The day’s seemed endless waiting for March 30th to finally arrive, but then as it drew near, to within a few days, everything seemed to happen at once and before I knew it, it was time to go. But wait! My bags weren’t packed, my donations were not separated, I hadn’t checked off even half of my checklist, but no matter, it was time to leave. For the next 13 days, I would be on Kenyan time. Pole, Pole.
Bill Hoftyzer was kind enough to take the four of us to the airport (and even after having endured all of our craziness for the entire 2 hours, ) he promised to return again , late in the evening on the 10th to pick us all up again and ensure we all made it home safely.
A slow start to our journey could have been negatively construed but alas my travel companions would have no part in this. Despite our plane being almost 2 hours late (just arriving at the gate!), it was conveniently referred to as a blessing that our wait in Casablanca would now only be 4 hours long, rather than 6.
When you consider that we left Brockville quite promptly at 4pm on Thursday and didn’t actually arrive at our hotel until 4am Saturday, and nobody was complaining or whining or making much of a fuss (well, other than me, because I was sick when I left, and still sick, and a wee bit of a princess – but they weren’t beating me yet), I took this as a good sign. Now, it really was 4am (in Nairobi) and when you’ve been awake that long – it felt like 4am; the reality is, if we did the conversion, our internal clocks should have only felt it to be 9pm on Friday night.
With a roll of the eyes and a sheepish grin, we all filed into our rooms and set our alarms for three hours later when our first day of visiting the projects would begin. Winnie arrived at our hotel early (yes Bill… EARLY). Although Winnie and I have chatted numerous time on skype, this was our actual first time to meet in person and for JoAnne, Rita and Donna, it was a first opportunity for them to become acquainted. John arrived at the scheduled time and we were off to Kambui.
The drive was much shorter than I remembered it, less than two hours in fact and that included our regularly scheduled stop at the local Nakumat first to ensure we had the required supplies for snacks and drinks back at the room at the end of the day.
April is a holiday month at Kambui and so our arrival was timed so as to catch as many as we could before they had all left to go home and visit their families. The principal was involved in a meeting regarding having the asbestos leaking roof replaced while the children were off site and so our time with her was extremely limited. She was able to peek her head in for a slight second and grab a photo shortly after our arrival and then we saw her again briefly as we were leaving. None the less, the school secretary —- was kind enough to sit with us and share what has been happening at the school. She reviewed the report cards and achievements of the four children that we support there and elaborated on the three others who were in our program but have just recently graduated class 8 and moved on.
During the month of April the school is able to play host to a wide variety of visiting students who are participating in “tournament games.” And so these students ran about as we were visiting as well.
Some of the children gathered behind the classrooms so that we could interact with them for a time, share the new balls and other playground equipment that we brought for them (thanks to a grant from the RTO) and then escort us to the playground where we witnessed the joy that they are getting from the new playground equipment that OKKids has recently had installed (again thanks to a grant from the RTO); the merry-go-round and teeter tauter being the two most popular. There is still some work to be done, some swings to be installed and a sandpit at the bottom of the slide – but it is so refreshing to see even as much as we have, in comparison to what that very playground looked like just one year ago when we visited.
We were given a tour of a couple of the classrooms as well as the dormitories, (where we were able to see the mattresses and mattress covers we recently purchased – thanks to the RTO) and had some moments of reflection and brainstorming power moments before we headed off.
It’s easy enough to walk in, look around; share a laugh with the kids, play some ball and then head off – but take a moment to actually look around, let the reality of what you are witnessing sink in, and you leave with a far different perspective than that to which you arrived.
To explain. Imagine walking into your child’s bedroom. What do you see? Really think about it and take a second to write it down. Let me help you to begin.There are nice warm blankets on the bed, probably a teddy or two or maybe some dolls. There is likely a carpet or an area rug on the floor. You probably see a dresser, if like my children’s rooms – you can’t see the top of it because it is completely covered in toys, books, video games, clothes, etc. If you look around a wee bit more, you might see posters on the walls, pictures of their friends, napsacks and shoes strewn about on the floor – the list goes on and on. As we stood there in the silence, looking to our right, we could see a dorm room – usually consisting of 4-6 bunk beds (sleeps 8-12 children) and a bed in the centre of the room for the “dorm mother.” That’s it. No carpet, no fuzzy blankets, no toys, no teddy’s. No pictures on the wall or hand made cards from their friends. To the left were cubbies, where the children could store their shoes or something of that sort. Above the cubbies was a collection of tin trunks. Each trunk no bigger than my suitcase really. Each child has a trunk – inside their individual trunks is everything they own; everything they hold dear or precious to themselves – basically – their entire lives. If you rest here a moment, and let that truly understand why OKKids supports Kambui School for the Deaf.
The ride home is always far quieter than the ride there, or to any of the schools and orphanages that we support. The day was long, the team was exhausted; but the day was most definitely worth the trip.