When the team arrived back in Nairobi after visiting Amazing Grace, we all felt a small weight melt from our shoulders. The biggest, most emotional part of the trip had concluded; all of the projects had been visited. Some, we knew we would have to return to, even if just briefly, to wrap things up, but the bulk of our business had been concluded. We had taken ample time to sit and visit with each project leader, discuss challenges as well as accomplishments, tour the facility, have an opportunity to see the changes that have been made (or envision those that are to come), visit/play with the children, and most importantly, just – talk.
Often we will share tea or a small meal while we are at their homes/businesses. They generously open up their world to us, they let us in – all the way in – to see exactly how they live, work and play. It is our privilege to experience this, to see it through their own eyes. It is a world beyond that which most of our fellow Canadians can even fathom. The sights, sounds, smells, are all abundantly different from that to which we are accustomed. For better or for worse, it is the world they are accustomed to; what they have grown to believe is the norm and although we are there to help, it is imperative that we remember we are visiting – in THEIR world. Just because we have something they do not, does not make it better, it simply makes it different. Both worlds have many positives. Both worlds have good people and bad. Together, I believe we can bring change, good change, change that will benefit the children and ensure a healthy and happy tomorrow for everyone.
One of those changes comes with education. In Canada we have come to take for granted that education from nursery school through to the completion of high school is free. Unfortunately, that is not the case for our friends in Kenya. Only primary school is free, but even then, free still means that parents must have funds for school uniforms, supplies and sometimes even extra’s such as mattresses for children that must go away to school. That measly little amount (well under $100) is nothing – or at least that is how most of our (Canadian) friends would see it – but to our Kenyan families, one hundred dollars to them is often the same as one hundred thousand to us. It simply is NOT attainable. If you cannot pay for your child’s uniform and supplies, then they simply cannot go to school. It’s not up for debate. Once the children reach high school, the stress becomes even more daunting as there are now school fees involved – tuition, exam fees, and more. How many of us could afford to send our children to primary school if there was an astronomical fee attached to it? What would you do if you had to choose between sending your child to school or feeding your family this week? These are decisions that we do not even consider, have never had to consider, and yet our Kenyan friends face them every day.
Another primary need is water. There simply isn’t any. Kenyans can go quite literally months and months without rain. The drought is unimaginable. The dust, the damaged and distraught crops, the food shortage – all things that we, here in Canada, do not even consider as it isn’t something we have had to deal with. If we want water, we simply turn on the tap. If we want fresh fruit or vegetables, we run to the store. These are not options for many of our Kenyan friends. Though thankfully we did not encounter an issue on this trip, we have in previous trips, listened to stories of great hardship, where women have walked for miles and miles to purchase water for their families, strapped it to their backs and walked 10, 15 or even 20 miles home with it, only for their families to become ill from (what they didn’t know was) contaminated water.
After two weeks of visiting all of our projects, and a couple meetings with individuals who have asked us to step in and help their organizations, the team needed a couple of days of rest and relaxation. The safari part of our trip, is not always a given, but when we do have the time, it is a brilliant way to unwind and an opportunity to see much of the hidden beauty of Africa.
All of this and much more will be shared with all who want to hear, at Wall Street United Church, on Monday evening, March 19th. Please come and hear the stories of our most recent trip to Kenya.
We look forward to seeing as many of our readers as can possibly make it!
One more blog to come… stay tuned.