Connections Last: A Volunteer Story

July 1, 2013 3:42 pm Published by

Two-time JBFC Volunteer, Wes Vrooman, describes his connection with JBFC’s youngest girl, the ever-evolving Esther.

Esther, when I met her, was four years old, malnourished, couldn’t walk, and couldn’t really talk. At first glance, you could just tell that she had been through a lot. I had heard about Esther arriving on Chris’ front door step weighing 14 pounds, but I had never seen her until I got there. She was definitely small for her age, but that didn’t stop her from being absolutely adorable.

The first time I went down to JBFC, there was a day that different from all of the rest. It was about a week into the trip, when I walked down to the big mango tree right outside of our guesthouse. Sitting down by the tree was a girl named Imma. Imma is a smart, beautiful, 12-year-old with a wonderful and caring soul. Then I saw Esther sitting in Imma’s lap and I knew I had to go sit next to them. 
It was still morning, so I continued to drink my chai tea while I was talking to Imma and Esther. We were all having an enjoyable time, but then I remember Esther started to cry. I’m still not really sure why she started crying, but it didn’t matter the reason. I was just sad that Esther wasn’t happy. Imma decided to offer Esther to me, so that I could hold her and maybe calm her down. I didn’t really think it would work, but sure enough, Esther stopped crying. 
She laid on my chest gently wiping her tears on my green shirt. Then I noticed she had a hold of my cross necklace. For some reason, she thought my necklace was so interesting. So she held onto it and rested her head on my chest. I remember while sitting there that the girls started to flood in around the mango tree to come play and talk to me. But whenever a girl would come up close and touch me, Esther would literally start to get mad and yell at the girl as if she was protecting me. She would yell, “Wewe!” or “You!” in Swahili. Then out of nowhere, just when I thought it couldn’t get any more perfect, Esther called me, “Mama.” I took that moment to heart and will never forget it.

So, knowing this relationship that I had with this cute kid, you could imagine how excited I was to see her again this summer. I was wondering how or even if she would remember me at all. I mean, to her, a year is like 20 percent of her life, so I wasn’t too set on her remembering me.

When I arrived at JBFC for the second time, I ran down to the dorms early the first morning to find her. I

remember one of the girls saw me, smiled, and immediately yells for Esther. All of a sudden here comes Esther, running out of one of the dorms, down the steps and towards me. Take into consideration that last year, Esther couldn’t even walk. She yelled at the top of her lungs, “Kuku kaka!”, which is my nickname at JBFC. It means “Chicken Brother” in Swahili.

It was like something out of a movie. Nothing could have been more perfect of an encounter. It warmed my heart to know not only did she remember me, but she still loved me. She ran towards me with her arms wide open and I scooped her up and held her once again.

I realize now that I have to keep returning, so that I can see her grow up. I’m too connected to these girls not to see them. There’s nothing in the world I’d rather do. 
Wes Vrooman, Tulsa, OK, visited JBFC for the first time in 2012 as part of the Holland Hall student group. After graduation, he returned to Tanzania in 2013. He’s bound for the University of Oklahoma in the fall, but we hope to see him back next summer.
Pictures courtesy of Wes, Anna Sokolosky and JBFC’s other Facebook friends.

Categorized in:

This post was written by Mainsprings