The past three years that we have been here in Tumaini we have left our daughter Hannah at home in England with my parents. Hannah is 24 years old and has Downs Syndrome; she also has a heart condition and coeliac disease. We wondered how she would cope here with the heat, the creepy crawlies, as at home she will flip if a fly or spider is spotted in her bedroom, the food as we have to be sure she has a wheat free diet, and the walking around as much of the pathways through the village and round about is uneven and rocky. Each year we have tried to justify how she would manage with all these things as we were desperate for her to share the life here with us that we love so much. Last year on the flight home we began to plan this year’s visit, and I knew God was saying that it was Hannah’s year. We spent the next 12 months planning and here we are.
Hannah enjoyed the flight and slotted into life in Tumaini like she belonged here. The children have welcomed her and flock around her to chat, it’s been amazing to watch how she has become confident with her surroundings and now goes off to the playground or the library on her own to find her friends. She has learnt the Swahili greeting words and calls out to everyone she sees in Swahili. At an evening meal organised and cooked by the Home Science students she danced the night away, some of the Mamas showed her Kenyan style dancing she followed their moves and danced until the music stopped.
Hannah has helped in the feeding programme and in the Kindergarten, she has a fantastic repertoire of songs and nursery rhymes and has enjoyed sitting and chatting and singing in the playground with the younger children and I must say I had a lump in my throat when some High School girls called at the apartment for her to go and sit and be with them. She has just come in from joining the ever growing queue of children gathering for lunch, when I peeped to see where she was she was enjoying a hand clapping game and sat chatting with a group of children from the village.
Hannah has taken life at Tumaini in her stride, she made us laugh as she found a way of dealing with the persistent flies, swotter in one hand, cup of coffee in the other, her mosquito net she says it’s like a princess tent and when Juma decorated her bed with flowers she was sure it was a princess bed. Outside school we have walked through the village, and out of nowhere children have appeared calling, ‘Hannah, Hannah, how are you’ she always stops to shake hands and have a chat, our journeys take twice as long but hey it has been amazing, we have visited families and joined the ladies at Mama Sema, which is a group of ladies who meet together in the village to share the word of God and enjoy just being together. We have taken the ferry to town which is an experience, hundreds of people and vehicles pile onto the ferry which runs back and forth many times each day between Likoni and Mombasa. We have been squashed and pushed and starred at, some people have pointed and starred at Hannah, if she caught their eye she would smile and say, “Mambo” which means ‘how are you’, some people will answer her, some just look and say nothing then Hannah would give them the answer, ‘Poa’ which means ‘I’m good’ but do you know I hope they are thinking hey it’s OK to take a child with disabilities out and about, as we walked up the ramp from the ferry a man pressed six shillings into my hand and nodded towards Hannah, we were humbled, speechless.
I am a true believer in ‘God’s timing’ and this five weeks has been God’s time for Hannah to be here. In her own way Hannah has been a little ambassador for God, I know she has blessed many and maybe changed peoples thinking towards people with disabilities. I hope that people have seen through the disability and will always remember her for just being Hannah, she certainly has made a lot of people smile these last few weeks, and whilst Glenn and I have been bitten to bits by ants and mosquitoes, Hannah has remained bite free the whole time, How great is our God.
Xx Glenn, Julie & Hannah