This summer I had the opportunity to travel with a choir group to a remote and desolate part of Africa. I saw a land of wild beauty and grace with a touch of devastation that seemed awkwardly out of place. While there, we traveled to Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. Not having been to such a place before, I knew this would not be an ordinary day.
We rose early and began our journey to a school deep in the heart of the slums. We walked through trash, under wet clothes hanging to dry, and among the people who lived there. The sights, sounds and smells were difficult to comprehend, but yet this was home to many people. The children lived, played and even went to school, right here in their neighborhood.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
When we reached the school we performed many of our heart felt and encouraging songs. One of my favorite parts of traveling with this group, was the ability to connect with the students after our concerts.
On this day, I met a thin 12 year old girl named Rosie who stole my heart with her deep chocolate brown eyes, full of life and curiosity. To my surprise, she spoke English and we had an instant connection. After we had been talking for a few minutes, she strangely asked if I had a mother. Of course I answered yes, and did not think any more of the question. We continued to talk and I fell in love with her warm and gentle spirit. She was lively, energetic and eager to show me everything about her school. Taking me by the hand, she showed me her classroom. We explored where she sat, where she sharpened her pencil and talked about what she learned and the things she liked to do.
It was early afternoon when our leader called us to get ready to leave. Rosie had been holding my hand and did not want to let go. She told me she loved me and wanted to come back to America with me. My heart melted. I did not want to leave her either, but I had no choice.
When my group had gathered outside, my leader told us this was a school for children who had been orphaned by Aids. When he said that, it clicked. Instantly, I understood why she had asked me if I had a mother. She did not have one. My heart broke. I could not believe I had brushed by that strange question.
She is one of 16 million children in the world orphaned by Aids. In Kenya alone, there are over 1.2 million children orphaned by Aids. Many times, when kids are orphaned by Aids, they go to live with a grandparent, aunt or uncle. According to a recent statistic, about 46 people die everyday from this disease. There is an entire generation missing in Africa.
Experiencing this has impacted my life in countless ways. I desperately want to help so children do not have to grow up without feeling the love of a parent. I want to make a difference in the world, by touching the lives of as many children as possible.
I will never forget Rosie. She has a special place in my heart where she will be loved and will stay forever. And in hearing her story, I know you will never forget her as well.
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