Kenyan vil­lage go to town for Colleen

Central Leader - - News - By Amanda Wis­newski

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.”

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

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.

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