“Thank you for loving me”--the first time I heard those words was after a grueling day of home visits. We’d been on the road since 6 am, visiting students and schools. Our last stop took us deep into the bush. Mathias, whose home was last on the list, had been traveling with us all day, observing our visits in other homes. As the day wore on he became increasingly quiet, his shoulders slumped. I wondered what he was thinking as he grew quiet. Was he worried that we’d scratch his home from our already busy day? After 5 kilometers on a one lane road---and by that I mean a one rut road for motorcycles, bikes and feet to tread---we reached his clearing. Immediately it was evident that this was a special occasion. His mother, grandmothers and aunties were all dressed in their finest starched dresses and sparkly headwraps. They’d been waiting for hours.
Dozens of children peeked suspiciously around corners, and neighboring children galloped into view. This was a great day for the community, as well as this family. Neighbors came to greet us, and share a meal with the family in honor of our visit.
Mathias’s face lit up and his shoulders squared as he began to introduce us to his mom and her family. His aged grandparents were overjoyed with Mathias’s acceptance into KUZA last year. Over and over he repeated his thanks, as he gave us a tour of his family’s house.
You can tell these kids repeatedly that you love them and believe in them, but until you show them, its hard for them to internalize that love. Until you walk a mile in their shoes--or in this case, drive 5K on a one rut road--love does not become real.
We earn the right to speak into the lives of our student by setting aside our priorities, our time, and our energy to enter into their lives through home visits. This depth of involvement and commitment to individual students is what sets KUZA apart from other organizations. The walls around their hearts come down during a single visit, and it’s with gratitude and an overflowing heart that they say those simple words “thank you for loving me” at the end of a very long day.