Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two memories that I hope not to forget

There are two little snippets from our time in Kenya that will stay with me for a long time.

First one is the dump site experience. Many of the children come to the home from here and Sammy is involved in setting up co-operatives for the people living there to give them some hope of a future.

Arriving there in our minivans with cameras around our necks, standing around, trying to ignore the smell of rotting rubbish all around us, is not an experience I am in a hurry to repeat. I felt so conspicuous - a voyeuristic white, ignorant western tourist. People we met, made us feel welcome and Sammy assured us that they were pleased to have us there yet, I felt extremely uncomfortable.

Visiting the dump was difficult. But, what brought me to tears was, when back at Sure24, a handful of the little girls came to ask me if we'd visited the dump site. Did I have any photos from there because they wanted to see their mummies?

Couple of them told me their stories which followed similar patterns of illness, death of a carer, drinking, spiraling cycle of poverty.  The girls appear very happy where they are and they get to see their families occasionally. Yet, like children everywhere they had a deep seated love and desire for 'my mummy'.

The second was having lunch in the classroom with the children. Young sir and I spent the morning in class 2 (7/8 year olds). At break time we had 'cocoa', which the kids gulped down in seconds but Young sir struggled to finish it as it didn't match his expectations of cocoa.

At lunch time, we were brought portions of ugali and cabbage. Ugali is stable part of the diet in Kenya. It's polenta like in texture, made with maize flour and water. I was very conscious of not wanting to waste to food as for some of the children that is their main meal of the day. But I was defeated about half way through my plate, I could not swallow another bite of ugali. Young sir ate the cabbage and after one bite decided that ugali was not for him. The teacher had been given an enormous portion too and had tiny bit left over. When she realised that young sir and I were not going to empty our plates, she scraped all the left overs to one plate, the children crowded quietly and orderly around her with their hands cupped and she divided the left over between them.

So simple, there was no fuzz, no waste. I will not forget the image of teacher surrounded by the kids with hands forward expecting the tiniest morsel of extra food that was spooned directly to their open hands.

Out of all the things we experienced over our time in Kenya, these two stopped me. They challenged me. They tugged my heart strings. I don't think I really know why these two events stood out for me. Why they affected me the way they did? But I will do my best not to forget them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Amazing but surreal

We are home after a week in Kenya visiting Sure24 in Nakuru. Sammy, the guy with a big vision and even bigger heart, has created a safe haven for a hundred+ children which is more than just a children's home, a primary school, a church or a feeding programme.

Yesterday at work, people were asking 'how was it'? What did you do? Did I have a good time?

I hardly knew how to describe the experience. I have never felt so humbled, so out of place, so encouraged, so welcome and so challenged, all at the same time. Surreal but amazing just about sums up the emotions I felt.

Surreal because I knew that next week, I would be back by my desk, in my relatively well paid job, living in my comfy house with electricity, heating and hot water, with enough money to buy all the food that I need and most of the luxuries that I want. With no real worries or concerns. Yet there I was, surrounded by children who had nothing. Children who came from the most hopeless of backgrounds.

Amazing because these children were happy. On one of the days I played a game with a group of girls, they had a ball made out of old plastic bag stuffed with sand and tied in a knot and some metal pop bottle tops for counters. Nothing really in our eyes, but they were so chuffed to have it. Amazing because of all the people there who had dedicated their lives to loving these kids. And not the least because of the beauty of the scenery around us - maybe I am ignorant but I had expected some huts in a dusty fields instead I got the stunning Rift Valley scenery with the mountains and valleys.

I loved it but I was really challenged by being at Sure24. What did I think I could offer these children? What did my contribution really mean?

Not sure, is the answer...but the one thing I do know, is that if there is anything I can do to help Sammy and his lovely wife Millie to get to make their amazing dream a reality, I would like to do it and not just watch from the sidelines.