The meeting with Florence and Lorna

I "adopted" Florence, who is now an eleven year old sixth grade student, at the end of 2012. In February 2013, I also "adopted" a nineteen year old secondary school student Lorna. Both girls are orphans, they have residency in Mombasa as their aunts' places but they actually live at their grandmas' in the country. Lorna told me that her family sent her to study out of Mombasa since there are a lot of drugs and violence among the youth in this big harbour and her family wanted to protect her against that.

The meeting was preceded by an agile email correspondence with the chair of Centre Narovinu Mrs. Dana Feminová, with the Kenya main coordinator of the Centre Mr. Ken Okongo and our coordinator in Mombasa, Mrs. Dorice, who has now, thanks to her grandson, the internet connection and an email address.

I flew to Kenya together with my 26-year old son, it was his first visit to this beautiful country and to the equatorial Africa at all. The plan was clear; we were going to spend two days with Florence at safari in the National park Tsavo, the next day a meeting with Lorna in Mombasa and a couple of days at the sea.

We were picked up from the airport by Peni, an owner of a small travel agency in Mombasa, our guide at safari, and the organizer of everything we wanted. We met Florence and her aunt at the National park entrance, both of them we had already met in person during our last year visit. We spent some time sitting together and chatting and later we went to the park to observe animals.

When we visited Florence at her place the last year, we mentioned that we were going to the National park Tsavo.  She expressed a great interest in the goal of our trip, which wasn't surprising since she lived only 30 km away from this park; therefore we took her with this time.

I guess it was a great experience for her: firstly, the observation of the animals; secondly, her coexistence with two white people in unknown environment. We appreciated that our guide was with us. Either because she was shy or her lack of English skills, Florence communicated only little and Peni was explaining the important things to her in Swahili. Food might have been a bit traumatic for her. Firstly, kinds of offered meals (she chose only chapati with meat, tea and she eagerly ordered coke, Fanta and Sprite); secondly, eating with fork and knife - it wasn't any problem to eat by hands or at most with spoon in the gloomy camp canteen. When we were in the bungalow, I had to teach her how to use shower and then we wondered with my son, what the little girl was doing there for such a long time.

In the evening, we explored gifts which I had brought for her - clothes, shoes (I knew her size from my previous visit), school things, girls accessories, and especially English books, which she had wished for. She intimated that she was fine with more advanced English, so I would consider it next time. I made copies of some of the books because she had written that she read them with her friends. I had sent her a memory game with English words with a game manual. Before I sent it, I had made a copy of the game and I brought her the squares sealed in foil and we played it in the evening.

During our trips in the park Florence eagerly explored and learned to use binoculars and camera and she explored even my mobile phone.
We dismissed at the park exit in the second day afternoon. I guessed it would be my turn to visit them in their environment. I have already guessed that it wouldn't be easy for me but I am looking forward to see Florence more open and communicative and that I would get know her better.

We almost didn't meet with Lorna. When I found out that she attended a school which was 400 km away from Nairobi, which meant 900 km away from the place of our dwelling, I wanted to postpone our meeting to the next year. Later we agreed that I would pay for her journey to Mombasa so she could meet us. Dornice offered us her house as the meeting place, Lorna's aunt lived nearby. I was very thankful to her for her hospitality and the care which her family provided us, since we couldn't meet in our hotel and no other place would be so pleasant.

I have to admit that the way to Dornice's house by taxi wasn't easy even for the taxi driver and I would have hesitated to get off the car at many places we went through. We went from the asphalt road to the dirt road among wooden stalls with various goods, our way was crossed by overloaded matatus, wagons, carts with goods and lots of people. There was Dorice at one of the crossroads, waiting for us, and she took us through narrow alleys between shabby houses. Finally, we came to the place with a bricked two floor house, there were two small shops in the ground floor and a clean flat with a decorated living room in the upper floor, where the TV was on and Lorna with her aunt were waiting.

The meeting was extremely joyful. Lorna was as happy that we met as we were. Additionally, I was happy that the frown young lady from the photo is actually a nice smiling girl who eagerly chattered  in English with Kenyan accent, so I had to consult with my son what she was talking about.

Lorna is finishing the secondary school this year and she would like to continue at the university, she is interested in media. Her mother died from AIDS. She was living in the school, spending holidays at her grandma's and once a year visiting her aunt in Mombasa. She liked swimming, was singing in a school gospel choir and she reads books in English. She had lost her sponsor once, so she was now very happy that she could continue her study.

The time we spent together was gone very quickly. We got delicious lunch at midday  - rice with stewed meat and vegetables, potatoes and we tasted some traditional Kenyan meals as corn mush ugali, pancakes chapati or vegetable side dish mchicha.

Sometimes there came some of inhabitants or visitors of the house during our talking, shook our hands a chatted a bit. At the end we all took some pictures in the house and in front of it, Besides the gifts, it's appropriate to give your friends also more practical stuff - flour, rice, sugar, oil etc. So we went to the local shopping place Nakumat and thanked to Dorice and Lorna by the shopping for the pleasant time with them.

We were really enthusiastic about our meeting with Lorna. Since she is older then Florence, she can far more understand the importance of education and she can express her gratitude honestly. It filled me with satisfaction and willingness to continue not only in the sponsoring of the girls but also in the personal meetings with them.

Jitka Pokorná