Written by Allison Schlack
|Ndoto graduate, Dan|
One morning at my desk, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tall, confident man coming toward my door. Thinking we had a visitor, I glanced up between emails and saw the big, sweet smile of Dan, a former Ndoto student. I gave Dan a big hug and we began to chat. He started catching me up on life as a civil engineer in Nairobi, where they are constructing a bridge. He’s telling me stories, his plans for the future, and how difficult work is after college. During our conversation, he shared his plans to sponsor an Ndoto student soon (one of our dreams is for graduates to sponsor new students), and I was beyond excited. You see, Dan has always been a dream student. He’s bright, godly, and hard working. He performed well as a student, followed the rules, and helped others. All of this led him to graduate with honors and multiple job offers – difficult in a place where the unemployment rate can be as high as 60%. He works hard, is learning a lot on the job, and is already an asset to the organization. He’s a shining example, and someone of whom we are all proud.
Toward the end of our conversation, we both whip our heads around to another visitor making a lot of noise as he comes into the office. This time, the visitor is a current Ndoto student, Tony. Tony is dragging Mama Bon, one of our staff members, behind him. Tony darts into the office with a big smile and beelines for my desk. With no words, but several loud noises, and some spitting, Tony practically attaches himself to me. In true Tony fashion, he’s come to greet me and see if I have any sweets lying around. With Mama Bon right behind him, I shake his hand, give him a fist bump, and try the few signs I’ve learned with him. Tony, age 8, is a special young man with many challenges. He’s deaf, has partially-impaired vision, and has diminished mental capacity. He’s also been abused and neglected. Mama Bon says that, as usual, when he gets near the Ndoto office, he runs in, all smiles, and goes office to office to greet the staff and any students.
|Tony and Dan|
After greeting us, and while he is still close by, I am able to snap a picture of Tony and Dan. In that moment, the beauty of these precious souls overcame me. One of them is everything the world considers successful, and the other everything the world looks down on. Dan is handsome, 6’4”, gainfully employed, well educated, kind, and hardworking. Tony is small and slim, can’t speak, will never be able to live without help, and can be aggressive. Our prayer is that school helps him learn enough sign language that everyday communication isn’t painful. As I took this picture, I was overcome by the plans God has for both of them. I am so grateful to work for an organization that gets to be a part of both of their stories, and where both can be invested in, loved, and seen as valuable members. Not only would be it rare for them to be in the same building and treated equally, it is highly unlikely outside of this context the two would ever have met.
As Dan was leaving, he looked back over his shoulder and said, “Coming here always feels like coming home.” While we don’t know for sure, I’m sure Tony would agree.