It was in 2006 when I first meet Issy. My friend Nicholas wanted to make sure I met his little sister.
At that time, the full orphans lived in a separate part of the orphanage. They were pretty much a rag-tag band of kids. They were definitely kept on the "poor side" of the compound. They looked skinnier and less healthy than the other children, their clothes were more tattered, and they ate their porridge and posho sitting on the ground rather than at tables. (Two years later, the director integrated the full orphans with the half orphans and boarding students. The area where Nicholas, Issy and the others had lived became - and still is - the "big boys" dorm.)
Issy was petite and shy. She didn't speak much English in 2006. I knew she was a little artist, though, because on that first day we met she showed me a small sculpture she had recently shaped out of some mud she'd scooped up from the ground. This was, essentially, how she introduced herself to me.
Issy is a lovely and special young woman. I am proud to call her my friend.
Over the years Issy's artwork has matured just as she has. She has always been interested in portraying people, especially family and village scenes. She works from her imagination, not pictures. She's got incredible talent and a style that is her own. It's easy to pick out Issy's work from all the others.
Today is her 14th birthday.
On behalf of your many devoted friends and fans (some you have met, and some you have not) I'd like to wish you a very, very happy birthday, Issy!
Things came full circle this week when Melissa sent me this photo of a recent sculpture Issy made. AND this recent picture of the birthday girl herself.
Both are quite beautiful, don't you agree?