My expectations for the kids and Humanity Home were very high, and the experience of 120 days there between April 2018 and January 2019 confirmed that HH is filled with love and is transforming our kids. Even with that background, what I saw at Humanity Home during 35 days in April and May 2019 absolutely stunned me. I was literally in awe more times than I can count. There is such love in this house that is constantly reflected in the interactions between the kids. The older girls look after the younger kids without being asked. Kids are constantly helping each other, sharing clothes, carrying water, making sure they have their school things, helping with homework, looking out for each other at school, hugging each other. They know and appreciate each other’s personalities. They delight in each other’s antics. They understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They are a beautiful family.
In a culture where we are going against the grain by emphasizing empowerment of and respect for children and women, prohibiting corporal punishment, and instilling love rather than fear and intimidation, Judy and I talk to the kids a lot about “who we are” at HH. Who we are was on inspiring display when we accepted three new little girls in late April.
Our new girls are 7, 4 and 3. We have known of the three year old since she was one and, as with our other three year old, prayed that she would survive until she was old enough for us to take care of her. When we picked up each of the two younger children, the frightened, disoriented child sat on Judy’s lap for the drive to HH. The instant look of absolute love on Judy’s face foretold the story of the transformation about to take place in the child’s life.
Like the new parents that we are, our feelings when new children arrive is excitement and exhilaration that overrides everything else. We also had concerns like any parent would have. Would the new child be lost when suddenly surrounded by 18 others? Would she pine for her relatives? Would she be overwhelmed. Would our existing kids feel threatened, particularly 3-year-old “Baby B,” who had become accustomed to being the baby of the house?
Weeks later, representatives of the children’s department, conducting a routine survey, asked us what our orientation plan was. Judy and I started laughing. Our “orientation” went like this: We opened the car door and the other kids took over. They embraced the new girls, took them by the hand, showed them the house, decided where they would sleep, found them clothes and shoes that fit, made sure they knew their way around, engaged them in play and activities, and doted on them immediately. The five-year-old brother of the new three year old (the brother has been with us for nearly two years) immediately assumed a kindly big brother role, often carrying his sister around piggy-back, making sure she was doing well. Baby B is often seen holding the hand of the younger new kids. She is now a “big sister” too. When one of the younger kids fell at school, Baby B came home and told Judy all about it, with great passion and concern in her voice. We immediately enrolled the kids in school. While we were dealing with registration details, our four year old disappeared. We eventually found her sitting next to the teacher in the appropriate pre-school class. Five-year-old LJ had seen her, taken her by the hand, and walked her to her new classroom. That is what good sisters do.
Within a few days, all three new girls were part of the wonderful mix at HH. They were fully involved playing with the other kids of all ages. They were in the middle of tickle fights and shrieking with delight at games of hide-and-seek. They fell asleep leaning against me at story time. Their look of astonishment when meals are served has subsided.
It is virtually impossible to believe now, but worth reminding ourselves, that all of these children came to us from circumstances of neglect, privation and sometimes abuse that we cannot even imagine. For example, when she was a teacher near her village, Judy would often see a two-year-old boy running around naked, by himself, crossing the highway. Today, that little boy is the big brother described above. Imagine the thrill Judy feels seeing this kid gleefully running around HH. This is what HH is all about.
I have said many times that we have only one rule: We are going to love and raise these children as our own. This means that every time we see a child, he or she is the most beautiful thing we have ever seen. The beauty of today’s Humanity Home is that the love and respect that we provide these children is being absorbed, learned and emulated by the kids. The older girls live it. The younger kids copy them. This is who we are.