Jacinta says she’ll always remember the children she met in Ethiopia.
In one particular community I managed to befriend this little girl. Her name was Maherda and she was 10.
We were together all day, we played games together and we danced and she introduced me to all of her friends. Then in the afternoon she took me to show me her house which was just one room.
She invited me to sit with her out the front, but as I went to sit on the ground she started to yell “no no no no no no no!” She ran inside to grab a mat which she put down for me to sit on and then she sat in the dirt herself.
It was while we were sitting there talking that I realised I’d spent my entire day making some really insane assumptions.
Maherda didn’t look sick or too thin or even tired, so I assumed that she was ok and that she was healthy. Even her clothes looked nice compared to a lot of people we’d been meeting so I just assumed her family was doing alright.
But when I finally sat down and talked to her I found out that she lived in this one-room house with her mother, sister and two brothers. I found out Maherda’s family had to get by on just the 50 cents a day that her mother earns.
She told me her favourite food was “gogo”, which is a type of bread. She said she usually only eats one meal of bread a day, and that maybe some days she’ll have two.
She told me she feels hungry when she comes home from school in the afternoon, that it makes her eyes tired and her stomach ache.
But she also told me how much she liked school even though she finds it hard sometimes. She told me how one day she wants to be a teacher because teachers have knowledge and if she had knowledge she would be able to do anything.
At the end of the day I explained to her that I was a World Vision Youth Ambassador. I told her my role was to come back to Australia and encourage people to help, I asked if it would be ok if I spoke to Australians about her. Suddenly she had the biggest smile on her face, she started to thank me constantly. She was hugging me and kissing my cheek, she even tried to offer me the food her mother had just brought home from the market.
Then I told her I had to go, but before I left she grabbed onto me and said “when you go back to Australia and you talk about me, tell them to support you because then everyone here can have some food and some nice clothes”.
As I was leaving I wanted to express my gratitude to Maherda, to thank her for sharing with me and to try and tell her how special I thought she was. In her language they have this one word, “konjo”. It means beautiful, lovely, wonderful, even just good in the right context. So as she hugged me I said “thank you, you are konjo”. And she said “no, no” and put her hand on my chest and said “you konjo, thank you."
She followed me right until I got into our car and then she ran beside it waving and blowing kisses until we got to the end of her community where she stood and waved until she couldn’t see us anymore.