The memories I made will surely last a lifetime. To make it even better, I had a whole safari van to myself! Pastor and Brian made things very easy by planning out my whole trip, saving me a whole lot of money, and setting me up with an awesome tour guide. I missed the kids while I was gone and it’s great to be back at the orphanage. They enjoyed going through the pictures, in awe of the beauty their country of Kenya holds. I hope you enjoy the pictures just as much as they did!
Jambo Rfiki’s! That means hello friends in Swahili. I hope you all had a wonderful week. I’m excited to share this blog with you, as it is nothing but amazing pictures of the experiences I had over the weekend. I had the privilege of going to the Maasai Mara for a two-day safari, a boat safari on Lake Naivasha, a bike ride and hike through Hell’s Gate National Park (which is where Lion King is inspired by). On the last day of my excursion, I visited an elephant orphanage where I got to pet an elephant! I also visited a giraffe center and a monkey park where I had the opportunity to feed the animals. It was an incredible four days to say the least, jam-packed with the most beautiful animals and landscape I have ever seen.
The memories I made will surely last a lifetime. To make it even better, I had a whole safari van to myself! Pastor and Brian made things very easy by planning out my whole trip, saving me a whole lot of money, and setting me up with an awesome tour guide. I missed the kids while I was gone and it’s great to be back at the orphanage. They enjoyed going through the pictures, in awe of the beauty their country of Kenya holds. I hope you enjoy the pictures just as much as they did!
A society grows great
when old men plant trees
whose shade they know
they shall never sit in.
– Greek Proverb
Hey friends, family, and strangers! I hope all of you have had a wonderful week. I can’t believe I have three weeks left in Kenya. Time goes by so fast here! If you missed my blog last week, check it out and see how amazing the pre-school I painted came out! It’s been a week since I posted a blog and I’m excited to share this one with you. This blog will show you what a difference a month of being rescued can do, let alone a year or longer.
When I first arrived, a little girl named Leonida had come to the home just days before me. She was so shy and didn’t speak a word to me. I promised Brian, Madame, and Pastor that by the time I leave she will come out of her cocoon and become the beautiful little butterfly that she is now! Each day, Leonida makes a vast improvement than the day before. Each week, she takes a leap of faith that wows everyone. I’ve been here for just over a month now and I’m so lucky and grateful to be able to witness what a difference a month can make in a child rescued by this amazing organization. A little bit of love goes a very long way.
Leonida would not speak to me let alone make eye contact with me the entire first week she was here. She would try to avoid me at all costs. I didn’t take that to heart, because I knew exactly what she needed. She just needed some love and attention. I would warm her up by tickling her, sitting right next to her and putting my arm around her, and I even made a song for her that all of the other girls would chime into. She would turn away but you could see that she was smiling trying not to look at any of us as we sang her song.
By the second week, she started to voluntarily sit next to me, but would not speak to me. If I’d say something to her she would ignore me and look the other way. By the end of that week she started to poke me and run away to hide, waiting for me to find her and cracking up when I did. She would scream Kwamboka at school and wave to me with her beautiful smile but still kept her distance. Sometimes she would grab my hand to hold it but wouldn’t say a word.
The third week rolls in and by this point she was blowing all of our minds with her milestones of improvement. She finally grew the courage to talk to Brian… prior to that she hadn’t said a word to him. She even grabbed his hand! Leonida blew me away when she took my hands to dance with me. She even asked the older girls of the home how to say “You’re a good person” from Swahili to English in order to tell me what she thought of me. I wanted to cry right in front of her when she said it! I just hugged her and she hugged me back!
By now, Leonida has totally transformed into the beautiful butterfly that she is. She gladly takes selfies with me, loves to hold my hand, loves to play games with me, and invites me to her room to show me her things. To see her magnificent changes each week was an example of the language of love and how it makes all the difference. Her father died two years ago, and her mother was entirely too poor to support her. Leonida lived with her grandmother who was very old and poor. She went to school once or twice a week because she had to help her grandmother at home. Luckily, she has been saved by Arrive and is a little star here at the Keumbu Rehema Children’s Home. Our other little star, Onyoni, loves to have Leonida around because they are close in age so they relate well to each other.
Melzadek is another example of how giving love can go a long way. When I first came here he would speak the bare minimum to me. Since I am an outgoing person, I did not allow any of the kids here to feel anything but comfortable around me. Each child and I have a special bond of some sort, and each was a unique approach. It’s so beautiful to witness each child’s different personalities and how we broke the ice to bond. I would strike up a conversation with Melkzadek any chance I got since he can speak English with me. He quickly became comfortable with me and in no time I learned about his sad past and thet awesome goals he has planned for the future.
Melkzadek is about 14 or 15 year old. He lived a really good life in his first few years. His father is from the Giriama tribe and his mother is from the Kisii tribe. The Giriama tribe is near the Coast of Kenya, not far off from Mombasa. Thats where Melkzadek grew up. The Kisii tribe is from the area of Kenya that I am staying, all the way to the west of Mombasa. He was on a legitimate soccer team and even got to play in Poland! One day however, his life took a turn for the worst. He was with his mother on a typical day, riding in the matatu. A matatu is a small bus that should carry no more than 11 people, 12 including the driver, comfortably and safely. Throughout Africa however, they pack atleast 24 people in there, no wiggle room whatsoever and obviously dangerous. The matatu was in an accident and Melkzadek’s mother died right infront of him. From that point on, life wouldn’t get any better until the Keumbu Rehema Children’s Home saved him.
Melkzadek’s father re-married a woman from his own tribe after his wife died. Unfortunately, tribal tension and warfare is still heavily prevalent in Kenya, and Melkzadek paid the ultimate price for it. His step-mother refused to accept him and convinced his father to do away with him. He was brought to the bus-station and told that a family member would be waiting for him in Kisii. He arrived 15 hours later, with nobody waiting for him in Kisii. Melkzadek quickly realized what his father had done to him, and had no choice but to sleep in the street.
Melzadek told me that when he thinks about the days that he was sleeping on the street, he cries. He has every reason to want to cry when he thinks about his past, but he knows how lucky he is to live a good life again. He lived on the street for three years, and was the only street boy here at the home that never sniffed glue or jet fuel. Melkzadek was well educated for the most part of his life, and used his knowledge as an advantage in the street. He had a job to clean and sweep the streets for $0.10 a day. That was enough to buy him enough to eat, and any leftover change he had was put to good use. Melkzadek would go to an Internet cafe in order to use a computer so he could study and read in his spare time. Nonetheless he slept on the streets every night until he was rescued.
Although this young boy’s life was greatly altered, he pushed through and is now being blessed by the power of love. When we had our conversation about his past, he told me he has goals to open his own orphanage one day. How amazing is that? I believe Melkzadek will reach his goal in the future. Not only will this orphanage change the lives of every child that grows up here, but it may grow to change even more lives under the influence of the very children from this home when they become adults. That is the power of one. The power of one person to change the world. The power of love. You can’t argue the truth in that.
The story about these guys is amazing. The picture below is of Thomas, Socksi, and Kevin.Thomas was a street boy since about 2009 in Kisumu. His father was a police officer and got killed on the job. His mother couldn’t support Thomas on her own and didn’t have enough money to feed him. He took off to the streets to fend for himself, became addicted to glue, and made his money from stealing and selling things. He met Kevin on the street and became best friends with him. Thomas was rescued and Kevin was still living in the street, unsure if they would ever see each other again. Thomas has been living at the Keumbu Rehema Children’s Home for about a year and a half now, and is one of the most well-behaved children at the home.
Brian headed into Kisumu to see some street boys as he often does in his free time. Sometimes, he chooses a child to bring home. He met Kevin in Kisumu living on the street and asked him if he had known Thomas. Kevin told Brian that Thomas was his best friend. Brian snapped a photo of Kevin in order to show Thomas and ask him if it were true. Brian learned about Kevin’s history and it is a typical story about how the children here resort to living on the street. It is unbelievable how many kids are truly living on the streets here in Kenya. Kevin’s father died in a car crash when he was 11. Shortly after, his mother ran away to Uganda, leaving Kevin and his older sister to fend for themselves. Kevin took to the street because his sister could not take care of him, where he drank heavily for three years, sniffed glue, and sold scrap metal to survive.
When Brian came home that day, he asked Thomas if he knew the boy in the picture that he took. Thomas smiled with joy as soon as he saw the picture and said that was Kevin, his best friend, just as Kevin had said. Kevin was saved one month later and is progressing greatly at the Keumbu Rehema Children’s Home with his best friend Thomas. He’s been here for two months and is noticeably a great addition to the family here. Kevin and Thomas are always together, it’s really precious. Their story was so inspiring and beautiful to me and I hope it is to you as well.
Brian has managed to change the lives of many children in Kenya through the power of love. He is so dedicated to the kids here, loves them so much, and is giving everything he can to make sure that each of them is successful and secure in their future. His ambition rubbed off on Melkzadek, and because of that Melkzadek now has the power and resources to change the world too. It’s a beautiful domino effect. It’s proof that the power of love truly conquers all and can really change the world.
It is incredible to think about the way the lives of the kids at the Keumbu Rehema Children’s Home has improved. This is only the beginning of greater things to come. It troubles me to think about where these kids would be if it weren’t for Arrive in Kenya. Some might have even been dead by now. As terrible as that sounds, its true. The streets aren’t a healthy place for any child to grow. When I see the children here at this home progressing and striving to become noble young men and women, it’s empowering to say the least. Such a huge impact has been made in a matter of one year and a half! Imagine what an impact five years could make, let alone ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road. If you want to change the world, it starts with the children we raise. That’s why it is so incredibly crucial to guide a child with love, education, and good morals.
One person is all it takes to change the world. It is true that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. You may not influence the entire world like Nelson Mandela did, but you may influence hundreds of people, and those hundreds of people may influence hundreds more. These people you influence don’t always necessarily need to be from your homeland, they can be from all over the world. You can’t change the world if you only help yourself, it is a global effort! EVERYTHING is connected. :)
My favorite quotes of all time is “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope one day you’ll join us and the world will live as one.” John Lennon stated these phenomenal words, as he too believed that love is the only answer. After all, you haven’t really lived until you do something for someone who can never re-pay you. I believe that it is our duty to lessen the suffering of others in any way we can. Imagine if everyone was as passionate about ending world poverty and taking children off the streets as they were about things like the World Cup or football? We would completely eradicate poverty and take every child off the street if that were the case. I’m looking forward to see how my generation will make a difference in the world, because I know we certainly will. We are a generation of revolutionaries, connected to the rest of the world through technology and tourism. As I’ve said before, I sure hope that we can raise a generation of children that will not have to recover from a troubled childhood.
Thank you for reading my blog and praying for me! I will leave you with a picture and video recording of this little guy, Alvis, and his new teddy bear. He is three years old, tends cows better than any kid I’ve ever seen, and is quite the little dancer. He came to say hi to me while I was sitting on my rock in the river. His greeting turned into showing off dance moves to me when he heard the music on my phone! I wanted to make his day like he made mine and give him a teddy bear. Enjoy this adorable clip and have a great weekend!
I hope everyone has had a great week! I certainly have here in Kenya. If you read my previous blog post, you would know about the exciting project I’ve been working on. I decided to paint the pre-school addition at the Emmanuel Lights Academy and I’m proud to say the project is complete! The kids are so thrilled about their fun and newly painted school.
Luckily, the project was done in a matter of four days worth of painting from morning until evening. Brian helped out by painting the base colors on the building. Once that was finished, the school became my canvas. Since it is Madame and Pastors school, I made sure everything I had planned would be okay with them. Now that the school is done, they are so happy with the work I did that they want me to paint the main school building! I’m excited to get started on that as my next project.
Things got interesting when the paint store didn’t really have that many supplies. The selection was limited to say the least. We all agreed that green, yellow, orange, dark blue, and purple would be best to use with the background colors. Brian and I left the paint supply store with yellow, green, and dark blue. The only brush size options were one inch and two inch, and they were fine bristled brushes. Paint trays were also nowhere to be found.
When we made it back to the school I used a jerrycan to serve as a paint tray. I started mixing colors to make up for the colors we lacked from the store, which were orange and purple. Brian made his way back home and I got to work on the school by myself. It was a bit challenging to design the school because the aluminum waves in and out. If you look closely at the pictures you will notice. It didn’t stop me from creating a cute little preschool! The kids spend A LOT of time outside on the grass so it’s great that they can now look at their school and practice their alphabet, shapes, and numbers.
While I was walking by the pre-school on my way to teach at the main building, I noticed two little ones standing right by the alphabet taking turns reciting it! It was so precious. I felt fullness in my heart after seeing that for myself. Now that the project is done I’m back to teaching at the main building. I pass the pre-school twice a day on my walk to school. During the student breaks, I always sneak over to the pre-school to visit the little ones. There is just entirely too much cuteness to handle and I can’t help myself.
I mentioned Tuizine in my last blog, my favorite little boy from the village. He also goes by the nickname Kenyonyo. Little Kenyonyo is so happy about his new teddy bear. When I brought the teddy bear over to his home, it was clear that this little boy is living in very serious poverty. His home is made up of mud and some slabs of wood, and is about 5 feet by 4 feet if not smaller. Everyday that I’ve seen him, I notice he wears the same three shirts, which are torn and dirty. He’s also been missing some school days because his family has not paid school fees. I found out today from Madame that his family can’t afford to pay for his schooling. Aside from that, it’s his grandmother who is taking care of him. Tuizine’s mom is only 19 years old and is at boarding school to finish her education. She was still a baby when she had this beautiful little baby boy so she had to stop school for almost two years in order to take care of him.
I can’t even explain the connection I have with Tuizine in words. Neither of us can understand each other, as he only speaks Swahili. The language of love is just enough to make us bond. It breaks my heart that this little bundle of pure joy and happiness is living in such poverty that his family can’t afford to pay for his schooling. So, I decided I would sponsor him and pay for his school fees every term until his mother can take care of him again. I would hate to see him miss the opportunity of a good education because of his financial circumstances. Just look at his smile and try to tell me it doesn’t make your heart melt. I would hate to see a happy little boy like this end up on the wrong path because he couldn’t stay in school, so I want to make sure that he is taken care of.
In other happy news, a family from America is officially sponsoring Enock from the Keumbu Rehema Home. Enock grew up in a small village near Kisii. His mom went missing (maybe ran away from an abusive husband, maybe died, he doesn't know because he was so young). He lived with his father but his dad was/is an alcoholic. Any money his father had, he used to buy alcohol. At his home, there was very little food and Enock could not go to school, as his father couldn't pay for school fees. So, Enock went to the streets for somewhere between 5 and 6 years (from the ages of 8-13, or around then - none of the kids know exactly when they were born, or their exact ages). In those years, he slept on sidewalks, witnessed other kids being raped, witnessed 2 murders, drank a ton of alcohol, and huffed a lot of glue. He is one of the only kids who did not smoke weed, which is usually laced with something else like opium.
Enock was one of the first 15 street boys adopted. Enock loves school, is an extremely hard worker, a fast learner, and loves animals. There is two “head boys” who are in charge (besides Pastor, Mama, and myself). If someone isn't doing their work, it is the head boys' responsibilities to make them do it or tell us. When its time to wake up at 4am, it’s the head boys' responsibilities to turn on the lights and wake everyone up. Enock is one of the two head boys we have. He loves animals and wants to be a vet one day. The glue he sniffed absolutely still has an effect on his learning ability and memory, but that is normal. It can take years for glue to leave someone’s' system, but if a child like Enock sniffed it for 6 years every single day (and most nights), some of the damage is permanent. Either way, Enock improves everyday and loves being here. He is in 6th grade at Emmanuel Lights Academy and we estimate that he is 14.
The family who decided to sponsor Enock took interest in him after learning about him from a previous volunteer. It is amazing how word of mouth can change lives on the other side of the world. They were interested in Enock because of his love for animals and his hard work. When he was told about the field of veterinary work, he was ecstatic to learn that such a career existed. From that point, the family decided to sponsor him and help him achieve his goal of becoming a vet.
Aside from the great news from Enock, one of our girls is also being sponsored. For the next four years, Claire will be sponsored by the Ursuline Academy. The entire school has vowed to help Claire further her education in secondary school. Claire has one parent and was living in very serious poverty. Her parent didn’t have the money to send her to school or take care of her, so the Keumbu Home took her in. Claire is a very smart young girl and she is an absolute ray of sunshine. Her smile could light up a room and I’m so happy that she can continue to smile on her journey to continue her education thanks to the Ursuline Academy.
I have my heart set on sponsoring one of the boys from the Keumbu Home as well. His name is Astarico and he is one of my best friends at the home. Astarico was the unwanted baby of a prostitute. Today, his mother is 24 years old, so she was just a baby when she had him. He doesn’t know who is father is. When Astarico was three years old his mother abandoned him in a city, never to be seen again. Astarico remembers that day. He recalls being left at a bus stop and being told by his mother that she would be right back. She never came back. Astarico had spent that one night in the street as a three year old until someone saved him the next day. A Good Samaritan took Astarico in and gave him food and a safe place to sleep but was not able to support Astarico. When he was 9 years old, his provider said that Astarico had become old enough to care for himself, that he had no more money to support Astarico. Astarico had nowhere to go but the streets. He spent 3 years as a homeless, malnourished, abandoned street child before being rescued by Arrive.
Now Astarico is back in school and is truly happy for the first time in his life. I know from being in the classroom that Astarico is the smartest in his class. When he first came to the home, he was ranked close to last in his class. Now, just over a year later, he is ranked number 1! His English is really strong as well. Aside from that, he shares a love for nature and animals like I do. His chore at the home is to take care of the bunnies, so when he goes to do so he calls me over to watch the babies’ breastfeed from the mama. He walks barefoot all over the compound, and if you know me you know I love Earthing too. A few days ago, I picked some pretty flowers and he was the only person from the home who could tell me what kind of flower it was. After learning that I love flowers, he picked some flowers for me on his walk home from school. He even knew exactly where to find wild raspberries and picked some for me to eat! Astarico is also an artist of many forms. He loves to draw and I’ve acquired quite an art collection from him. Astarico is a big fan of singing and dancing, and he’s great at both! We had a dance party the other night and he was certainly the most skilled dancer. He’s got moves like MJ! He even wrote a song to sing at church.
I’m really excited to see how Astarico grows. He’s only about 12, and I know he will accomplish great things in his future. He knows very well how lucky he is to be saved and is very appreciative of everything he has, especially the opportunity of education. What made him stand out to me is his laid back attitude, his appreciation for learning, his awesome dancing skills, and how in tune with nature he is. It’s unfortunate that such a smart young boy lacked so much love during his childhood. What he lacked then he is certainly recieving now, and I am thankful for that the same way I know he is.
We had an unfortunate thing happen this week. One of our boys ran away from the home and headed back to the street. He has made some grave mistakes during his time here, and each time he was disciplined and taught right from wrong. He has had several warnings, and made one last huge mistake. He knew he made a bad decision and instead of facing the consequences of his actions this time, he headed back for the streets. The boys and I tried to walk around the village and through the woods in hopes to find him, but we failed. It’s sad that he has run away, but he’s not the first and probably will not be the last. Some of the kids just can’t handle the discipline and responsibility that is given to them when they come to stay at the Keumbu Home. They find it easier to live on the streets. The thing is, almost all of the kids that run away always come back begging to stay. Some of the kids were granted a second, even third chance. He may come back, or he may not. It’s a shame that he couldn’t appreciate how good he had it here.
The Keumbu Home operates like one big team. If one player on the team is a bad player, then the whole team may suffer. The kids are like brothers and sisters and if one misbehaves and isn’t disciplined for it, then the rest of the kids may begin to misbehave as well. Each child here leads by example. Of course they are still young, learning, and growing, so they can’t always make good decisions. Especially when you consider their pasts, it's clear that these kids have come a very long way. However when they do make poor choices, they get into trouble for it. Just the same as when they do great things, they are rewarded for it. Madame and Pastor treat all of the kids the same way and it’s amazing to see the dynamic of this organization.
It’s finally Friday and the weekend has already been hilarious. While I was sitting by the river today, a few friends from the village, Happiness and Faith, came to join me. They started braiding my hair and in no time my head was full of small braids. When I came back to the home, the boys had a blast laughing at me. They thought that my new do was absolutely hideous and four of them crowded around me to undo my braids. It was too funny and that will always be one of my favorite moments. I tried to get a good picture but two of the boys don’t like pictures so they ran out from the picture. I did manage to snag two of them, Nicholas and David. The funny thing about those two is neither of them speaks English, but they will carry out a full-blown conversation with me in Swahili. They know I can’t understand them so they get a kick out of it but talk nonetheless.
A few of the boys here can’t speak English and insist on speaking Swahili to me, and laughing in my face when I can’t understand. We all find it absolutely hilarious that neither of us can understand anything but we have conversations anyways. In order to make it even funnier, I started responding to them in Arabic. So we have conversations in Arabic and Swahili and everyone gets thrown off. The first time I did so they looked incredibly confused but just burst out laughing. When the boys who CAN speak English speak Swahili to me, I just start speaking Arabic to them in order to get them to speak English. It’s been working out pretty well.
I am SO thrilled that my trip has been extended to the 5th of November. I was due to leave on the 15th of October but there is no way I can leave this magical place right now. I am so blessed on the duration of this trip so far and I want to make sure that I develop a great bond with each child at the home before I leave. So far, so good. It’s going to be hard to leave but I’m glad I can cherish these next few weeks here in Kenya. These are the memories I will look back on for the rest of my life, and I’m glad to be part of such an amazing team! Thank you for reading my post!
How’s it going friends? It’s been a few days since I posted and I have some exciting things to share with you. It’s never a boring day here in the village of Nyaturubo. I was due to leave on the 15th of October, but I’m nowhere near ready to leave. A few of the kids even tried to convince me that I should leave everything behind in America and come stay here with them. They justified it by saying that I could talk to all my loved ones on the phone so I’d be fine without them. As cute and precious as they are, I couldn’t promise them that I would stay. But one thing is for sure; I know I will most definitely be back to volunteer again through Arrive in Kenya.
It’s the first of the month, so all of the kids got their hygiene packages. Each child receives a very large bar of soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, shoe shiner, and Vaseline. The kids receive these items every 1st of the month and every 15th of the month. They must be responsible while using their products, because if they run out they are out of luck until their next batch.
It’s been an emotionally challenging week for me. At first, I managed to keep a strong head on my shoulders and not let the things I’ve been exposed to get the best of me. I guess everything caught up to me. I know I’m also getting extremely attached to the kids here. Luckily, I’ve found a few really great spots to meditate. My favorite one is on a huge rock that sits right in the middle of a beautiful flowing river right across the street. I take a walk around the river and end it by collecting my thoughts on the middle of that rock in order to gain peace of mind. I even get lucky with some visitors from time to time who creep up on me to keep me company. Frankfurt and Daniel (our boys from the home) followed me here and thought it was ridiculous that I was sitting on a rock in the middle of the river. I also had a few girls from the school find me and come join me. They eventually started playing with my bare feet and washing the dirt off of them. It’s safe to say it was the best pedicure of my life.
The amount of poverty I’ve witnessed while being here is something I can’t get comfortable with. Unfortunately, the majority of Kenya is living in serious poverty. Although Kenya has the potential to be a very powerful economy in the world, they lack an honest government. The government is ranked the fourth most corrupt government in the world. It’s really sad to see the amount of street kids, the lack of infrastructure, and the lack of money here. Many people live on one meal a day, if they are lucky. A lot of people live solely on the natural resources of the land to survive. They gather water from the river, use the sun as their only source of light, tend to their crops for food or to sell, and burn lumber from the trees to prepare their meals. Almost everyones has dirt floors in their homes. Almost everyone has no electricity. Most homes have grass roofing, so when it rains the water pours down into their home. Some people don’t even have a bed to sleep on. Alot of the homes I’ve seen are barely four feet by four feet, just a small room to sleep in. Nonetheless, people still have a strong faith here. They smile and live their life day-to-day, unaware of the way some of the rest of the world is living. From time to time, I always look to the unsolicited advice I got from a stranger before my trip. Her words have sure come in handy.
As I’ve told you, 15 out of 17 boys here were previously street boys. For a street boy, life is devastatingly difficult. You starve, you live out of dumpsters, you are addicted to glue, as it is your only means of masking the pain and hunger you face. Some street boys even get raped by other street boys, as I mentioned in a previous blog post “Kwamboka – New Beginnings.” You would think that when the government saw the severity of the issue, they would do something about it that actually made sense. The government does a mass-arrest every few months. They trap the street boys by the dumpsters in the middle of the night with nets and take them to jail where they are brutally beaten, as if that will do any positive reinforcement. I doubt much will be done to change this. That’s why the rescued boys are so lucky to call Keumbu Rehema Children’s Home their own home. They are certainly blessed to have a second, fair chance.
In happier news, let me tell you about the exciting project Brian and I have been working on this week. After walking around in Uganda, we got inspired by the colorful and creative pre-k and kindergarten schools. At Emmanuel Lights Academy, they recently built a new unit for the pre-k and kindergarten class. I wanted to spruce it up, since it didn’t look too inviting for the little ones. We decided to paint the school and make it a beautiful addition to the existing building, with the school colors as the main background theme. We are not done yet, but it’s looking great so far. Everyone says it looks so smart. Smart here doesn’t mean the same thing as in America. Here, smart means it looks really good. We even had quite an adorable audience as we painted.
Brian and I will be working on the school the remainder of the week. We’re no Picasso but we will do the best we can to make the pre-school look fun for the kids. It rains every single day here so it’s been hard to get things done at a fast pace. No complaints on the rain though, rain storms are my favorite weather. It’s really great because they come complete with loud thunder and lightening to light up the sky. If the weather permits, we will be done in the next two or three days. I can’t wait to show you how the school looks when it’s all done! The pre-schoolers are already so excited that their school is now colorful, and soon it will be creative.
Speaking of creative, I picked up some fabulous cloths to have some fun with. Brian introduced me to his friend who makes great pieces of clothing with the cloths. I am excited to see how the pieces come out! It’s going to be a unique way to bring me back to my trip in Kenya when I have to return back home. It’s very common here for women to make their own clothing with the variety of cloths to choose from. Each outfit becomes it’s own work of art.
Yesterday as I was painting my favorite pre-schooler, Tuizine, joined me for the fun. He would come up to me and smack me, and try to run and hide laughing hysterically. My favorite sound in the world is the sound of a child’s laughter. Once he got tired of that, he just wanted to hold my hand as I painted. I had music playing on my phone and it quickly turned into a dance party. He was dancing his little heart out, and I obviously couldn’t help but join him. I went back to finish the second coat this morning, and he joined me again. He even walked all the way home with me, holding my hand the whole way and just giggling at anything. He definitely snapped me out of my emotional trance.
Today, I went back to see my little friend Tuizine with a gift for him. A friend of mine donated 5 teddy bears just before I came to Kenya. Two of the youngest kids here got to pick which teddy bear they wanted, so I had three remaining to give out to the kids from the village that I developed a connection with. He lives right next to the school, so I called for him as I passed by his home. He ran out to me and gave me a high five, smiling and all. When I pulled the teddy bear out of the bag, he had a look of utter shock on his face. He quickly grabbed it and just ran back to his house screaming and laughing with excitement to show it off to his family. When I walked by the house, he was waiting for me on the other side with the teddy bear in his hand. My heart was filled with pure joy in that moment. His reaction was priceless and I know he will cherish his new cuddle buddy.
When I came back to the home, I had a little surprise for the kids as well. I brought a giant bubbles stick. The kids had a blast running around making bubbles and chasing them. It was so much fun to watch them laugh and enjoy it so much! I am bringing the bubbles to the pre-school this week, so look forward to some more pictures! The kids were also treated to their first time ever experience of hot chocolate. They usually have chai with milk every morning, but they were happy to have the hot chocolate with milk instead. The kids LOVE chocolate. They love it so much that the girls stole all of the chocolate that Brian’s mom had sent to him with me from America. They enjoyed a bag of snickers, kit-kats, and m&m’s… but they were nice enough to leave one of each for Brian to enjoy.
I didn’t teach at the school every day since all of the students had a week full of exams and I was busy working on this great project. I’m really looking forward to being back in the classroom this coming week on a daily basis. I came across a really inspiring quote by Confucius. His words were “If you wish to plan for a year, grow rice. If you wish to plan for ten years, grow trees. If you wish to plan for one hundred years, educate children.” How powerful is that? Children are the future and we mustn’t forget that. Educating children is the surest way to eradicating poverty and making the world a better place for everyone.
Thank you for reading! I hope you are enjoying the pictures and stories of my beautiful journey. Please feel free to ask any questions so I can answer them in my next post.
Hello readers! I hope all is well with you. I have so much to catch you up on since my last post about my weekend in Uganda. I was grateful that this past weekend was spent with the kids here at the Keumbu home. I missed them a lot and they are just such a great time. You can always count on them for a good laugh, a random little dance party, or a really great foot massage. It’s going to be really hard to leave them in two weeks. I wish I could bring each and every one of them with me to the United States, but I’m happy to know that they are in such great hands here in Kenya with Brian, Madame, and Pastor.
I’ve been teaching every day at the Emmanuel Lights Academy since I came back from Uganda. At first, I was a bit nervous because I was unsure of how the kids would react to me. I was a substitute teacher back home for two years, and we all know how great it was to have a substitute fill in for the day. So I guess I might have been expecting that kind of reaction from the kids, you know… the one where you act like class is about to be a field day. When I walked into the classroom at Emmanuel Lights, it was very different than anything I’ve experienced. The kids are so obedient it’s unbelievable. I’m not sure if it has to do with the fact that they still do the caning trick over here. That’s something they used to do when my dad was still in grade school! If you’re not sure what caning is, it’s when a kid is supposed to get down on his knees and get hit by a stick right on the butt. It’s a bit old school if you ask me, but that’s the culture here and it’s deeply embedded as a form of punishment. Luckily, I haven’t seen any kids cry about it afterwards.
The school doesn’t have any electricity; natural lighting through the windows is the only form of light at the school. There is also no running water, so the kids have to run down to the river to collect drinking water. Those minor mishaps are no problem for the kids, as they love their school nonetheless. I was surprised to see kids so eager and excited to learn. Every time I’d ask a question, a bunch of hands would go up and they would say “teacher, teacher!” in hopes to get called on. It sounds even cuter with their little Kenyan accents. They absolutely love to take turns reading out loud, even the kids who read a little bit slower than the rest. The best part is, I haven’t seen the slightest bit of bullying. They are so supportive and helpful to one another. Not to mention that the students are really, really smart. By the time they are in fourth grade, they can speak three languages. They are taught in Swahili and English at school, while their native language is the Kikisii. If you read my first blog, you would have learned that the Emmanuel Lights Academy is ranked number one in the region, among 53 other schools. Even better than that, the school offers a free education to all orphans. Here in Kenya, if one parent dies, you are considered an orphan.
Out of the 18 boys at the Keumbu Home, 16 of them were former street boys. When the first street boy, Fred, began attending school at Emmanuel Lights Academy, all of the students were terrified of him. They were scared that a street boy who was previously addicted to drugs and hustled in order to survive would bully them. There was only one student in the whole school that didn’t mind Fred, and insisted that they play soccer together, have lunch together, and sit together. That left a huge impression on Brian and Fred, so one of the puppies from Chui’s litter will be given to the boy who befriended Fred. Chui is one of our dogs at the home. She gave birth to three adorable puppies. We also have Socks, who is such a charmer. He was only $10 dollars to buy… but you can’t put a price on something as priceless as puppy love. I tried to convince the kids that a dog can be your best friend, but they weren't too convinced.
I could talk about puppies all day so let me get back on track. All of the kids here at the Keumbu Home attend the Emmanuel Lights Academy. From my experience teaching at the school, I was astonished to see that some of the former street boys were actually the smartest in their class! It was really amazing to witness what a year and a half at the Keumbu Home has done to truly change the lives of these young boys and girls. It’s hard to think about where they would be if Arrive in Kenya hadn’t rescued them. You can tell how grateful they are simply by their ambition to learn.
Some people believe that wisdom comes with age. It’s actually the exact opposite. Age is nothing but a number. Wisdom comes from past experience, so long as you have learned from it. Some of these kids here at the home have been through the worst possible experiences you could imagine. Take little Amos for example, he is only 6 years old and has lived on the streets, addicted to huffing glue. This was all after a man on the street threw him into a fire, for no good reason. He’s got the scars to prove it too. I don’t understand how anyone could do such a thing, nor do I want to. He is ALWAYS smiling. Though it’s hard to communicate with him since he hasn’t learned English yet, we bond pretty well with no need to exchange words, just smiles and high-fives. Amos has not learned English yet because he is still in the pre-school classes. It’s obvious that he is the oldest in his class, but he doesn’t seem to mind and neither do his classmates. Aside from that, he is a great example and role model for all of the kids, whether they are younger or older than him. At only 6 years old, he is so responsible and mature.
Another great example here at the home, Evans. Evans is 12 years old. Brian sometimes rewards the kids with a small gift if they do something outstanding. The most recent reward was supposed to be for Evans. This boy is living proof of the gift that keeps on giving. He decided that the gift would be a backpack, which he wouldn’t keep for himself. Evans will give the backpack to his classmate who does not have a backpack. How beautiful is that? This boy, who once had absolutely nothing but glue, the streets, and the dumpster was given the gift of a fair chance at life. He’s only in fourth grade, and already understands what it means to give back to those who may need it. I really believe in the saying that we are born with two hands, one to help ourselves, and the other to help others. It is clear Evans has already learned this.
Now that I've told you about the wise, let me tell you about the fun and games. During recesses at school, the young girls flock to me to play with my hair. It’s too cute. If I don’t crouch down to their level, they’ll insist on jumping up and down to try to cop a feel. Most of the girls at school have shaved heads so my curly, long, hair amazes them. While that’s going on, the rest of the kids are throwing balls made out of plastic bags and sand, or lining up and running around pretending to be choo-choo trains. It’s really inspiring to see how creative the kids can get with the little resources that they have. They utilize plastic bags and rubber bands to make soccer balls, or smaller plastic bags filled with sand to make the equivalent of a baseball or hacky-sack.
Nothing goes to waste here. I met a little boy at the market today who was rolling around an old bike tire with a stick. I taught him how to do the peace sign, how to pound a fist, and how to repeat the words “I am cute” flawlessly in a matter of minutes. Needless to say I instantly fell in love with him. I wanted to take him home with me, and the sad part is, his mom probably would have been happy to give him up. It’s not uncommon here for parents to give their children up because they can’t afford them, in hopes that they will be better taken care of with someone else. That’s why adoption laws in Africa have become much stricter. Apparently, pregnancy prevention isn’t really a thing here. They don’t educate people on using protection or birth control methods, and some of them don’t even have a clue that such a thing exists. I guess you can assume a fair share of the children here are accidents, even though I think they are the best little blessings you can ever have. They aren’t overprotective of their kids here either, you can find young children as young as 2 running around with all of the other kids from the village. Not a parent in sight. I’ve seen kids on leashes back home, so this was a culture shock for sure. I can’t imagine not having a clue where my future two-year-old child might be… I would go crazy.
Speaking of babies, it’s never a lonely walk to and from school. The youngsters from the village always accompany me. Most will come just to shake my hand and greet me with a precious smile. Some will push and shove whoever is holding my hand just so they can hold my hand. Others will just watch from the side of the road, really happy to see me while they scream “mzungu” and wave with great excitement, or really terrified to see their first ever “mzungu” with a look of horror and confusion on their face. Mzungu is Swahili for white person.
Now that I’ve shared teaching and other random experiences have been like, I can tell you about the fun filled weekend the kids and I had. We had a blast making tie-dye t-shirts. A few of the girls had already done tie-dye, but for the most part, it was the children’s first experience. All of the kids got to mess around splashing their shirts with cool colors. The shirts came out so awesome that the following day, all of the boys proudly wore their new shirts to church. They were so amazed by their tie-dye experience, that some of them asked me if I had brought more. I was sad to have to say no. But everything in moderation, right?
Aside from the tie-dye fun, I took the girls and boys on shopping trips to the market. The girls went on Friday after school, and the boys went today after school. I gave each of them money as part of my own personal donation and we walked 45 minutes towards town. It was a beautiful walk, with scenery to see from all angles. The girls all got new shoes and socks for church, and the boys got new clothes. They were really excited and appreciative for their little shopping trip.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you enjoyed it and got to experience a little taste of my day-to-day life here in Kenya. The kids make it extra special. They are so full of love that it’s easy to be thousands of miles away from home. We have an exciting project coming up. I can’t wait to show you! Until next time…
I had a great few days of teaching at the Emmanuel Lights Academy in Kenya last week. The kids are a pleasure to work with and I look forward to telling you more about my experiences in the classroom. I’d like to tell you about the past weekend I had while it’s still fresh in my mind! I was fortunate enough to take a short trip into another country during my stay here in Kenya. Brian and I ventured off to Uganda to visit some of his friends from America. It was quite a drastic change from my experience here in Kisii, Kenya. We stayed in the city of Kampala. The funny thing about that is when I first arrived in Nairobi, while standing in line to get my visa for Kenya, an older Indian man told me I must visit Kampala before I leave Africa. I just agreed with him, without a clue what I was agreeing to. Little did I know just a week after I arrived here in Kenya, I would be experiencing Kampala.
Quite an interesting and enlightening experience at the borders between Uganda and Kenya happened to me. While standing in line for a visa to Uganda, there were two really cool looking hippies in line with us. The girl had some really great dreadlocks so you know I had to speak to her! We started sharing small talk and I asked them where they were from since they had a really strong accent. They told me they were from Israel, and without hesitation I stated with great excitement “We’re neighbors! I’m from Lebanon!” Now usually, most people would assume that the conversation went bitter right from there. It was quite the opposite. We had an amazing conversation. It was actually a life changing moment for all of us I believe. They told me how they would love to visit Lebanon, and I expressed to them how I would love to visit Israel. Unfortunately, our governments who can’t seem to agree on much other than conflict make it hard to do so. We left saying how hopefully our generation will change the world, with wishes that we can all live in peace together and visit each other on the other side with no problems or ridiculous interrogation. It was a very powerful exchange of words in such a small amount of time that I can’t express through enough words.
When I said a moment like that was life changing for us, it’s because we knew in our hearts that the current situation of unrest in the Middle East is not at all what the majority of us want. We proved right then in that moment that it is very possible to get along and exchange beautiful moments of love and hope. It goes to show that our arguing governments are what keep us from always having magical moments like the one we had. Not everyone in that region hates one another, or can’t get along well. As we all know though, it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the bunch. I felt so excited to share that moment with you all because it was such a moment of clarity and truth for me. It was refreshing and gave me hope that our generation truly will change the world through the power of love one day.
After our work was done at the border, we were well on our way to Kampala. My first realization was how developed the city was. It is also a very diverse city. You can find people from all over the world living there or just visiting. Of course there were still many slums and a lot of poverty, but you will find that in every major city all over the world. In fact while I was there, I heard a village of very impoverished people screaming while gunshots were going off. The cops were forcing the people of the village to destroy their own homes since they had set up their homes on a piece of empty land. The next day, I walked by the village that once was, completely demolished. The people who once considered it home were trying to go through the rubbish to take any thing that they may have left behind the night before. It was so devastating to watch.
We stayed as guests at the CIYOTA house in Old Kampala. CIYOTA (Coburwas International Youth Organization to Transform Africa) is a non-profit organization created by four refugees from the Congo. The organization is one full of hope and bleeding hearts. Some of the people who live at the CIYOTA house have gone through the most horrifying experiences in the Congo. Many of the refugees have no clue where their family and friends are and if they are even alive. There are also a few very dedicated interns and volunteers who stay there in order to sustain the organization and help them grow. It has now received international recognition. It was an amazing opportunity to meet each and every one of those people, and it will always be something I am thankful for.
For many years, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by a combination of corrupt leadership and brutal rebel forces that have killed millions. It has forced millions more to leave the country as refugees in order to seek safety. I stayed with many of these refugees in Kampala at the CIYOTA house. It’s a shame because the DRC is said to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It can also be the wealthiest since it is one of the most mineral rich countries in the world, has the second largest rainforest in the world, and the third largest river in the world. The opportunities in the DRC are endless, but due to the tribal warfare, lack of any infrastructure, lack of education, and a very corrupt government it is hard to make ends meet. The rebel fighting still continues today. The richness of mineral resources has created a lot of tribal warfare as well, since everyone wants to be in control of the minerals in order to have a sense of security for their people. In fact, every iPhone made relies on certain minerals from the DRC. Approximately 6 million people died from colonization, followed by 5 million who lost their lives from tribal warfare or lack of infrastructure like medical treatment.
This is where the CIYOTA organization comes into play! CIYOTA was founded in 2005, in hopes that it would get to the root cause of conflict in the DRC and therefore be able to win the country back with the intentions of creating a more positive and developed place for all of the Congolese to live. The organization strives to empower and educate the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in hopes that they can change the circumstances and create a great future for their people. I was lucky enough to interview three of the people staying at the CIYOTA house. They are currently applying to college and have been nominated to participate in the Mastercard scholarship program. Brian and I conducted mock interviews with the students in order to better prepare them for their upcoming interviews. Right off the bat, I learned of their moments of struggle and strife in the interview. I could feel their pain, their passion, their hope, and their desperation for a college scholarship. I had to hold back tears while interviewing them because of the things they shared with me.
One of the kids I interviewed really struck me. He gave me a very graphic motion picture in my head about what he went through and why he so badly needs the scholarship. He has hopes to return to his country and take what he learns to make the circumstances in the DRC better. He had witnessed his entire village suffer beyond words can even remotely describe. Rebels from another tribe came in the middle of the night and gang-raped the women, killed people ruthlessly, and torched the entire villages homes. That is nothing short of barbarity. He managed to escape and ran to hide in the top of a tree just watching what was happening to his family, friends, and entire community. What he went through is what many of the DRC refugees have witnessed in their lives.
Another individual I interviewed was an orphan. Both of her parents died when she was younger due to lack of medical resources in the DRC. It was a pleasure to interview her because I could feel her passion across the table. She devoted a lot of her time to teach younger orphans at the refugee camps. Even more special, she uses her talents in singing, dancing, and theatre to spread joy and happiness amongst the refugees. It’s really great to meet people like her. She turned her pain into passion and will certainly make a difference when she returns to the DRC.
Regardless of their horrific circumstances, they still manage to smile and let each day pass with a whole lot of hope for a positive and successful future. The boy I interviewed was truly inspiring. I don’t have the slightest clue what true suffering is when compared to the things he has seen in his short life. You would think someone who has gone through the things he has would be totally bitter, angry at the world, and hopeless. He was the exact opposite. He had a strong faith in God, he had hope, he was very welcoming of me in his home, he showed nothing short of love, and showed great leadership positions in various youth groups within the DRC.
I finished off my trip in Uganda by visiting the largest mosque in Sub-Saharan Africa. The mosque was built by Gaddafi of Libya and is named after him. I love to visit mosques and old churches in other countries. This visit was well worth it. The minuet tower is part of the mosque so I got a great view of Kampala at the top of it. As I made my way down the tower, I had about 15 minutes to check out the inside of the mosque before the call to prayer. I was in awe of the architecture and beauty, with unique pieces from all over Africa decorating the place of prayer. I also learned a lot about the Muslim religion. I always knew Islam and Christianity had a lot in common, but I didn’t realize they were as similar as I learned at the mosque. They believe Adam was born from dust and Eve from the rib. They believe in God (Allah in Arabic) as the creator of all things. My tour guide told me that there is never any religious warfare or disputes in Kampala. That was really refreshing to hear!
Lucky for me, I had a few minutes left and got down to pray. A man walked in and greeted me, walking past me towards the other side of the mosque. I got up and toured the upstairs of the mosque, and just as I looked over the balcony the man who had just greeted me began his call to prayer! I was speechless. It was so powerful to be right in the middle of the mosque as the call to prayer began. I’m really grateful I finished my trip in Kampala in the most spiritual way I could have imagined.
It was a wonderful time staying in Uganda. I met some really amazing people in such a short stay. I even got to enjoy an authentic dinner with a delightful Indian family. It was the best Indian food I ever had! I even left Uganda with a fabulous piece of art that I can't wait to use as decor. The memories made in Kampala will always be special. However, it is really wonderful to escape the city life and come back to the village here in Kisii, Kenya. I look forward to telling you more about being in the classroom with the students at Emmanuel Lights Academy and the future projects I have planned for Arrive! Thank you for reading about my experiences in Africa. Stay tuned for my next post!
Hey readers! I am excited to tell you more about my voyage to Kenya so far. Thank you for keeping up with me first and foremost. I was given a new name here. I don’t go by the name of Mirna here. Pastor deemed me with the name Kwamboka. I’ve been introducing myself as Kwamboka around here! In the Kisii language, Kwamboka is translated to mean “crossing over or new beginnings”. He gave me the nickname because not only am I crossing over being here, but the organization as a whole is as well. So many new and wonderful things are happening and I feel so blessed to witness it firsthand.
Some of the newest additions here at Arrive include the fishpond, the complex running water system, building a much larger girls home, as well as making conditions in the boys home much more suitable for living. The previous girls home was very small, measuring at 8 feet by 10 feet. It was extremely uncomfortable if more than 7 girls were inside. Now, they have a huge home complete with a living room as well. Some of the girls even have their own bedroom for now until new girls are brought in. As for the boys’ home, there was no cement floor so snakes, rats, and bugs could easily access the home. Not to mention all of the boys slept on the floor. The boys home is much more luxurious now, with cement floors and bunk beds. As for the water system, it’s awesome. There is one tank that gets water pumped from the flowing river to the tank at the house. This water is filtered and used for drinking water, doing the dishes, bathing, laundry, and cleaning. There are now 7 taps, 4 showers, and a pipe leading to the fishpond throughout the premises. The second tank collects rainwater through an extensive gutter system and is used for the fishpond and two other taps. When there is a lot of rain or no electricity, they can use the rainwater system.
Brian and I created a walkway, which made for easier access to the fishpond. We had to dig out some dirt in order to make a flat surface. Then we gathered a bunch of rocks, large and small, in order to lay them out in a path. We threw smaller rocks in the crevices between the larger rocks so we could save on the cement usage. Can you believe I learned how to make cement?! I’m becoming quite the handy woman. With a little bit of help from Brian for the first batch, we gathered a special sand, mixed it up with the cement, and poured water over the mixture to make the cement. The second batch I made by myself! I will certainly use these skills at home when I want to make a patio, walkway, or garden walls. The walkway dried out really nicely and now nobody has to slip over the mud in order to enter the fishpond area.
The Arrive in Kenya organization was able to get a grant from GE. The company provided them with the money necessary to create and maintain a state of the art fishpond. The fishpond is better than any other I’ve seen so far in Kenya. Everyone who sees it from Kenya agrees as well. There is a river just across the road from the organization. The river water is pumped up through a complex water system, which connects the river water to the Keumbu Home. The same river water that the fish naturally live in is used in the fishpond through the water system. How cool is that? The fish really love it and live comfortably in their natural environment. Part of the grants budget included buying 250 baby tilapia fish. The fishpond can hold approximately 500 fish. When the fish grow large enough, they will be used to feed the children at the Keumbu Home. It will make for a great source of protein and nutrients.
This week I learned how to make the traditional style bread, known as chapatti. It reminded me very much of making saj or pita bread in Lebanon. The girls and I got to work and began rolling out the dough to make chapatti. It is cooked over a charcoal stove, cooked to perfection and absolutely delicious! You can find fresh chapatti everywhere in Kenya, but Madame has a few secret ingredients in hers to make it extra tasty.
The kids don’t eat meat often, on average it is only once a month. They mainly live on a plant and corn based diet. They eat the same three meals every day. For breakfast, they have chai with two pieces of bread. On Wednesday and Saturday they also get a boiled egg with breakfast. Most kids in the village don’t even get to eat breakfast before heading off to school. They are considered very lucky. The chai is made with fresh milk from the cow. Madame wakes up every morning at 4 am to milk the cows in order to prepare the chai for the kids. For lunch, it changes between potatoes, corn, and beans or rice and beans. Dinner consists of ugali and kale. Ugali is maize meal, which is an African staple food. The kids take care of goats, chickens, cows, and rabbits at the home. The rabbits and the chickens are the only animals here at the home that is used for edible purposes.
Here at the home, there are chickens for edible purposes and hens specifically for eggs. There are currently four goats here, two of which are pregnant. When there are enough goats, they will eventually use the goats for food as well. You can also find 5 cows here and two calves. The calves were conceived through artificial insemenation. You can find hens, goats, cows, and sheep all over the village here. It is considered to be more valuable to have cows, goats, and sheep as opposed to a vehicle here because it is profitable livestock. It isn’t all that necessary to have a vehicle in the village because you can easily walk everywhere or take a piki piki for $0.50 if you need to get to town. A cow can be sold for approximately $500. A goat or a sheep can be sold for $50. Therefore, a family can most certainly make a living by selling livestock.
We had a new guest at the home this week. His name is Douglas and he is 7 years old. He was a street boy and fell asleep on a sidewalk one night. He rolled into the road and his femur was completely shattered because a car ran him over. The hospital he was staying at didn’t believe he could ever walk again. The last volunteers here saw his conditions and were disgusted, so they held a fundraiser in order to move him to a better hospital. They took care of his medical bills, surgery, food, and treatment. Now, several months later, Douglas is walking again. He is still healing so he was escorted to the home by an ambulance.
To learn more about Douglas and see pictures of his x-ray to get a better idea of what his femur break looked like, visit: http://www.arrivekenya.org/so-much-more-than-a-new-house/
Douglas’s story is absolutely mortifying. He had been living on the street for years, addicted to huffing glue, and scavenging for food through dumpsters. To make matters even worse, the older street boys and grown men raped Douglas every single night. Regardless of all he has been through, Douglas still manages to smile all of the time. However it is obvious that his living conditions and experiences have made a big impact on his life today. Although he smiles and can sure be a charmer, the lasting effects of his former life make it difficult for him to live and communicate effectively with other people. It’s clear that the drugs have also taken a huge toll on his development. It’s such a shame that any child in this world has experienced such horrors.
I will finish my post on a more positive note with a picture of Douglas and I with a huge smile on his face. Pay attention to his adorable dimples. I know reading about Douglas is hard to swallow and understand, but that is the unfortunate reality that some people in this world face. It is important not to look past those truths. Instead, we can take what we know and educate our youth on right from wrong in hopes that they will grow to be honorable men and women. I sure hope we can live in a world one day where our children won’t have to recover from a troubled childhood. This is why education and proper guidance is so crucial. Each one, teach one… righteously. I have been teaching at the Emmanuel Lights Academy this past week and it has been nothing short of a wonderful experience. I will talk more about the school and the students next week though. In the meantime, expect a new blog post in the next few days about my weekend in Uganda!
Thank you for taking the time to read up about my volunteer trip to Kenya. I will leave you with a selfie of Onyoni and I, he is our youngest child at Arrive! The kids and I send you all love and light. <3
When I left the United States last week on the 10th of September, I had not a clue what to expect here in Kenya. Before I left, I had many negative reactions to my mission trip to Kenya. Some people were just so offended that I was not volunteering in America and that I was coming to Kenya instead. Just to clear things up, I have done my fair share of volunteer work at home in America. Not to mention I am only 21 years old and just getting started on my journey to change lives all over the world. I don’t believe any one country or continent is more important than another. If you want to change the world, you need to start with educating the children from all parts of the world. After all, we are all connected and we all have one thing in common, which is belonging to one human race. We all bleed the same, we all breathe the same, and we all feel pain and joy. It didn’t make much sense to me that people would be offended I was doing volunteer work in another country, because we are all part of ONE WORLD.
I would say volunteer work is better than not doing any at all. I am very proud of my decision to come to rural Kenya, and I know I made the right choice. I’d like to sincerely thank those who have supported me endlessly, those who have donated to the Arrive in Kenya fundraiser I created, and those who have encouraged me from the bottom of my heart. It really means the world to me.
I started my trip with an entire day in Amsterdam. It was my first time experiencing Europe on my own and it was quite an experience. I was in awe of the old style architecture, the diversity of the city, and the fact that riding a bicycle was more common than driving a car! It was very liberating traveling through a city I had never been to alone. Not to mention the coffee shops had incredible coffee! It was most definitely a great way to start off my travels to Kenya.
As I boarded my next flight to Kenya, I had not felt an ounce of anxiety or discomfort in my soul. I just felt very ready and overwhelmed with joy and curiosity. It is my fifth day in Kenya now, and in this short amount of time it has already been a life changing experience. There is a famous quote that states a mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions. I believe in the saying whole- heartedly.
Here at the Keumbu Rehema Children’s Home, the children are given a fair chance at life, which they may not have gotten otherwise. I’ve learned all of the girls’ names so far, and I’ve just about gotten the boys names right. The children range in age with the youngest being four, and the oldest being 15 (or so we think). It’s difficult to know the exact age of all of the children because none of them know their birthdays, let alone their true age. Each and every one of them are wise beyond their years, having experienced many hardships which include living in the streets and being addicted to glue, or losing their parents to tribal warfare or other tragedies. Regardless of their past, they are all so full of love and so precious. Fortunately for them, life here is pretty good for the kids. They are blessed with three meals a day, and each meal is incorporated with some kind of protein. Many kids here in Kenya only get one meal a day, sometimes two. As for the street kids, they may go days without food. In order for the street kids to suppress their hunger, they become addicted to glue or jet fuel. You may be wondering how they can afford the drugs over the food. To give you an idea, the drug is just two cents, while a meal is ten cents. I witnessed a street kid first hand yesterday afternoon, it made me sick to my stomach. Can you imagine seeing a young child high on drugs living in the street and sleeping in a dumpster? It’s horrifying to say the least. Brian and I bought the kids a meal each and carried on. The street kids consider glue their family, their comfort, and their escape from a horrifying past.
On a more positive note, going back to the kids at the Keumbu Rehema Children’s Home, they are given the luxury of electricity and clean running water. This is something we certainly take for granted back home in America. The rest of the village here does not have running water or electricity. They gather water from the river, do their laundry by the river, and bathe in the river. The water system installed at the children’s home pumps water from the river and collects rain water which is then filtered and suitable to use for drinking and cleaning purposes.
There is always some sort of chore to do here at Keumbu Rehema. You can never be bored. For example, a typical day consists of collecting eggs from the 43 hens each morning and afternoon, taking the goats out to graze in the grass all day, or cleaning the dog house. Other chores include milking the cows twice a day, chopping the nappier grass and feeding the cows, and gathering food to feed the bunnies. Aside from all of that work, the kids also spend their days maintaining and weeding the very large garden, doing laundry and dishes, and cleaning and sweeping their homes and latrines. Taking out the trash and making a compost pile are also done daily. There is no garbage man here, so the trash is burned everyday in a pit. Talk about pollution! If anyone has a better suggestion for how to maintain the trash, please feel free to comment more earth friendly methods.
So far, I’ve learned how to milk a cow and bottle feed the calves! Madame told me I was a natural at it and couldn’t believe it was my first time ever milking a cow. When I was a child, a cow was my favorite animal, so you could say this was a dream come true. One of the girls taught me to do laundry the old fashioned way. You won’t find any automatic washing machines here in Kisii. It’s hard hands on work. The laundry is done in buckets filled with water, one for soap and washing, and the other to rinse. Once the job is done, they are left on a clothes-line to dry.
I brought materials to make friendship bracelets with the girls, so after the laundry was done we all sat around a circle and got to work. The girls didn’t even need me to teach them how to make a bracelet. They are so crafty all on their own! They made a variety of beautiful bracelets and enjoyed every minute of it. One of the girls made me a bracelet and I have not taken it off since.
Yesterday, I spent my morning handing out pencils to all of the kids at the Emmanuel Lights Academy. I’ve never seen children so happy and appreciative of something as small as a pencil. Many of the kids here can’t even afford pencils, so it is truly a blessing to them.
An average school week here runs Monday through Friday from 6 am to 5 pm, and the kids do their chores before and after school. The average school in Kenya however is in session from 7 am to 5 pm, one hour less than Emmanuel Lights Academy. The 7th and 8th level children also go to school on Saturdays until about 12:30 in the afternoon. The children walk to and from school everyday; school buses don’t exist here. The school they attend is the Emmanuel Lights Academy, which is the number one school in the district. Madame and Pastor run the Emmanuel Lights Academy and Arrive in Kenya supports the school. It is academically ranked number one out of 53 schools based on academic performance. Emmanuel Lights Academy is the only school in general that offers a free education to orphaned children. It is also the only school that gives an education to former street children. Approximately 20 of the children that attend the school were former street kids. There are just under 200 students attending Emmanuel Lights Academy. About 8% of the children suffer from HIV/Aids, at least as far as we know. Most people are ashamed to admit they have the virus, or don’t know it.
On Sunday, everyone goes to church. The kids go a few hours earlier in order to attend Sunday school. My experience at church here was pretty interesting and fun to say the least. Here, church consists of a short sermon from the Bishop, followed by a whole lot of singing and music. On my walk back from church, three little girls just ran up to me and held my hand to walk with me. What a blessing! Not to mention the fact that there were absolutely adorable.
Yesterday, I spent the day exploring Kisii city. Brian and I took a pikki pikki there, which is a small moped. We walked through markets that are set up throughout the streets. It looked like one big flea market. Shirts can be sold for as little as $0.10, and a pair of pants runs about $0.15 to $0.20, can you believe that?! I bought a giant bag of fresh ground coffee for $2.00. That’s the cost of one single cup from Dunkin Donuts! Brian told me that he saved a street kid by giving him a place to call home. Brian pays for his friend’s apartment each month, he is able to afford that because it is only $20.00 a month.
I will start my first day of teaching tomorrow at the Emmanuel Lights Academy! I will be teaching the subjects of English and Science. I am really looking forward to being in the classroom with the kids. The children are very appreciative of their education and love to learn. Unfortunately, many children here can’t afford to go to school and instead spend the day with their family cows or goats, walking like nomads from place to place in order to feed them. Therefore, the kids that can afford the education know they are fortunate and blessed to have such an opportunity.
This just about sums up my stay in Kisii, Kenya so far. It is really beautiful here, very lush and green. The people of the village have been nothing less than welcoming to me. Everyone greets me with a smile and a handshake. It is hard to verbally communicate with everyone since I don’t speak Swahili. Some speak English, others only know the basics like how are you and what is your name. Nonetheless, there sure is a language of the world that can get anyone by. That language is love, and I sure feel it here! Thank you for taking the time to read about my journey here in Kenya. Stay tuned for more!
Learn more about Arrive in Kenya by visiting www.ArriveKenya.org
It's been just about one month since I've left the states to visit my homeland Lebanon. Since I'm a bit wiser than I was four years ago, this trip has been extremely eye opening to the things I never really noticed during my previous visits.
One interesting fact to note is the sectarian state in which Lebanon has become accustomed to. Lebanon has a mix of religions in the small region. Everything from Christian, Catholic, Evangilical, Roman, Protestant, Sunni Muslim, Shiite Muslim, Allawi, Druze, even a small population of the Jewish faith believe it or not. With that being said, it is a very segregated state based on your religion. With the exception of Beirut and the outskirts of Beirut, people who believe in the same faith tend to live in the same towns. Some towns do have a mix of religions however.
This segregation of state has created alot of tension and hostility towards other religions. In fact, up until recently, if you wanted to marry someone from a different religion, you would have to flee the country in order to do so. Now, a civil marriage has been introduce to the country in which people from different religions may get married without the need to convert to another religion if they do not wish to do so.
This concept of their reality is fascinating to me because it is nothing I can relate to in America. In America, we've become adapted to interracial dating of all kinds and I am very grateful for that because it teaches us acceptance of other cultures and religions. Lebanon still has a long way to go before they can look past the barrier of religious diversity in terms of marriage.
As far as friendships go, this idea of sectarianism doesn't interfere. My generation is certainly making some serious changes, especially in Beirut. People of all religions in Beirut are dating one another and I am looking forward to the coming years. Previously, it wasn't too common that people from other religions dated or even got married. The years ahead will hopefully break the sectarian state that Lebanon has adapted to. Until next time... Love and Light.
It's been just over a week since I've returned to my motherland... and the fact that it's been four years since I last visited has created a bit of a culture shock for me. We loose electricity each and every single day, water is scarce here as Lebanon has not gotten any rain all season, and driving on the roadways everyday is like a real life game of Grand Theft Auto. I have had the time of my life in just a matter of one week, regardless of the improper infrastructure and ridiculous driving.
You can certainly feel the tensions in the region however. Thousands of Syrian refugees have come to Lebanon to escape the bloodshed of the Syrian Civil War, and in turn many of them are hungry, homeless, and a practically hopeless. There are beggars all over Beirut, and an overwhelming amount of children are sleeping on the streets or walking around in the wee hours of the night trying to sell things like roses, gum, and tissues. It's really sad to witness such a thing.
On a more positive note, the Lebanese people do not let the tensions in the region stop them from enjoying life to the fullest. A few weeks ago, a bomb went off at a hotel in one of the most popular areas of Beirut. You would think that when something like that occurs, it would scare everyone into staying at home. It's quite the opposite here, people swarm into the airport daily, and the beautiful city of Beirut is still lively as ever. I think that's what I like most about being here, nothing can scare the people of Lebanon off from having a great time.
The country sits along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and my oh my is it beautiful. You could spend the whole day at the beach, then retreat up to the mountainside in a matter of forty minutes. The cutest thing about Lebanon is how the villages are nestled amongst the majestic mountains. When I retreat to my mother and fathers villages, you can expect the rest of your extended family to pop in and out to enjoy some hookah, coffee and sweets, or share some laughs. I love that your whole entire family lives in the same village here for the most part, it's a neat concept. Most of the family spends the winter in Beirut, and come back to the village to spend the summer time there.
Arabs have a very high standard of family values, and that's something you don't see much of in America. Most people in America rarely see anyone outside of their most immediate family except for holidays or special occasions. It's really refreshing to be here and enjoy a very different quality of life. Next week, I will discuss the sectarian state of Lebanon and the nightlife. I hope you enjoyed a little bit of insight on what Lebanon is like. Love ya!