Days to celebrate

I have a confession to make, one that may not come as a huge surprise to those of you who have been following the blog for a while. I adore and am hopelessly in love with every single one of our kids. But one little girl has had her tiny fist wrapped around my heart from day one.

A few months in, still tiny
Zawadi means gift, and she is. When I first arrived at the orphanage, she was a tiny, tiny thing – a year old and only twelve pounds, unable to speak, with a big old protruding belly filled with nothing but worms, and tiny, weak little arms and legs, bent from rickets, that couldn’t bear her weight to crawl. Instead she swam across the floor, my beautiful little wiggle worm. While it’s not unusual to have some level of delay for orphanage children, the undiagnosed worms had left her profoundly sick and weak, and we were for a while worried that she had underlying HIV.

Just a week after I started work at the orphanage, she caught a cough that was going around. The difference was, she couldn’t shake it like the other kids did. Her tiny little chest shuddered with every breath, and we took her to the hospital – pneumonia. A round of oral antibiotics failed, so I had to hold her, tears streaming down both our faces, as they tried and failed, over and over again, to find a vein in her underdeveloped little arms. I wrote a poem about it that day, and I knew I’d never be the same. 
Walking for me on my last day – what a gift!

Every day after that we got closer. She began to coo for me, then babble, then, slowly to talk, to crawl and, on my last day, to walk. She is a stubborn little goat of a girl, contrary, possessive and protective, but with giggles that light up a room and are all the more beautiful for their rarity. I call her my Zi, my mpenZi (sweetheart), my mbuZi (goat) – she calls my name.

She turns two this month, but nobody knows when. Her mother died in mysterious circumstances a few months after her birth. Her father, who had a history of domestic violence, disappeared. She came to us in January of 2010, and the mamas estimated her birth would have been sometime in the month of October – so that’s all she’s ever had, a birthday of 0/10/2009.

And at 18 months, toothy and standing!
A picture from her first day, courtesy
of Diane, who was volunteering when she

Every kid deserves a birthday. In reality, every kid deserves a family and a home – but for now at least, that’s out of my hands. So, little girl, from now on I will celebrate your birthday on October 17th – a lucky number for me, and my new favorite day of the year. Today I’ll celebrate Zawadi’s birthday, and how far she’s come – from a gaunt, serious little face to a delicious ball of giggles. I plan to move to Tanzania when I’m done with my program and do everything within my power to adopt her – it may or may not be possible given the complexities of adoption law. I will be there for her, though, for every day of the rest of her life, and many, many more birthdays. 

Zi isn’t the only one to have a birthday this month – it’s a busy one for the orphanage, although birthdays aren’t usually acknowledged there. So happy, happy birthday to all of our beautiful October babies!
Abdulli turned five on October 3rd
David turned four on October 7th
Andrea turned four on October 10th
Neema turns two on October 27th
Furaha ya kuzaliwa kwa watoto wetu – happy birthday to our kids! 
We try to cover the big things – sanitation, nutrition, staff, and education (still working on the funds to get this year’s kids into school!). But the little things are also important. We’re hoping to find some stores in the US or UK that might be willing to help us bring some sunshine into the kids lives for Christmas this year. They love Bob the Builder especially! If you are or know someone who can help us, please let us know

Also, a special thanks and welcome to everyone heading over here from Girls Gone Child! Whether or not you are able to donate today, please help us spread the word about our work – tweeting or liking us on facebook costs nothing and makes a huge impact. Thanks again for visiting!