Columbus gets good news
Columbus gets good news
Columbus is expecting us. His cramped two-room home (this one thankfully snake-free) is immaculate and extra chairs have been added to accommodate our team. He is beaming.
It is so good to see him smile again – at St. Valentine’s Columbus was always upbeat and enthusiastic, but after leaving he sank into despair. Now, after dedicating his life to the care of others – receiving no compensation or recognition in return – it is time for Columbus to realize his dreams.
Tailoring is one of the most important economic sectors in Cameroon and Columbus is a gifted tailor. After leaving St. Valentine’s, he salvaged an old sewing machine to work on surplus orders from established tailors in Buea; however I know that he longs to own his own tailor shop in the local market.
Today his dream will come true.
My voice trembles with emotion as I remind Columbus how he helped so many vulnerable young boys become exceptional young men. How lucky we all are for knowing him. How much he still has to offer the world.
As I speak, Columbus nods his head while avoiding my gaze. Part of him knows that he did a good job, but he is not used to receiving praise of any kind. Bashful yet beaming, he thanks me for my words and tells me how much the Obakki Foundation and I have meant to him. How we never gave up on him or his boys. How even now that he has nothing – no family, no future – we haven’t forgotten him.
I repeat something I’ve told Columbus many times over the years: families come in many forms and although we aren’t related by blood, we will always be family.
And then I give him the news.
He will have a tailor shop of his own, funded by my family. Through my tears I tell him that I believe in him and he deserves this chance after sacrificing himself to provide chances for so many others. Columbus is stunned; words fail him as tears stream down his face. We hug and cry as the news sinks in.
Columbus gathers himself and takes my hand. He admits that nobody has ever believed in him and he thanks me for trusting him. He looks me in the eye and promises that he will work hard and make me proud.
There is a transformation in his eyes, from a place of fear and pain to one of relief and hope. Columbus knows he is not alone. He knows he is loved. He knows he has a family.