As I was leaving the Sheltering Wings Orphanage in Yako, Burkina Faso, 13 year old Addy* approached me to say her final goodbye. She glanced around to make sure no one was close enough to hear what she was about to tell me. Then, she reached for my ear and whispered “don’t forget me and remember to write to me.”
Addy’s words, and the circumspect way in which she had delivered them, touched me. Virtually everything Addy did at the orphanage had to involve everyone else. But unlike the numerous activities Addy collectively participated in everyday, she wanted her parting words to stay private. Addy seemed eager to not always have to be part of a large group and longed for a one-on-one relationship and a personal bond with someone. If the others had heard what she had said to me, they too would have followed suit and Addy’s relationship with me would no longer have been unique. This time, Addy did not want to share me with anyone; it was clear she was looking to find in me an older sister, a mentor, and a role model that she could call her own.
Back home in Washington D.C., I knew I had to do something for children like Addy.
Lara Mitra, Stanford University
* Name has been changed. I visited Sheltering Wings Orphanage during the spring break of 2005.
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