A few days ago as I was walking on a narrow dirt trail in Nyaturubo, I came across a mzee (elder) with a long walking stick (tree branch) slowly walking towards me. He had to be pushing 75 years old, or maybe even 80. He was wearing a clean, sharp, bright yellow bucket hat....and n o t h i n g else. Absolutely nothing. Intrigued (by his behavior, not by his appearance), I had to ask what he was doing. He casually responded in Swahili that he was heading to the local government officials because his wife had been refusing to sleep with him. Surprised but unwavered, I wished him a safe journey (it would take him at least four hours to reach his destination at the speed he was going), and silently wished somebody would give him a blanket to cover up. The encounter reminded me that there are aspects of society here that may seem alien to someone who grew up in a different or first world first world country. It also reminded me that one of my most important responsibilities here in Kenya is to make sure our volunteers are safe, comfortable, and helpful in a foreign, third world environment unlike any most have ever experienced. Volunteers come and go, and it is truly special to find those whose hearts are so pure that their spirits stay here long after their physical stay has ended and they return to their respected nations far, far away.
These past few weeks at home, you can’t walk five steps without feeling a certain electricity in the air. Electricity unlike any other – of excitement, enthusiasm, and sheer joy. This electricity came not by accident or coincidence, but because a certain Arrive volunteer decided to build the girls of the Keumbu Rehema Childrens’ Home a new house. Demolished was their old house: one of extreme congestion, poor ventilation, and a 12 ft x 12 ft, dirt floor, mud-wall frame. Built, with the generous donation and help of volunteer Brennan Kempston and the Kempston family, is a brand new home - complete with: stronger, safer, and more durable walls, separate bedrooms, a study room with tables and chairs, cement floors (which eliminates rats, snakes, mice, bugs, and other critters), windows, additional bunk beds, electricity, running water, and more. The home will provide a more productive learning environment so the girls can continue their studies at home without being bothered by wet, hanging clothes mere inches from their homework.
The girls are ecstatic – never in their wildest dreams did they think they would live in such a mansion. And yet, their gratefulness cannot be overlooked. During the building process every girl helped in her own way; and now the girls are entering their third week of celebration as they slowly move their belongings into their new home. This project is so much more than a new house – it is a new sense of opportunity and encouragement for all of the girls. Let us take a step back for a second. These are girls, all orphans, who, due to the place they were born and the society they were brought up in, may have become street girls (a.k.a. prostitutes) by the age of 12, may have faced female genitalia mutilation, may have been forced into marriage with a man decades
older, or may have simply died. Currently, not only do they attend the best school in the division, have hope for a much brighter future ahead of them, but they now live in a mansion. Everyone who is reading this should be proud of the work you have done to support Arrive to help these girls. As for Brennan, one of the most modest people I’ve ever met? All he says is “When two girls of the KRCH approached me, after showing gratitude for everything I had done till that moment, they expressed their desire and need for a more accommodating place to live. I was deeply touched by their expression of urgency and could really see the desire for change in their eyes. They came to me with humility and urgency; I immediately teared up and went for a long walk. At first I was reluctant but remembering their faces brought me to a place of obedience. A number popped into my head – God told me to give a certain amount of money to help. From there, we grabbed a pickaxe, hoe, shovel, and the rest is history.”
The home isn’t close to being finished yet (a coat of pink paint to along with the blue roof will make the house shine with exuberance, gutters to collect rain water will improve our sustainability, etc.), but the home allows Arrive to expand and rescue additional street girls and orphans. While limitations such as lack of space restricted us in the past, new doors have now been opened (figuratively and literally).
But we couldn’t just build a fortress for the girls and forget about the boys! For them, we built two sets of bright white futbol goal posts, complete with nets, on the KRCH field. Little did we know that our goal posts would become the new hangout spot of Nyaturubo Village, with kids begging for a chance to shoot a penalty kick or play a four-on-four game. The abundance of village kids has made for exciting days, especially on the new pitch. From diving saves to perfect shots, kids gather around our field to wait for their turn kupiga mpira (to play futbol) and also hope to catch a glimpse of an incredible, "SportsCenter Top 10" worthy play. Things at home have been great, and progress has most certainly been made. While it may seem like infrastructural additions only, I promise the lasting results for all of our children are increased trust, self-confidence, and more motivation to succeed in the future.
Yet, while we are progressing at home, we cannot forget about the countless children we are destined to aid. Take Makojoo. What intrigued me about Makojoo was when we met on the street, he was intensely chewing a AA battery in his mouth. When I asked him why, he casually replied that “it is cheaper than food and the high makes me tired and not hungry.” Upon a short discussion we found Makojoo’s story to be similar to those of many street children. His parents died of AIDS when he was six years old and with no extended family to support him, he was chased from his village by the community police. Forced to the streets of Kenya to survive, Makojoo fell victim to addictions such as chewing batteries to swallow the battery acid and huffing toxic glue, as you can see in his bottle in the photo. This is the typical path of a Kenyan street child, and his story resembles many of those of the former street children who are now thriving at Arrive’s Keumbu Rehema Childrens Home. For the countless children remaining on the streets: there is potential, there is hope, and Arrive is committed to bringing these positive aspects of life to the forefront no matter how down, drunk, depressed, or lost a certain street child, like Makojoo, may find him or herself.
Lastly, an update on Douglas. If you remember at the bottom of one of my past blog posts, Douglas is a very young street child who, while sleeping, rolled onto the street and got run over by a car. He broke his femur, the hardest bone in your body, in two places. While people on the scene thought he was dead, he was rushed to a hospital where they tied him to a bed and gave him painkillers and drugs. Arrive volunteers were disgusted at the way he was being treated and two Costa Rican volunteers, Federico and Daniela, raised money to transfer Douglas to a more upscale hospital where he received surgery and physical therapy.
Now, Douglas is healing, happy, and even walking – something the doctors of the first hospital said would be impossible for the rest of his life. Thanks to the generosity of our volunteers, Douglas has regained his life back.
We, as an organization, as a country, and as a world, have a long way to go; but the inspiration that Arrive volunteers have brought to the people of this area of Kenya makes the path seem so much shorter. While volunteers come and go, it is their spirits that remain. Soon, Brennan, Federico, and Daniela will leave. Maybe they will return, maybe they won’t. But their spirits here will live on here forever; long after their stay has ended.
Please remember that Arrive relies on generous donations in order provide for our children food, clothes, school supplies, and everything else they need to ensure a positive living environment. Our organization is just over one year old and it is the grassroots fundraising and your generosity that has made it all possible. If you want to become more involved (raise awareness, send an email to your friends and family, hold a fundraising event, or any other idea), please let us know. Without continued support, we won't be able to keep bringing the much-needed and positive change into the world. Because we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, all donations are tax-deductible! And of course, everyone, karibu sana Kenya (welcome very much to Kenya)!