Monday, December 6, 2010

Day Two: Beginning Our Time at Ray of Hope

MONDAY December 6, 2010


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 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!

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.

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.

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.

1 comment:

  1. I am so deeply moved as I sit and read your post.I am filled with joy and tears.I can see the smiles across their faces as they run and embrace you as you embrace them. I can hear them as they say Mahk...LOL
    It is amazing at how we can feel so connected even when we are not present. I am so grateful for each of you doing the amazing and life changing work for both the Ray of Hope program and for yourself:) It is truely a gift...
    Tell the children their sister and friend from the U.S. said... Jambo wasichana na