Meeting Kidist

If you could make one wish, what would it be?

When you find out you get to make a wish—any wish—it’s hard to pinpoint the one thing you’ve always yearned for.

I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the summer of 2015 before my grade eleven year of high school. Because of the particular type of cancer and my early diagnosis, my chances of full recovery were extremely high. I’m very blessed that I never went through chemotherapy, but my thyroid was removed, and I had radiation therapy. My greatest stumbling block was coming to terms with illness. It was hard to gain perspective on why this happened to me. After my surgery and treatment, I focused on healing and staying healthy.

I was granted a wish by The Children’s Wish Foundation due to my illness, and I was faced with the difficult task of deciding on a wish.

Isabel and her sister, Vanessa, after arriving in Awasa, Ethiopia.

My mom suggested we visit the girl my family has been sponsoring in Ethiopia for five years, Kidist Meskele. My family has developed a special relationship with Kidist through letters and pictures. She has become a part of the family. I thought back to all the holidays and birthdays I’ve celebrated with my family, and I realized how sad it was that we had never met someone who was a part of our family. This is why I decided to wish for a trip with my family to visit Kidist, and the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada granted my wish.

Never in my life have I been welcomed so warmly to a foreign place—or even a familiar place for that matter. The hospitality and love shown to my family was beyond my wildest expectations. There was a special energy when we visited Kidist’s Compassion centre in Ethiopia. The second we walked through the gates of the centre, all the kids were jumping around, screaming and saying hello. The majority of the kids didn’t speak English, but all of them were able to ask us our names and tell us they loved us. A group of older girls sang and danced for our arrival.

Being there, surrounded by all those kids, made the monthly donation that my family gives to Kidist a little more real. After listening to one of the younger boys lead a service and the girls lead worship, it was clear to me that these children are well loved, provided for and are being trained to be future leaders. I couldn’t be more happy or proud to support such an incredible organization.

Meeting Kidist was less awkward than I originally anticipated, thanks to the relationship we have built. Despite the language barrier, the knowledge that we all cared for and loved each other was enough to fill some of the awkward silences. My favourite part of the whole trip was to see how beautiful Kidist is both in appearance and in the inner beauty of kindness and maturity. It is good to know that the work of the Compassion centre is positively benefiting Kidist and all the other children. Every child at the centre looked healthy and so happy.

By the end of our two-day visit, I was struck that it might be the last time that my family and I will ever see Kidist. That afternoon, I was overcome with emotions. I was happy that I could spend time with my family in Africa, and I felt love for the young adult I had the pleasure of meeting after five years. I was saddened by the thought of not being able to hug Kidist after we leave.

The Schuppli family prays with Kidist and her mom, Tagetu (at right).

But I also felt hopeful for the future. We will continue to pray and write letters to Kidist. While I may never get the chance to see her again, I know that she is safe in the hands of the local church and Compassion centre.

The Schuppli family and the Meskele family, in front of Kidist’s home.

Now that I look back at my cancer journey, I can say that God has turned an unfortunate event in my life into a testament of hope and inspiration.

By Isabel Schuppli, photos by Aveleen Schinkel

Written by: Compassion Canada