My fingers continue stringing beads fast and furious in Colorado, accumulating inventory for the July Texas PTA convention, while my heart wanders far away to the morning bird songs, traffic cacophony, blooming flowers, and singing children of Kenya. Sometimes a young boy steps into my imagination. His smiling face urges me on, keeps my hands dancing over those beads.
His name is Sammy. I’ve known him and loved him for twelve of his thirteen years. When I first met him, he hovered between death and life, just a ten month old sack of bones and disease. But the ache of God for him to live, fleshed out in my friends, yanked him back from the precipice. After they paid for a hospital visit, He returned, a survivor, to an orphanage buried in the heart of a desperate slum. Every year thereafter, when I returned to Kenya, it was Sammy’s smile that embodied the hope of Kenya for me.
His life story twisted triumphantly again in 2007 when my dear friends the Karaus convinced his caretakers since birth, the Missionaries of Charity who tend the Home for Abandoned Children in Huruma, to allow him to come home to Sanctuary of Hope, a family home for orphans under the oversight of Hope’s Promise of Colorado. My little friend thrived in the love, laughter, and tenderness of their care. But another specter soon threatened his newfound joy. A learning disability haunted him in school classrooms. What other children so easily absorbed, his brain refused to process.
My heart broke for Sammy. At the same time, here in the USA, we fought a battle for my own son, close in age to Sammy and from the same orphanage. Dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning disabilities wrestled not only for his academic progress but for his self-worth. Two boys on opposite sides of the world, yet equally cradled in my heart (you can read more on this topic in this blog post: A Tale of Two Drowning Kids). While my son accessed special education and skilled tutoring, Sammy’s head sank lower. Once the joyful leader of Sanctuary of Hope family singing, he retreated to the back of the room. School became a daily taunt for his inadequacy.
Special education resources, so readily accessible in North America, are few and far between in the developing world. But Pastor and Mama Karau refused to give up. They located a newly established school for children with special needs in Nairobi. The school diagnosed learning disabilities and recommended admittance last year.
Once again, Sammy’s natural leadership gifts blossom as his teachers create opportunities for success with specific learning strategies. Sammy’s science teacher recently reported, “(Sammy) works with passion and great enthusiasm. He is able to master the taught skills and concepts. He proudly demonstrates his knowledge. He is a pleasure to teach.”
Half a world away, I can’t celebrate with Sammy in-person, so today I simply offer the jewelry I make as a prayer of gratitude for his life, a prayer for him to always know how beloved he is.
I’ll be including a few Toto for Toto Sanctuary of Hope pendants in the Texas PTA inventory. The SoH kids decorated little slips of paper for us, my dear friend Penny Taylor transformed them into soldered glass pendants, and I added a few accent beads. Just in case you are interested in the pendants made with Sammy’s artwork, please visit my Etsy store: Sammy’s Hope pendants. To see a pendant made by SoH child Elvis, available through Pamba Toto, click Elvis’s Hope pendant.