The Opening day of the KWETU-Mbagala Girls Home on December 18, 2000
It's the big day at last. We stop for a moment on the hill to take in the view. Down below on the right the sun is shimmering on the silver roofs of the little walled village, nice and snug amongst the coconut palms. That's KWETU-Mbagala.
We find our places on the platform overlooking the gate. The girls are already seated on the chairs below. The street boys from the Dogodogo Green band are warming up on our left. New guests are being welcomed and shown to their seats. Mama Argentine, Mama Witness and Mama Maryam have everything under control and look calm and elegant in their kitenge dresses with matching headdresses. Its hot, very hot.
People change places looking for shade. The seats are filling up. Local dignitaries, neighbours, colleagues and members of the diplomatic corps have come. The master of ceremonies keeps us entertained as we await the chief guests.
Girls at KWETU
A red Land rover draws up and out steps Mr. Peter Lysholt Hansen, the Danish ambassador, followed by his wife Karin. They have come to visit the KWETU-Mbagala project on behalf of the centre's main donor, Danida. They take their places on the platform, soon to be joined by the guest of honour, newly appointed Minister of Community Development and Women's Affairs, Dr. Asha-Rose Magiro. We're delighted that she made the opening her first public engagement.
Now the official programme can commence:
Speeches are given by David Burrows (Salvation Army, Jesper Kirknæs (DANTAN) and Dr. Asha-Rose Magiro. The girls have prepared songs and poems that they sing and recite with growing confidence. The Dogodogo boys get us swaying and tapping out feet. Then the moment comes when Mrs. Magiro steps down and walks forward to cut the red ribbon and open the gate. The KWETU Girls Home, Mbagala is now open.
Mrs. Magiro talks to a KWETU girl.
The girls are already inside, darting about showing off their new dresses. As we go through the gate some come running to greet us. "Karibuni! Shikamoo!" The shyer ones lag behind, but before long each one of them wants us to see the house where she lives. We take care as we walk for everything is spick and span. The gravel paths are newly raked and the veranda floors are shining. We enter the houses and admire the bunk beds with their fine khanga bedcovers and mosquito nets. Each child has her own locker and there's a table and chairs for doing homework. A decorative clock on the wall reminds them that these are the new times.
KWETU girls were entertaining.
There's more to see. The architect, Mr. Lekule, is on hand to explain the concept behind the design of the home. People take note of the solar panels and discuss the pros and cons of the energy conserving instalments. Some guests venture beyond the walls to have a look at the land that very soon will become the shamba that will supply the home with fruit and vegetables.
In the meantime the caterers have laid out sodas and bites so that everyone can have some refreshment before they go home.
KWETU - Mbagala Girls home.
Darkness is already falling as we drive up the hill again, but behind us, KWETU-Mbagala is beginning to bring light and hope into the lives of the street girls who will spend time there.
By Kate Girvan