Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 10: TIme for Retreat

On Tuesday, the team travelled to Samburu Game Reserve for a two day retreat to rest, debrief, evaluate, and prepare for Sunday's Celebration. More when we return to Nairobi tomorrow!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 9: More teaching, learning, and growing

Naima:


When I came to Africa I expected to step off the plane and begin to cry my eyes out. But after 28 hours of travel, a new time zone, little sleep, and all sorts of new scents tears weren’t high on my list. I think it took a few days for me to begin to really settle in here and realize that I was really in Kenya! As my team has seen over the last couple of days, I am a HUGE softy. The first few days I think I had a wall up and I’m sure one is still up but a few days ago it started to crumble. I walked into the classroom of the younger kids at Ray of Hope and they asked me to teach them a song. I in turn asked them to teach me a song; which they were more than happy to do. As they were singing Robin came in with the Flip video camera and recorded them. When the song was finished she turned the camera around and let them watch themselves singing. The kids are so excited by technology that seeing them in awe was not surprising, but as the video played the kids began to sing along with themselves. I don’t know exactly what it was about this moment but my eyes welled up and I had to run out of the room before the kids saw my tears. I have said this before and I will say it again, they are so in awe of the things we take the most for granted. I can take a video on my cell and send it to a friend without the slightest of thought. I was so touched watching them watch themselves and hearing them sing along with themselves that I was literally brought to tears. This moment really opened the flood gates. After that first good cry it seemed that everything and anything could good me started and I don’t think I’m done! And to be honest that is exactly what I expected when I decided to come on this trip. But being a softy is who I am and I’ll being worried when the tears stop falling!



Benita (a late Day 8 addition):

We returned to Riruta for church this morning and were greeted as old friends. It felt like the perfect “spiritual book ends” to our work week.

The deep faith expressed/celebrated by the members of the women’s chorus through song is something to behold. And the children’s choir is beyond precious.

Pastor John and his wife Anne head, from what I understand, one of maybe three churches in the entire country that practice inclusivity for all sexual orientations. This puts them at tremendous risk since an individual that is of “sexual minority” as it is called here, can be jailed or even worse. They are courageous beyond measure. And I am so encouraged by their example to stand strong against intolerance, and to continue to speak up for the equal rights of others.
 
Kelli:


I have been marinating…in what is still so familiar 11 years later. To be taken off guard by the things that I had become so comfortable with when I was last here, but had forgotten, is a continuous delight. And to be reunited with a culture and a people who occupy such a meaningful place in my soul is truly indescribable. With that being said, I’ve realized that it’s been an impossibility to absorb things as fast as they’ve come our way, and I have been experiencing a bit of emotional delay. Every day, I feel as though my heart and head race to keep up with my physical body, and every day, they are behind. I say this because I’ve struggled night after night to bring our experience to life on the page; to choose the right words so that thousands of miles away you can hear the laughter and the song, revel in a newborn baby’s first cry and feel the immense love that surrounds us.

Unfortunately, the technology here is not quite what it is at home and we’ve been unable to upload flip videos—a medium I am much more comfortable with—that I’ve recorded. Thus, my heart, head and body are in the process of reuniting, and as pen meets paper, I hope you will allow me to revisit special moments in time over the past week in my up and coming entries.

Preparing porridge
“There’s no where you can be, that isn’t where you’re meant to be.”

I have been marinating…

Karen:

Today we returned to Riruta United Methodist Church, to see the Children of Africa Hope Mission.  Nearly one hundred and fifty students--from pre-school age to grade four--receive instruction, food, and care.  The teachers and support staff are incredibly committed, willing to take great risks on behalf of the children's well-being. With little resources and a relatively small facility, they provide an anchor of love and care in the midst of poverty and disease.

 
We spent time in the classrooms (which had no electricity and were terribly crowded--one small room was divided into four classrooms. It was not easy working on ABC's with my class while Craig was teaching math to his class and Robin was having her class read aloud!

We helped feed the children porridge mid-morning and then the school held an assembly for us and parents of the students. Each class recited bible verses and poetry and sang songs. The joy on their faces was contagious!

Robin telling a story
We then helped serve lunch: a large pot of ugali (a starchy dough-like glob) and greens, with two cubes of meat per child, plus a mango for dessert.  Kelli prepared the bowls with ugali, Benita and Katie put greens on top of the ugali, Craig and Naima put the meat cubes in each bowl, and Robin and I handed out the bowls to the children. It was nerve-wracking, trying to figure out how much food to put in each bowl. Knowing that this would be the children's last meal before porridge at school tomorrow, we wanted to give them as much food as possible, but we didn't want to run out and some children go without food. But like the story of the loaves and fishes, there was enough for all. It was so moving watching the children finish their bowl of ugali and greens and then bite into their mangos, eating the skin along with the fruit, savoring each sweet, juicy bite.  Their faces showed such delight in something we often take for granted.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 8: Worship and Rest

Robin:

What I have been struck by all week is that rarely I remember it is Christmas time. There are almost no Christmas decorations and one has to look hard to find one. Where we have seen a sign of Christmas has been the shopping center where ex-pats and tourists shop. It has been so refreshing to not be bombarded by the commercialism and overabundance found at home.

I asked some of the children what they do for Christmas. They said some go to church and everyone who has enough money has chicken to eat then they walk around. I’m so grateful to be reminded that Jesus came under similar circumstances of poverty and simplicity. I pray there will be food to eat for everyone this Christmas and everyday.

Craig:

Exams were over and the school term was completed in Kenya prior to our arrival. Kids here typically have December, April and August off. Ray of Hope follows the same schedule as the Kenya school system, but they usually stay open an extra two weeks during these vacation times so that kids can play catch up, enjoy some “enrichment” activities, and have a place to go and food to eat. Once Ray of Hope kids attain a certain academic level AND have a sponsor, they can move into the public school at Kileleshwa. Ray of Hope provides them with daily transportation to and from school several miles away, and their doors are open to Kileleshwa students during vacations and after school for further tutoring and loving care.

There are at least eight students who are now ready to move to Kileleshwa in January, but they are without sponsors. Public education requires fees for uniforms, food, books, transportation, and other items. We were told that 8th grade exam results in Kenya chart the course of the student’s occupation and livelihood, determining which students will be eligible for which occupations. If the Ray of Hope students do not receive sponsorships by the beginning of the school term in January, they must remain at Ray of Hope for another year, making their future that much shakier.

Karen:

With Riruta friend
We worshipped again with our friends at Riruta United Methodist Church. Their faith in a God who will sustain them even in the midst of poverty and disease is inspiring. It was humbling to be invited to preach for a second week. The thing I enjoyed most about the preaching moment was sharing it with Rev. John Makokha, Riruta's pastor. I would say something in English, and then he would translate what I said in Swahili.  There was a rhythm that began to take shape as we spoke back and forth.  In it, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, communicating between the lines we spoke aloud.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 7: Saying Good-Bye

Kelli:

Today we said our goodbyes to our ray of Hope family, or “see you later,” as Eddie back home at Glide likes to say. And though heavy hearted by what felt like a premature farewell, it did indeed feel much more like a “see you later” than a good-bye.
When it was time for the kids to be on their way, they all piled on the bus and squished their little noses up against the glass, or stretched their hands out one of the many windows for one last squeeze. Right before they pulled away, I yelled, “We love you!” and one of the boys I had become close with looked at me wide-eyed and asked, “Even us?” Overwhelmed--unbeknownst to him—the poignancy of his question, my voice cracked and I answered, “Yes, even you. Especially you.”


Benita:
Today was our last day with the children of ROH. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye. But I’m so grateful our last day together was filled with so much fun and laughter.
The Glide Team wearing the wonderful gifts given to us by the RoH staff

We took a bus to the Kenya Animal Orphanage- the monkey cages were a big hit. And ended with a picnic in the park that included lots of games. There isn’t anywhere for these children to play where they live. That includes the Learning Center where we taught for the last week- although, we did a good job transforming the small dirt lot in front of the building into a playground these last few days- I hope this is something that will continue.
As tears of sadness fill my eyes, raindrops fall from the sky. And I fear for the safety of the children, staff and their families. It has been explained to us that since they all live in house made of sheet metal, the rain is very noisy. And this is when burglars and rapists use machetes to cut into people’s houses and take them by surprise- I will never think of the rain the same way again.

Craig:

After today’s trip to the animal orphanage and safari walk we went to a park near the downtown Nairobi skyscrapers where there were large fields of green grass to picnic and play on. First up: fried chicken and chips, the first meal for many of the kids since lunch the day before. The kids all pitched in (without being asked) to carry the food and sodas from the bus. We were seated on a hillside and food was passed out to all of the kids; it sat on their laps unopened and everyone waited patiently until all had food and grace was said. No one had to instruct the children to wait; this was all automatic. Several times when I saw someone given some extra food or soda, it was shared with others.
After lunch there was time for football, running races, hula hoops and other games. Ray of Hope does not have an outside play area, so the open space was a treat. Fifty three kids quickly spread out to do their thing. At one point, Robin pointed out one of the Ray of Hope boys taking the time to kick a soccer ball gently back and forth with an interested toddler who was picnicking with his mom nearby. After a while one of the boys came up and asked me to kick a soccer ball back and forth- this quickly turned into three of us and soon after four, then five. As we played, the care and consideration of these children became very clear. Anyone who wanted to play were included. An older boy would kick to a younger girl. One of the athletic boys helped up one who was younger and shy, brushed him off and helped him get started again. The ball was kicked over a barbed wire fence- a man with MS walking by quickly jumped over the fence to retrieve the ball for us, and the kids then included him in our football game. An older teenage boy hanging in the park who probably didn’t have a ball to play with lingered close by, and one of the Ray of Hope boys kicked the ball to him, allowing him to jump into the game. This happened two or three times while we were playing. Everything and everyone just clicked and we all had a great time- young and old, male and female, athletic and disabled, black and white.

The manners and love demonstrated by the children of the Ray of Hope Learning Center are a clear sign of the promise these kids hold, and that they are on the right path. Most have lost one or both parents, many must deal with HIV in their families, and some have been found living on their own in the streets. Ray of Hope has taken them in, giving them medical care, food, and the opportunity to go to school, learn how to be good citizens and one day transition into the formal Kenya school system. The fact that these kids are so well behaved and so loving is a tribute to the love of their families and guardians, and the two teachers at Ray of Hope who clearly love and treat the 50+ kids in their classrooms (and their sponsored “graduates” at Kileleshwa) as their own. The Ray of Hope family are people who have very little materially but so much spiritually, being willing to share what they have, to watch out for each other, and invite visitors and strangers into their homes with honor and joy.


Karen:


It is dark and it is raining outside my window.

Before coming to Kenya, I enjoyed a good hard rain at night. Listening to the downpour from the comfort of my bed, I would feel warm and secure and drift off into a deep and blessed sleep.

Now, it is hard to enjoy a night’s rainfall. When we returned to Ray of Hope every morning after a rainfall, we would hear stories of what had happened the night before: the children would be traumatized as thieves entered their home the night before.

Rainfall is a dangerous thing in Kawangware. The rain hits the tin roofs, masking all other sounds. As a family sleeps in their one room home, thieves cut through their tin walls, the sound covered by the drum beats of rain above their heads. Children are threatened, women raped, any valuables taken away.

Hendrika, the community health worker, shared with me the stories of thieves and the danger they pose to women and children in the community. She said that when it rains she sleeps with a knife and a long sword nearby, so that if anyone breaks in, she could at least defend herself and her children.

I will never listen to the rain the same way ever again.

Niama:


Bittersweet….days like today are the reason that this word was created. We had such a blast playing with the kids and eating their favorite lunch of chicken and chips. Every moment of today was exciting. From eagles snatching chicken out of Karen, Benita, and Katie’s hands to a camel walking through the park, to racing the boys across the park. I feel so comfortable here that not once today did I feel like I was halfway around the world. I felt like I was with MY kids on a class fieldtrip in MY city; when it finally hit me that we were not going to see our Ray of Hope family again until the next trip. As soon as the thought came into my mind the tears started streaming down my face. I was eventually forced to go play with the kids so I would forget about my sadness. And play we did! The kids wanted to race, dance, jump rope, play frisbee, and literally jump through hoops! I felt like a kid again! There was so much laughter so many smiling faces and so much love we were all bursting at the seams. …until we had to say goodbye. I walked back to the bus with the two boys I spent most of my day with Sammy on one side and Richard on the other. I could feel the sadness begin to fall over us. As we walked a group of boys started to ask me for a specific date that I would come back. And it just broke my heart not to be able to give them one. I wanted to yell TOMORROW! But in reality I know that it will be at least a year before I see these amazing faces and hear their amazing stories. As sad as I am and as many tears as I cried I would never ask for a different experience. The children are so precious and so thankful for the smallest of things that my life has forever been changed. There is absolutely no monetary value that can be put on an experience like the one that I have had here. I honestly feel like I have met some of these kids before and all it tells me is that I will meet them again. I <3 Ray of Hope!

Katie:

Just a half hour ago, our team bid a tearful farewell to the children, teachers, and various staff members of Ray of Hope - but not before spending a lifetime-memorable day with them.

We took the children to an animal orphanage, which is much like a zoo, except all the animals were rescued, rather than purchased to fulfill the vision for an exhibit. We continued on to the park where we took the children last year. This time, we played soccer ("football" in Africa) with the children, rather than "Kill the Lion," which we played last year. The children had a wonderful time, and at one point, I was in a passing circle with my two sponsor children, unable to imagine how I could feel more blessed. It was a challenge to avoid passing the ball only to the two of them, but I think I came out fine.

The seven-year-old boy who taught me Kiswahili words on Wednesday stuck tightly to my side all day today. I found the gesture both touching and heartbreaking; I learned yesterday that, as I'd already suspected by his fixed attention on me all week, he does not have a mother. Not only did this child seek me out all day, but each time I stood beside him and draped my arm around him - my hand landing halfway down his torso - he reached up to clutch it, as if anchoring it, so I would not remove my arm from around his shoulder.

When the field trip bus dropped us off at our guest house a half hour ago, the children filed off the bus and lined up along the side of the road, so they could form a receiving line to hug us goodbye. I thought I'd be able to hug them all without much immediate pain, as I tend to be a delayed process griever. But about two hugs in, I began heaving wrenching sobs into the child in my arms, and then all those who followed. When I embraced Hendricka, Agnetta, Alfred, and Evelyn at the end, I became even more despondent.

The time flew by too fast. Deep attachment in only a week seems unlikely, but the love and joy these kids hold in their little bodies is magical. Plus, I endured this goodbye last year, so I know the worst is not yet over. What lies ahead is a lingering, permeating grief, which won't be marked by the tears I shed today, but with memories of the children and the Ray of Hope staff tapping at my bones in every moment. The people of this little school in Kawangware reside in me, on a cellular level. Goodbye in these circumstances is too confounding to comprehend: I can't leave them ... and yet, I just have.

Robin:


We ended our week with the Ray of Hope Learning Center children by taking them to the Wild Animal Orphanage and park, where we all played and played. It broke my heart to watch the children run and play because they only have a grassy park to play at once a year. During the year they sit in their cramped classrooms all day learning lessons and catching up to their grade levels so that when they have a sponsor they can go to public school. They need sponsors to pay the fees for school and uniforms, which their families cannot afford. Many of the children have lost their parents, some to HIV/AIDS, and live with relatives or others who take them in.

Karen and I decided we would sponsor two children, and found out which two children were next in line to attend public school. We were able to tell them that they would be able to start school in January. We were all so happy, even though we wish we could sponsor them all.

We all said tearful goodbyes and look forward to the next visit.

Karen:


We all—Ray of Hope staff, students, and the Glide team—went to a park in Nairobi for an afternoon of play. It was a beautiful sight seeing all the children playing football, hula hooping, throwing Frisbees and just having fun together on green grass and under shade trees (neither of which are easy to find in Kawangware). Prior to the start of playing, we all sat on the grass and had a picnic of fried chicken, chips (French fries) and a soda. For many of the children, their last meal was at school the day before, so they hadn’t eaten in 24 hours. Watching them eat was wrenching, as they chewed and licked everything that was edible. They crunched on chicken bones, sucked out the marrow, and picked everything clean. Not one bit of nutrition went uneaten. I think of how we in the US don’t think twice about how plentiful our food is, and how much we waste.

I was eating my chicken when something was suddenly in front of my face and then, just as quickly, was gone. When I looked down at my hands to take another bite of chicken, my hands were empty! I couldn’t figure out where my piece of chicken had gone, when I realized everyone was laughing at me. A bird had swooped out of the sky and snatched the chicken from my hands before I even knew what had happened!

The birds did this to several of us from Glide before Robin took matters into her own hands and kept watch, scaring away any birds that came near. Here is a video of her keeping guard:

video



Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 6: Singing, Computers, Dancing, Laughter

Naima


It’s hard to believe that we have now been in Kenya for a full week. What’s even harder to believe is that we only have one more day with the amazing Ray of Hope community. The children at Ray of Hope look to their teacher Evelyn as a mother and their teacher Alfred as a father, many of them have only one or neither of their biological parents. And both Evelyn and Alfred look to the children as extensions of themselves. I think it was the day before yesterday when Evelyn told us that she will never leave Kawangware because her children must always know where they can find her. They are more than just teachers of these children they are true caregivers! We have been so blessed to have been allowed into their family.

Today we were told by our wonderful computer teacher, Ruben, that our blog is dull….so here is my attempt at livening it up!

Over the past week we have worked on several projects with the children, the biggest of which were “My Life” books. We took pictures of each child and printed them so that they could place this picture in the book. We also printed the pictures we took of the families we visited on home visits Wednesday. Giving the pictures to the children today was so amazing. They just LOVED being able to see themselves. And the children that got pictures of themselves and their families were even more thrilled. Time and time again I was moved to tears. It is purely remarkable the amount of happiness and joy they receive from the things we take the most for granted. When Benita made t-shirts with the kids yesterday for them to wear on the field trip tomorrow (to an animal orphanage!!!!!) they treated those t-shirts with the care and gentleness that we would treat silk. I am reminded over and over again how blessed I am and how much I have taken for granted in my life. This trip; and specifically the Ray of Hope family has forever changed my life. I will never forget the faces, the voices, the laughter, the song, and the friends this week has brought into my life.

Now for a few funny quotes of the week (we hope you find them as funny as we have)
“You just referred to yourself in 3rd person…that was strange” Kelli
“I’m a wildcat….raaarrrrrhhh” Robin
“Was it a bag of poo-poo or pee-pee?” Ruben (asking about a child’s story)
“He called it ‘mula’ he forgot the ‘pu’” Pastor Karen



video
Craig:


Today was our last working day at Ray of Hope- it was fun, sad, and hectic, with an overriding feeling of joy. We needed to wrap up all of our projects, finish sorting through and organizing supplies, help each student finish his/her “It’s My Life” book with photos from the week, and complete the first computer training sessions for a total of 48 students. The day started and ended with song, with the beautiful voices of all of the students filling the courtyard just outside the Ray of Hope clinic. These kids can sing and dance! They all formed into a very tight group, the clapping began and energetic singing and dancing started, one song leading directly into the next without any direction from teachers- wow!

Some of the younger students were the last to visit the computer lab. They were oh so careful with the new computers, each attentive and very excited to dive in. Students here are extremely disciplined- when the instructor asks a question the responses are often prompt and in unison. A simple “good morning” will be responded to immediately by 25 voices saying good morning in perfect harmony. It was explained that computers are not in high use yet in business in Kenya, so imagine the thrill of the little ones, many who may have only seen computers from afar or in pictures. The Windows boot-up tune elicited giggles, and at the end of the lesson when the kids got to gently close the laptops and hear the lid snap closed, there were delighted grins on the faces of the youngest.

The staff at Ray of Hope never thought there would be computers for the students, and we were told that with the laptops the guardians and parents believe their kids will have a chance at success. We were also told that a computer lab will be seen as evidence that Ray of Hope is doing well, increasing the likelihood of funding and supplies for other parts of the organization, including food for distribution.

Finally, we heard of the joy of the women’s group that meets weekly at the Ray of Hope Community Center, and the Glide group’s $240 donation toward micro-finance efforts. Incredibly, this relatively small amount of money will help many women begin small businesses, including selling wares on the street. This will produce enough income to provide food to eat, often in tandem with ARVs to fight HIV, possibly saving lives.

We wrapped up our day discussing highlights of the week and areas for future focus with the Ray of Hope team. The Glide team is grateful for the opportunity to spend a week with the incredibly dedicated staff of the Ray of Hope organization in Kawangware. We learned a lot, both groups grew from the experience, and we hope there were a lot of very happy kids heading home at the end of the day.

Karen:

We had a full day of wrapping up classroom activities with the children. We then celebrated over dinner with our friends, the Ray of Hope staff.

We walked to the restaurant and sat underneath a large tent. We had a Kenyan meal of vegetables, chapati, hugali, and roasted meats (including goat!).  Laughter was as plentiful as the food, as in a week's time we had become not only co-workers but family together.

Ruben and Kelli dancing to Kenny Rogers
But the funniest part of the evening was after we finished eating, as we all danced to Kenny Rogers. Dancing in Kenya to Kenny Rogers is one thing I never thought I'd be doing!

Robin:

I worked part of the day in the computer lab. In a small cramped room, 15 children (3 to a computer) touched a computer for the first time. They entered the room with huge smiles and Ruben, a patient, thorough teacher, taught them how to open and turn on the computer, open the Paint program, draw and color, save the program with their names on it, and close down. We learned that computers in Kawangware are rare, and that this is a tremendous advantage for these children at Ray of Hope. Thank you, Craig, for making it possible!

It was pure joy to witness the children experience computers for the first time.

Kelli:


“If you don’t give them hope, you are killing them. You have to make them believe that they’re not dying, but instead that they’re living.”

These were the sentiments shared with me by Boice, the medical assistant at the clinic at the Ray of Hope, who in five short days has become an incredible friend and mentor to me. We were discussing HIV disclosure and counseling, and the challenges associated with the misinterpretation of how a positive result would effect one’s life; both here in Kenya and in the US. As it turns out, the perception of HIV and the epidemic in Kenya has begun to change. Thanks to education, personal connections with HIV positive friends and family members and family planning, the stigma that once manifested itself in the most tragic and deeply sorrowful of ways has faded, and the reality of an accepting and indiscriminate society is, for the first time, in sight. I never imagined that in my lifetime a fear and hatred as steadfast and ingrained could be so drastically transformed in such a brief amount of time and I am overwhelmed by hope. As Boice implied, and as I heard it, to give hope is to give life and that is why we’re here.

Benita:


Benita, the children, and one of their crafts
Today was our last day teaching at Ray of Hope. We still have a field trip with the children to look forward to tomorrow, but it was sad to know our work week has ended. Reflecting on the past five days experiences, there have been so many moments of joy and gratitude. Tuesday I lead a craft project to coincide with the theme of ‘It’s My Life’, which involved making face masks out of paper dinner plates. I came with so much anxiety about how well my curriculum would be received. I had no idea just how much
it would mean to them.

On Wednesday our group of seven, along with the Ray of Hope staff and all 50+ children went on a tour of the community, and visited the homes of some of our students. Each home was no larger than a tool
shed and housed several people. There were no windows, let alone electricity or water. But the warmth and appreciation with which we were greeted was indescribably powerful. We were invited in with open arms and offered a place to sit and visit. Fabric hung from the walls to add insulation to what was nothing more than corrugated sheets of metal. And as I got up to leave the first home I saw the ONE thing
hanging on the wall, there just above the bench where Lawrence slept, hung the face mask he made in my class.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 5: Many Places

Karen:

Today the team was in many places: Barasa arranged for Katie to observe family court, Naima, Robin, Benita, and Kelli worked at Ray of Hope, and Craig and I went to the office of Other Sheep Kenya to lead a strategic planning workshop for the staff.

Other Sheep Kenya (OSK) is one of the few pro-glbti faith-based organizations in Kenya. At the start of the workshop, we asked the staff to give us a history of the glbti movement in Kenya. It was fascinating to learn how new it is (within the last decade) and how homosexuality is still considered a criminal activity and can result in a  14 year prison sentence.  Religious conservatives add to a repressive political climate for glbti persons.  OSK seeks to promote social change through educational seminars.  Additionally, they have partnered with another organization to create a safe house for glbti persons.

Any start-up is difficult for an organization. Craig and I had a glimpse into how much more difficult it is in a place like Kenya, where poverty is rampant.  We hope the work we did together will be helpful for OSK's future.
Naima

Benita:

The Women's HIV Support Group came to Ray of Hope today and performed for us unbelievably joyful song and dance.

Once again...moved to tears.

Robin:

The children have been finishing up their "This is My Life" booklets and today's topic was on community.  I asked the question, "What do you wish for?"  Some of the responses included: food (they usually do not eat between 2pm and 10am the next day, when they arrive back at school), water (their families pay about $.25 for 5 gallons of water), education, reading, health care, free from fear, and trees. As one boy said, "I wish trees would be planted every time a tree is cut down." Kawangware is very barren.

After visiting some of the children's homes yesterday, the responses made me cry as I had a glimpse into their lives.

Craig:





Karen and I spent the day working with Pastor John (Riruta Methodist Church and Other Sheep-Kenya) , his wife Anne and five of their team on strategic planning and goal setting.   What an amazing group of people, committed to fighting for justice and equality for all in East Africa despite facing frequent threats and overwhelming bigotry.    John and team are courageously fighting a situation probably even more difficult that that of the civil and gay rights movements of the 60’s and 70’s in the U.S., and they are but a few individuals battling government, church and society.   It was an honor to spend the day with them and learn about their plans for the next few years.
Naima, Kelli, Benita, and Katie: Time for tea
Katie:
I rode a bus into Nairobi this morning, to meet Barasa, whose niece Carol would take us to court. I met Carol, an attorney with the Kenyan Attorney General's office, last year. When Barasa learned I am a lawyer, he kindly offered to introduce us, and for Carol to show me to court, so I could observe a Kenyan court proceeding.
As it turned out, there was not time for the court visit last year, as my Glide team schedule was tight, and I spent enough time away from Ray of Hope work getting downtown to visit Carol's office. This year, it worked.
I arrived downtown at 7:20. Though Carol did not expect me in her office until 8:45, the more seasoned Kenyan bus riders in our Glide team warned that I should take an early bus, just to play the timing safely. I was not to meet Barasa until 8:00, but I was happy to stand at our designated meeting spot for forty minutes, people-watching the downtown professional foot traffic.
I was in this same area last year, when Barasa took me (and Robin, our team nurse, whose hospital visit we made before mine to the AG's office) to Carol's office. In my memory, there was racial diversity downtown, at least between Mzungus ("white people") and Kenyans. Not so, I learned this year. As I observed the bustling masses, I noted that I was the only Mzungu for forty minutes.
Not that it's a big deal here. In my understanding, tribal tensions are far more of a social issue in Kenya than black-white relations. As a Kenyan who had visited the United States once told me, HIV is to Kenya what racism is to the U.S. A native Kenyan who has spent his entire life living here, he confirmed my perception from my one (at the time) trip here, that Mzungus are welcome in Kenya. That's what I felt downtown this morning. I wouldn't say I blended in - people noticed my whiteness - but I was graciously received, in ways I am not in predominantly black neighborhoods back home.
When Barasa stepped off his bus to meet me at 8:00, he asked, "How long have you been waiting?" When I told him it had been forty minutes, his eyes widened, and he replied, "Yah? I hope people have not been staring at you the whole time, saying, 'It is a Mzungu!'" I laughed, and we were off to Carol's office.
We awaited Carol's 9:00 arrival - the meeting time changed last night, in a conversation between Carol and Barasa - and went upstairs to Carol's office. We discussed which court we would visit, and shortly, we were off to the Children's Court, where, in Kenya, all matters regarding children are heard, except those involving child custody and support incident to divorce. That is, whether the matter involves child protection, nonmarital child support, or juvenile delinquency, it is held in this court. As a family law attorney and child advocate, this was naturally where I wanted to go.

We arrived at the Children's Court shortly after 9:00, and waited for the Court to call the calendar. After Carol and I had sat in the gallery and talked for quite a while, she asked an attorney, who was obviously waiting for his appearance, what was happening. He answered that all of today's matters would be heard in chambers (the judge's office, behind closed doors), because only maintenance (non-marital child support) issues would be heard today.

Upon learning this, we walked over to another court, where criminal proceedings are heard before the public. Carol chose this venue because, in Nairobi, many other types of cases are closed to the public. I was happy to witness a criminal proceeding. While it is not my area of practice, it interests me far more than general civil litigation.
We arrived to one courtroom where the Court was on break. Carol popped into the courtroom to ask one of the attorneys how long they would break. He answered that it would be ten minutes. About 25 minutes later, the proceedings resumed. As we walked into the courtroom, I noted a few differences between a Nairobi courtroom and the ones I know in the Bay Area. Here in Nairobi:
1. The judges wear wigs. Not the bouffants seen in history books and on period piece movie sets, but something sitting much closer to the head, with no side action. So, in other words, a curly white mullet.
2. Judges take handwritten, word-for-word notes of the entire proceeding. There are no court reporters. This is, of course, a nightmare for the judges and a dream come true for the attorneys, who need not think quickly on their feet, since the judge is always telling them to slow down.
3. Attorneys wear black robes - even fancier than those our judges wear - when appearing before the judge, whose robe is red.

4. Anyone entering or leaving the courtroom while court is in session must bow before the Court. Literally: Stop walking, bow to the judge, and proceed into the courtroom or out the door.

5. Most, or at least many, murder cases originate as land disputes. Land is a hotly, lethally contested commodity in Kenya.

Which brings me to the type of proceeding I saw. This was a murder trial, and the witness questioning that I observed was from the daughter of the woman whom the defendant had killed. She spoke a tribal language, so the court interpreter translated this into English, for the lawyers to understand, as both are from a different tribe than the witness and the interpreter are. The lawyers and judge spoke to one another mostly in English, but occasionally in Swahili.

I was rapt throughout the part of the proceeding I observed, and deeply grateful to Barasa for making this experience happen.

Kelli:

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day Four: Invitations

Craig:

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Craig:


The computers won’t be networked until later this week, but they are up and running so we decided to have the first groups of students try out their new computers. With the Glide team, Barasa, teachers Evelyn & Alfred, IT Administrator Ruben and Hendrika (Community Health Worker) in attendance, Pastor Karen said a blessing and then we invited in the first group of eight students. Only one had used a computer before, but all were eager and they picked up using the mouse pad on the computer immediately and they were quickly using the Windows Paint function to draw and fill shapes and lines. Ruben is an outstanding instructor, and he started off by impressing upon everyone how important it is to have clean hands (picture immediate looks of guilty faces!) , to not eat or drink in the computer lab, etc. He had everyone’s attention, and it was a tremendous joy to see the eagerness of the students. We’ll be setting up a plan for ongoing training and maintenance later this week. Who knows what might inspire the development of the next computer whiz?!?

Benita:

It’s the end of our 3rd day teaching at Ray of Hope, and I’m so overcome with love and gratitude for the members of our volunteer group. We left San Francisco 5 days ago as team members, and I feel more deeply everyday that these people are family.

Naima:

Today was an overwhelming day. I am processing it all now. I have sat here with this computer on my lap for at least an hour and have written two sentences. There is such similarity between the kids here and the kids that I work with at CW House. I mean these kids have so much less and have gone through so much more but their hearts are the same. I am falling deeper and deeper in love with each and every one of them. They are so sweet and so innocent but at times so grown up. This experience just reinforces that kids all over the world are the same. After walking through their neighborhoods and doing home visits I caught myself over and over again thinking to myself “what is going to happen to this child?” But Ray of Hope is doing all they can do to make sure that the children have education and at least some flicker of opportunity in this world. One major quote that I will always remember is our good friend Barasa saying “In Kenya a visitor is a blessing” We’ve felt that today and every day that we have been here.

Karen:


Today the Ray of Hope staff invited us to go with them to the students’ homes for home visits. All the students, along with we from Glide, the Ray of Hope staff, and a group of teenage girls from an orphanage walked the streets and alleys of Kawangware. We had heavy rains throughout the night, so today the streets were extremely muddy, making our walk quite an obstacle course at times, jumping mud holes, crossing sewage ditches, and weaving in and out of herds of goats.

Whenever we arrived at the door of a child’s home, the child stood beaming, waiting for us to arrive. As soon as we were all there, he or she invited us in to meet their parents or caregivers. Their homes were little more than 10 by 10 one room tin shacks, with plastic lining the walls and ceilings, none with running water or electricity. The students proudly showed us where they lived and I was reminded of how basic and essential it is to have a place to call home. Seeing the children’s faces as they opened their homes and gave us a glimpse of their world, I realized that it is not mansions or lots of things that make a home, but the love of others that creates it.

Robin:

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Katie:

We traipsed through Kawangware’s post-rain mud, which – this being one of Nairobi’s poorest slums – mixes with feces, both human and animal. We were off to visit the homes of a few Ray of Hope children. I was fortunate to enter the homes of my two sponsor children, with whom I have corresponded for the past 1.5 years, since my first and most recent visit here. I felt blessed to share with them the moments where they each showed me their dwellings, to pose for photos with them inside their homes, and to meet one child’s family members, who were inside. (The other child’s mother was out for the day, searching for food that the child and his brother could eat that night.)

I held hands with several children, at various points throughout the walk. For a stretch, I walked with a boy who was all smiles and few words. As we walked by another student-teacher pair, we heard the child teaching the Glide volunteer some Swahili (“Kiswahili,” in Swahili) words. My wide-grinned, silent walking partner turned to me and asked, “Would you like me to teach you some Kiswahili?” My heart melting at both his thoughtfulness and polite manner, I exclaimed, “Yes, please!”

So this child taught me to say, “How are you?” (“Kabari?”) and to answer, “Fine” (“Mzuri”). I was exuberant, not so much to learn these two phrases – although that was pretty cool – but at his conscientious and diligent approach to teaching me. This little child, roughly nine years old, would not be content until I pronounced the words just right. He needed to do his job well, and he did.

A few minutes later, this boy turned to me and asked, “Would you like to write a story in English, which I can then translate into Kiswahili for you?”

You can’t know hearts this big in bodies so small, short of coming here and experiencing it for yourself. So, to anyone who is able to visit Kawangware and has considered it, I say, “Karibu” (“Welcome”): You, too, will have a safe place to reside in these precious hearts.



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day Three: Ray of Hope Team in Action

Katie:


Today was beautiful. I worked with the children on the books we started with them yesterday, in which they are writing details of their lives that they wish to share, such as the names of their family members and their favorite colors. My favorite part was helping them claim their stories in front of the class, reading their partially completed books aloud. I love to witness them speaking up about who they are and what matters to them.

 I wore a shirt today that reads, “Love one another.” In one class today, a student wrote this mantra in his book. It is a wonderful phrase to manifest the way of the culture here, where loving one another appears to come more naturally than any other place I’ve been.

Benita:

I realize I didn’t check in with you yesterday as promised. I was deliriously tired at the end of our first work day---- I must have been still feeling fatigue from our 28 hours of travel 2 days prior.

Today was our 2nd day teaching at Ray of Hope in Kawangware, 8am – 4pm….a full schedule of activities! The children are beautiful, energetic and wonderfully receptive. And the staff is amazingly welcoming. Yesterday we were greeted with gifts, song and warm embraces. The outpouring of love was so overwhelming I was moved to tears.

Today we all started with our planned curriculum. I have to admit, I was so nervous! I kept thinking --- any time now these kids are going to figure out that I have NO idea what I’m doing! But they all seemed to really enjoy my projects. I was DELIGHTED (and relieved).

We are staying at the Methodist Guest House in Lavington, a small suburb/district within Nairobi. The Guest House is a fairly large, well maintained compound --- a peaceful refuge to come home to! …..I have to mention, there is a cat that has made this compound his home – so friendly – sitting right next to me, purring.
Heading off to dinner now. I’ll check in again soon.

Karen:

I have been thinking a lot about something that happened yesterday. Craig and I had to go into Nairobi city center to pick up some computer supplies. Public transportation in Nairobi is an experience, to say the least: matatus—vans in various stages of disrepair—are packed to overflowing with passengers, many of whom have barely climbed on board before the driver has zoomed back on the road, with music blaring; buses, both private and government-owned, belch dark plumes of exhaust, with onboard signs proclaiming “No preaching/No hawking”.

We climbed aboard a bus and had to sit apart from each other because the bus was fairly full. I looked out the bus window, seeing diverse snapshots of Nairobi as we headed into the heart of the city. Colorful fruit stands sat in front of gated homes. Tiny one room tin shacks gave way to condos. Women sat alongside the road, cooking over a small charcoal burner, selling corn on the cob to those walking past. And oh, the number of people walking! Hordes of people, some dressed in traditional Kenyan clothing, others in modern business attire, all on foot, making their way home, to work, or to market.

I was also aware of the smells around me: diesel exhaust, sweat, garbage. The bus ride was truly a multi-sensory experience as I took in the sights and smells of this city. Suddenly, my ears picked up a small voice, singing, in the background. I strained to hear better, and at first I couldn’t identify the words or the tune, but I knew it was something familiar. The small voice grew less timid, and suddenly I heard could make out the words:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine! O night, when Christ was born!

My little friend with the soft angelic voice reminded me once more that God shows up where and when we least expect. Whether in a Bethlehem barn or a city weary of poverty and disease, God breaks in with grace, beauty and love. Thanks be to God.

Robin:

The children with their face masks
Today was a day of laughter. Whether over breakfast, at tea with the staff (yes, daily tea at 10), playing games outside with the children (led by Naima and Karen), the children singing (led by Katie), a child's birth (assisted by Kelli--her first participation in a child's birth), the children wearing their masks of someone they love that Benita lovingly taught them to make, or Kelli shouting at the bus when it started to leave before I was off it ("Don't you dare!" she threatened), I am so grateful for this team and for all the laughter we share.
 
  
 
Craig:

Agneta
The Ray of Hope Learning Center provides the kids two meals each day.  Agneta is the cook, and she prepares all of the meals over a charcoal stove on a narrow second story balcony.  The food is delicious.    We learned that the kids don’t eat their breakfast until 10am, because for many the only food they get is breakfast and lunch at the school, M-F, and their bodies can’t handle the nutrient-rich porridge too early in the morning.   When these children arrive back at school on Monday morning they are very lethargic and sleepy from hunger.






Kelli:

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Day Two: Beginning Our Time at Ray of Hope

MONDAY December 6, 2010


Kelli:

It must have been mother’s intuition or some sort of sixth sense, but 11 years ago, as I bid farewell to my Kenyan Mama, she said to me, “I know you’ll be back.” As tears streamed down my face for the family – my mama, two sisters and brother – that just 4 weeks ago had been but timid strangers, all I could do was nod in silent agreement, not knowing. To come full circle is but a small miracle. A marvel of sorts. It is the reunion of the most unexpected yet familiar kind, a reunion of self.
At the age of 17, little did I know that the HIV/AIDs workshops that I threw together for the children of the village would be the beginning of a lifelong pursuit to the fight the epidemic, not just from one home front, but from two.
Dear Mama, I feel the humming of song in my chest, the rhythm of the earth in my feet. I close my eyes for a brief but everlasting moment and smile. I am home again.



Karen:

Karen and Craig look on as Rueben discusses the plans for the computer lab
Every once in a while we are privileged to witness how one person can make a difference in the world. Today, the Ray of Hope staff showed us a room that before yesterday was a storage room, but had since become the new computer lab for the learning center. Thanks to team leader Craig Wood asking his company for a donation of computers for Ray of Hope, the educational possibilities at Ray of Hope have increased exponentially.

Rueben, the son of an upcountry Ray of Hope community health worker and a college graduate with a degree in computer science, is doing the tech work to network the computers, install software, and prepare the lab for the teachers. He spoke to us of how this donation will make a difference in the lives of the children. We were all moved by his passion and his commitment to education.

Thanks, Craig, for asking a simple question to your company. You opened a door that will impact education at Ray of Hope in significant ways!

Benita:
 
Jambo, everyone!

Benita helping a student with an art project
Wow! What a whirlwind. I wanted so much to make a thoughtful entry, b ut I'm still processings. And I'm quite tired.
 
I will catch you all up tomorrow.
 
 
Craig


Our first day at Ray of Hope quickly reminded us of what brings us back- the smiling, innocent faces of the Learning Center children, greeting us with heartfelt joy, song and dance. Ray of Hope provides education to kids who would otherwise be on the street, as well as two meals a day (sometimes the only food the kids receive) and medical care when they are sick.

After introductions and tea, we got our first peek at the new computer lab, freshly painted, filled with newly built chairs and tables, and five of the eight Dell laptops we brought. The lab room will also serve as a library, and it looks great. The computers will be networked later this week once the cabling is purchased, and Ruben will install M/S Office software as well. We hope to have the kids try out the new laptops later this week; most have never touched a computer before!

Our team arrived at Ray of Hope by bus this morning. My anticipatory joy transformed every person, storefront, and animal we passed into the most magnificent I’d ever seen. On this blessed occasion – the reunion with our dear Kenyan friends we first met 1.5 years ago – emotional containment was impossible.

Thankfully, it was also unnecessary, as our Kenyan friends were generous with their own emotional expression.
We assembled in the lobby of the Ray of Hope clinic, and greeted Coco and Rosemary, the lead administrators of the Ray of Hope clinic. Upon seeing their faces, so exuberant and filled with love, I realized that this is really happening: I am back in my Kenyan home.

Given that I spent the majority of my time last summer working in Evelyn and Alfred’s classrooms, and having remained in regular contact with Evelyn (and exchanging “hellos” with Alfred through her) since then, I could not wait another minute to embrace them – to say nothing of the love I knew I would exchange with the kids, if even in a brief moment.

I asked Barasa and Craig if I could duck upstairs to the school, for the hugs that would melt me to the core. Thankfully, the answer was yes.

I ran upstairs, and as I turned toward the teachers’ offices, I bumped into Alfred. We exchanged looks of unbridled joy, reminding me (as if I needed the prompting) why I return. As Alfred and I locked each other in a long hug, I heard Evelyn’s laugh behind us. I parted with Alfred just long enough to run into Evelyn’s arms. Yes, I thought, I am home.

I missed Mark today. He and I bonded last year, laughing and crying together over just about every moment. I brought the kids two photos of me with Mark in them. When the kids saw those photos, they breathed incredulously and whispered, “Maaaaaaaaaaaaark” (pronounced, in their Kenyan accents, “Mahk”).

The power of love. It brought me back to these people who hold such meaning in my heart, and held “Mahk” in my mind today.

Robin:
 
It was good to be reunited with friends from the clinic and learning center of Ray of Hope (Hendrika, Rosemary, Florence, Rueben, Evelyn and Alfred). The kids had a beautiful welcome for us of singing and dancing. I enjoyed watching Naima, Benita, and Kelli take in the culture and kids with wonder and joy.
 
Even though I didn't work with the kids last year, I recognized many of them. It was great to be with the children through storytelling and to encourage them to ask their families and caretakers if they had stories to pass on.
 
Oh, and I have to say what a miraculous thing it was to see the new computer lab.  Craig did an amazing job. Thank you!!!! And thank you Rueben for setting up the lab and being the tech support.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day One: Riruta United Methodist Church

SUNDAY December 5, 2010

Naima:

First full day in Kenya! I feel like I’m a wide-eyed child trying to take in everything. There is so much that is so new but yet so much the same. The billboards are in English, much of the music playing in the “matatus” (a VW bus filled to the brim with people) is American, and there are so many faces that look so much like my friends at home! A few times I’ve even thought I recognized a familiar face before realizing that I wasn’t home but thousands of miles away in Nairobi.

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The first really amazing and forever memorable moment of the day was walking into church this morning and seeing all of the children’s faces filled with joy and excitement…. Just because WE were there! We had the most gracious welcome; full of song, dance, hugs, and smiles. During the service the kids sang for us and it was my first really emotional moment here. Their voices were amazing, their energy and light was almost blinding. I was truly overwhelmed with happiness, yet still wide-eyed. When we left Riruta and waited for what seemed like forever for a matatu was when the second and incredibly once in a lifetime moment occurred. A huge mattress truck (open in the back with cage like walls) pulled up. We joked with our guide that we would ride back in that and he ran to the driver and made a deal! So yes, we all hopped in and rode in the back of a mattress truck. Now I haven’t talked at all about the traffic here so hmmm…how to describe it? Maybe no rules, no lights, no stop signs, no real sides of the road for anyone, people walking, babies crossing, oh and tons of cars on the bumpiest roads, all of this at the same time!!! So imagine sitting in the back of this cage like mattress truck bumping our way through Nairobi! IT WAS AMAZING such an experience (don’t worry we all have pictures).

I feel like I could go on and on. There is so much more to be said but I am going to close with this: I’m in AFRICA! And I LOVE it! :-)

A warm welcome from our Riruta UMC friends
Katie:
This morning, our first in Nairobi, I rose early. After lying in bed for a short time, then reading in bed for a longer one, I left the room Benita and I share at 7:00 a.m. I ate in the cafeteria of the Methodist Guest House, where we are staying. At 7:30, I walked to the back of the guest house, to read in the warm sun by the pool.

To the smell of chlorine, and the calming sound of the pool’s water jets, I finished reading a novel tracing an interracial relationship in the U.S. The book opens in the mid-60’s and concludes in the mid-90’s. The themes of race relations, family strife, and the mysterious ties that bind the human heart feel particularly fitting to many aspects of my ongoing African journey.

While looking out at the water, otherwise placid but for the even stream the jets pushed out, I noticed a sign embedded in the wall on one side of the pool. It read, “SHALLOW END.”

After digitally capturing the “shallow end” sign, I resolved to dedicate a substantial part of my reflection on this journey to pulling myself out of the shallow, ever-present abyss that has marked my year. While I’ve created enormously meaningful experiences, and worked hard to reclaim the joy that previously operated in me by instinct, I have felt stagnant and unstudiously atheistic this year. Try as I have, I’ve found it an overwhelming task to swim toward the depths that I know my life holds.

So on this Glide/Ray of Hope return to Nairobi, I will scan my daily environments for joy, as our pastor Karen encouraged us all to do, and as she reminded us will be fairly effortless, among our gracious and relentlessly grateful Kenyan family members.

I found the deep end on our matatu ride to Riruta, a progressive United Methodist church with whom we partner, located in Nairobi’s Ngong slum. As our team rode with Barasa, our faithful Ray of Hope liaison, my heart leapt out of my chest several times. I was buoyant with recognition of geographic markers, and the anticipation of seeing our Kenyan friends from last summer.

Anne Baraza and John Makohka, leaders of Riruta Methodist Church, greeted us warmly and well when we arrived. After services, we waited almost an hour for a matatu that would hold our entire group. After several overcrowded vehicles passed us by, Barasa flagged down a gigantic mattress truck, whose ceiling could easily graze the bottom of a low-hanging billboard.


Craig in the mattress truck
 With our trusty leader Karen riding shotgun in the cab of the truck, the rest of us sat in the top-open bed. Had we been allowed to stand and grip the cage-like top part of the walls, it would have felt like the best float in the greatest parade ever – but the driver could have been arrested for carrying us, so we ducked by sitting against the lower part of the walls. There, staring up at billboard bottoms and warm, cloudy skies, I experienced joy again.

Karibu Kenya.


Karen

While my friends were hiding low in the mattress truck, I saw the most amazing sight. We driving on a busy road, and over in the far right lane was a Bedouin with his two camels! Wow! I wasn’t expecting to see that!


Rev. John Makokha and Anne Baraza
 It was great worshipping at the Riruta United Methodist Church and seeing Rev. John Makokha, his wife Anne, and staff members and friends once again. I am so moved by John and Anne’s ministry, particularly as they provide an oasis of welcome and justice to Kenya’s glbti community. Just last week, the Kenyan prime minister called for the arrest of gay and lesbian persons. John was interviewed by the media to provide a counterpoint to the prime minister’s stance. As a result of his witness, John has had increased threats made against him. I am so moved by his commitment to justice. He and Anne vividly demonstrate the cost of discipleship—being faithful to the Gospel is risky business.

Craig:
We arrived in Nairobi last night after 28 hours of flying and airports, and were happily greeted by Barasa (from Ray of Hope) and Junior, travel guide and driver extraordinaire. Kenyans love visitors and treat them with open arms and tremendous hospitality. It is good to be back in Kenya. The weather is pleasantly balmy, with the October/November rainy season at its end. The roads through town to the Methodist Guest House were busy with people out for Saturday evening- the drive took about 30 minutes. After checking in, we were offered dinner but we declined and met for a short devotion and then headed to bed.


As we were leaving for church this morning, Ruben, who is working on behalf of Ray of Hope, met us so that we could turn over the laptops and computer network equipment we brought for the computer lab that will be set up while we are here. Luckily Ruben seemed to understand what all of the different equipment was for, since it was pretty foreign to many of us. He took everything to the Learning Center so that he could start loading software on the computers and getting the network set up. We’re still looking for additional educational software, particularly for the kids in the 4th-6th grade range- donations would be greatly appreciated!

The roads were even busier today than last night , and it was quite an effort to get a matatu to Riruta for our worship at Riruta Methodist Church. Many Kenyans were walking in their Sunday best, and others were out either to go to the markets or to visit with friends and family. Pastor John Makoka met us at the road as we arrived at our stop, and walked us down the dirt road into the Riruta community. Singing had already begun as we entered into the small sanctuary, and the church’s welcome was absolutely wonderful! We’ll work with John and his team on a number of occasions over the next 8 days.

The kids here come up to us Mazugus (white people) with smiles on their faces, ready to make friends. It’s going to be a lot of fun working with the kids at the Learning Center over the next five days.

Robin:

Even with jet lag, today was remarkable. It was so good to see old friends: Barasa nd Junior of Ray of Hope, John Makokha, Anne Baraza and a special treat Peter from Children of Africa Hope Mission. They were so joyful at our reunions. I am so happy to be back and deepen our friendships.

After a rousing church service in which Karen preached about sleeping (not good when we're this tired!) we waited and waited and waited on the hot, dusty main road for a matatu that could accommodate us all, when a mattress truck pulled over and was emptied of its load. Before it could leave, Barasa asked if we could have a ride--what fun! Climbing up into a huge truck bed with our dresses on and bouncing around on a very bumpy road. We laughed and laughed.

Can't wait for our first day at Ray of Hope tomorrow!