Dear Sweet Viona
Many of you may recall Viona, a young child from Shalom who had been battling cancer. For about 18 months, she was at Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam, where she received very good treatment, love, care and school lessons! In fact, during my visit in November 2009, the nurses and Doctor told us that Viona was a star student and was getting on quite well.
I had the privilege of visiting Viona on several occasions in 2009 and 2010, as well as knowing her as a strong and healthy child whilst at Shalom. Days before I left Tanzania in November 2010, Mama Warra alerted me that the doctors sent the young child home, for there was nothing else that could be done. Mama Warra and I consoled one another, confident that God was in control and would care for His little child. Nevertheless, our tears wet each others shoulders as our embrace acted as a source of strength. I attempted to compose myself before going to greet the children so as to sidestep their detection of my sorrow. The familiar hallway from Mama Warra’s room to the office seemed like summit night on Kilimanjaro, dark, cold and ever-long. Soon enough though it was as if I’d make it to the peaks of Uhuru (“freedom”), as I found Viona mid-laughter with some of the other children. They were preparing to make beautiful pictures with crayons. She looked quite strong and healthy that day and the one thing that never left her face was her huge smile. The smile of course, had transformed from that of a baby girl with all her small teeth, to a growing young lady, with haphazard gaps about her mouth, waiting anxiously for the adult teeth to arrive.
Viona certainly had more strength than most seven year olds and each time I visited with her I was reminded of that.
I am so sad to share with you that I received word this past weekend that Viona’s battle is over, for she is resting in the loving arms of God now. On Saturday, 8 January 2011, she lost her brave fight with the tumors which ravaged her young body for several years. Some of the children and staff will be attending the funeral services for the little peanut on Tuesday. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.