Juna, Sita, Kamala, the three musketeers. Messy, matted hair. Skinny frames, dirty clothes, huge smiles, 100% sass. I didn't stand a chance.
It was Juna’s birthday today. It was her birthday, and she didn’t even know it until it was almost over. Her Mom, busy with a full time job, seven kids, and no husband, must have forgotten. Luckily Juna happened to see a calendar and so my phone rang around 7 pm tonight, it's Juna's birthday! Can you come outside?
I opened my door and there they stood, Juna looking absolutely radiant in her ratty clothes and wild hair. She proudly handed me a piece of chocolate and gave me a hug.
I stared at this fresh teenager as I remembered my own 13th birthday. I remember preparing my whole family for it, announcing that I would be a teenager soon, so they could no longer call me Elizabeth or Wizzy (don't ask). Now I would answer only to the elegant Liz.
But Juna, she almost missed her birthday.
I swear I’ve made every rookie mistake in the book with these three. Their stories have broken my heart a million times. And then I try to make it better by buying them lunches, drinks, cookies, ice cream, and a trip to one of my least favorite places on earth: the zoo. And even as I was doing this, I knew it wasn't sustainable and was just creating a dependence on tourists, on something that wouldn't last forever. So I started emailing with various NGO's and meeting with their parents, trying to figure out how to sponsor them from abroad.
But tonight, I couldn't help myself. The girl had never had a cake, had no presents, and almost missed her birthday. On the walk to the bakery Juna stopped every one she could to give them a piece of candy and announce that it was her birthday. If you could have seen that smile. I’ve never seen anyone glow like that.
Happy Birthday, sweet Juna.