Mother Theresa of the Desert


Posting by Jordan

Greetings from the desert,

It’s been a few days since my last entry but the days have been so
full of life, activity and emotion that it feels as if months have
passed. Although I’ve heard many a sad story during this short time,
and met many a struggling soul–stories and souls that seem to create
and define my own inner condition–i promised a more uplifting entry
this time around. So, I think I will attempt to describe our most
inspiring new friend: Khadija, the founder and director of Pepo la
Tumaini Jangwani (a wind of hope in the arid).

We have been truly privileged to spend so much time with the woman
referred to as “Mother Theresa of the Desert.” Our film will do a
better job of capturing her qualities, but I hope to at least provide
a glimpse of the woman behind A Wind of Hope, since she is such a huge
part of our experience.

Just yesterday–while painting, chiseling bricks and filling the
foundation of our new clinic with heavy stones–the rains came, very
unusual for this time of year. It was bad timing. The Turkana women
had just arrived with a fresh truck-load of stones. Yet, there was
Khadija, propped on top of the truck, in the pouring rain, tossing
jagged stones while egging on the youth. “Benson!” She yells. “Get
over here!” He had been sheltering from the rain and was now caught.
As he sheepishly joined the dripping women and youth, Khadija sprung
after him, playfully swinging her arms as if to pummel him into
compliance. He smiled as he joined the other youth on the back of the
truck.

Later, while sitting under the veranda and watching the falling
rain, the sound of singing children reached my ears. I entered the
cold, cement room and found Khadija leading the children in a joyous
circle of song and dance. We joined them for a good while, until the
youth felt happy and re-energized, spirits lifted for a few more hours
of work.

Khadija cares for all as a mother cares for her children: leading by
example but quick to offer stern yet loving advice when needed, and
always with the highest hopes for her children. But being a mother of
so many carries it’s weight: the pain and anguish of each HIV-positive
orphan, the hopelessness and despair of each starved and sickly
patient, the struggles and disappointments of each devoted staff member.
Yet, who else can lead them? Who else has her wisdom, her strength,
her experience, her ability to make both friends and strangers feel at
ease, to elicit ideas and consultation at a silent meeting, to bring
joyous laughter to a sullen group with her child-like humor, to lead
the exhausted children in dance and song after a long day’s work?
Indeed, never before have I seen such a natural-born leader, with all
of the requisite qualities of love, empathy, compassion, humor,
confidence, wisdom and, most importantly, the ability to bring the
best out of all of us, and to inspire and encourage us all to reach
our potential. This is true leadership: inspiring and motivating by
love, friendship and example.

Until next time, hoping to share yet another brief glimpse-however
inadequate–of our incredible experience here in Isiolo.

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1 Response to “Mother Theresa of the Desert”


  1. 1 Kathy Tate August 6, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks for your wonderful and inspiring post about the work of Khadija! We are excited to hear how the whole community pulls together and makes things happen. We’re looking forward to reading more…


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