Kenyan village go to town for Colleen
When Colleen Bowyer went to Kenya to find her sponsored child, she didn’t expect to find a whole village waiting for her.
The Mt Roskill resident went to Africa on a ChildFund-organised trip to meet the child she’s sponsored for three years.
When the 14-strong group arrived in Emali the whole community came out to welcome them.
“I didn’t expect such a welcome,” Colleen says.
“They were all singing and chanting. It was a wonderful moment.”
The women gave Colleen gifts, a handmade bag for collecting firewood, worn on the head, as well as a bowl for eating porridge.
They also dressed her up in the traditional cloth of their tribe – and found it very funny.
“I don’t think I looked that bad,” says Colleen. “But they were all having a good giggle, it was lovely.”
Colleen had seen photos of her sponsored child Athumani so knew what he looked like.
But because he couldn’t speak English well she wasn’t able to see much of his personality.
“He’s a lovely little boy,” she says.
“I did get him to smile at one point.”
Athumani is the youngest of six children, including two sets of twins, and lives with his mother and father.
During the group’s time in Emali, the community put on a barbecue for the sponsors.
“We were all so stunned at this lunch,” says Colleen.
“There was everything for us, barbecued goat, spinach, salad and even water for us to wash our hands with. They must have walked for hours to get that water.”
“It really makes you appreciate how little they have, but how much they want to give.”
ChildFund national director Paul Brown was also on the trip to Emali and says the experience was magical.
“A lot of people go overseas to meet their child alone,” he says.
“This trip was made special in the fact that the atmosphere of the group activities multiplied the experience and we were able to do more things than a person going alone can.”
One of Colleen’s favourite memories of the trip, aside from being with Athumani, was visiting a local school.
“They have concrete classrooms with around 110 pupils, and virtually no resources.”
The children were sitting on wooden benches huddled together learning English when the group arrived.
Outside, the mothers of the children did a dance for the sponsors to show their gratitude.
“It really shows that even though we support an indi- vidual child, the whole community benefits.”
When it was time to leave Colleen hugged with Athumani’s mother.
“It was very emotional,” she says. “Even though we spoke through a translator we had a real connection.
“We were all in tears and in the back of my mind I was wondering if I would ever see them again.”
Special gift: Colleen Bowyer holds the handmade bag given to her by the women in the community of Emali.
Special moment: Colleen with sponsor child Athumani and his mother.