Hildah is my friend.
The first time I ever visited the Eruli school, the young children looked at me with a natural wariness. Who was this strange mzungu? Hildah, however, mustered as much courage as she possibly could to approach me with a smile that lit up her entire face.
She is shy, but her sweet spirit is infectious. Hildah sidled up to me—the first child to approach—and when I gave her a half-hug, she looked up at me with a grin while her friends laughed hysterically from the sidelines.
Over the years I’ve watched Hildah grow. I always make sure to seek out this sweet little girl when I visit Eruli, as she was brave enough to seek me out the first time.
Hildah is brave for many more reasons than her resolution to hug a terrifying white girl. Her history is marked by tragedy and loss.
When Hildah was 4, she was found wandering the streets of Bungoma, completely abandoned by everyone she had ever known. The level of extreme poverty and desperation that would lead to the abandonment of a toddler is something I’ll never be able to truly understand.
Hildah is resilient. She lives at the Eruli school now and likely will until she reaches adulthood. If you observe her among her peers, you don’t see a shell of a child that was torn away from her parents’ love. Hildah beams while she plays soccer and skips rope with her friends. She is surrounded by a group of girls who clearly adore her.
The staff and children at Eruli love Hildah and they have become her family. She has thrived under the grace of Jesus.