Latifa loved to watch her mother, Zainabu, dance. She would twirl and dip, her costume filling their small home with color and movement. Sometimes her mother would let Latifa hold the headpiece she wore each night when she danced at a local hotel for the tourists.
The headpiece was made up of a mass of feathers and sequins which were heavy in Latifa's hands, and she imagined that one day she would dance in front of clapping people, bowing low at the end of the night, just like her mother.
An Agonizing Decision
But one day, Zainabu came home without her costume. After losing her job, she wandered around the house in a daze. On the days she went to the market, she returned home with less and less food. Latifa no longer dreamed of being a dancer when she grew up. She began to dream of having enough to eat.
As the money dwindled, Latifa's father began spending more time away from home. One day, he didn't come home at all. Latifa and her older sister, Asmahani, tried to be brave but everything was changing.
Zainabu desperately tried to find a way to provide for her children. While she was able to scrape together school fees for her older daughter by doing odd jobs, there was no money left to send Latifa to school. It was heartbreaking for Zainabu to have to choose to educate one child over the other. But what choice did Zainabu have? Swallowing Her Pride
So Latifa stayed home for three years. Then one day Zainabu overheard a group of women in the market talking about a program that was helping children in poverty in their community. When she heard that the program was run by a local Christian church, she hesitated. Zainabu was a Muslim. Beyond that, she had made many admittedly poor decisions, and was an unwed mother. But Zainabu knew she had no choice. She would swallow her pride. She would go to the church for help.
Program workers at the TAG Bethel Student Center (TZ-100) saw Zainabu's desperation. They visited with Zainabu and Latifa, who was now 9, in their home. Seeing her malnourished daughters and crumbling home, they registered Latifa in the program.
In addition to the benefits Latifa was offered through sponsorship, Zainabu also became an active member of the parental groups offered through the student center. And when the center urged parents to get tested for HIV, Zainabu agreed. To her shock, she tested positive. "I made a lot of mistakes," says Zainabu sadly. "But all was not lost. Compassion helped me take care of myself so I can care for my children."
A Bright Future
Zainabu now attends a support group for HIV-positive parents at the student center. She has remained healthy and strong, largely in part to the food supplies provided by the center. Each month, she receives maize, sugar, flour, cooking oil and milk. These supplies mean that she is able to provide for her daughters.
Latifa is thankful for her education and the food she receives at the center. She is happy she gets textbooks and clothes, thanks to her sponsor. But she is most grateful that Compassion has given her mother back.
While Zainabu may no longer dance on a stage before hundreds, she can now stand proud before a far more important audience: her two daughters.
"I am so thankful to the church and Compassion for the support," says Zainabu. "Our lives have improved significantly and I have the hope for the bright future, especially the fact that my child is now getting good education."