My name is Yasmeen.
I am serving as the new in-country manager here at Zawadi la Tumaini Children’s Home. I am a social worker by profession and missionary by vocation. It has always been my dream to travel abroad and have the opportunity to combine both aspects of my life, ministry, and profession. So being offered the opportunity to come serve at ZLT in a role that not only highlights my qualities as a clinical social worker, but as a missionary as well, is AWESOME. In preparation for Kenya, I was so anxious because I had no idea what to expect. Coming to Africa, was always a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I would often say it in the air, “I’m going to the Mother Land,” but didn’t know what I would be going for. I never imagined I’d end up serving in this capacity.
Flash back to 2013, Jacqueline and I were introduced to each other, in the early stages of ZLT. I was just finishing graduate school and a mutual friend of ours thought it would be a great Idea for us to meet. We chatted on and off about possible ways to collaborate and different projects that would benefit ZLT. Of course, life happened and things were put on hold. Throughout the 3yrs, I would check in with Jacquie and she would always update me on how things were going at the home and how the children were progressing. I intentionally followed her social media pages, so I would be able to see the children and follow their journey here at the home, but the more she updated the more fascinated I became with the work she was doing and how amazing her staff were with the children. It really inspired me and gave a greater determination to one day make it to ZLT to experience all of the great things her volunteers spoke of on the ZLT site. Initially, I was supposed to come a year prior to now, but those plans shifted. Last year I decided to delay a trip to Kenya and instead embarking upon another missionary assignment in India. My time in India blew my mind. While in India, I stayed in contact with Jacquie, and in hopes to joining her team late 2017. I now know that God had other plans. About 2months into my time in India, Jacquie and I reached out to each other and she shared this awesome opportunity for me to come serve at ZLT sooner than I expected. Immediately, my heart dropped to the ground, because after three years of building a relationship and seeing the children grow from a distance, now was the time and opportunity I would finally get to meet them face-to-face.
With utter excitement, I accepted the offer to come and be apart of the ZLT family! There were a number of factors that could have possibly held me back from coming. For one, my sister was at the end of her pregnancy and would deliver just a month prior to me coming to Kenya, and my cousin and his wife were expecting. The fact that I missed a WHOLEEEE lot while away in India, I was afraid that I would miss out on so much more if I left for a year. But, I gave myself time to reflect on my desire to come to Kenya and the awesome life changing experience I would encounter while being here. The fear of coming began to slowly fade away and my family encouraged me to embrace this beautiful opportunity. So, I embraced it and the time had finally come for me to embark upon this journey. Not knowing what to expect, I walked blindly into something that would change my life forever.
After being picked up from the airport, I began to become more anxious to meet the children, because I didn’t know what their reaction would be to meeting a total stranger, who would now be living with them in their new home. To my surprise, the children were already waiting for my arrival. I think they were just as excited to meet me, as I was to meet them. As soon as I arrived, they flooded me with so many hugs, questions, and love. It was so much to take in at one moment. The welcome was soooo amazingly beautiful. The staff was equally welcoming as the children. From the moment I walked in the door, it felt like home. The home is filled with an extreme amount of love and it’s so evident that the children love being apart of a family unit where they feel safe and secure. They all seem to be very protective of one another and the staff.
While settling in, the first few weeks were fairly rough emotionally, because I missed my family. I kept reminding myself that God was extending my family and these babies at ZLT were now apart of me, and I apart of them. Daily I learned something new from them. Another concern was the language barrier. Some of the children speak pretty good English while others have not learned yet in school. I was so worried that we would NEVER understand one another. Being the little geniuses they are, they took it upon themselves to start teaching me Swahili on a daily basis, and they understood more of my English than I thought they would. It’s amazing that somehow we just understood one another with efforts of translating at times. As the days went by, my heart grew bigger and they invaded more space in my heart. How wonderful that we all speak one universal language- the language of LOVE. These precious babies teach me daily the meaning of love, sacrifice, and contentment. Before I knew it, I made it a month on September 11th. I made it my duty to journal each day about our days together so that I’m being intentional about living in the moment and embracing my entire experience with them. I’d like to share a major moment that we shared together with you now.
The moment I would like to highlight is the day we prepared to do school interviews with the children. All the children woke up so early and excited to go for their school interviews. I’ve never seen children so exited and proud to take an exam for school placement. Mom Jerusha and I prepared them and made sure they were all dressed and ready for the interviews. We even pep-talked them to give them some encouragement before going to the new school. The excitement that flooded the room made my heart skip beats. It didn’t hit me until after the exams were over, hearing their scores brought me so much joy. They all qualified to be in the proper classes and did exceptionally well on the exams. Seeing their reactions to the good news of them being accepted into this school brought tears to my eyes. For the first time in two weeks, I felt that they were my children, and that I was apart of them. I actually felt like a proud mom. I mean, I literally cried like a baby. I always wondered why mothers cried after taking their children to school on the first day, and how they felt. In this moment, I realized these mothers didn’t cry because they were sad, but because it can become completely overwhelming seeing your babies grow and having the ability to do something without your assistance. As I wept, I began to think about their stories and where they started prior to being in our home. I continued to weep because they are doing so well in the home and they love education. I mean they LOVE IT. It blessed my heart to know we are able to provide such an important opportunity to them to be educated at a wonderful school. It really makes every sacrifice easier and worth it because the bigger picture is, they will grow and get the tools they need to excel in the world.
So as I conclude, today I am sure that God has extended my family and has blessed me with amazing children who not only learn from me, but I learn from them. I wake up daily expecting it to be great because my day involves them. I keep an open heart and mind knowing our family will only grow stronger and deeper in love. It is truly wonderful to be apart a loving environment. We believe that a family approach is best for our children because so many of them have had most of their traumatic experiences within a family unit. Our babies need continuous love, and nurture as they grow, so that their shattered memories of family can continuously be restored with their God given family here at ZLT. I’m definitely looking forward to the next 11months with these angels, and excited about the lessons I will learn from them and the things I will be able to teach them as well.
Until next time,