In Swahili, sukuma means "to push forward" - which is exactly what we have been doing, sukuma-ing, through these hot winter months in Kenya. Yup, below the equator, we've seen the winter temperatures drop from "scorching hot" to "very hot." On a more serious note, pole sana ('I'm very sorry' in Swahili) for my absence on Arrive's blog. So much has been happening here that it is difficult to reserve a few hours to check in from time to time. To start, everyone and everything here on-the-ground is absolutely superb. The Arrive kids are back in school after their mid-term break - most having returned to Light School Uriri, while the sponsored secondary students returned to their respective schools and a few of the older boys returned to Uriri Polytechnic for motor vehicle mechanical training.
The return of long school days gave my friend Victor and I an opportunity to go on an adventure. According to CNN Travel, Maasai Mara National Reserve is ranked the best safari park in the world; people pay thousands of dollars and travel from around the world to visit our backyard. Victor and I hopped on our motorbikes in the morning and traveled, via backroads, straight to the Oloololo Gate of Maasai Mara. The two hour ride took us on dirt trails past women carrying buckets of water on their heads, herds of zebra, and the occasional giraffe or two. Adventures like these remind me how lucky I am to live between the second largest lake in the world and the best safari park in the world, doing work which I love and is rewarding beyond words.
Our Maasai adventures did not stop at the Reserve, though. Volunteer Federico (yes, the same Federico who in 2014 dropped his iPhone down the latrine) and I went even further "into the bush" to the rural homeland of Debroah. You all know Deborah from many previous blog posts and are aware we sponsor her to attend boarding school. I check-up from time to time to see how she is doing; these excursions are both exciting and essential to Arrive's success. We were welcomed by Deborah's grandmother and extended family and slept in their manyata (traditional Maasai home, made from sticks and mud). While we only stayed one night there, the conclusion of my report is that Deborah is thriving in school, couldn't be happier, and Arrive's assistance has truly saved her life.
However, not all updates are accompanied by a smile. It is with profound sadness that I announce that one of the Arrive kids has contracted HIV and is now HIV+. In respect for this particular child's privacy, I will not say his/her name or how the virus was contracted; in a country (Kenya) with the 13th highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world, there are various ways the virus may be contracted. What I can say, though, is that HIV/AIDS is a very serious and fatal virus; the Light Uriri and Arrive team have done and are continuing to follow every measure (hospital visits, counseling, medicine, etc.) to make sure this child not only lives life to the fullest, but also is not stigmatized due to the virus.
Speaking of the seriousness of HIV/AIDS, last week I attended a funeral of a young girl in the village who passed away from the virus. Here in Kenya, funerals are orchestrated a bit differently - it is a multi-day affair that extends into the wee hours of the night. At 11:00pm, with music blaring from her home, we decided to cross the trail to the boma ('hut') of the deceased and pay our respects. Unfortunately, a lake came out of nowhere (I swear!) and I happened to fall into to. Our journey continued and once we arrived, we were greeted by mourners...and a live band! A village woman graciously shared with me her bottle of moonshine as she continued dancing. We were brought to the open casket of the girl, aged 12, to pay our respects and be led in prayer over her body. When we departed at 1:00am to return home, there were no signs of the live band winding down or the mourners returning home.
Whether it is the beauty of the people and their surroundings, the overall happiness and sense of community, or something else entirely, I always find it extremely difficult to leave Kenya. However, that is exactly what I have decided to do later this month. In late September, I will return to the USA on a three-month fundraising tour which will take me to Connecticut/New York, Colorado, California, and everywhere in between. Please, if you would like to support Arrive in any way, watch this short video and contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether it is organizing a fundraiser or dinner party, or even if you would like to grab coffee, please shoot me an email! Your ongoing support is always appreciated and the impact you are making on these kids' lives is undeniable.
Nearly everyday, we get requests from parents who cannot feed their families and orphaned children out of school begging to live with us. I'd like to share one of those requests with you. After writing us a letter requesting aid (seen below), we invited Billy to meet us in person. We then confirmed the truth of his story by obtaining old school records, birth certificates, and death certificates. During his meeting with us and again in the video below, he broke into tears as he explained the challenges of his childhood. I beg that you give Billy five minutes of your time and allow him to explain his own story in his own words. Click here to watch his video, to the end, and you will see for yourself why we need to help Billy reach his dreams of being a civil engineer and helping others.If you or anyone you know wants to assist this hard-working, intelligent, deserving student, please contact Arrive directly!
As I return home later this month, and as you will be seeing in the upcoming months on our website and social media outlets, Arrive will be stressing the great importance of sponsorships. I won't divulge into this topic too much now, but soon we will unveil an entirely new sponsorship program aimed to better help more at-risk youth while providing Arrive long-term financial stability.
Right now, Arrive is not in the financial position to be able to assist Billy. Soon, with your help, we will be. Currently at our home, we have empty beds while every night on the streets, there are children sleeping in dumpsters. Soon, with your help, they won't be. Big news from Arrive, coming soon!