When the first world and the third world collide, funny events are bound to occur. Federico, one of the four Costa Ricans who brought the wishing lights I mentioned in the last blog post, must not have wished for the well-being of his iPhone. A few days ago, mid-squat in the latrine, Federico’s iPhone 5 fell from his pocket and plunged 30 feet down the latrine’s hole into a pool of human feces. After numerous attempts (duck taping 12 sticks together with a makeshift aluminum spoon at the end) to retrieve the phone, Federico declared it a lost cause – Arrive’s first “death by sh*t.”
While the KRCH is home to thirty of what used to be some of Kenya’s most impoverished orphans and street children, the school we support, Emmanuel Lights Academy, serves more than 200 children from the village. When Pastor Robert and Mama Terry started the school in 2008 they advertised the school and expected numerous students to attend on the day of its opening. On the first day, two students (Pastor and Mama's two children) showed up...only. They had hired seven teachers and for the first week, the school continued with two students and seven teachers. Most villagers thought the school would be shut down within a few days. Yet Pastor and Mama believed in their goal – to provide a quality education to the children who need it most. As of the last academic test results (Keumbu Divisional Evaluation Tests, Term II 2014, STD VIII Analysis) Emmanuel Lights Academy was ranked #1 out of 53 surrounding schools! Mama Terry, who is the head master, couldn’t be more proud of the hard work of the teachers and students. What makes this accomplishment even more astonishing is that Emmanuel Lights is the only school to provide completely free education to any child, pre-school through eighth grade, who has lost one or both parents. That means we have a relatively high percentage of students with HIV/AIDS and many kids who walk hours to school because it is the only education they can afford. Furthermore, we are the only school with one, let alone twenty former street children attending. The school that most people thought would be shut down five years ago is now a role model school for this entire area. Just as Pastor and Mama dreamed of six years ago, Emmanuel Lights Academy continues to strive for academic excellence as we expand.
One of the most improved, hardest working students at Emmanuel Lights Academy is David “Semenega” Obizo. David is in fourth grade and lives with us at the Keumbu Rehema Childrens Home. After his parents died when he was two, David was forced to the streets of Kisii, Kenya. As a three-year-old street child David did anything to survive - developing a dependency on alcohol, glue, and opium in the process. If he had continued on that path, like other street children, he would have most likely died. When we first talked to him he said he could never go to school because “he wasn’t smart enough.” At twelve years old, after NINE long years sleeping in dumpsters and being neglected by every by passer, he was welcomed into the Arrive family. He has lived here for over one year and to his surprise, has not only vastly improved in school but has begun to speak the language that he has always dreamed of speaking: English. David is thriving: healthy, sober, happy, and as you can see in the photo, has even brought his street swag to Arrive’s childrens’ home.
Back at home, besides the loss of Fede’s phone, the other volunteers here have been truly enjoying their stay while helping the local community at the same time. Even the animals at home have been doing well...especially the puppies. All of our puppies are growing bigger and stronger by the day and never have a shortage of volunteers willing to play with them. As I write this post, we have TWELVE volunteers here - by far the most volunteers we have ever hosted at once. Whenever we go anywhere and hop on pikipikis ("motorbikes"), I feel part of a legitimate biker gang. Soon we all will need to invest in leather jackets with Mzungu sewed into the back so our gang becomes official as we ride through the villages. Recently, many of the volunteers traveled to Hell's Gate National Park and Maasailand to go on a short safari. Between seeing wildlife, hunting impalas, climbing into gorges, and aiding the local Maasai people of the region, they had a fantastic time.
But, you're going to need to wait one more blog to hear the full story and see photos of the safari...James Hale and Davide Ippolito will be "guest writing" the next blog post and will elaborate much more on their travels. Both James and Davide are my great friends and also board members of Arrive who have come out to Kenya for their first time. Besides discussing their recent safari, they will talk at length about the new infrastructure added at home as well as many more topics like a new addition to the Arrive family. As a teaser, check out the photo to the left to see only a few of the renovations.
Get ready for the next blog, written by James and Davide, for a new perspective on all things Arrive. And as always, thank YOU, supporters of Arrive in Kenya, for empowering the children at home and in school to achieve their dreams. Without YOU, none of this would be possible.