I’m currently on a story-gathering trip in Lome, Togo, our newest country, which is where I met Afi.
Afi stood shyly inside her home as we hauled in our gear — cameras, video equipment, tripods and microphones. Her dusty yard was shaded by heavy papaya trees, offering a bit of relief from the hot sun that had beat down on us for the past few hours.
I sat on a small wooden stool, worn smooth.
Afi’s brothers crowded onto a splintered bench that leaned against a tree trunk. Afi and her mother sat close together, a microphone just a few inches from their heads.
The interview went smoothly. But my mind is one of a journalist. So I sat there, gnawing on my pen cap, wondering what my “angle” would be.
My thoughts were interrupted when one of the child development center workers leaned close and began whispering to me.
She told me that 8-year-old Afi had been to school for only three months in her entire life. Yet, just a few weeks ago she had tested eighth out of the 50 children in her class.
This quiet little girl in front of me, the one who swept the dirt yard of her family’s compound at this very moment, was brilliant. And it hit me.
Afi wasn’t a rebellious child who had been reformed by Compassion. She was relatively healthy. Her parents loved her and had never abused her.
But if not for the support of Compassion, Afi would have slipped through the cracks. She would have spent entire days on the futile task of sweeping that very dirt yard.
I don’t know if she would have found some other way to further her education. I don’t know if God would have provided some other way for her to overcome.
But I don’t have to wonder about those things. Afi is in school now. She is learning and growing every day.
I know that she has opportunities that didn’t exist for her a year ago. And I know that she has not slipped through the cracks.
I believe Afi’s world has been changed.
But I also believe that Afi will change the world.
That is Afi’s angle.
“How many children are at the project we’re going to?” I asked the Compassion worker as we finished up lunch.
“One hundred ninety-nine,” she answered. What an odd number. She must have noticed my confused look.
“They lost a child last month.”
I wished with everything that “lost a child” literally meant lost a child. As in just misplaced for a few days. She would be back soon. But I knew that wasn’t the case.
“What happened to her?” someone else at the table asked. I couldn’t bring myself to say it. I couldn’t acknowledge what “lost” really meant.