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.
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.
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.
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.