Monday 11 October 2021 is International Day of the Girl. To help Mamamia in supporting the world's most disadvantaged women and girls to learn how to read, you can donate to Room to Read here.
It was the most fulfilling, genuine and honest connection I have ever made.
Back home in WA, I look at Loy’s photo every day. The pandemic has been rough on all of us in Australia, but I know her community is enduring far harsher conditions and far worse consequences – food shortages, loss of jobs, child labour, child marriage and strained healthcare systems – as a result of COVID-19.
Loy’s kind eyes stare back at me from the photo, unaware of all this. Knowing I can help keep her safe has become a ray of light for me, when everything seems exhausting and hard.
How the world has changed since that hot, dry day I first met her!
After six hours of driving I arrived in Loy's town, Buwunga, and was swept up by the single and dancing of the community who had turned out to meet me.
It was overwhelming as it was heart-warming.
Watch: UN Power Moves. Credit: UN Women. Post continues below...
I danced with them and they roared and cheered and egged me on, and I couldn’t help laughing at myself – I knew my moves were nothing compared to their rhythms. Dancing created an unforgettable moment of joyful togetherness. It was a welcome like no other.
After the celebration a few community members walked me to Loy’s home, a modest one-room brick house at the outskirts of town.
Loy’s mother Harriet ran out to me, arms outstretched, her smile wide, with Loy on her hip. Loy was only two then, quiet and observant. I instantly adored her.