18-year-old Navoi is a beautiful girl from Tanzania, with an enormous amount of life experience. Dorcas first crossed paths with her some ten years ago. Thanks to her sponsor from the Netherlands, she was able to attend school; among the top students in her class. But one day she began failing her exams. This is her story…
By Lysanne van de Kamp
Together with Joseph, my Tanzanian Dorcas colleague (Sponsor Coordinator) we took a trip to meet Navoi. On the outskirts of Arusha, with the volcanic Mt. Meru in sight, lies her family house. We settle down in a bare living room where a pendulum hangs and three stray chickens roam. The space is around eight square meters, filled with a couple of benches and chairs and a small table – all the furniture they own.
A difficult time
From the very first moment we step into the room, I feel the atmosphere is charged. It is clear that Navoi is going through a difficult time. It doesn’t feel right to ask her about it; to puncture her wounds, yet she invited us here out of gratitude for our support. Although she is visibly fragile, her eyes radiate with extraordinary strength…
“How are you?”
Navoi shrugs. “Not so good.” She tries to blink away her tears. “Not good at all.” What is going on? I ask. “My father died when I was a baby. I never knew him. My mother died a year and a half ago”, she says, before explaining how her loss had affected her studies. The timing couldn’t have been worse. “It happened exactly during the period that I had to study for my exams. I was grieving and unable to learn, which caused me to fail”, she says with a heavy heart. “I’ve not only lost my mother, but also my chance at a better future.”
Love thy neighbour
Navoi is not alone. Sat beside her is her aunt, who has come to live with her in her mother’s house. She helps Navoi cope with her emotions, and offers support, but does not have the means to take care of Navoi. Yet there is still hope. Loving neighbours have rallied together to take on the role of foster parents. “Although I can hardly provide my own four children with a daily meal, I have commited myself to this child”, her neighbour says with conviction. “I will do everything I can for her.” If that’s not the extra mile…
And a distant friend
We also want to go the extra mile for Navoi. Her sponsor from The Netherlands is right behind us. She will continue to support Navoi in the coming years, so that she can re-do her school year and pass her exams. She will also write to Navoi and let her know she’s there for her.
I turn to Navoi and remind her: “You have not failed at all. I would also have flunked my exams if my mother had passed away. Everyone deserves a second chance. Believe me, you’re headed for a bright future.”
Joseph explains that during the child sponsorship process we not only look at the child them self, but also at their environment:
“We look at the long term and the desired end result. Our ultimate goal is that communities can take care of themselves. We are only present in places where this is not possible yet. We hope, of course, that at one moment we will succeed and that our role becomes redundant. We work towards this by looking at how we can strengthen the community as a whole.”
He continues: “If we were to pay only the school costs of children, it would mean that someone like Navoi would come home every day to a very sad situation. Her aunt can’t provide for her, her foster father struggles to eat…
“If we can support Navoi in all areas of her life, and take into consideration her unique situation, we see that we can do a lot more for her in an indirect way.”
We ask Navoi’s foster father how we can support him in caring for Navoi as well as his own family. He tells us that Navoi’s mother left land for her daughter. He is willing to grow food on this land while Navoi goes to school. Besides putting food on the table, maybe he can even sell the produce and make a profit.
Power to the people
Today he follows a Dorcas training course to increase agricultural production and improve his entrepreneurial skills. With the money he earns, he promises to take care of Navoi as well as his own children.
“The advantage of this approach is that a child is not back to square one when help stops, because that can happen unexpectedly”, Joseph adds. “If a Dutch sponsor decides to pull out or if we have to leave an area due to conflict or instability, the circumstances of the child’s environment have improved. Friends and relatives need our help less; they no longer depend on Dorcas.”
Joseph shines when he tells us about this. “I’m really excited”, he says. “I believe in this approach one hundred percent, and see its potential every day.”
Curious about sponsoring a child? We know too many who cannot go to school without help. Meet them on our Dutch website.
20 May 2019