A Tale of Two Drowning Kids

Our "twins" hanging out in Kasarani, Kenya, 2005.

Our “twins,” age 5, hanging out in Kasarani, Kenya, 2005.

The waters first lapped at my son’s feet when he was five years-old. I pulled our “twins” (by adoption – they are six weeks apart) from pre-school mid-year when we traveled to Kenya to adopt my daughter, never imagining they would miss the entire second semester. As days melted into weeks, I imposed structure on our nomad existence with “home-school.” One of the boys picked up shapes as easily as bending over to pick up sticks. The other stumbled on simple twigs; I was puzzled. We talked about a triangle on a flash card, then I flipped it over and face up again. He couldn’t remember the name of the shape, although we tried over and over. I didn’t understand this strange current that tugged at Jedd’s mind, but I knew something wasn’t right.

Months later, home in the US, his kindergarten teacher, a literacy teacher, and my husband and I put our heads together. Interventions launched; but the tide rose.

By first grade, waves crashed into shore and drug him out to sea. Six-years-old, he only knew he was drowning in a place he could not understand. He pulled the hood of a sweatshirt over his head, and didn’t emerge for a couple years. He watched kids around him read eagerly, but his brain just wouldn’t work the way theirs did. Pages of jumbled lines and symbols refused to organize into anything decipherable. He scribbled on worksheets, glanced at the teacher to make sure she saw him “doing his work,” then stuffed them into his desk so no one could see the evidence of just how lost he was. He pulled the hood a little lower over his eyes, and imagined himself invisible.

At birth, his mother abandoned him. Now every day, more evidence accumulated to confirm his greatest fear – he is defective and worthless. Soggy, gasping for air, he treaded water furiously to get nowhere. He didn’t even understand enough about what was happening to ask for help.

But in that classroom of giggling, wiggling children, someone was watching. She smoothed out the jumbled scribbles, pressed the creases, and called the worried parents.

I remember well the helplessness I felt. I refused to let go of him, so the current drug us out together. Fear and uncertainty crashed over my head as well as his.

In the USA, we have every resource imaginable. My husband and I pursued private neuro-psychological testing in addition to testing available through the public school system, and quickly narrowed in on a diagnosis of dyslexia. Then God miraculously provided two amazing women who successfully threw the lifeline to Jedd:  first, a literacy resource teacher who herself is dyslexic and convinced him that he isn’t stupid, he just needs to learn differently. And then a Special Education teacher, intricately trained in dyslexia rehabilitation, began pouring into him in second grade. Years later, now 13 years-old, he still loves to wear sweatshirts; but the hood drapes lazily down his back. He sprawls in the boat, dry face basking in the sun. He reads at grade level.

Sammy, 2002, 10 months old, with Jesse Lee and Sister Jessy

Sammy, 2002, 10 months old, with Jesse Lee and Sister Jessy

But halfway around the world, an 11 year-old boy still can’t read. Sammy’s story is all too familiar. Abandoned at birth, he was rescued by a Mother Teresa Home for Abandoned Children in Nairobi, Kenya. Cared for in the same ward as Jedd once was, he almost died from a severe infection at 10-months-of-age. A miraculous intervention and series of events brought him at age 7 to Sanctuary of Hope (click here to view a video about SoH). But just like for Jedd, all the support and assurance of his worth and beloved-ness at home can’t counteract the ocean of evidence that assaults him every day at school. He looks around and sees other children accomplishing so easily what he cannot swim through.

When Sammy first came home to SoH, he flourished in belonging to a family. He emerged as the star of singing acts, leading the other children exuberantly. But in recent months, joy leaks from his soul. His confidence is shattered. Eyes downcast, he refuses to lead. Perhaps the lies of his birth and abandonment are hopelessly true, and he should simply give up.

Jedd & Sammy together in Kenya, 2010

Jedd & Sammy together in Kenya, 2010

The resources we accessed for Jedd are few and far between in the developing world. But, like Jedd, Sammy has parents who will not stop fighting until they find whatever they can to help him. In the last year, Pastor and Mama Karau located a private tutor who works with Sammy several times a week. But each day as he returns to a school without Special Education support, other currents rip the rope-of-hope from his hands. However, the tutor works at a newly established school for children with special needs in Nairobi, and assures the Karaus that Sammy is qualified to attend. The cost is about $200/month. He needs to start in two weeks.

Sammy, far right, with Mama Karau and SoH sisters, August 2013

Sammy, far right, with Mama Karau and SoH sisters, August 2013. Photo by Debbie Lee.

Pamba Toto is donating to Hope’s Promise to sponsor the first two months for him to attend the school – and challenging others to step forward and keep it going.

I thank God that the ocean could not suck Jedd below the surface. Provision was made and rescue secured. But it simply isn’t right that just because Jedd lives in America and can access desperately-needed resources, he can read. And Sammy still can’t.

God seems to be providing a rescue plan for Sammy; but I think He is asking, “Who will throw the rope?”

To learn more about how to help Sammy, contact lorie@hopespromise.com.

Rescue; 2012; 19" x 27"; mixed media: collagraph, ink, pastel, charcoal.

Rescue; 2012; 19″ x 27″; mixed media: collagraph, ink, pastel, charcoal.

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