I met Eunice Suh in 2005 my first trip to Kenya and Cameroon. I was sitting in someones office waiting. So did Eunice. Naturally we two women started talking. I can't remember if either of us bothered to wait for Henry to come back. I do remember her inviting me for lunch, then inviting me to her school to talk about AIDS and me trying to figure out if I can say the word "sex" to a bunch of young students. I met the kids and the rest is history. Benwie Kalawie was born Dec. 26, 2003 to a very very young woman who gave her up. Eunice took her in and the then 10 year old Delphine raised the baby. In 2006 I came back with 6 with women volunteers. They loved the children and two of them Katie and Jennifer spend 2 month teaching the kids. By then Benwie claimed me for herself. As soon as she saw me she would climb up in my arm and I would carry her around. At night she would come and fall asleep in my lap and I would carry her to her bed tuck her in under her mosquito net. Again in 2007 I spend much time in Eunice's house. By 2008 my job took me away from Bamenda and I saw Benwie only briefly, but the child was overjoyed. When I found her in 2008 I asked her what she wanted and she said: chocolate. I asked her to bring me to the place where she can get chocolate and she took me by the hand and walked to a small shop down the road and ask the lady to hand her a small plastic cup with some Nutella like chocolate spread. She ate it on the way home.
Today, Delphine (another child also taken in by Eunice) returned to her family of origin and Eunice's own children, all five of them have left the house. Since there is no one to take care of Benwie she was moved first to Eunice's mother Madam Atanga in Bafut and then to Benwie's grandmother also in Bafut. Although smaller than Bamenda, Bafut is too populated and spread out for me to go and find Benwie. I needed mama Eunice to help me. Eunice promised to bring the child to Bameda but failed repeatedly. I enlisted a friend who has some family ties to Eunice but to no avail. The day before I had to leave for Yaounde I took matters in my own hands and succeeded. I traced down Eunice and told her in no uncertain terms to enter the taxi. y brain worked overtime making a mental map of the 1/2 hour ride. Leaving town at five in the afternoon is way to late to make it back home safely before dark. I did not care. Eunice wanted the taxi to wait for us to go back, but I wanted to have time with Benwie and thus send the taxi away. We climbed up a hill along a dirt road, turned right with a church to our left and another turn right, we crossed the place in front of a primary school GS Niko. Once we had passed in front of the two small buildings there seemed to be nothing but tropical forest. Down a steep hill a small path became visible and at the end we could see a small mud brick house. Benwie saw us first and came running. She ran past Eunice and directly into my arms.
With all the miracles and amazing situations I have experienced and witnessed in Cameroon, I was never happier than at that moment and for the next hour or so we spend with Benwie, her 12 year old uncle, her grandmother and grandfather in front of their small house. We ate mangoes and I took Benwie and lead her away from everyone to ask her if she is all right, goes to school, is treated well. She nodded. I asked her what she needed and then what she wanted. She wanted "her baby" ! The pink stuffed teddy bear that we gave her in 2006. it had obviously not made the move. I took her grandmother aside to give her money without the male knowing - i am afraid he would take it from her. Officially I gave him some money - much less, assuming he will turn it into alcohol anyway. One never knows. Benwie looked good. She was clean and healthy and I know she is very smart. from young age on she spoke more English than Pidgin and she has always observed things a lot. next trip I will bring a big box with things she can use and some close for the boy. Her uncle is her grandmothers youngest child and only 12 years old. I asked him what I can bring him. Shy, he finally asked for clothes for himself.
Whatever it is that makes us fall in love with that particular child - it is what it is. I always promise Benwie that I will come back. I will. I have to.