This Day Was About Moussa
This past winter, I was given the incredible opportunity to provide a special child with a special day.
It was something I had dreamed of doing for decades. I first learned about Plan back in the 1960s when I was young and in a new marriage. At the time, Plan International was called “Foster Parents Plan.” My husband was in graduate school, so a small monthly donation fit the budget.
Fast forward: the career of a professional social worker continued but then four children and a divorce complicated my life. After some time, I was at a place where I wanted to renew participation in Plan.
I was fascinated with Africa and requested to sponsor children from the northwestern side of the continent. Over the years, I’ve sponsored children from Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Benin. Currently, I am a sponsor to three children, including a young boy in Senegal named Moussa.
I always wanted to visit the children but never had an opportunity. I was busy raising my own children. After all, where would I start organizing such a trip? I knew so little about the countries, and perhaps my biggest obstacle was that English is my only language.
Enter Amina: A young woman from The Gambia who I met through her mother. The two of us made a deal: I would purchase the airfare and she would serve as guide, translator, bed-finder, food interpreter, luggage handler, and overall liaison to her own culture. Together we would meet Moussa!
We scheduled our trip during Amina’s college break. We would spend one week in Senegal, where Amina had relatives and had gone to school. After that, we’d spend one week with Amina’s family in The Gambia.
The highlight of the trip would be a visit to Moussa’s village in the district of Thies.
Amina’s skills in French, English, and her tribal language of Wolof made it possible for us to meet Moussa, his parents, and the elders of the village. Extraordinary assistance from Plan representatives in the U.S. and Senegal helped make the visit a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
When we arrived in Moussa’s village, our meeting began with his timid handshake. In a few short hours, though, it grew into a life-long emotional bond.
We brought gifts: a soccer ball and the annual pictures I had received of Moussa, from age 5 on. They were now returned in a small plastic folder along with his village reports. We even brought gifts for his schoolmates like maps, pens, and balloons (high quality balloons make perfect gifts!).
We provided a toothbrush and paste for each student, and Amina gave them an animated lesson on how to brush!
The appreciation expressed by the villagers and family, that I would travel from America to meet Moussa, brought tears to my eyes. The administrator and teacher were excited about the teaching aids. I didn’t understand much of their praise, but Amina translated. Most importantly, I could feel the love.
We ended our visit back at the Plan office to leave our “impressions of the day.” This is what we wrote:
For today, Moussa was the focus…for giving gifts in appreciation of letter-writing friendship and for the importance of this visit for cultural understanding. Amina enabled conversation beyond handshakes and smiles with her translations of Wolof and English. In the village, it was a recognition of Moussa’s life and the benefits of Plan programs; in the school it was appreciation for our presence and the gifts we had brought of school supplies, maps and puzzles, jump ropes, and balloons. For me, the gift was a beautiful piece of material and warm home-grown peanuts! Moussa’s mother and father were sincere in their appreciation for Plan’s enrichment, and Moussa was delightful in his acceptance of attention on this Special Day!
Written by Jane Hamil