While browsing the BBC website, I came across two different stories about friendships that made a huge impact on the lives of people from different continents. Meet Wanja and Hinga, two primary school friends who lost contact when Hinga dropped out of school because his family couldn’t afford the fees.
More than 15 years later while Wanja — now a nurse — was crossing the road, she heard someone shout her name. At first, she was confused as the person who was calling her was a filthy homeless man with popped out eyes, a sign of long years of drug abuse. She stood there surprised as the man came closer and introduced himself as Hinga, her childhood friend. She insisted on inviting him for coffee to catch up.
It was a heart-breaking experience for Wanja to discover that Hinga was a heroin addict, who’s been living on the streets and selling things he found in the garbage. They exchanged numbers and stayed in touch. He told her later that he was committed to getting clean from drugs.
Wanja was happy to hear that and was determined to help her friend. Rehab clinics costs a fortune in Kenya and Wanja wasn’t sure how to cover the costs. She started a public Facebook page asking people to help her childhood friend out.
The amount they raised wasn’t enough to cover 9 days of rehab, but Wanja admitted Hinga anyway. Within days, Hinga gained weight and his focus was better. Wanja posted pictures of her friend commenting how proud she was of him.
A Mombasa businessman shared her pictures on his Twitter account and his post was shared 50,000 times. After that, the Kenyan media covered the story and Hinga’s rehab costs was covered by a local medical centre. Now the friends are trying to raise money for Hinga to continue with a 90 days rehab programme.
The second story comes from America. Michael is neo-Nazi, who’d spent a year in prison for drugs and weapon charges. His probation officer is Tiffany, an African American who took his case despite his violent record.
Michael was impressed by the fact that she visited him alone, although she’d seen photos of his tattoos that displayed racial hatred.
Tiffany decided not to take things at face value and started to chat with him, trying to understand where his hatred stemmed from. Her chats worked like magic on Michael as his attitude started to change. His aggressiveness was becoming less and he took Tiffany’s comment seriously, getting rid of his supremacist memorabilia.
To complete his transformation, Michael decided to get rid of the two swastika tattoos on his chest. He also had a big “white pride” tattoo on his back, where every letter in that motto was earned by hurting others. He removed that too.
Being a former neo-Nazi, Michael had to move away from his family for fear of gang revenge. He and Tiffany are thinking of writing a book that tells their story. They’re also launching a Facebook page to inspire others to engage in battling racism and encouraging racial interaction.
Such stories make me happy as I’m a woman who value friendship. I miss the days when things were simpler, and people were easier to reach and communicate with. I really hope that the above stories had inspired you to change somebody’s life. Even better, if it made you think of a friend that made a huge difference to your own. Make it a priority to your new year’s resolution to give them a call. Life is too short to be lived through a cold mobile screen!
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.
Rasha al Raisi