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So, as you saw on my last post I have been on a missions trip to Nairobi, Kenya for about the last three weeks. It was quite possibly one of the best experiences I have had in my whole life. It was just amazing.
Anyways now on to the trip itself.
We left on Monday June 18th, however with some flight problems we got there a day later than planned, and our actual first day of working was Thursday the 21st. That day we started out in a slum around Nairobi known as Mathare. Just go here and check out what has been happening in Mathare recently, as well as the type of place it is all the time.
The team and I worked at the Mathare Family Hope Center. Our first day there we were welcomed by each class. Most just sang a couple of songs and recited a Bible verse. They had great enthusiasm for what they were doing and seemed incredibly happy to see us there at the school with them. The most intriguing thing that I heard was a poem that was recited by the oldest class. It was a poem. Not a poem about flowers or trees or fields, but a poem on how to stay clean, healthy, and avoiding AIDS. I can't imagine anyone in the US saying or reciting this poem. However I thought it was a great tool to help the children there learn, and hopefully the poem will stick.
Of course the event which made me feel the most comfortable and the most accepted nothing that happened in a classroom, yet it was with a young boy who was probably about 2 years old, that I met outside the classrooms. He was named Bashir. He was the grandson of a 19 year old grandmother. His grandmother would take people in and take care of them and help out people who really needed help. I believe that she had 19 people that she had taken in to live with her. Bashir was one of them. I saw him outside and was introduced to him by Kathy, one of the missionaries my team was there to help, and I picked him up and carried him around to each of the classrooms we went to. I tried setting him down a few times, he didn't really like that, he really enjoyed being carried around by me. He was also very interested in the hair on my arms. However walking around with him allowed me to realize that despite many of my differences between the people there, that I could still be effective.
After going to the classes we took time and walked around the slum of Mathare. That was a humbling experience. I was walking through some of the poorest streets in the world. If of course you could call them streets, they were more like alleys. After getting off the "main road", which was nothing more than packed dirt, the allies were usually just wide enough between tin houses to fit one or two people through. We went through Mathare with social workers from the center, who find the family's with the greatest need, a very difficult task, and prayed for and with people in their houses. There I walked through the streets and being a mouth breather found it difficult to breath and felt sick. There was sewage everywhere and even at the Mathare "River" it was basically a river of sewage. Once again I realized I was in extreme poverty.
After visiting the classes and walking through the slum we prepared for our next day of work. We put the finishing touches on VBS for the next day, and we went back to where we were staying.
Vacation Bible school went well. While I only taught one lesson, I found my role to be very interesting. I was mainly in the Bible memorization part of the rotation. So I was in the one that was no fun at all. Yet the older children in the school memorized very fast. Which led to probably the most fun time of all. That being question time with Andy. The thing that the children seemed most fascinated with was the amount of hair I had on my arm. I answered why I had so much hair pretty often. Then again I was also surprised with the questions that they had about American politics. So I answered those as well. It was quite strange to see that the most famous candidate in Kenya was Barack Obama. Apparently his dad is Kenyan.
However the most interesting thing that happened during VBS was on the first day. I was working on a difficult craft with 4 year olds, and while we were doing the craft, the kids kept saying to me "Cha, Cha, Cha," and I was wondering what this word meant. I heard it for over and hour and a half directed at me. I was so confused and I was also wondering if I had been the only one who had heard this strange new word. So I asked the other members of my team what this strange Swahili word could be. They said they didn't know. So we tried looking it up in a dictionary, but to no avail. So we asked one of the workers at the school what it meant. We were told what it meant. It was short for teacher. Oh well.
Our time in Mathare ended when the Children did a farewell performance for us. It involved them painting their faces white and stuffing sweaters under their shirts to look like old me. It was funny, and we also danced.
After working in Mathare we moved onto the second part of our trip, in which we worked with New Life Homes. New Life Homes is an orphanage. It has several different homes in Kenya, however we were working in the main one in Nairobi. This was the most difficult part of the trip for me. Well at least the introduction to the Orphanage was difficult for me.
It is an odd thing about Kenyan Hospitals. They do not take care of babies. They are not equipped to take care of babies, they don't even have formula. They leave it up to the mother to take care of the baby. While that is a good idea in principle, it leaves much to be desired. For whatever reason, HIV/AIDS, poverty or any other reason, Mothers abandon there children in Kenya, which is against the law. New Life Homes brings abandoned children in. They are taken care of and given a home. Its pretty cool. New Life has space for about 50 children in Nairobi and they do whatever they can to keep all their beds full.
However my team had a few different goals with New Life. The first was to paint the inside of a house which is called "The Ark". The Ark is for children above the age of two who are "not adoptable". Their reasons for this can be anywhere from being HIV positive to blindness or autism. However they were still really cute kids and they were all really excited about us painting their house. Of course there were a few problems, but we fixed them. We made the mistake of thinking there was only one color of paint to paint the walls with. However we were given paint to paint walls with and enamel and a latex which were soft white and a brilliant white for the ceiling. This eluded us, and thus we ended up painting a room brilliant white in our first 3 hours of working. It was alright though, we called it primer and redid the room the next day. The other problem we ran into after painting the walls. We told the children no to touch the walls. Of course this in its self was not a problem, but a problem was created by our command. One child said "Jaleena," who is blind, "uses the walls to walk around." Well I think she survived.
Nevertheless the children and their mother, the lady who is in charge of the house is their mother even though it is not recognized legally, were incredibly pleased with the house.
The last little bit we had at New Life, we spent just spending time with the Children at the orphanage. I tell you what, if you have never volunteered for working with kids age 0-2, you should. It was truly great to do so.
Lastly on our trip, we did go on a Safari. That was cool.
Hey there Andy…. I just stumbled across this while trying to find the site for the school for a friend. Very well written. I miss it so much it hurts!! Is that a cheesy thing to say or what?!?! oh well… I really want to get some of those (many of those…actually) pictures from you. My camera died on safari and I kept forgetting it the rest of the time. I absolutely love the pictures you got at the orphanage. I think I have a few of you at the ark and maybe some with bashir (no surprise there…) if you’d like them!?!?
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