In this blog, I’ve written about the intersection of nutrition and positive educational outcomes. I’ve written about the many afflictions with which the impoverished in Tanzania must contend - HIV, rickets, shunting, tuberculosis. I’ve written about the impact that a good teacher, books and a quality education can have on the life of a student. Now I have a story about one small child whose life makes it all real.
Abu arrived at Saving Grace School critically ill and developmentally delayed.
When Abu Msuya, at four years of age, arrived at Saving Grace School, he may have been mistaken as a young toddler by those who did not know better. Physically, he was malnourished and small, suffering from shunting. He was critically ill, with infections in both ears, bleeding from his nose, a rash on his face, and barely able to stand on his own. Developmentally, he was behind, unable to dress himself or use the toilet.
Abu suffered emotionally, too. His mother and father were both in poor health and lacking a steady income. Following Abu’s arrival, his mother died in childbirth. Abu has an adult brother, but he has his own family to support.
The teachers at Saving Grace welcomed Abu and made the school a home for him. They nurtured him, provided nutritious meals. Still, Abu suffered and seemed to be constantly ill. A trip to the doctor provided some answers. Abu was diagnosed with two ear infections which had developed into ruptured ear drums, tuberculosis, and rickets. He received medication and a doctor’s care. Yet, his illness continued. Finally, another disease was discovered and diagnosed - Abu was HIV positive.
Medical treatment has helped Abu recover from tuberculosis, rickets, ear infections, and HIV.
Enter into the picture Cathy Taylor, Abu’s sponsor. Brighter Tanzania Foundation runs a sponsorship program for individual students. The sponsor can choose a child in need from profiles provided by the foundation and donate money to help fund the child’s education and also motivate the student to stay in school and work hard. The sponsor is able to learn about the student through letters, photos, and updates about his/her progress. In some cases, the sponsorship takes the form of a mentorship. Cathy has become a mentor to Abu and much more.
Abu loves spending time with “Mama Cathy.”
Not only does Cathy pay for Abu’s education at Saving Grace, she also helps provide medical care. She regularly communicates with Abu’s doctor, has purchased a health insurance plan, and paid for a visit to the dentist. In addition, Cathy and her daughter, Elisa, have had an opportunity to visit Abu, cultivating a personal relationship with him.
“Mama Cathy” has become a special person in Abu’s life. And Abu has become a special person in hers. Cathy, a resident of St. Helen, Michigan, has traveled to Arusha for long stays each of the past three years. As some of the physical ailments have receded, Abu’s personality has emerged. Cathy has watched him thrive and become the happy, inquisitive, and sweet boy that he is today.
Cathy visited Arusha and spent time with Abu for five weeks in 2019.
Abu would likely be unrecognizable to anyone who saw him when he first entered through the school’s doors. He has grown bigger and his daily functioning is now age appropriate. Abu likes to kick the soccer ball and play on a scooter. He also loves to sing and dance.
Abu has experienced some setbacks along the way. In September, 2018, he was hospitalized for pneumonia. Following his recovery, Abu moved in with Grace, her husband, Joseph, and their three children. Abu now lives in a healthy, nurturing home environment. “The love that spills out in their home is unbelievable,” Cathy said. “They love him as one of their own.”
A few new local friends, named Sammy and Kennedy, also provide help, such as transportation to medical appointments, when needed.
“It is a huge circle of love that came together to help this little guy,” Cathy said.
Abu receives loving support from his sponsor, Cathy Taylor; Cathy’s daughter, Elisa Taylor; and Grace.
Abu has challenges in his future. Because of the HIV diagnosis, he will always be at risk for contracting and fighting infections. Due to the rickets, he will probably always be small for his age. Those who know him look at how far he has come in the past two years, and take comfort in knowing that he has lots of support and a fighting chance.
Cathy’s prediction: “I see nothing but brightness in his future!”