Well, that isn't true. Cathy, Miracle, Dan, and Rachel are still breaking hearts with their chubby cheeks and dance moves. But RUHU has moved from being an organization in its infancy into its blossoming, yet challenging adolescence. On our first trips to RUHU, our days were spent spinning kids in circles. We taught them how to say pineapple and explained why we had never met Obama. But this trip, five years later, was different.
On this trip, I helped Francis write an essay about the affects of drug abuse. I spent two days with Hassifah at a hospital for the headaches that adolescence has brought for her. I held her helplessly as she cried with frustration over fear that the medication would not work. I got to observe Patrick and William explain to two young teenage girls that they need to go to school. The girls wanted to go to a different school, further away and more expensive. Someone even offered to help pay, but Patrick explained, "thank you, but this time they need to just learn that you have to do some things that are difficult. They will find a complaint wherever we agree to send them." 19 year old Patrick didn't have that answer in him. This Patrick, 25 now, has the vision and maturity needed to give the difficult but right answer.
The kids in high school will soon be taking their national exams. Students who score well enough will go on to two additional years of high school before applying to university. They are growing up and they are asking the same questions I asked as a teenager. On our visits to the high school, where 15 of the RUHU kids attend, Patrick and William sifted through several requests for spending money. "Teenagers can be so-so difficult, you know?" William told me. Patrick and William are no longer teenagers taking care of kids. They are father figures to kids ages 2 to 18, and their own growth matches that of the kids.
It has been five years since we started partnering with RUHU. It's odd to be thankful for teenage angst, but along with the angst comes discovery, growth, and a realization for these kids that genuine opportunities for a brighter future lay ahead.
I teared up a little as I watched the high school kids going off to their classes. Five years ago, that sight was a naive wistful dream. Today it's a reality. Who knows, maybe five years from now we will have students in universities around the world.
A man can dream, right?