Every kid deserves a ...? A second chance? A soccer ball? An education? A [fill in the blank]? I believe there are many things in life that every kid deserves, and just one of those things is a field trip! Remember in elementary and middle school, the excitement which accompanied a field trip? Well now imagine how the Arrive kids and students of Emmanuel Lights Academy must have felt yesterday when they went on their first-ever field trip! In order to work out the logistics of a “first-ever field trip,” one (me) must stay alert and drink plenty of coffee. So before I tell you about the field trip, let me tell you about Jennifer.
Did you know that according to an article named “The Definitive Top 10 Coffee-Crowing Countries In The World, Ranked By Experts" Kenya was ranked #2, ahead of countries like Colombia and Costa Rica? And according to Google Fusion Tables, Kenya ranked as the 10th highest country in the world in coffee exportation per capita? Simply put, I am living in the middle of any coffee lover’s paradise. However, in Kenya, nobody drinks coffee. Everyone loves and drinks chai tea instead. So while Kenyans are some of the best coffee growers in the world, they rarely drink their own product.
Meet Jennifer - squatting next to me in the photo. She is a small-scale coffee bean farmer. For her whole life, Jennifer has grown and sold kahawa, or as we call it in English, coffee. She lives on her own small coffee farm, with coffee plants as far as the eye can see. Jennifer sells almost all of her coffee beans to larger companies to be exported and sold for oodles of money at your local Starbucks. However, she also dries, mills, and grinds a small percentage of her harvest, along with other organically grown spices, herbs, and plants, to sell in the local Keumbu market. Every week on market day, I buy some of the most local, least expensive, freshest, deliciously strong coffee grinds in the world. Talk about farm-to-cup! I love drinking my morning kikombe cha kahawa (cup of coffee), so when I asked Jennifer, my supplier, how she prepares her coffee, I was shocked to hear that she’d never even tried it!
“I drink chai tea instead” was her response in Swahili. What?! Being the only person in the village with an electric coffee machine, I knew what I had to do. The following week, I brewed and brought for Jennifer a cup of her own coffee, which she tried for the first time. I wish I could say that in the photo, as I am bending down touching the coffee grinds, the smiles and glee seen on the womens’ faces to Jennifer’s left and right was also shared by Jennifer herself. But not every story has a happy ending - Jennifer simply said, “It’s not very sweet, where is the sugar?” Even so, buying local, wherever you are in the world, empowers local economies and small-scale farmers, businessmen, and businesswomen - like Jennifer. For the foreseeable future, I’ll continue to get my coffee fix from her home-grown, hand-picked, personally-produced coffee beans.
While Jennifer had her first cup of coffee and the kids went on their first field trip, I had a few “firsts” of my own. For the first time, I rode my motorbike from our home to the border of Tanzania. Along the scenic route I stopped at a few secondary schools to check in on the Arrive sponsored students who attend. The round-trip took all day but the views, greetings, and Tanzanian border made it all worth it. I also tried rabbit meat for the first time and it is much tastier than chicken! But now to the real “first” of this week – the field trip.
You, the supporters of Arrive, enabled all of the kids at home and a select number of students from Emmanuel Lights Academy to go on their first ever field trip! The students from school were chosen based on academic performance and improvement, as we didn’t have room for all of the students. However, every child from the Keumbu Rehema Childrens Home had a guaranteed seat on the bus.
The kids, the students, Pastor, Madam, a few teachers, a few parent chaperones, and I boarded the bus at 5:00am. Getting from our village to the main road proved to be the hardest part of the journey, as the next two hours flew by as we rode to Kisumu. Kisumu is Kenya’s third largest city, the birthplace of Barack Obama's father, and sits on the border of Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest lake. Some of these kids had never been outside their village, yet they had studied and heard about Lake Victoria their whole lives. Now, they finally got to see it with their own eyes and touch the water with their own hands.
Kisumu features a quality museum and zoo with exhibits on Kenyan history along with wildlife. The kids walked through the museum, “ooing” and “ahhing” at the cultural exhibits while being fascinated by the animals – crocodiles, snakes, fish, and more. We also walked through Kisumu’s historical center, the Kenyatta Sports Ground, and other city attractions. We ate lunch, fresh tilapia caught that morning, overlooking the second largest lake in the world. While it was being prepared - the kids had yet another "first" - riding on a boat!
The next attraction: the airport. The kids were thrilled to be so close to an airplane. Of course they had all seen planes fly overhead in their lives, but they had never seen one land or take off. We stayed at the
airport until evening to welcome in another “first” – Arrive’s first volunteers of 2015! A full bus load of kids welcomed Jon and Lauren into Kenya, all the way from Orange County, California. We all rode home together; the kids exhausted from their long day and the new guests from their long journey.
Although a mere two hours away, Kisumu is like a different world - home to a different tribe (the Luo tribe), with "technology" (like elevators: four kids snuck off and Thomas, who knows Kisumu like the back of his hand because he lived as a street boy there, guided the other three on their first elevator ride, six stories up and six stories down) that the kids from our village had only heard about. You can't begin to fathom their sheer enjoyment and amazement which this field trip produced. It is because of you and your donations that Arrive was able to pay for this field trip to Kisumu. It was an invaluable experience made possible by you, and for that continued support, we all share a deep gratitude. While on the topic of financials, I'd like to quickly mention that you can now see Arrive's 2014 Revenue Report, 2014 Expense Report, and IRS Form 990 EZ by visiting the Financials page of our website. We strive to be completely financially transparent and show you just how great an impact you are making by donating to Arrive.
Here at home in the village, Jon and Lauren are asleep – a little thing called “jetlag.” In the coming days, they'll be writing their own separate travel blog about their time in Kenya, which I encourage you to read by clicking here. In the meantime, I'm going to make sure our rabbits stay plump and well-fed, recall with the kids the adventures from yesterday’s field trip, and wait for our weary travelers to wake up – they'll have a pot of freshly roasted kahawa waiting for them when they do!