I first met Darline about 18 months ago when her grandmother brought her to our malnutrition program at Klinik Jubilee. She was skinny and weak but what struck me most was her disposition. Most malnourished kids have this empty, almost expressionless look, but Darline looked utterly forlorn.
Months of MedikaMamba helped her nutritional status, and then we enrolled her in Jubilee School. She has gotten healthier and stronger, but her chronic sadness hasn't gone away. Whenever I see her, she is wearing a face of rejection and loneliness that is just heart-breaking. I have seen our preschool teachers succeed in making her smile, but until recently I had never seen her act carefree and truly childlike.
A few days ago, Darline showed up at the door of my classroom. She was silently sad, as usual, nodding or shaking her head in response to my first questions, but then just standing, downcast, staring at the white tile floor. I tickled her, I kissed her, I told her about Katie's pet rabbit.
And then a little voice piped up from the path in front of clinic. "Darline, come on!"
It was Angela, the 5 year old daughter of our school cleaning lady. Darline lifted her head, a huge smile lit up her face, and she fairly danced across the rocks and dirt to meet her friend. They threw their arms about each other and traipsed off together.
I may have started crying.