The Red Gate

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The red gate, the rusted roof, the many trees and the cake she was making. I remember that day like it was yesterday. The chairs and table being setup outside, the excitement and the stove iron that burned my hand. See it was no ordinary day, it was a day to celebrate.  Grandma turned 70 and there was a feast. That’s the oldest memory I have and I was six. I don’t remember much of anything before that day but from that that until now, I remember it all. There were a lot of people who had come to celebrate grandma and it was fun for us kids. That day marked the beginning of this journey called life.

Oh well at least that’s how I remember that day before it happened. It was supposed to be a  day to celebrate but then they came. The men in the uniform came and they took her. Or at least they tried to take her before grandma intervened and she was killed. Right there in front of me. Her white now soaked with a lot of red. I didn’t know blood had different shades until that day. first it was light and then it became dark and darker until it was so dark it didn’t look like blood anymore. It looked like death. At six, the concept of death was new to me but at that moment, I knew exactly what it meant.
“Grandma was never going to wake up because her blood came out of her and became death.” There was chaos and then I saw him, stern faced and barking orders. I looked around for mom, my sisters, my brothers and I didn’t find anyone. It seemed like I was invisible to everyone because I went to her, in all that red and she looked at me and said “fight”, I asked grandma “Are you okay?” and she said again “fight” then I asked “Fight who?” She muffled something but all I heard was “Yourself” and then she stopped talking. No matter how many times I shook her head, she just wouldn’t answer and then I wasn’t invisible anymore, someone had seen me. He yanked me off of her and threw me to the ground. I tried to run. I saw my oldest sister running and then she just dropped to the ground. The same thing happened to my other sister and older brother. I couldn’t find my mom. Then a truck came and I was thrown inside. There were others in there. People wailing, they were hurt, blood everywhere but this time it didn’t look as red as the red of death. They wouldn’t die but they were hurt. At this point I didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing. After a while, I don’t know how long but then the truck stopped. Everybody became silent, out of fear I guess or anticipation or maybe it was shock. I will never know. The doors were opened and the same man I saw earlier – stern face, he shouted “Get down!”, “Get down now! or I will shoot you”,  He waved his gun at us as we began to make our way out of the truck. We were about 50 in the truck. Some were with their families and like me, some were alone. I didn’t see anyone I knew. I still couldn’t find my mom or my baby brother. I didn’t see them fall so maybe they are on another truck. I hadn’t realized I had lost a shoe until I felt something in my foot. I looked at it and it was a nail right in my foot. I don’t remember feeling it go in. Maybe it was when I ran, maybe it was when we got off the truck, I will never know. I don’t feel any pain but it’s uncomfortable because I can feel it stuck in there. So I try to pull it out while hopping on my other foot because we are not allowed to stop but I wasn’t successful. Then I decide to bend and quickly get it out that’s when I feel pain but it wasn’t from the nail. It was a whip right on my neck. Then I feel everything else- fear and more pain. It wasn’t once, or twice. I was rolling in the red sand and nobody could help and I screamed and in that moment I heard my name “Wah-vi!” “Wah-vi!!”, that’s my baby brother. I try to follow the sound but the whips keep coming and then another voice broke my thought “Get up!”. I tried but I couldn’t and then a hand pulled me up. I couldn’t see properly from rolling in the sand and all my tears. I remember leaning into that hand and then…..

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…..This is it, I’m going to get it together. I mean everyone says find your passion and follow it right? So yeah, I’m doing this. I have prayed and I’m believing that this is my passion. It has to be right? There is nothing else I do for others without a single worry or stress. It comes natural and despite the number of times I tried to leave, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. (One time I tried to leave because I thought it was the very reason I was single. I mean no one gets to see me and I don’t even make an effort in my appearance. Comfort is always my number one priority.) Since I can’t afford to get another degree, I have to figure out how to get this passion going. I was really excited about this. I mean I had found my passion ‘I think‘ and now I have to work for it. I did some research thanks to google and I found some free online classes I could take to help with learning a couple of things I thought would help my quest to world domination lol- I play too much. I usually like to wait for the first of a new month to start a new plan but this time, I’m so determined that I started immediately. I enrolled for my first class in Human Rights as an Interdisciplinary act focusing on children and boy did I feel empowered. I felt like I was taking control of my destiny. I wasn’t leaving it to chance. I was exercising my faith you know since faith without works is dead right?

Let me give you a little background into my life. I’m not going to go into detail. Just going to focus on the basics. So here it goes. Growing up, I thought I was going to be a doctor, a surgeon actually- neurosurgeon but then life happened and for my first degree, I found myself in social sciences and for my second degree, I went into technology. I would like to note that I just happened to choose these because of my limitations. My limitation isn’t conventional. You are probably thinking health or financial but this time, my limitation was me. I was playing it safe. I didn’t want to fail so I chose ‘easy’ courses. I challenged myself a bit with my second degree though, I went to a different field but in my opinion, I was playing it safe. Well after my second degree, I started the job hunt and it wasn’t pretty. Eventually I got a job. Wasn’t ‘the’ job but it paid the bills. I didn’t mind starting from the bottom so it was ok or so I thought. I was empty, confused, afraid and just outright sad!

Fast forward to present day- I had new found energy from taking charge of my life. It wasn’t easy taking the online classes because apart from the fact that I had a full-time job, I wasn’t even sure if this wasn’t a complete waste of my time and I was just doing what I do best – dreaming or if it was the right thing to do. I convinced myself that I was waiting for the day that all these classes I was taking will someday be needed one day and it will be a shame if I wasn’t prepared for that day. I had to believe that. You know that feeling you get when your life seems to be taking shape and the puzzles are finally falling into place and you just have that good feeling that everything will be okay? Yes, that’s how I was feeling.

It was a new month and things were going great, and one day, I got a phone call and I don’t remember much from the conversation but I remember these words “I’m so sorry, I didn’t want to be the one to tell you…..”, the details are blurry. I can’t remember how the rest of the day went but that was the end. My father was gone. He wasn’t here anymore. I didn’t know whether to cry or not because I didn’t want to upset God by mourning like the unbelievers. I tried to be logical about my reaction to the news. Trying to do it a healthy way and keeping my faith strong wasn’t an easy task. Lots of questions bothered coursing through my mind but of course no one was there to provide answers to them. My entire belief system was under attack and to top up, I was alone. I don’t just mean feeling lonely, but I was also physically by myself. My family was on another continent and I couldn’t go be with them, so it was tough to say the least. There was no point to life. The passion l had to live and help and fight for the very people who needed help was dead. My very core was empty. I prayed to die, I begged God to kill me. I thought about doing it myself. I got as far as cleaning my room and getting things in order for when they found me. But then I thought about the pain my family will feel. I thought about my mother. It will surely kill her to lose me too. It will be selfish of me to put my family through the exact pain I was currently feeling. So, I decided to wait. Praying that one day, it wouldn’t be so dark. Every day I woke up was the same day I got that call. I don’t mean it was like the day. What I mean is that I was living that day every day. It was a new day, but my life was stuck in the day I got the call. I tried to continue pursuing my dream, but it was too dark. I couldn’t see anything, and I gave up. I had no more fight in me. I was just going to let life happen to me. I was completely insane thinking that I could control my destiny. Life was outside my control and all I had to do was wait for what it had for me and keep dealing….

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…it was all black. Everything was black. I couldn’t see anyone or anything but I could feel the pain. Then I hear a familiar voice “Ravvit! Ravvit!! Can you hear me?” It’s my mother! Oh great, it was her. She was the hand that pulled me up. I tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come out. I had them formed in my head, but they wouldn’t come out. Then I hear her voice again “It’s ok Ravvit, we are safe now, everything will be alright.” “Look your brother is here, hey Xahri, come say hello to your sister.” I felt happy, I was safe again and everything will be fine.

“Get up!, everybody get up now!” I have heard that voice before. I know who it is but before I could get up, I’m drenched in cold water. They kept throwing it at us even though we were up. I look around for my mother and she’s not there, I look for Xahri and he’s not around. I begin to panic, and I yelled his name twice and there he was. I hugged him and asked “where is mommy?” I asked him again and again, but he just kept staring at me. I didn’t know what to do but then I heard the voice again “stern face” he was talking to everyone. He said he wanted to help us and I didn’t understand. How can he want to help me when he made my brother and sisters drop to the ground, he made my mom scared that she ran away and left me, he beat me till I couldn’t see anything and most of all, he ruined grandma’s party? He can’t help me because he hurt me. “Where is my mother?” Maybe she went to the bathroom because she was here last night, she saved me when I fell yesterday after the beating. Stern face wanted all the children separate from the adults. Children were screaming, mothers were crying. Some didn’t move rather they couldn’t move. It was terrible. “I have to get out.” “I have to find my mom and get out.” I hold on to Xahri’s hand very tight and follow the rest of the children. They take us to a big compound. It was really big and there was a tree on the side of the wall and they make us sit underneath it. There were kids of different ages both boys and girls. Some of them started to play around. I thought maybe I should play with them too but everything hurt. My foot with the nail was throbbing, my eyes were swollen, and my back and arms hurt from the whips yesterday. I wanted to sleep but I was scared Xahri would go missing again. I have to hold on to him. I have to keep him so my mother wouldn’t be upset that I let him run away. I have to be a big sister and take care of him.

“Hey Ravvit” I run to meet her it’s my mother. I jump and hug her so tight and I started to cry. She asks for Xahri and he runs to meet her too. She looks really good. She even smells better. She had a bag with her and she asks us to set down. “Ravvit, you have done a good job being a big sister”, I smile and she says “I have something for you because you have been a good girl”. She opens her bag and brings out a box of biscuits and juice pack. She tells me to share it with Xahri. We sit there eating in silence and I try to show her my foot with all the blood but there’s nothing there. I also try to show her my arms and back but it doesn’t hurt anymore. I also want to tell her about stern face but she’s just smiling. I don’t think she can hear me and I’m not sure why. Then she stands up and tells me that she has to go. She says “Ravvit, keep your brother safe, be safe and…” I interrupt her, “you can’t leave me again, I don’t like it here, I will be good, I won’t be stubborn anymore, mommy please don’t go.” But by the time I’m done with my plea, she’s half way out of the compound. For some reason Xahri and I are stuck, we can’t run after her or move and we are both crying and begging and then I hear the same thing grandma said “Fight Ravvit, fight but I can’t hear what she says next, I just hear “yourself” and she’s gone. And just as immediately, I hear Xahri calling my name but it sounds like it’s coming from a distance. That’s not possible, he was just right here. I’m supposed to take care of him, mother said to keep him safe. I feel someone shaking me and I open my eyes to see who it is – Xahri. It’s Xahri.

…it was all black. Everything was black. I couldn’t see anyone or anything, but I could feel the pain. Then I hear a familiar voice “Ravvit! Ravvit!! Can you hear me?” It’s my mother! Oh great, it was her. She was the hand that pulled me up. I tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come out. I had them formed in my head, but they wouldn’t come out. Then I hear her voice again “It’s ok Ravvit, we are safe now, everything will be alright.” “Look your brother is here, hey Xahri, come say hello to your sister.” I felt happy, I was safe again and everything will be fine.

“Get up!, everybody get up now!” I have heard that voice before. I know who it is but before I could get up, I’m drenched in cold water. They kept throwing it at us even though we were up. I look around for my mother and she’s not there, I look for Xahri and he’s not around. I begin to panic and I yelled his name twice and there he was. I hugged him and asked, “where is mommy?” I asked him again and again but he just kept staring at me. I didn’t know what to do but then I heard the voice again “stern face” he was talking to everyone. He said he wanted to help us and I didn’t understand. How can he want to help me when he made my brother and sisters drop to the ground, he made my mom scared that she ran away and left me, he beat me till I couldn’t see anything and most of all, he ruined grandma’s party? He can’t help me because he hurt me. “Where is my mother?” Maybe she went to the bathroom because she was here last night, she saved me when I fell yesterday after the beating. Stern face wanted all the children separate from the adults. Children were screaming, mothers were crying. Some didn’t move rather they couldn’t move. It was terrible. “I have to get out.” “I have to find my mom and get out.” I hold on to Xahri’s hand very tight and follow the rest of the children. They take us to a big compound. It was really big and there was a tree on the side of the wall and they make us sit underneath it. There were kids of different ages both boys and girls. Some of them started to play around. I thought maybe I should play with them too but everything hurt. My foot with the nail was throbbing, my eyes were swollen, and my back and arms hurt from the whips yesterday. I wanted to sleep but I was scared Xahri would go missing again. I have to hold on to him. I have to keep him so my mother wouldn’t be upset that I let him run away. I have to be a big sister and take care of him.

“Hey Ravvit” I run to meet her it’s my mother. I jump and hug her so tight and I started to cry. She asks for Xahri and he runs to meet her too. She looks really good. She even smells better. She had a bag with her and she asks us to set down. “Ravvit, you have done a good job being a big sister”, I smile and she says “I have something for you because you have been a good girl”. She opens her bag and brings out a box of biscuits and juice pack. She tells me to share it with Xahri. We sit there eating in silence and I try to show her my foot with all the blood but there’s nothing there. I also try to show her my arms and back but it doesn’t hurt anymore. I also want to tell her about stern face but she’s just smiling. I don’t think she can hear me and I’m not sure why. Then she stands up and tells me that she has to go. She says “Ravvit, keep your brother safe, be safe and…” I interrupt her, “you can’t leave me again, I don’t like it here, I will be good, I won’t be stubborn anymore, mommy please don’t go.” But by the time I’m done with my plea, she’s half way out of the compound. For some reason Xahri and I are stuck, we can’t run after her or move and we are both crying and begging and then I hear the same thing grandma said “Fight Ravvit, fight but I can’t hear what she says next, I just hear “yourself” and she’s gone. And just as immediately, I hear Xahri calling my name, but it sounds like it’s coming from a distance. That’s not possible, he was just right here. I’m supposed to take care of him, mother said to keep him safe. I feel someone shaking me and I open my eyes to see who it is – Xahri. It’s Xahri.

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…..Yes Xahri, what is it? He points towards the gate and I follow his finger and at the end of it I see people running and there’s a lot of noise more like chaos. Out of fear, I got up, grabbed his hand and started running towards the gate too but then I remember that we left my mother behind or maybe she left us. At this point I’m confused so I ask Xahri where mommy was and he just looked at his feet. I yelled at him, “where did mommy go?”, then he started to cry. I look around trying to find her. I was thinking to myself “she couldn’t have left us again” or maybe stern face came to take her and made her drop to the ground like my older brother and sisters. I’m trying to calm Xahri down and find my mother at the same time and I became overwhelmed. Everything was spinning, it felt like we were in the middle and everything around us was moving at super speed but we couldn’t move. I had to bend down, hands over my ears so I could focus and think, think of where she could be. Then I remember the biscuits she gave my brother and I. Maybe she’s there. She may have gone back there to find us. With Xahri on my heels, we went back there but we couldn’t find her. We couldn’t find the rest of the biscuits and juice pack either. Maybe somebody found them or it could have been the wind. I didn’t want to panic again, I didn’t want to upset Xahri any more than he already was. We keep going around in circles and just as I was about to give up and leave, another kid, older, came to me and asked what we were doing there and why we weren’t leaving. I didn’t understand what he meant by the last statement. Did he know that nobody was allowed to leave the compound except for when stern face and his friends came to get us? Or maybe he is new around here so he doesn’t know yet how things work around here. I asked him what he meant and he told me the story of how some people escaped the last raid and they came to tell us that the soldiers have taken stern face and his friends away and there was a lot of fighting and that we were now free. I didn’t understand what he was saying but I definitely understood free. When he was done with his story, I asked if he had seen my mother. I tried my best to describe her and he said he did. I was very happy and begged him to take Xahri and me to her. We hurried out of the compound, as fast as our little legs could carry us and followed him closely for a couple of hours until we got to another compound. It was quiet in there. It seemed like the madness that we just left was a different world away. There were some chickens picking worms in the ground. I also saw some dogs snoozing under a mango tree. It was a big as the compound we were held captive but unlike the lone tree in the center, this one had many trees. It seemed like it had all the fruits in the world and that thought reminded me of the hunger I had been fighting so hard to ignore. We finally got to the door of the building. It was a mud hut. Then the young boy started shouting “Mama! Mama!!” I have found another one. I was a little confused and scared. I didn’t know what he was talking about and I held on to Xahri’s hand, preparing to run. But then a woman came out and she looked at me and said “Come, don’t be scared, I wouldn’t hurt you”, I wasn’t sure to believe her but I didn’t think we had a choice so I went with her. I whispered to the boy “this is not my mother” and he said “No, she is mama”. I wanted to go back outside. My mother must be looking for us. She must be worried. We are going to get in trouble for leaving. All of these thoughts coursing through my mind. I’m also very tired and hungry. Xahri looks like he is about to faint and I was worried that if I decided to run away, he wouldn’t be able to run fast and I wasn’t going to leave him behind so I decided to follow mama. My mother will find us here. This is the only compound close to where we were held captive so yes, she will find us here but that’s if she makes a right at the gate. What if she makes a left? What is on the left? This place is really far too. What if she gets tired and can’t keep on. We should have given her some biscuits and juice too. We enter into another room in the hut and there are some children in there. They were seated on benches on either side of a long table eating some yam porridge. The sight and smell of food made my stomach growl. I’m not sure if mama heard that but then she told Xahri and me to have a sit and asked the boy to get us plates and cups of water. The other children didn’t give us any mind at all, they were eating and chatting away. They seemed to be from a different place from where we were coming. Joshua brought the plates and cups of water as mama had instructed and she served us some yam porridge. Xahri and I were ravenous, we devoured the food so quickly that mama decided to give us more only if we promised to slow down. When we finished eating, mama told us we needed a bath. Joshua took us outside the hut and gave us two buckets of water. A sponge made from raffia and some soap. I bathed Xahri first and took him in before having a bath myself. By the time I went back into the hut, Xahri was asleep and I lay beside him and I fell asleep before my head hit the mat.

…..Xahri and I are playing in the backyard with the other kids when I hear a familiar voice. I heard mama say “Oh, they are well, they are in the back…”, I wonder who she’s talking to so I turn around the corner and it’s my mother, I run towards her, arms flailing beside me, my mother had her arms stretched out ready to catch me just as I jumped into them almost sending the both of us to the ground. To say I was happy is an understatement. I had a million and one questions but I couldn’t find the words. My arms tight around her neck, I didn’t want to lose her again. She’s saying something but I can’t hear her. At this point, all I want to hear is “we are going home”. We go inside the house and mama offers her something to eat and drink. I’m kind of surprised that she didn’t ask for Xahri and for a brief moment, I allow myself believe that I’m her favorite. That she really missed me and nothing else mattered. Mama asks me to get off my mother so she can eat her food. I reluctantly let go of her and use the opportunity to go find Xahri. I mean, mother can’t disappear again while she’s eating, I know that mama wouldn’t let that happen. I run outside to where we were playing and I didn’t find anyone there. Everywhere seemed awfully quiet. Well maybe they have all gone into the other shed, but there is nobody there. I begin to panic because this feeling is familiar. It’s like the last time mommy came and gave us biscuits and the juice pack and then disappeared. So I run back to where she was eating earlier and she’s not there either. “What is happening?” this can’t be happening again! Where did everybody go? Did she take Xahri home and leave me here? Oh no, this is because of what I was thinking earlier- that I’m her favorite. I shouldn’t have been bad. Mama! Mama!! Mommy! Mommy!! Mommy!!! Xahri! Joshua!! Where is everybody? Finally, I hear someone call my name from afar and I run towards the voice but it seems far away and the whole place starts to vibrate. I am so confused at this point and beyond panic so I scream, as loud as I can and that’s when she came in, mama held me. Whispering words I can’t make out to me, she’s rocking me back and forth. Then I come to it and hear her “It’s okay, it’s okay Ravvit”, “You are okay, mama is here”. I open my eyes and there are a hundred more staring down at me. In the corner of my eye, I see Xahri in the corner, looking terrified. I’m trying to figure out where they all were and where is my mother? Why does she keep leaving us behind? Is she tired of us? Is it because I am bad? Where is my mommy? I mutter quietly, mama looks at me like I had just spoke a foreign language. I ask her again, and that’s when she asked all the other kids to leave. She still hasn’t answered my question. She says to me that she has to take me somewhere. I ask about my mother again but she deflects. She tells me about a place that she will take us kids to. A place where we will be happy, where we can go to school and learn things. I don’t want to go there, I want my mother, I’m happy here, and Joshua reads some books to us so I don’t need to learn anything. Then mama said that this place she wants to take us is better than her hut and I can find mother there. I ask her why she let my mother go in the first place. She looks at me with that same like of confusion and then pulls me in and rocks me back and forth, muttering some words and now she’s sobbing. I’m thinking maybe she is upset for letting my mother go and she is sorry. So I tell her that I will stop asking questions and that I forgive her for letting my mother go. She helps me to my feet and tells me to call Joshua and three of the older kids. I do as she asks and everyone keeps looking at me like something is wrong. Well I guess my screams were really loud. It must have worked because they all came out from wherever they were hiding. She gives them some instructions and the next thing is they start giving us these little bags to put our things in. I was helping Xahri pack his little bag when mama walked into the room and Resa asked “Mama, why are we packing our things? Are they coming to get us again? And mama responded “You are packing your things because you all are going home” A deafening silence followed. I don’t know if it was because we were too excited to speak, or we were silent out of fear, or maybe because we didn’t know where home was or worse, we had forgotten what home was. The concept of “home” was so far gone that we didn’t know whether going there was a good or bad thing.

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…I picked up my bags at baggage claim and proceeded to exit the building. I tried to work my phone but for some reason, the calls could not connect. Then I decided to book an Uber but that wasn’t working either so I moved on to plan “C”. I walk up to the information desk and pick up a few pamphlets advertising taxi rides and make a selection. I picked one and proceeded to use the desk phone provided to make the call. The voice on the other end said she’ll pull up at the B Gate on level 2. At first I was going to argue and tell her to come to where I was because I was too exhausted to start find her location especially since I have a degree in getting lost but then I looked up to figure out what gate I was standing at, and I realized that I was exactly where she had mentioned “Thank God” I said under my breathe. She pulled up a few minutes later and we proceeded home. I wanted to take a nap but I couldn’t so I decided instead to make a list of things to do. I knew what the first thing on the list should be but I couldn’t bring myself to write it down. I closed the book and just looked out the window and started to play the “car tag” game. So basically the game is about looking for tags outside the current state I’m in. For some very interesting reason best known to God, I get excited seeing cars from out of town and then I try to figure out if it’s a rental or if they owned the car and had driven from there, calculating the number of hours to if they were on a family trip and basically every unimportant bit relating to the tag. After a couple of hours, I get home and my nerves awaken and I’m not sure what the reception is going to be like. I really don’t want anything emotional. I just want to see everyone, be happy and just move on to enjoying my trip. But as soon as I see my siblings and my mom, everything else didn’t matter. I was truly excited and relieved to see them. My brothers took my luggage up to my room and I sat with my mom in the living room talking about everything but my father which at first was great but then became the elephant in the room. Then out of the blue, she just said “I’m sure you will like to visit his grave, Tarvi can take you there whenever you want”. I was still trying to figure out how to answer when she called my brother “Tarvi” and told him he was taking me to our father’s grave site the next day. He looked at me trying to confirm the date and words seem stuck in my throat so all I could do was nod in agreement. I didn’t think I will be visiting him so quick but I guess tomorrow will be as good a time as any other.

There was a knock on my door and I already knew who it was. My mom came in and she asked if I was okay with going to visit my father and when I looked up to answer her, tears just rolled down my face. She came and sat on my bed so she could give me a hug. She didn’t say anything which is very unusual for my mom. I was expecting her to try to calm me down or try to say something nice but she didn’t. After a few minutes, I was calm enough to speak and I asked why she was so quiet and shes said “Sometimes, a hug is all you need” and she was totally right. I just needed to cry. I didn’t need any words of hope or faith or assurance. I just wanted to be allowed to feel the pain and just let it out. I didn’t need someone to make me feel like “falling apart” meant that I was losing my faith or that I was “losing it”. We talked a little more about the events before and after my father’s death and she tried to mimic my father which she failed terribly. My eldest brother Kerhaq is the only one who could nail mimicking my father but it was nice to be able to talk about him with her and even find laughter in the tragedy. My mother apologized for forcing my hand to go visit my father without giving me a chance to make the decision myself but I insisted that it was okay and though I would have appreciated if I was allowed to make a choice myself, I’m glad she spoke up for me. I think the conversation with her made it “okay” to go see him. By that time my brother Tarvi was ready and I went downstairs to join him in the car. Tarvi was concerned that our mother was pushing me to do something I wasn’t ready for and I assured him it wasn’t the case. Anyone listening to our conversation would think he was the elder of us two. It felt good to have such great support from my family. This family support is exactly what I needed when I first got the news. This is why I hated so much that I was far away. I know that there’s nothing that anyone could have said or done to change the situation but having someone who was going through the same thing as me sure would have helped a lot. Tarvi and I talked more about our father and we laughed, I cried, he pretended something got in his eye of course and it was great. I was super happy. In about 24hours, I had experienced all kinds of emotions you can imagine, from one end of the spectrum to the other.  When I first hatched the idea to come home, I thought it would weigh heavy with so much emotion that I would had to shut down so as not to “feel” but I must say, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m very prepared to visit my father’s grave and I couldn’t have picked a better partner to come along than my baby brother Tarvi.

…..On our way from visiting my father, I was lost in thought when Tarvi brought me back to reality. I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to pry but he still was concerned about me. I told him what I was thinking about. When I was at the grave site, I kept thinking about conversations daddy and I had had. He always wanted me be successful but not at the expense of experiencing life. He always told me that time goes by very quickly and if you are not careful, you realize that for the most part, you have been chasing shadows. He used that phrase a lot “chasing shadows”. So that made me think hard on what I really wanted out of life and I was hoping to find lots of meaning on my trip. First, I would like to find some orphanages and shelters and the likes. Tarvi didn’t seem very convinced at first but I try to assure him that I had put a lot of thought towards it and visiting daddy’s grave was just extra motivation that I very much needed.  I told him that I believed it was something our father would want me to do. If he could speak to me, he would say “You have to go after what you want, fight for yourself because no one else will”.

By the time we got home, it was about evening time. Dinner was ready but I was really pumped to get my research going. I went to my room to do just that but didn’t find much. I really didn’t want a mainstream orphanage, I wanted something ‘off the grid”, a shelter or whatever but a place that doesn’t get as much help as it needed. I decided to continue my research the next day and went down to get dinner after which I worked on some of my online classes. Two weeks after I had arrived, a friend told me of a trip that a couple of our other friends were planning. It was going to be a four day trip and it was free. I decided to join them because she had me at “free”. The trip was definitely something that I was excited about because I hadn’t been to that town before and it would be fun exploring with friends.

By Tuesday the following week, we were on a bus on our way to the town. The energy on the bus was so positive that I was super pumped too. I had just completed and gotten certifications for two of my online classes so that also gave me some positive vibes. I still hadn’t found an orphanage or shelter or even a charity that I could help. Everybody only knew the mainstream ones and I wanted one that was low key but effective. We finally arrived our destination after about 8hours on the road. Despite our exhaustion, we still hit the town that night, we wanted to experience the nightlife outside a city and boy was it exciting. The people were friendly, the food was great and the prices were ridiculously lower in comparison to what we were accustomed to. We ended up tipping a lot since we had a lot to make up for. We met another group who were from another city and they told us that they had a tour guide who had planned for them to visit a village that was known to have a cave that was basically a makeshift Jacuzzi. He said the water was from a waterfall which was cold but then by the time it got to the cave, it was hot enough to steam but not too hot to get in. We were pretty excited to experience this and made plans to meet up the next morning. It was about 3hours outside the town we were in so we decided to leave at 08:00 so we could have enough time to explore the locale.

To my surprise, we left just 10 minutes behind schedule and there began our trip to the “Steaming cave” as it was called. About 2hrs into the trip, you could see the difference in the environment. The tarred roads disappeared, there were no buildings just huts and just the general sense of a rural lifestyle. I saw people riding bicycles or walking with what I guessed to be harvests from the farm or maybe not, maybe on their way to the markets but what intrigued me was the quantity of produce they carried. I would definitely pass out attempting such. We finally reached our destination and there was a lot of activity in the area. The moment the little children saw our bus approaching, they ran towards it, singing and overly excited. Our tour guide- Ali told us they were excited to see us because they hoped we would give them some money or even food. I wished that I had known we would meet the children because then I would have cooked something, bought some items or even gotten some clothes to give them. I wondered where they lived, if they had parents, if they went to school, well I assume some of them did attend some kind of school because they communicated well in English language. There was a food stand beside the bus station so I gave the owner some money and asked her to give the children some food. I didn’t think giving them the money was a good idea but I hoped that a good meal will go a long way. I thought to myself that if only I knew who to talk to or where to go to figure out a way to help the children but our tour guide couldn’t help with my questions. All 17 of us including the tour guide began our hike to head to the “Steaming cave”.  The party we met last night were 9 and we were 7 so we decided to split our groups into sets of twos so we could know the other team better instead of just walking with whom we already knew. I thought it was a great idea but because we were outnumbered by two, a team had to have three, two from the other team and one from my team. I volunteered myself to be that one and I was in a team with two boys.  We could hear the water falls and that was really amazing because it meant we were getting close to the cave. We finally got to the top of the waterfall and the view was breathtaking. We spent some time there taking pictures and just taking in the view. The cave was at the bottom of the waterfall and we had to begin our descent to the cave. Someone decided to make it a competition to see who could get to the cave first. A couple of us protested but we were in the minority so the majority won. It was going to be a race downhill. I thought to myself to stick with the tour guide but he was nowhere to be seen, and I was immediately convinced that it was a terrible idea. Before I could protest one more time, everyone was racing downhill including my fellow protesters. I decided to go at a steady pace behind them, picking a few people to watch so I wouldn’t get lost.

Boy did I know what I was in for…..

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Excitement was in the air the next day. I couldn’t sleep because I just kept thinking about what mama said yesterday. “You are going home.” Where is home? Is that where my mother went to when she left Xahri and I again? Maybe it was a surprise and she didn’t want to ruin it. I can’t wait to see her. Mama had gotten a bus to come take us home. We all got in and mama said a prayer before we embarked on our journey home. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I heard was “Everybody get down!” I was frightened because it reminded me of when stern face came to take us. The difference now is that mama was the one who was saying it and the other kids were chattering away with excitement. I looked out the window and it didn’t look like my home, I was a little disappointed but then maybe my mother didn’t want us going back home, maybe it’s a new home since the old one has many sad memories.

There was a building right across from where the bus parked. Mama ushered us inside. It was a very big building but it wasn’t completed. The walls weren’t painted and it looked like nobody had been in there for a while. We were asked to sit in a room that looked like a dining hall. Mama asked Joshua to come with him and they had to go talk to the elderly man who welcomed us in. All the kids were talking from excitement. I was looking out hoping that I will see my mother. Xahri said he needed to pee. I didn’t know where the bathroom was so I just took him down the hallway opening any door that resembled a bathroom. We had gotten halfway down the hallway when I heard mama yelling at the man who welcomed us in. She was asking him what he wanted her to do with all the children. He was trying to calm her down. He was saying something about no funding from the government, and that because they were far away from the city, it was difficult to get private institutions to help. He was using a lot of big words that I didn’t understand like “embezzlement”. That word sounded familiar because I had heard grandma and my mother talk about it a lot. I decided to go in the room to ask grandma where the bathroom was but she stormed out and we bumped into her. She tried to hide her tears and immediately put on a smile. She told me to go back to be with the other children while she took Xhari to the bathroom.

On my way back, I started to think of what they were talking about. What was going to happen to us? Mama doesn’t want us anymore and this man cannot allow us stay here. Where is my mother? She will definitely want me and Xahri. Maybe she can take some of the other children too but they are too many to stay with us or maybe this man can let us all stay here and with mama’s help, my mother can take care of everybody. I got back in the room with the other children and they all looked happy. I didn’t want to be the one to tell them that this place wasn’t to be our home. I’m pretty sure they will all rather go back to be with mama. She had taken care of us since the incident over a year ago. She read to us, taught us about mathematics and she made us happy. I sat down and prayed that my mother will show up soon, then I fell asleep.

…I didn’t like this idea from the beginning. I knew it was a terrible idea but nobody wanted to listen to me. I don’t know how I got separated from my team but now I’m all by myself looking for this cave. I’m pretty sure I am off track because it shouldn’t take this long. It was supposed to be an hour but it’s an hour and a half and I see no cave in sight. Maybe I should go back up but I can’t guarantee that I can find my way back up though. My phone has no signal. This is just like the movies. The exact time you need to have phone service is the exact time it disappears and you get killed by a wild animal or worse off, you get kidnapped. But wait really though, which is worse? Oh wait, I can see some houses, thank God, at least they can take me back to the bus or the cave. I hurry down as fast as my tired legs could carry me. And to top it off, I really need to pee. I finally get to the bottom of this “forever” hill and I see a bus parked outside this building. It looks half completed. Well I hope that the completed half has a bathroom because I really need to pee. Well there is only one way to find out – go on in.

The front door is open so I just walk in, “Hello, is anybody here?” “Hello, I really need to use the bathroom, can I come in?” I walk a little further into the house and I hear some people arguing. I wanted to go inside that room to ask for help when I looked to my left and there was a bathroom. I was about to go in when I heard a woman shout “What am I to do with these children?” “They need to go to school, they need healthcare, and I can’t do it alone” … I see a little girl about 8 years old and a little boy with her probably 4 maybe five years old and I’m wondering if they are who this woman is talking about. I wanted to hear the rest of the conversation but I really needed to pee so I went in the bathroom. I was about to flush the toilet when someone knocked on the door. “One second!” I answered. I wash my hands quickly and open the door. There’s the woman holding the little boy I saw in the hallway. She looked like she had been crying. I moved aside to give her room to go in the bathroom. I wanted to ask if she was okay but I felt like I would be prying. I can’t ask her for help locating the bus or my friends because that would seem insensitive too so I just walk away and go towards the room where I heard the little commotion earlier. The door was open and I could see an elderly man seated behind a desk. I knock on the door to get his attention. I greeted him and he smiled back at me, I explained my dilemma to him and he told me that this sort of thing happened a lot and that he would get someone to take me to the cave. I was very relieved that I had found help. He offered me seat and walked out of the room to find someone to take me to the cave. From my position, I hide a little view of traffic outside in the hallway. The woman I had met had on the bathroom was walking outside with another child, this one was a teenager, probably fifteen years old. I heard her tell him to get the bus driver ready that they were going back because they couldn’t get help here. She also asked him to get some food from the bus so the children could have lunch. I didn’t know when I got up and was walking really close behind them. I wanted to say something but the words wouldn’t come out. I knew that I needed to say something but for some reason, my mouth couldn’t say the words I was thinking probably because my thoughts were going a million words per minute. I wasn’t anticipating her stop so I bumped into her and she turned around. “I am so sorry” I said to her. “It’s okay” she responded. I thought to myself that was my opening, I had to say something else but she immediately turned back around on her way out. I just blurted out “I can help you with the children” she turned around with the “what are you talking about look” and I proceeded to answer her question. I apologized for eavesdropping and told her how I had overheard her conversation with Mr. Arden and I might be able to help her if she needed help with her children. I went on about how difficult it must be being a single mother raising three children alone and I had to stop because her expression didn’t show that she was feeling what I was saying. I was thinking I must have really over stepped and began to apologize profusely and proceeded back to Mr. Arden’s office when she said “fifteen” I turned around to look at her and she said “I have fifteen children”. I was shocked, yes she looks like she’s in her late 50s but did she spend her whole life having children? What man would so that to a woman? Maybe they are different men. My mind was spinning and I figured she realized what I was thinking and she went on to tell me the story of how she came about having fifteen children. She told me what Mr. Arden had told her. The lack of funding, mismanagement and how their location put them at a disadvantage to get help form private organizations. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. My mind couldn’t comprehend the coincidence. This has to be more than a coincidence. It has to be fate. I had been looking for how to help and here I was, right where I should be. With everything I had hoped for, all the hours I had put in studying those books for my online classes. Mr. Arden brought me back to reality when he came back in with a young man – Feratt. I looked at Mr. Arden, then at this woman I just promised to help then at Ferrat. Mr. Arden didn’t know what was going on and he gave us this bewildered look and I proceeded to “unbewilder” him. He ushered me and the woman who Mr. Arden referred to as “mama” into his office. He asked Ferrat to wait outside for a little while. Mr. Arden’s eyes lit up like he had won something, something really big like a car or I don’t know an all-expense paid trip round the world maybe. We sat down in his office for hours trying to come up with a plan. I tried to explain to them a million times that I didn’t have an NGO, that I didn’t know of anyone that I could recommend and basically my experience was from taking free online classes and a couple of years volunteering with different non-profit organizations but they weren’t having any of my excuses.

By the time we were done, a lot of time had passed so I decided that going back to the bus was a better idea than going to the cave for fear that the crew would have headed back to the bus. The route Ferrat took us through was a lot shorter than the one our tour guide had taken us. We were back by the bus under an hour. I was exhausted from the day’s adventure. The crew hadn’t returned yet. As soon as we got near the bus, my phone started to go off. I had so many missed calls and messages from my friends, they were all worried. Immediately, I called Shaffie and I don’t think she let the phone ring before she answered. They had been worried sick about me and had threatened the tour guide to get him to confessing kidnapping me. I thought that was a little extreme but I sure was happy to know that people cared about me. I assured her that I was safe and by the bus and of course to let the tour guide go promising to fill them in on “Tehrani’s adventure”. We ended the call and I gave Ferrat some money for his help.

I was fast asleep when I heard the noise from the crew. I got out of the bus and Shaffie ran towards me in the biggest bear hug that almost toppled the both of us over. The crew was excited to see me but were mad that I kind of ruined their fun at the cave. I apologized and promised to make it up to them. Though I wasn’t sure asking their help in completing the house for the kids and asking for donations was the way to repay them. I told Mr. Arden and Mama that I was coming the next day with my friends so we could help with completing the house, buying furniture and help in any capacity needed to ensure that the children had a safe place. I knew that wasn’t enough but it would be a good place to start.

I let the crew settle in a bit before I asked for their attention. I explained my whole ordeal to them and told them of my promise to Mama and Mr. Arden. Their response was amazing. I knew my friends would help but I wasn’t expecting much the other party we came with but to my surprise, they were as enthusiastic as my group of friends. They went as far as planning to go back into town to find ATM’s to withdraw money to help. It left me in tears. I never thought that my dream was so close by. There were days when I thought I was wasting my time preparing for a day I wasn’t sure would ever come. I even thought I was crazy at some point. I knew that we were far from being successful at this project but the faint idea that I would be helping provide a chance for a better life for these children who are victims of this cruel world is all the success I need. For those who couldn’t contribute financially, they promised to commit their time. I had little sleep that night. I spent my time coming up with different strategies. We decided to stay the night instead of going back and coming the next day. It wasn’t the ideal plan but it worked. I started to think of all the lessons I learned in my classes and how to apply them here. There was a lot to be done but we can start with giving the children a home.

…”I know you all have been through a lot, many adults have not been through half of what you all have experienced in your little time on earth but I tell you, you have to fight for yourself, fight…”  That sounds familiar. I have heard something like that before but where and whom did I hear it from? She says it again “fight for yourself” “Grandma!” That is what grandma was trying to say when there was all that “red” around her. I thought she said “Fight yourself” but she meant fight for yourself. This woman must know what she is talking about if she is saying something grandma said to me.

When we woke up that morning, there was a lot of activity going on. Mama came into the make shift bedroom Mr. Arden had made for us. She sounded very excited. She told us to get up and go take a shower before we had breakfast and that there was a guest she had for us. For a second, I thought it was my mother. Maybe she had finally come to surprise Xahri and me. I wanted to tell Xahri that mommy was coming to see us and take us home but I didn’t want to ruin the surprise for him so I decided against telling him. I got up quickly and took Xahri outside to give him a bath before having mine. We hurriedly ate our breakfast and went to sit in the hall we sat in the day before. We were chatting away when a couple of people came into the room including mama and Mr. Arden. A young woman introduced herself to us as Ms. Tehrana. She introduced some other people as her friends. Xahri and I were seated in the back so I couldn’t get a good view. I was stretching to see if our mother was in the group of her friends but she wasn’t there. I was disappointed and refused to listen. I hadn’t cried in a long time, even when I saw my brothers and sister drop to the ground, even when grandma had all that red around her. I didn’t even cry when my mother came to see us and left us twice but this time it hurt. It hurt because I was beginning to think that my mother was never coming back. But why would she leave us behind? What could be the reason? I don’t want to cry like the other children. I want to be strong like Joshua and the other big boys who didn’t cry. They sometimes made fun of the kids that cried too calling them babies. I am still fighting to hold back tears when I hear something familiar …”I know you all have been through a lot, many adults have not been through half of what you all have experienced in your little time on earth but I tell you, you have to fight for yourself, fight…”  That sounds familiar. I have heard something like that before but where and whom did I hear it from? She says it again “fight for yourself” “Grandma!” That is what grandma was trying to say when there was all that “red” around her. I thought she said “Fight yourself” but she meant fight for yourself. This woman must know what she is talking about if she is saying something grandma said to me. Maybe she knows my grandma, or maybe her grandma told her the same thing too. It must be sad if her grandma went away the same way mine did but I will like to talk to her. Maybe she can help me find my mother. I decided to listen to her and she talked about building us a playground and a school and that we would be getting books and new clothes but it wouldn’t happen right away but will take a little time. She had to convince some other friends to help us. We were all excited about all this new stuff we were going to get. For a moment, I wasn’t thinking of my mother. I wasn’t sad about her leaving us. I was just happy that we were going to get new clothes and shoes. We were going to go back to school too. At the end of her speech, mama asked all the kids to go back on the bus because we needed to leave the building so that it could be completed. Auntie Tehrani and her friends had gotten brick layers, carpenters and electricians and many more people to help finish the building. They were going to give us beds too. I couldn’t contain my excitement. We would get real beds with mattresses and no longer sleep on mats. They were going to build a borehole too so we wouldn’t go to the stream to get water. All of the kids were very excited. I saw Resa and Joshua dancing in the corner of the room. It most definitely was the best day since mama let us into her house. We were going to a place called the “Steaming cave”. We didn’t know what it was about but I don’t think anyone cared at this point. We were too excited to be bothered.

Mr. Arden helped us get local skills men to help with our plans. We had limited time there and we wanted to make the most of our time there. We had to get the children basic needs within such a short time frame. The carpenters made double-decker beds, everybody had a task and knew how to execute them. We worked like a well-oiled machine. My volunteering and studies came in very handy. What impressed me the most, was the willingness of people to help. Even the locals impressed me too I was very amazed by their enthusiasm to help. Why didn’t they do all this before our intervention though? They needed someone to lead them I think. They didn’t know where to start or how to help. Some of my friends volunteered to go with the children to the cave. I wanted to go too but I had to be at the house to make sure everything worked according to plan. I still had a lot of work to do. What would happen when we leave? Will help continue or will all this hard work go to waste again? I have to figure out a way to make sure that this place gets the resources they need. They need teachers and a doctor, and many other professionals. I’m very sure they would need a psychologists to help the children process their feelings of loss and other emotions they must have suppressed over time. I’m not going to get over my head. I’m going to focus on the next two days since that’s all the time we have for now.

 By evening time we all get back to the house and the first thing we notice is that there are light bulbs on in and around the house. The transformation on the inside though is totally awesome. We have bedrooms now with actual beds. There is a kitchen with a refrigerator and a freezer. We all run in excitement picking out our beds. I pick one for Xahri and I but mama told us that we can’t be in the same room because the rooms have to be for one gender so I have to go in the girls room to pick a bed. It was really exciting to even have a bed so although I didn’t want to leave Xahri, I was happy to stay in a room with an actual bed and a door that closes. Xahri wasn’t happy about leaving me. We have always done everything together since the incident. He followed me everywhere and I had gotten used to it. It was normal to have him around mw all the time. I went to comfort him and make him feel better when Ms. Tehrani came over to sit with us on Xahri’s new bed. She asked if we liked our new beds. I told her I did but Xahri didn’t respond and she asked him again but he didn’t answer her. I explained to her why he was upset and she tried to make him feel better. She reached into her purse and brought out a pack of biscuits. The same one that our mother had given us when we were in the compound with the lone tree. She must know my mother or grandma. First she says the same thing that grandma said to me before she went away and now she knows what type of biscuits we like. Ms. Tehrani must know something about us. Maybe that’s why she’s talking to us. I decided to ask her about my mother. She said she didn’t know her. I asked about my grandma and she said the same thing that she didn’t know my grandma either. All of this doesn’t make any sense, how can she talk like grandma and know what Xahri and I like without knowing either of them? She must have sensed my thoughts because she asked what I was thinking about and I told her about what happened to grandma and what she said to me while she was laying in all that red. I also told her about my mother leaving us twice and I’m not sure what happened but Ms. Tehrani asked if she could leave us for a second and I said “sure”.

“Oh my God”, “How can this little girl have the strength to breathe?”, “How can she say that story with so much composure and totally devoid of emotion?”. I tried really hard to keep my emotions in check but a single tear escaped the corner of my eye, rolling down my face. She didn’t even say her grandma died, she said “she went away’ and “red” that’s blood Lord. I am not cut out for this task Lord. This little girl is broken. These children are broken. She saw her siblings get shot and her grandma bled to death right in front of her. And how am I supposed to tell this little girl that her mother didn’t leave her like she believes but that she had been dreaming about her this whole time? Her mother must be dead. There is no way her mother would leave her. Everything she has told me about when her mother came to meet her sounds exactly like a dream. Each time she visited, she was asleep but I guess to an eight year old, it seemed pretty real. Lord, how can I tell Ravvit and Xahri that their mother is never coming back? That’s like breaking an already broken heart. I am not qualified to do this. But what do I do? I was crouched in the hallway when Xahri came to me saying “Ms. Tehrani, it’s okay, you don’t have to cry, I like my bed. I will sleep in the boys room” I wiped my tears away and looked up at him and gave him a hug. Ravvit came to meet us outside and she asked why I was crying. I thought to lie to her. To make her happy. I thought to shield her from the pain but I thought about it, what would hurt more? The pain she already knows or the anticipation of what is a lie? I can’t have her continue to believe that her mother left and worse anticipate her return. One that was never going to happen, well at least not in this life. I must talk to mama first. I have to figure out the best way to handle this situation. I told Ravvit that I was crying because I was sad about what happened to her. She gave me a hug, telling me it was okay and that everything was in the past. She told me that because of me and my friends, Mr. Arden and mama, she was going to be happy forever. I couldn’t believe the strength in this eight year old. She could still condone the idea of “happiness”. I had let go of the idea of happiness when my father died. I didn’t think I would ever be genuinely happy. I knew that there were days when I would laugh, feel excitement and all but I never thought I would be truly happy but here I was learning faith from an eight year old who had her world torn apart when she was seven years old, left with nothing but her four year old baby brother and the hope that her mother would come back for them. I promised them that I wasn’t going to cry any longer and went to look for mama. I told her what had happened and she confirmed my suspicions. Ravvit had been dreaming about her mother this whole time. Mama told me of the time when Joshua, one of the older children had to come get her because Ravvit was shaking violently in what appeared to be one of her dreams. H ehad tried to wake her up but wasn’t successful in doing so. She had been talking in her sleep. Talking to her mother, begging her to wait so she could go get Xahri. It was heartbreaking to hear. Mama said other children woke up in cold sweats too. Children screaming in their sleep and some of them having trouble communicating. I was more determined to help.  I was ready to do whatever needed to be done to help these children have a chance at a better life. I would take as many courses I needed to take. I would get as many degrees as it would take for me to help.

Mama and I decided that we both tell Ravvit that the times she saw her mother had been in her dream. We asked Resa to find Ravvit and Xahri and tell them to come into mama’s room. I don’t think my heart could beat any faster than it did while we were waiting for the children. I was certain that mama and anyone else who came into that room could hear it beat. They both came in the room and we asked them to sit down. Mama looked at me, signaling me to go ahead. I was hoping that she would take the lead and I would just be there for moral support, a shoulder to cry on you know. I thought about my father and how I got the news that he had passed on and got my strength from there. I looked into Ravvit’s eyes and explained everything to her. She just stood there, motionless. I called her name but she didn’t respond. She didn’t even blink and just before I called out her name again, tears raced down her cheeks. She still didn’t move, didn’t make a sound. She just stood there, with the tears streaming down. I looked at Xahri and he was looking straight at me too. I was beginning to get scared. Had I broken these kids finally? Was this the final straw? Maybe the thought of reuniting with their mother was the only thing that kept them going. I asked him if he was okay and unlike his sister, he answered. He said “I already knew she was never coming back”. That got Ravvit’s attention because she turned to look at him, and he said he saw her drop to the ground just like Ravvit had seen their other siblings drop to the ground. Ravvit asked him why he never told her and he said, “the only time you look happy Ravvit is when you tell me you saw mommy”, “You are always very happy telling me what she said and how she is coming back”, “I want you to be happy forever”. I didn’t think I could feel any worse but as soon as Xahri was done talking, Ravvit crumbled to the floor. I can’t say she was crying because that will not explain the sounds that came out of her. I would say this though, the sounds she made was like pain leaving your body, gut-wrenching sobs. She was curled up like a ball and made guttural sounds. I was trying to hold it together but the sight of her broke me. I knew her pain. I have been exactly where she was but the difference is that I was thirty two years old when I experienced it she on the other hand is eight. I go on my knees beside her and hold her. I notice that she didn’t resist so I just carried her and rubbed her back. She was shaking all over. I looked up at mama and she was holding Xahri who was in tears too. “Dear Lord, how do I help these children?” “Please tell me what to say to them” “Help me remember something from my books that can address this situation” but there was no answer. All I felt I needed to do was to hold her. After about an hour, mama and I had succeeded in calming them down. They left mama’s room to their rooms and behind Ravvit’s eyes, I saw the pain and brokenness. She was a trooper though. She said to me “my grandma told me to fight for myself and that’s what I’m going to do”. She thanked me and went away with her brother.

That night was one of the longest nights of my life. Here I was thinking I had to work with Alliance for Help (A.H) to make a difference. I had always thought that my fulfillment in helping others would never be achieved if I didn’t work with the A.H organization. I never knew that what I had been looking for this whole time had been inside of me. I don’t have to work with A.H or any other organization to help and fulfill my passion. I can do it within my resources. Here I was, learning strength from an eight year old, I learned faith from a five year old. If all of what happened to Ravvit, Xahri and all the other children had happened to me, would I be able to believe like they do? Would I be able to get out of bed? Would I even be alive today? I accepted the challenge that night. The challenge to help in my best capacity. I felt a new fire inside of me. All of my dreams came right before me. I didn’t need anyone to start living my dreams. I had to start myself and invite others into the dream. I know that it would be a while before I can make the impact I hoped would better the lives of these children and others to come but tonight, I take the first step in that direction – belief. Belief that it is possible and it will be done. I had been preparing for the future I dreamed of without even knowing. I had been praying for something God had already given me. All that I needed to do was ”DO”.  I no longer need my own pain as the strength to carry on.  Ravvit, Xahri and all the other children are all the strength that I need to carry on.

 

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