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The Facebook 'like' like no other

Out of the corner of my eye I clocked her profile picture sitting in my ‘follow’ section; a young, dignified face with a gracious smile pushing out from the edges of her lips. Curiously she'd only signed up for my public posts. I was confused. I didn't know anyone from South Africa. Mistake? or Fake?

But her face continued to intrigued me. The smile almost suggested an in-joke, as if she knew something I didn’t. And it was her name, Andile. It seemed to mean something but I had no idea why. So I just sat there silently at the screen, my eyes see-sawing between her face and her name, back and forth, back and forth.

Then somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my brain, a neurone sparked and like a tsunami in slow motion, felt the incredulity intensify and peak until it crashed over me. And I bobbed up from the foamy wake, gasping with joy.

It was Andile, the little girl from Zimbabwe I’d sponsored 17 years prior via World Vision. Our ties had been severed when the sponsorship ran its course after five years and we’d lost all contact.

Why Zimbabwe? I was given an alphabetical list of countries and my husband at the time said ‘Choose Z. Most people won’t get that far down the list.'

The agency had strict rules about gifts. Only small tokens were allowed, so unsponsored playmates didn't feel left behind. So coloured pencils and stickers along with some photos were the limit. In return Andile would send back drawings using my pencils of her family and village, the countryside and wildlife. They were eagerly anticipated and joyous to receive in the letterbox.

And then one day the sponsorship concluded and that was that. Or so I thought.

There she was. Andile, now a woman, smiling at me on Facebook twelve years later. Perhaps she was too shy to contact me directly with a friend request. Whatever the case, I messaged her immediately and she replied quickly with news that she is now a 28 year old married woman happily living and working in South Africa with a four year old child and still has all my photos and stickers.

It reminded me once more that the twists and turns of life can be beautiful indeed. And even if only for just a brief moment, that so can Facebook.

This post has been written with Andile's blessing.

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