It is amazing how quickly one’s life can change direction. It can happen in an instant without prior warning. Living and working in Africa, I was concerned about the plight of the orphans, but I excused myself from any responsibility because I am just one person. I am not a social worker, and I did not feel qualified to take on this enormous challenge.
That all changed one evening in 2002. We were visiting Blantyre, the largest city in Malawi. That evening on our way out to dinner, we stopped at a red light next to an empty lot. I noticed the tall grass, as only it can get in Africa, and I saw a bunch of grass crudely tied with a string — almost like a miniature hut or teepee. As I gazed at it, two small boys crawled out from between the grass walls of the hut. The oldest was maybe 5 years od, and he was holding the hand of the younger one. These boys walked across the street right in front of our vehicle. They looked at me through the window, and as I stared back I saw utter hopelessness and despair on their faces. They crossed the road and started digging through the trash on the other side searching for some scrap of food.
There was another couple in the car that evening, and I asked the lady what the story was of the boys. She said that rumor was their mother had died at the government hospital around the corner. No one knew where the boys were from, and no family had come looking for them. For months they had been living in the crude hut they had fashioned.
The lights changed, horns started honking, and we went on. I couldn’t get the images of their faces out of my mind. I knew that it was very complicated getting permission from government officials and chiefs to “take a child off the streets.” There was so much red tape involved, and others were more qualified. For two weeks, I could not sleep at night as I was haunted by their expressions. If was if they were calling out for someone to please help. Finally, my husband and I drove back 360 kilometers to find them and rescue them. But I was too late — they had disappeared! During that time city officials had come through, cut down the grass hut, and chased the boys off. They had disappeared onto the streets. No one knew where they had gone, and no one seemed to care. There are too many children like this — about 1.2 million orphans in Malawi, about 1 million in Zambia, and 900,000 in Zimbabwe.
This experience radically changed my life. I determined to save or rescue as many orphans as possible through whatever means. While the past 9 years I have worked to help develop orphan family homes, drop in day care centers, skills training centers, and community based hospice care, more is still needed. This is why Fingerprints Across Africa has been birthed. Thousands of children still live in child-headed households without hope and without food, medical care, or education. Fingerprints is dedicated to providing community sustainable projects to bring hope to the hopeless.