It was 2008 and a holiday that bought me to where I am today. I had never been to Africa before and wanted to do something to make a difference whilst I was there.
I researched Lioness Cubs Home on the internet and took a bag of clothing, pencils and medication to them. I remember feeling so anxious but also a sense of peace. I arrived and was greeted by so many children. Some looking particularly quiet. I remember one of the first children that I met was Lucy. She was very cheeky indeed. She was one of the first girls that were brave enough to approach me. I think it was probably the sunglasses she was attracted too as she spent most of her time playing with those! She quicky gave me a hug and then went for them. I remember such thankfulness when giving gifts to the children. Such grateful smiles and hugs. It was such a humble experience handing over a packet of colouring pencils. A gift of pencils meant so much to them! Their whole faces lit up. I remember one little girl, Faith who I had mentioned about before sitting quietly in the corner. She was no more than 2 years old. Her eyes watching me intently as I spoke to the other children. I looked at her, and we just watched each other for a moment. I felt lost in that very moment. Wanting so much to scoop her up and take away whatever pain and suffering was in her eyes. I picked her up and in that very moment, I thought I needed to help these children. I never realised the reason why I was there. But it felt so very right. I held Faith in my arms, and couldn't let her go. I didn't want to let her go. Life felt extremely cruel at that point. It was like we were forever bonded.
I remember sitting down and invited by the staff to eat with the children. We ate beans, tasteless beans. The children ate quietly, and quickly. I could see some of the children going up to ask for more, however they never received anymore. The dissapointment in their faces obvious.
The time to say 'goodbye' to the children was overwhelming indeed. A deep sensation that cut so deep. I couldn't understand that at this time, that this was the beginning of my journey.
It wasn't goodbye.
I recall going back to the hotel with such sadness in my heart. I asked my then partner to return to the home, we did this three times. Each time the sensation intensifying.
Going home on the plane, I felt like a changed person. I remember listening to a song that came on my Ipod and just sobbed all the way home! (About you now by Sugarbabes - Yes I know…very sad! ) The lyrics so very apt…"I related this to the children. A heartache I never thought I would feel. " I know how I feel about you now, can we bring yesterday back around?".
I made a silent vow, that I would do the best I could for the children.
I remember getting back home and thinking How could I adopt Faith and bring her home. I never saw the bigger picture of Poverty and even made enquiries of how do it!! I then finally clicked that this was not the answer to the long term solution.
As I slipped back into life here in the UK, I had a real nagging feeling. I describe it as that... I left my heart behind….
It was a couple of weeks and I managed to make contact with a lady Edna Elliott (The now director of the home and my now adopted beautiful grandma) She had an immense interest in the home and worked so very hard to help the home stay afloat. I realised then that I wanted to help her and the children.
My relationship with my then partner went into problems in 2010 and so I planned a trip to Kenya. I hit a very low point in my life and had a sudden need to go to Kenya.
I packed a bag and volunteered spending some weeks at Lioness. I arrived really not knowing what I had let myself in for!
A tin roofed small building became my home and space for my thoughts. It was here that I shed tears for my broken relationship but also a real feeling of new beginnings. I realised in the time volunteering at Lioness that my life seemed full of materialistic possessions, and self confidence problems that actually faded into insignificance whilst there.
My life was just beginning and I started to pray with the children. I never prayed before, I never knew how to pray really. The smiles on their faces as they prayed was incredible. The hope that they had in God for his provision for them was unbelievable.
I took the children to Sunday School one day on my own and met with the pastor. He was a lovely man. Their Sunday school was in the childrens school which consisted of what looked like derelict buildings. In fact these were the childrens classrooms with wooden benches and a simple blackboard.
It was a really hot day, and we were sat under a huge tree for shade. The children were singing. I never really felt anything towards God at that point before that very moment, but this changed in a heartbeat.
He was aged 7 when I first met him. A small quiet boy with a smile that would melt a thousand hearts. He had such a good heart and a wise head on his shoulders. A very softly spoken boy.
The children were singing "I've got the whole world in my hands" as opposed to "He's got the whole world in his hands" and I could see all of the children but Moses were a little subdued as if they didn't want to be there (as children do). Moses however was singing from the top of his lungs and clapping with such a sweet sounding voice. It was the first time I cried, and sobbed and had to walk away from the children to get air. For Moses had nothing to his name and was so very happy, but his Faith also shined through at 7 years old! He had been through so much, but had faith.
I walked back to the children and some of them asked me why I was crying. I couldn't tell them the truth, that I felt so guilty and so very sorry for them. I felt ashamed that I had become so materialistic and self centered before. I Just hugged them so tightly. It didn't need to be spoken in that moment.
Faith didn't like that I was crying and wiped away my tears. She just looked at me and hugged me right back.
I sprung into action when I returned back at the home. I wanted just to help with everything and create so many memories with the children. Each memory so very precious………