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The Howorth family and Jenerian, Kenya

When we first started sponsoring Jenerian, our eldest daughter, Jasmin, was only four years old. Josh was one year old and India, our youngest child, hadn’t even been born. Over the last 11 years, we had exchanged letters and photographs with Jenerian but the thought of actually meeting her one day in Africa was beyond our wildest dreams.

Jenerian and her family (parents and five siblings) live in northern Kenya and are part of the Samburu Masai tribe. Travelling to visit Jenerian was quite an adventure as it took nearly two days to travel from Nairobi through remote Kenya and over many bumpy dirt roads, which our driver jokingly told us was to give us all a massage!

When we finally arrived in Jenerian’s village, we were immediately struck by the vibrancy, colour and beauty of the people and the surroundings. Many of the women and children wore beaded ruffs and lots of men and the women adorned beaded jewellery – they looked majestic. There was a strong sense of community as young boys and men wandered over the land, stick in hand, guiding their herds of goats.

Excitement was growing amongst our family as we realised that we were soon going to meet Jenerian and her family. Jenerian’s father, John, was proudly waiting for us with Sarah (aged 12 years), one of his daughters who was shyly hiding behind him. John could not hide his joy – he had a smile from ear to ear. He greeted each of our family personally by name and then pointed up the hills saying, “There is your sponsored child – Jenerian”.

Jenerian smiled at us shyly with beaming eyes. She looked so different from the photographs we had seen. Thanks to the child sponsorship program she is now at boarding school in the outskirts of Nairobi and she is a picture of good health. We all embraced and had to continually pinch ourselves to ask if this was really happening.

It was then time to give our Australian gifts. We had brought gifts from Australia and food supplies, for which the family were so very grateful. But we never expected to get gifts in return. We were so touched when Jenerian presented us each with handmade beaded bracelets with our names embroidered on them. And as the father and head of our family, John gave Mike his personal leather flask.

We also shared stories of our respective lives. John told us how he owned 23 goats, and the children swapped stories of their lives at their Australian and Kenyan schools. John had obviously done his research about Australia and was keen to learn as much as he could about our country in the short time we had together. The children played and chatted, and Jenerian’s sister, Lucy, enthralled with India’s blonde hair, started to brush and plait it. Long lasting friendships were formed on that day.

It was such a blessing to spend time with this wonderful family. The eyes of our children’s hearts were definitely opened that day. This visit will hopefully sew a seed in their minds, which will bear fruit for a lifetime of understanding and sympathy of global inequalities.

Jenerian and her family have become part of our family now – our Kenyan family. Since returning to Australia, there has been a flurry of letters between Jenerian and our family. Indeed, since our visit to Kenya we have decided to build stronger bonds with the family and have also started to sponsor two more daughters – Lucy and Sarah.

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