When President Barack Obama landed in Kenya on Friday evening, the first person he interacted with was a little girl in white wielding a lovely arrangement of flowers. Standing beside the girl was Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama’s host during his stay in Kenya. After his brisk jog down the steps of Air Force One, Obama bent down to receive the girl with a hug and a welcome smile. She appeared a bit dazed by the attention and importance of the occasion but she returned the embrace and posed for a photo. I bet that encounter will remain with her…she won’t just be Joan Wairimu, but ‘Obama’s girl’ as well.
As details emerged about her, it was interesting to note that she is an orphan under the care of children’s home. Often a neglected and ignored part of society…orphaned and needy children seem to be relegated as a governmental responsibility or mentioned in the context of philanthropy or not for profit organizations.
The government must be commended for choosing Joan. Obama’s visit as the incumbent leader of the free world means all the world’s attention was on Kenya. Everything, from the little to the big, every comment, and every move was scrutinized and laid open. Having sweet Joan, a brilliant Standard One pupil, be the first to greet Obama means the Kenyan community, if only for a while, saw a girl thriving when her misfortune would have had her floundering.
For those familiar with the rights of a child (which ought to be everyone), it further drove home society’s obligation to every child; a reinforced realisation that children, when given a chance, can become beneficial to society. It is important to note that the children’s home where Joan lives, refused to grant the media access to her because her case is ‘sensitive’. They continued to protect her regardless of the benefit media publicity would afford them.
The entire encounter was one of my favourite parts of Obama’s visit and the GES summit. Children are precious and the responsibility of every person.

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