Ali Barber ’15 reflects on one girl’s bravery in the face of tough odds:
I have always associated canes with the elderly, just as I have always considered exclusion to be a sad reality of adolescent relationships. From the first moment I stepped onto the JBFC campus, I have felt the constant presence of joy among the girls and the students more generally. Proof of this seemingly endless care and enthusiasm proved
“I heard you are going on a trip soon.”
What is often an innocent question felt far more serious coming out of my mouth after dinner in the girl’s dining room at JBFC. Sitting next to a young fifth grader at the edge of the room, I tried to keep up our easy conversation. Her name is Veni, and she has unevenly long legs and a severely curved spine. Chris Gates, the founder of JBFC, had explained to all of us earlier that day that without treatment, Veni would only live approximately another five years. Fortunately, JBFC has received funding to send her to Ghana for nine months where she is set to receive multiple surgeries and plenty of physical therapy. So in response to my question, she nodded her head.
Continuing this line of discussion, I asked her if she was liked to go to new places and how she was feeling about her approaching journey. Prompting her with a list of emotions, I was shocked to see her nod her head for excited, instead of nervous or unhappy. Her courage in that moment encapsulates a certain spirit of this trip and of JBFC, a spirit of undying perseverance and faith. Though she walks with a cane, uses a wheel chair, and is unable to partake in any physical activities, Veni’s smile is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. I am sure her nine months in Ghana will be physically and emotionally challenging, but her strength and optimism give me confidence in the venture. And with that, I had one final question for her.
“Can I come back soon and have you can tell me about your trip?” Veni, once again, nodded yes.