I’m angry.” These words clearly articulated by Anastasia, one of the form 4 (12th grade) students. To know her is to know peace not anger, yet she is trembling and there is a great sadness in her eyes.
Today is prayer day a day set aside for the students preparing for the KCSE exam. The KCSE stands for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and is a major determinant of an individual’s future career.
Today is a celebration where the community will come together to show their support for the Form 4 students. Staff, teachers, administrators, volunteers, community members as well as the families of students will gather under the trees near the garden for Prayer Day.
And yet this beautiful young girl stands before me with sheer sadness exuding from her. I’m perplexed what could possibly be wrong?
We first met Anastasia in September 2012 during our visit to Daraja prior to the Amazing Maasai Ultra Marathon.
Anastasia was one of the many reasons I chose to return to Kenya and ultimately to Daraja. Her smile lit up the room and her joy was contagious.
It was evident that she felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude as it is a privilege to attend secondary school especially as a girl in Kenya.
Access to this type of quality education is virtually non-existent for the extremely destitute and rural population. Many of our students are orphans, victims of AIDS, domestic abuse and/or sexual abuse.
I knew immediately that I wanted to experience the exhilaration of being surrounded by students who understand and appreciate the gift of education and who otherwise would not have had the opportunity.
I instinctively embrace this young lady who so evidently has a heavy heart and she collapses effortlessly into my arms. As a number of her peers chat excitedly around us with their families she states “she didn’t come.” “She” is her sister and Anastasia was counting on her to be here. You see, Anastasia is an orphan and her sister is all she has left. She is the first in her family to go to secondary school and reaching the milestone of sitting for the KCSE is HUGE yet she has no one to recognize this accomplishment and her heart is broken.
I guide her to a quiet area and we sit. As I look down at her thin wrists I see a bracelet, a blue bracelet, a prostate cancer bracelet, a Team Winter prostate cancer bracelet Jayna had given her the year before. And this makes me laugh, cry, whoop and holler.
Anastasia smiles wryly at me and all I do is grab her wrist, hold up the bracelet and grin. It’s not difficult to see the significance of this moment. My husband Quincy passed away from prostate cancer three years ago and we are huge supporters of Team Winter, an organization led by a brave 14-year-old and her efforts to eradicate the cancer that killed Quincy as well as her own father.
This bracelet so clearly signifies Quincy’s presence on this day and I can’t help but believe that he has ultimately ensured Anastasias own parents are spiritual present. It’s as if a fire reignites inside of her and at that moment the beam of light returns to her beautiful face and I see strength return to her limp body and she radiates with confidence.
It is as if she has grown wings.
The world better be prepared because this beautiful, engaging and dynamic young woman is about to take flight.
Wenatchee native Jane Davis and her daughter Jayna are spending the fall in Kenya, where Jane is teaching at a girl’s school. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org