After spending months making the above video, I encourage you to take 2 minutes 48 seconds to enjoy the most uplifting moment of your day. It would mean a lot to me if you watched and shared this short, feel-good film!
I am writing this blog post with a heavy heart, but with some good news to be shared as well. Let me start with the good news first.
The best news: everyone here at home is healthy and thriving. We have welcomed three new volunteers into our home - Matt from New York City USA, Jason from Colorado USA, and Tim from California USA. Jason has been teaching at school everyday while Matt and Tim have been working on various projects around our home. While Jason's stay is coming to an end Matt and Tim will be with us for eight weeks!
Last week, we took a trip to Maasailand, where, unlike the expensive and touristy version of the "Safari Experience," we got up close and personal with the traditional Maasai people and animals. We hunted gazelle at night with spears in the vast Great Rift Valley of "Lion King Land," but came up empty. Still, we slept outside, next to a bonfire, under a beautiful star-filled African sky. It just so happens that there were a pack of hyenas just 20 yards from our sleeping area, and we could hear them laughing! The best part is that the volunteers, instead of paying thousands of dollars to see animals without any of the money being given back to the indigenous Maasai people (whose land is, or was, theirs), we inserted money into the real Maasai economy and received a true Maasai experience. Oh, did I mention the giraffes? Below is a video from Tim's GoPro as we chased wild giraffes by motorbike...an experience that 99.9% of tourists do not even have the opportunity to try!
Another bit of great news is James' progress. I am sure you remember James from my previous blog post. Since then, the toxic glue has begun to leave his brain. His mind is returning and with each passing day, he is improving immensely. But the story doesn't end there. It just so happens that as we were walking with James, someone screamed at us to stop in our tracks. At first, I thought he was a wazimu ('crazy guy' in Swahili). But it turned out to be James' uncle, brother to James' mother. He was so overcome with joy to see James, alive, after so many years, that he began to cry. He also confirmed James' story - his mother left when James was just three years old. Nobody knows if she ran away, her current whereabouts, or if she is alive. But when when she disappeared, James was left with his abusive father. It was only a short while after when James ran away to the street. James' uncle had not seen him since he was a young child, and did not even know if he was alive. The reunion brought us to tears.
My last bit of good news is my good news - the purchase of a motorbike. Fear not - this is my money, not a single cent of Arrive money went towards my bike. However, as you will read, the bike truly will help Arrive as an organization. It is a 2005 Yamaha DT, cc 175, with its fair share of super glue, spare parts, wire splicing, and African-style repairs. In reality, this motorbike helps Arrive in so many ways. I use it to bring kids to hospitals, transport supplies, carry volunteers, visit students we sponsor in schools across the country, and more. It is perfect because it can fly on the main road, OR, in most cases, get through any dirt/mud/sand/rock path (which is deemed unappeasable by other vehicles) which we may have to cross in VERY rural Kenya. A true all terrain bike, and with the super big tires and extra traction, it really helps getting up steep, rocky, muddy mountain sides going to the only medical clinic around. In times of emergencies, this motorbike will help all of us immensely when no other vehicle can reach us. Plus, the bike is fun! It has been a process for me to "keep myself happy," meaning justifying spending a bit of money on myself. In my head, even if I spend $5 for myself, I think "I am so selfish - that $5 could have been used to feed 'x' number of street kids for 'x' number of days." But, thankfully, I was at least able to treat myself to something I am truly enjoying, and it even helps Arrive as an organization! And, yes Mom, I always wear my helmet :)
Now the bad news: anyone who knows me knows I am a dog lover. One of my beloved dogs here in Kenya, Soksi, was killed by a gang of wild dogs. We found him, bloody and dead, just a few hundred meters from our home. While unfortunate and sad, it does not even compare to how I feel about Victor.
One of my favorite street children was Victor. Although living in a dumpster and starving, he was always in high spirits with hopes for a better future. I have known Victor for almost two years, and even slept in the street next to him one night. Just two weeks ago, he walked a full day without food or shoes from Town to our home to beg for an opportunity to live at our childrens home and go to school. Due to lack of resources and funds, it was my job to tell him "No" and return him to Town.
Three nights ago, Victor was found dead, murdered, strangled to death, in Kisii Town. He was 13 years old. He will have no funeral, no burial, and nobody to remember him. Tonight, please remember Victor (in the photo, on the right). While I know it wasn't my fault (or at least people continue to tell me that), I feel partially responsible in his death. He would still be alive today if I had said "Yes" to his request. Throughout the process of founding Arrive and due to the nature of the work we do, I go through emotional highs and lows. At this moment I am in a low. The only thing I can do is to try and think about all of the lives we have saved, and all the children who, if not for Arrive, could have ended up like Victor. Victor was a special kid, and one who won't be forgotten (the kids helped me build a bonfire at home where we sat and told stories about Victor, in his memory).
I kindly ask that you remember Victor and continue to support Arrive so that we can help more kids like him - kids who desperately need help, reached out to obtain it, but were not given the opportunity. Me, you, your family, your neighbors, your friends: Let Us Give Them That Opportunity.