and what they're dealing with. These are the people that are making communities come alive with hope.
On our first day in Mulenga, I walked with Dorothy and Reuben and Joyce. We were heading to the home of a patient when we noticed a young girl sitting on the side of a large, half built building. She had her chin in hand and was tucked into the corner of the wall, staring at the ground. Dorothy trailed off the path and crossed over the yard to where the girl sat. She introduced her to us as Mary*, age 11, and we sat near her, listening to Dorothy's questions and the young girl's answers. She told us that her mother was in the city trying to get work and had left her and her siblings home alone for a few days. When Dorothy asked if she had eaten, she shook her head and explained that there was no food in the house at all. As she spoke, her younger brother, 7, came and sat with us. Dorothy told them to come to the care point and that they would be given a meal and some food to take home. We rose to leave and thought the children could walk with us but they both started back for their house, to fetch their youngest sibling, just a small girl of 4. Three children, the eldest 11, home alone with no food.
We continued on our way and told the children we would meet them at the care point in just a while. We went on and did a couple of home visits and then returned to the care point, just as the three were walking in. They had got turned around in the paths of their community and it took them a long time to walk to the care point. Empty bellied, hot and tired, carrying their smallest sister, these kids take care of one another the best way they know how - sticking together.
When I look into the eyes of these children, I want to cry for them. I want to cry for their mother whose best hope is to leave them alone and try and get work to be able to feed them again. I want to cry for girls of 11 who are tired and ill and boys of 7 who take care of sisters, elder and younger.
But when I see them, sitting with their care worker, Dorothy, and she and they talk and hold hands and she feeds them? I want to cry with gratitude and joy and the absolutely privilege of watching love making a difference in their lives. When I come into this community that I love, I realize that it's because it is in this community that I have seen love. Real love. And the difference it's making.