Spora

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She has one of the most beautiful and deceptive smiles. A quiet leader, hard worker and talented artist, this 20 year old spirit has left an indelible mark on my experience in Tanzania.

I met Spora when we went to stay with Mama Tesha. She is one of the orphan house girls there who learns to keep house at a young age in exchange for room and board, instead of money.

She spoiled us daily with her masala chai and delicious food. When it came time to wash my clothes, she wouldn’t let me. In her soft, gentle, yet firm voice she let me know that we were doing such wonderful work all day, and that we needed to rest. “That’s what sisters do.” She didn’t take no for an answer.

Every morning a little before 7, while we were waking up, she would be in the middle of mopping the floors singing softly to herself, with breakfast and chai ready at the table, and the brightest smile on her face.

One day Ione saw her at the table with a bunch of cut out paper, and fabric. She was making cards for a big order she had received – the very first one where she would sell them and get to keep the money.

I have never seen something as beautiful and unique as those cards. She cuts out the paper in various shapes, takes the fabric, irons it into folds and places it in the cut outs. It’s hard to describe, but you really have to see these cards to understand the painstaking detail that goes into making them.

A volunteer had come to her school to teach origami. Her teacher saw her talent and asked her to come to her card-making class. She was one of two who mastered all the techniques. The school would use those cards to raise money. She never saw a penny. But she loved making them.

I asked her if she had the time to take another order. She said yes. I placed an order with her that grew in number through the week. I kept asking if she had the time, and each time she said yes with the brightest smile, even though every time I saw her, she was in the middle of house work.

She had them ready a few days ago and they were as gorgeous as the ones I’d seen her make for her very first order. Papyrus could learn a few things from her. The man who placed that order, instead of paying for it and taking the cards, bought just a few, leaving her with the rest with no apology or explanation. Our program director, Grace, who had come with us, was more than happy to buy them off of her. I requested her to write “Hand made by Spora” at the back of each of them. I would want each person who gets these cards to know of the girl who made them – one who sees her glass half full, grateful for what she has, and hopeful for what she doesn’t.

This day was also our final goodbye to her. She asked us to wait and brought out a book of short stories. Her creative writing teacher had worked with the class on autobiographical stories which she then got published as a book. We read Spora’s story. She wrote of a girl and her best friend. How she was separated from her, how she lost her family, how she still pursued her dreams, became a lawyer, and was reunited with her best friend, now a doctor. She wrote of living in a house by the ocean, surrounded by trees and a cool breeze.

It was hard not to hold back tears, and as I looked at her wishing that every dream of hers came true, there was that bright-eyed smile again. I hugged her tight, not able to speak.

Spora has applied to University for a degree in Nursing. She should hear back within the month. As she waits, ITLP plans to keep her busy with more card orders.

If you are reading this, I ask you – whatever your belief, please say a prayer, make a wish, send her light, good energy or vibes. If she is accepted, she gets to have a career, a chance to stand on her own two feet, a chance to live a life of independence, and hopefully still continue her art.

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