As it is Christmas let me start my blog with a a true story of hope and joy, if you like a miracle , we’ll that is what it turned out to be for two young women.
To maintain privacy I’ve changed their names, Julie, a young Tanzanian girl, and the other a young woman, Jane, who is registered disabled due to coping with epileptic seizures. The story starts in Tanzania but ends in Scotland.
As you may have seen on my ‘about’ page I went to Tanzania for 3 weeks (which turned into 3 months) to visit my best friend who was working at an International School. Whilst I was staying with her I got to know some of her colleagues ,teachers and teaching assistants. One teaching assistant, a local woman called Ruth, asked my friend if she could meet me before I left. My friend advised me that it was most probably to ask me for money. But, having experienced what I had in Tanzania, I knew that whatever the reason and however much I would prefer to say no , I should at least meet her.
Ruth turned up with her niece, Julie. Ruth’s sister,Julie’s mother , had schizophrenia, an illness which then there was no treatment for in Tanzania. The only help available was from immediate family. This meant Ruth was using all her salary to help her sister, and trying to protect Julie from her mother’s frequent violent outbursts.
My friend was correct. Ruth asked me if I knew how to find someone to sponsor Julie ,to pay for her school fees, care , clothes and possibly later, college fees . I told Ruth I had no idea how to help but I took their photograph, notes of their story ,contact details for Ruth and promised I would try to do something when I was back in Scotland. I hadn’t a clue how to begin and, if I’m honest, I was also feeling why oh why did I take this on!
So what does happen when you take on this type commitment and have no clue what to do?
Well, this is what did happen.
Back in Scotland I returned to my job, my boss had kindly kept my place available. I was part of a team of 5 carers , or ‘scarers’ as John fondly referred to us as. We cared for John’s 60 year old wife Gillian, who had developed Alzheimer’s at the age of 45.
My first working shift after my trip was about a week after getting back to my cottage. I recall that morning because I became aware that during that week I hadn’t done anything about Ruth’s niece, I’m not sure if I even gave her much thought!
I imagine you are all now asking ‘silly woman, why couldn’t you have sponsored Julie, or advertised etc etc’ . But the truth is I hadn’t and didn’t. My own situation and income was too unpredictable to make such a commitment and back then long term commitment was something I struggled with!
Anyway, what I was good at was feeling guilty for making a promise and not knowing how to make good. Feeling pretty desperate that morning I found the photo ,looked at it and prayed. “ please can You show me what I can do for Julie” . Now, before you mock you need to realise that at this time I had not been baptised nor did I pray regularly. Yet, after the opportunities that came my way in Tanzania as a result of other peoples prayers, the local NGO volunteering and the cookbook; what else could I do!
Prayer completed , I chose , or did I , to put the photo into my jeans pocket and went to work.
Gillian, the lovely lady I cared for, had a sister, Sarah, who had adopted, I think it was either 3 or 4 children ,all with some form of disability, all who were then in their early twenties. Due to the shifts I worked , I had never met Sarah personally even though by this time I had been with Gillian for about a year.
On that same morning , once I was at work , I was ironing when unexpectedly Sarah turned up to visit Gillian. We exchanged the usual greetings at being surprised to finally have met at last, after which Sarah sat with Gillian in the conservatory while I continued ironing in the lounge. I was near enough if help was required and therefore could hear bits and pieces of what Sarah was telling Gillian .
This is what I overheard:
“ Gillan, remember my daughter Jane? Well she is getting very broody but it is sad you know as she may never have children. As a result she has started looking into sponsoring a child. She has looked at agencies that organise such things in some countries in Africa but gets disappointed when the only contact with the child will be a yearly letter sent by the agency updating you and it won’t be the same child. She wants more than that, she wants to know one child and see that’s child’s progress but we have no idea how to find that”
Well, are you as stunned as I was ? I was so stunned I nearly burnt the thing I was ironing!
‘Excuse me’ I said ‘but I couldn’t help over hearing what you were saying as it happens in my pocket I have this ” and pulled out the picture………………
Yep, you’ve guessed it, Jane became Julie’s sponsor . Julie went on to college and Sarah’s husband with the help of friends in my now local parish went on to sponsor Julie’s sister.
Have a wonderful Christmas full of hope and joy at the birth of The Child , in Jane’s case it was Julie