Friday, January 09, 2009
Little Rays of Hope
Mr. Ndetu is our night guard. I like him a whole lot.
I like him a whole lot and wish, for his sake, that he had a better job than guarding our house at night.
That's how security works in many parts of Africa. There is no 911 or 999 to call and security is the responsibility of the private citizen. We hire Mr. Ndetu. He arrives on his bicycle to our house at about 5:30 p.m. and he leaves again next morning some time between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m.
During the hours between, he hangs out. He visits with Byron if Byron is puttering in the veggie garden or in the work-shop. He helps us feed the dogs and rabbits and is generally a pleasant, if very subtle, presence. He brings his pack dinner and every night, before I go to bed, I make him a thermos of chai. I'm sure he dozes off from time to time. He also tells the dogs to stop harassing hedgehogs.
Ndetu takes his work seriously. When Byron and the kids were away and I was home alone, I got a bad flu that knocked me out. He knew I was sick and so he didn't leave in the morning till he saw that I was up, even though that was about 3 hours later than when he would have normally headed for home.
"Just wanted to know that you were alright," he told me.
Ndetu's daughter just passed her exams and has been admitted to secondary school. Surprised, he went to see her teachers. A pass is, truly, no small accomplishment and her teachers shocked him further with the news that she passed easily. She's a strong student. He just didn't know it.
Secondary school will cost him. There are all manner of hidden fees that seem small to us, but are overwhelming to a family like Ndetu's.
Byron asked Ndetu if he wanted this for his daughter. We know that Ndetu's own father did not sent him to school because someone needed to herd the cattle. He has told Byron that, sadly, herding didn't take him very far in life. The cows are gone now and here he is, staying up all night to make a living.
"I'm a good worker, " he said.
"People like me. I could have a much better job in life if I could read and write. Yes, I want this for her."
Together, they worked out a way to make it happen.
"You're giving your daughter what your father couldn't give you," Byron told him.
"You're a good dad."
So much struggle in Africa.
One young girl I know is taking a step forward.
Little rays of hope for tomorrow.