I wondered if I would know her…the little girl who had taken my hand two years ago, kept the sunglasses that I let her wear…and kept my heart as well. I searched the smiling faces of the children and suddenly, there she was.

Jayne, Mary Brooke and housemother Mary

“Did I give you my sunglasses when I came to see you before?” I asked.
“Yes!” she said.
“Do you remember me? I came to see you two years ago, and I gave you my sunglasses. Do you remember?” I asked.
“Yes!” she responded, (big smile, bright eyes).
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Jayne,” she said.
“It IS you! Jayne, I’m so glad to see you again!” I said.

Once again, she led me to her home to meet the woman she called Mother, and see the rooms she shared with nine other children. I remembered it was the first home in the row of dwellings that compose the Fairfield Children’s Home. I remembered her “mother,” Mary, who has served in this capacity since 1988.

There are 79 children at the home; most have been orphaned because of AIDS. In 2000, Rev. Owen Ross came to Africa University as an exchange student. He started the Fairfield Buddies with eight other AU students. Patterned after the Big Brothers/Big Sisters model, the aunts and uncles were each assigned five children at what was then called the Fairfield Orphanage. Peter Mufute, Administrator, shared with him that the children at the orphanage were dying at the rate of one per month. The children were housed in dormitories. Owen suggested that the children be placed in homes with women who stayed with them as permanent mothers, rather than shift mothers. He had seen this model used effectively in a children’s home in Honduras, where he did mission work following Hurricane Mitch, as well as the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, Texas. The children now thrive; the mortality rate is significantly lower.

Students from Nebraska Wesleyan who visited there founded the Fairfield Orphanage Student Association (FOSA) and began fund raising efforts through the sale of prints. The late Bishop David Lawson brought students to AU in August 2001. Owen returned as a part of this team. He proposed that a Zimbabwean counterpoint was needed to assist the doctor who had responsibility for the hospital and orphanage, planting yet another seed.

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