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fresh faces, new life, and overflowing joy

I am filled up to the brim with joy. No, I am bursting at the seams. It’s uncontainable (hence, my second post in one day). I got to see each and every one of my wonderful, incredible, inspiring, persevering girls. My children. My sisters. My family. I squeezed them and played games with them and stuffed my face with chocolate cake with them.

Two boys sat on my lap, one on each leg. Another girl pulled on my shirt so I picked her up as well. My arms and lap were full with children: full of warmth and joy and tickles and smiles. I have never seen the girls or the children so collectively happy. Several of the children danced on the table. Their mothers held onto their shirts so they wouldn’t run off the table edge in their excitement. Charlotta helped Yohan, my favorite, mischievous, 3-year-old, with her camera as he took snapshots of the table legs and stairs. The girls clustered around the table, trying to remember their English phrases. Even the new girls greeted us enthusiastically.

Over the past few months, Ma-Sevana has been a place of fresh faces and new life. A new 13 year old showed me her one month old twins. 13 years old giving birth to twins. Even after seeing it, I cannot believe it. How can such a tiny person bring not one but two lives into our world? She’s handling it with a miraculous grace I can only hope to have when I have my own family (perhaps when I am three times her age). Tiara and Sindu proudly showed me their gorgeous babies who were born after I left Ma-Sevana in May. I still find it incredible to watch these young girls turn into nurturing mothers… what a privilege to witness this process.

We also visited the vocational training center to see the girls who have left Ma-Sevana and are now being trained in sewing, while also continuing to make jewelry. There, in front of the sewing machines, was my beautiful friend Medani. Medani and I will always have an incredible bond. Beading gave her a voice when nothing else would…when she was literally silent for a week after her arrival to Ma-Sevana. Even now, when she is down, nothing opens her up like stringing colorful necklaces. She is careful with her work but bold and carefree with her colors. And, her style has sold incredibly well. She reminded me that her son will turn two on January 21. That means it was two years ago that we met, when she was 8 months pregnant with little Pasan. I remembered the heartbreaking note she received on Valentine’s Day last year, a rejection from her family and community forever. She had no place to go after Ma-Sevana. I asked Nirukshi, our Bead Program Coordinator, what the plans were for her. Where would she go when she completed her training? Her future is unknown and she will likely stay at the Vocational Training Center for an extended period of time while they figure out an appropriate next step. I want nothing more than to build a house for her, to give her a foundation on which she can thrive and build a new community, or to invite her to the new community we hope to build next year. We will keep up with her, we will support her where ever she goes. She is the essence of Emerge and what we strive to do, she is what keeps me going when I question all of my efforts and challenges in front of me. Medani, rest assured that we will find a place for you in the future. I know we can.

As we left Ma-Sevana, Yohan (my 3 year old monkey man who climbs everything, including my legs) proudly carried our box of empty bead bottles out to the car. We are refilling them this weekend. The girls crowded by the gate as we left blowing kisses, waving, and calling their characteristic “good luck.” Oh my girls. Such a different reality than when I arrived two and a half years ago. Worlds different. “Beading is their favorite class. It’s all they ever want to do,” Nirukshi tells me as she smiles. Nothing feels better than knowing that we have built the reality I always dreamed of for these girls. We’ve done it. We really have. And, it’s only going to get better.

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