Monday, September 12, 2011

The dreams of the forgotten

One afternoon, I spoke with two 9th grade level girls. They were so sweet and asked many questions about life in the U.S. One of them told me that she wants to go to university to study medicine to become a doctor. The other girl has hopes to become an engineer. I thought to myself, "Becoming a doctor is ambitious in the U.S., but in Kenya? I can't even imagine!" I quickly realized that this was a trend. Every high school aged kid I asked about their after high school plans had similar answers: doctors, lawyers, engineers, journalists....all very ambitious goals. They see their situation and they want to make it better. I don't know why, but even though my first thoughts were that these are unrealistic goals, I now truly feel that this isn't unrealistic. This can happen. These children have a chance I just feel it!
This is when I discovered that the average cost for tuition for an entire program at university in Kenya is around $800 USD. That's it? $800 and you can be a doctor? That is monthly rent or a mortgage payment for one month of someone living in the U.S.! And it can give these children the chance at a better life. Even if I have to work extra to pay for these children to go to school out of my own pocket, I will do it. I grew up being told I could do whatever I want to when I grow up. I believe from the bottom of my heart that these children deserve the same chances. They were dealt a different hand than we were, but it could've easily been us in their shoes. They are handling their situation with grace, believing that someway, somehow they will achieve thier dreams. This is true inspiration.
This is Julius, he is just entering Bible college, we brought him a backpack and he was overjoyed!

Psalm 9:18, "But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish."

Friday, September 9, 2011


Gathiga Children's Hope Home is the 2nd orphanage that we helped at during our time in Kenya.
This orphanage is pretty different to Kihara.
Some of the differences are obvious:
  • The orphanage is bigger (they have about 3x as many that is expected)
  • There are a lot more buildings (Kihara only had one building and a small "kitchen" structure")
  • They have cement, not just dirt
  • They have a kitchen, complete with a stove
  • They have animals (1 cow, 3 pigs, and some bunnies)
However, some of the differences also lie in the children. At Gathiga, the children were much more timid at first. They didn't really warm up to us until the 2nd day we were there. Compared to Kihara where we could barely get out of the van the first day because of the flock of children waiting to greet us. I think most of this comes from the fact that there are older children at Gathiga. Kihara is mainly 3-8 year olds--when they want attention they have no problem running up to you, grabbing your hand, or sitting on your lap. Gathiga has children from 2 all the way up to 18 or 19. There are a lot of middle school/high school aged children, who have the same feelings of wanting attention and wanting to feel cared for, but they aren't going to come sit on your lap. 
Once they felt comfortable enough with us, we had some great conversations and memorable times with the children at Gathiga. The younger children are very playful and sweet. They love getting their picture taken and actually it is one of the only English words the little kids know: "peecha! peecha! peecha!" :) One thing I soon realized is that a camera brought even the shyest child out of their shell.
The women that run the orphanage work so hard! They rotate between cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry (by hand for over 160 people)! I will never again complain about doing laundry!

 On any given day there are between 3-8 women working at the orphanage. Unfortunately, the women are always soooo busy that it doesn't give them much time to spend time with the children. A majority of the day the children left to entertain themselves (except for during school times). While we were there we did see a few children getting in fights which really broke our hearts. Of course, if you have 169 children living together with very little supervision there is bound to be some problems. There are a few children under the age of 2 (who are sooooo sweet) and they are at an age when they still have a lot of needs to be cared for. This responsibility is left to other children. I saw a girl who couldn't have been older than 7 or 8, giving a little boy (maybe 18 months old) a bath, changing his clothes, helping him get his food, and carrying him around. When I could, I relieved her of this duty, I would carry the little guy around and play with him, I sure didn't mind! She would happily skip off and play with her friends. As soon as I had to leave and put the little guy down I would see her come check on him right away. She is a very caring little girl. She wasn't "assigned" this duty of taking care of him, she just chooses to.
This is the girl carrying around little Mwema--you can see they are quite fond of each other :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

1st stop--- Kihara

We arrive in Nairobi at 10:30 pm, our hosts pick us up at the airport and we take the 40 minute drive to Gathiga to the house we are staying at. It is dark so it's hard to get a good look at anything. I can only tell that the roads are dirt and extremely bumpy due to the fact that I am bouncing so high at some points that I have to be careful that my head won't hit the ceiling of the van! :)
The next morning we awake to the sounds of dogs barking, babies crying in the distance, workers conversing in Swahili, the bustle of the people we are staying with and breakfast being made. We learn that we are quite lucky because the house is scheduled to get running water! So on day 2 we are able to shower and flush the toilet normally. This is quite the luxury in Kenya!
The first thing I notice outside is the red dirt roads that lead everywhere in Kenya. We see huge clouds of red dust kicked up from passing vehicles. The dust covers everything, including us.
Our 1st full day in Kenya, we head to Kihara, the smaller of the 2 orphanages with 49 children all affected (meaning not all of them have the disease, but may have a sibling or parent with) by HIV. When our van pulled in, we were greeted by a crowd a children yelling, "Mzungu!" Which, affectionately means "white person!" Once we were out of the van, I was amazed at how outgoing and how hungry for attention all of the children are. They all wanted to touch our arms, hands, hair, and face. They would fight over who got to hold our hands. When they saw how tall Nick was, their jaws dropped and I could see that to them he was a human jungle gym. They would line up and 2 would latch on to his arms and giggle as he lifted them up. It was a precious sight to see. Needless to say, Nick's arms were very sore by the end of the day.
I was shocked at the great need that the orphanage has. No running water, no toilet (simply a hole in the ground), no electricity, no stove (cooking for 50 people over an open fire twice a day is a full-time job)... I saw a couple of children with their foot in a plastic bag because they had cut it on something and were bleeding but there were no bandaids or gauze of any kind.
Judging by the attitude of the children you would never guess the extremely difficult situation that they live in. They are all beautifully joyous. They love to play and give hugs and just be kids.

This is Kezia

 This is Jane, I love her smile. :)


Many more stories to come!