AFL superstar and World Vision's newest Goodwill Ambassador reflects on his heartbreaking, but inspiring trip to Kenya.
By Nic Naitanui
An 11-year-old girl whose bright smile hid the pain she has endured.
I sat with Mary in an empty classroom at her school and listened to her story. When we first arrived earlier that day, she was part of the group of dancers that welcomed us to the community. Her face was covered in little white dots; the face painting of all the children who had taken part in the welcome dance.
Mary pulled at the dots and kept her eyes down for most of our chat and told me that her dad “had bad manners”. The World Vision employee explained to me this is a euphemism for rape. My heart broke when I heard this, and I felt so angry and sad for her.
I thought a lot about Mary’s story over the next few days as I saw more of World Vision’s programming and I felt hope for Mary and the other children that World Vision is protecting.
*Name changed to protect identity.
Nic Naitanui talks with Mary and a World Vision staff member in Kenya.
I hadn’t known what to expect when I landed in Kenya as part of a World Vision trip to witness their programs of work in my role as their most recent Goodwill Ambassador.
I had heard about the organisation and knew they helped children, but I had no idea of their work or impact beyond that. To be honest, I was also a bit nervous about what I was going to see.
Before the trip, the World Vision team prepared me that some of the children we were going to meet had experienced situations that were heartbreaking. I didn’t know how I would react. Many of the situations I encountered were indeed tragic.
However, the overwhelming feeling I found was one of hope. Vibrant communities passionate about life, big welcoming smiles and teachers trained by World Vision working tirelessly to protect local children, including Mary, who is a beneficiary of World Vision’s child protection programming.
The organisation’s approach to empowering communities and tackling complicated issues like child prostitution is meticulously planned, and the needs of the child always come first. Mary has experienced something no-one should. But because of World Vision and its supporters, she is now thriving, she is in school, ranked third in her class and is striving to be number one.
Over the course of the week I met children who were the first in their community to experience clean drinking water, which meant they didn’t have to spend hours walking to collect water, but could instead spend their days at school.
I met women who are now financially independent after taking part in World Vision’s savings groups. And I met families who grow their own vegetables and cook nutritious meals for themselves and their communities. It made me thankful that organisations like World Vision exist.
Now that I am back in Perth, I think about Mary and the other children in Kenya. Their safety is only made possible because of supporters like you.
I want to join you in empowering these children, so this Christmas I will be purchasing the gift of clean drinking water from the World Vision catalogue. If possible, I encourage you to do the same, so together we can continue to provide hope and opportunity to the world’s most vulnerable children.