A Moment's Kindness Changing Generations, Part One

Written by Stephanie, team leader to the 2011 short term team to Guyana.

Iana is a 9 year old girl who currently lives in Plastic City, Guyana with her “grandmother”. Iana's mom was AmeriIndian and her dad is of African decent. When Iana was 3 weeks old, her mother died of TB. Iana’s father has very little interaction with Iana, though Iana craves him to accept her. Many family members related to her biological father live in Plastic City. Her mother’s family live in the interior of Guyana. For various reasons, close family members could not or would not take Iana in. Iana’s great aunt and uncle stepped forward to take this 3 week baby into their home. (Iana’s father was their nephew.) They refer to themselves as Ian’s grandparents, which is what we call them too.

I met Iana in October 2010, on my first trip to Guyana. She was a quiet, taller 8 year old with searching eyes. I noticed that she often had a rag held to one of her ears and couldn’t hear well out of that ear. She occasionally attends the PAL tutoring program. When there are visitors, many of the children who float in and out of PAL come to be a part of the excitement. So Iana was there and really was intent about being near me and wanting one-on-one attention. She didn’t always get along with the other children and some of this I believe had to do with her hearing loss, as well as her emotional losses.

Angie (Caroline's Promise coordinator in Guyana) & I had the opportunity to be invited into her grandmother’s home in Plastic City one day. We had a long, tearful conversation about her hopes and fears for Iana. Her grandmother told us about the time they took Iana in, as well as the devastating loss last year of Iana’s grandfather, who was the one who suggested they bring Iana into their family and raise her as their own. Her grandmother said that he loved Iana very much. Emotionally, it was very difficult for Iana to lose one of only 2 people in the world she felt who loved her. The grandmother worries that if something happens to her, Iana will have to go to an orphanage. Iana’s constant ear problems and hearing loss also lay heavy on her heart. She has received conflicting reports from specialists at the public hospital on helping Iana and lacks the resources to pursue treatment. These ear issues further isolate Iana from her family and peers. They struggled to get by without a man to provide.

The day I left Guyana in 2010, the children were sad, but excited to know when would I return, and would I bring them chocolates… As I walked down the path to leave Plastic City, I was surrounded by a group of girls hanging on to the last moment. I gave last minute hugs and then walked down the road. I heard a voice call out to me, “Miss, Miss! She is crying!” and I turned around to see Iana with her face buried in her rag. Many, many times I have replayed that moment in my head… So sad about the emotional losses Iana has suffered, along with so many of the other children who are single and double orphans. These have repercussions that reach long and far into their lives. And yet, in light of their losses, it makes me so much more thankful for Angie and Vreedenhoop Wesleyan working in the Plastic City community.

This past October (2011) I returned to Guyana, so eager to see all the children I have prayed for and who have just taken part of my heart. Iana was definitely on my mind as we went into Plastic City. The first day, I saw her grandmother, who had opened up a small “shop” in Plastic City this past year. (basically cooked pastries and water, chips.) This was so exciting that she had a way to provide even a small amount for them. Iana was not there, but she assured me that Iana would be so happy to see me. The next day I was in Plastic City, headed to PAL tutoring and I heard “Miss Stephanie!!” I turned and there came Iana running towards me with her arms open wide. She wrapped me up in a hug and held me tight. Then she looked up at me, “You came back! You came back!” And hugged me again around my waist. I am not sure I can describe how that moment felt. Not just because I was choked up, but because Iana was able to feel at that moment that she mattered. I was able to tell her how happy I was to see her and hug her. It is difficult because Iana craves to be loved and have hope and a future and this is why the on-going work in Plastic City is so important to these children.

God has used Iana with me to REALLY hit home how important it is to these children’s futures that they feel loved and that they MATTER. HOPE changes things. It changes their viewpoint and how they look at themselves. Another moment hammered that this past visit. On our last day, Iana sat right beside me, holding my arm. At one point, she quietly said to me, “Do you remember that last time you did a picture with me and said “You are special” and wrote it on my picture? I remember. I have the picture at my house.” One year later…that picture we did in 2010 still hangs in her house. It was of a butterfly – trying to help the children realize that God created them special and they can be “beautiful butterflies”. It mattered that someone told her “You are special.” It wasn’t just a passing moment for her….because she did not think she was special. I remember that day in 2010, telling her not to forget that she was SPECIAL. And how much I wanted her to remember that! That moment showed me again, just how important it is, as short term volunteers, we are thoughtful and careful in our interactions with the children; what we say, we must mean! Because of Caroline's Promise commitment to Guyana, and their on-going work there, I am so thankful God enabled me to have this connection with the children. I know that I must understand that when I leave, the work continues!

This isn’t just Iana’s story but the story of child after child struggling with emotional loss, poverty, generational baggage. But it is a story of hope and of a future that we pray is brighter than her present. The presence of Angie and Vreedenhoop Wesleyan in bringing hope and healing to Plastic City is an incredible outreach for the future of these children.

In our next post, learn how you can partner with us to help Iana in a tangible way by assisting her grandmother to find help for Iana’s hearing issues.