At first I was shy and a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to expect. Were the girls going to be shy or outgoing in “that way” because of their past? Or just fearful? I was amazed at how they just loved on us. Well, not totally amazed. I have found that East Africans are this way. I still haven’t figured it out. Do they see us as people who really care or as people to get something from and then watch us leave? I’m a photographer. I hide behind my camera. It keeps me safe when I feel uneasy. Even though I was somewhat ready for this I still held on tight to my safety net. This visit to Restore Girls Home, a part of Restore International, stretched me out of my comfort zone and into a place of connecting like I think we all should be with one another.
I cannot show the faces or share the real names for safety reasons.
I met a girl named Angela. I found that she attached herself to me. She loved seeing the photos I was taking. Especially the ones of her! As I sat across from her in the bedroom, she shared with 8 other girls, she told me her story. Her family needed money and she ended up becoming a “working girl” in order to feed herself and her family. She came to resent her family and began arguing a lot, with her mother especially. The “Aunties” from Restore Girls Home found her on the street and brought her to the home. After a short stay she ran away thinking she couldn’t be helped. Finding herself pregnant and then losing the baby, she ended meeting up the Aunties from Restore again. Realizing she needed help she decided to try again. Her recovery has gone well. After a year of healing she is in school, has a good relationship with her family and respects her mother now. She excitedly told me she wants to be a nurse. After one more year at Restore she will reintegrate back home. Hopefully all will go well and she will stay motivated to reach her goal of attending nursing school. After that she will be able to support herself and her family. She was very open and honest, wanting me to hear her story. I was ill at ease at first, this story so intimate and sad, but I eventually relaxed enough to put down my camera and really listen to her. I felt her pain and her joy. She is changing her life! Gotten off of the street, accepted Jesus as her savior, worked through her struggles, started back at school and is repairing her relationships with her family. What an amazing girl! And she’s not the only one! There are 18 girls there right now, all doing same things she has been doing. They are all at different stages and they help each other grow and change. I was so blessed to have visited there.
I bought a little plaque Angela had made that says, “Arise and Shine”. Now, I know that just sounds like someone waking you up in the morning, but I hear so much more. These girls were in the ashes of life and Restore Girls Home came by, reached out their hands and said arise and come with me to a place where you can heal and you will shine with the love of Christ in everything you do. They were woken up to a new and better life of shining for Christ. I will think of Angela and all of the girls I met and photographed that day every time I look at that little plaque.