Saturday, August 25, 2012

Day Seven: Play Day

Agnetta the cook couldn't join us last night, so we gifted with with a GLIDE apron this morning!


Roomies Angela and Kirsti
I can't get enough of the singing around me. The children at the Ray of Hope school,  at church on Sunday, even here at the guest house where we are staying. People sing with such joy. Families in the park, kids on the bus. It is a language that has no boundaries. 

I recorded the kids on the bus singing today. Clap clap stomp, clap clap clap stomp. When one song ended, another started. They sang in Swahili and English. Everything from If You're Happy And You Know It, to hymns that now sound familiar. 

The music fills my soul. It is the end of a great day, with some amazing kids, playing in the park, and singing on the bus. 


Craig talking with Evelyn
Today we had a chance to play outside.   The Learning Center does not have any open space or grass, so the children do not get any regular exercise while in school.     After a trip to a local animal park, we spent the afternoon at a very large city park near downtown Nairobi.    Soccer balls, basketballs, jump ropes and hula hoops were flying around everywhere.   The shrieks of laughter, cheering, racing, singing and dancing said it all-  it was great to take time out from the day to day worries of life and just play.
Our goodbyes were expressed by hugs with each child, and we promised we would be back again soon.
Ominous sign at the crocodile park: No Pets Allowed and
management will not be responsible for lost children!

Angela and Kirsti and a baby crocodile


Day after day, the spirit of generosity rings true at Ray of Hope. 

Christina and the children
If some food remains after all of the children and staff are served lunch, a few (not all) of the children may get seconds.  Nothing goes to waste - and more importantly - those that don't get seconds never complain.  The same was true playing games or doing creative projects.  No one snickered or sneered if someone received more furry balls or pipe cleaners than the person sitting next to them.  This is going to sound cliche, but when one child is happy, the other children are happy for them.  Truly.  And it's genuine.  There is no bitterness or animosity.  No greed or entitlement.  Just love.  Having spent 6 days straight with the children, relationships and trust were formed, and each of their respective personalities had the chance to shine. Some kiddos had sass.  Some were shy.  Some loved attention.  And others, without many different material items than the rest of their peers except, perhaps, an item or two, had a fun flare or distinct style - however, one thing is true: these children look out for one another and love each other deeply.  Alfred teaches all of the children, primarily the boys that come in, to be role models for each other - regardless who is older in age.  A moving story Hendrika shared today was learning about Richard's transition to Ray of Hope recently.  Again, he came homeless with barely any clothes on his back.  One of the girls (if memory serves, it was one of the Sharons)  was the first to give him an extra shirt because she had two. And quickly thereafter, Richard had a pair of socks, a pair of shoes and a sweater.  All of these items were immediately gifted to Richard within 2 days by the children without prompting.  They wanted him to have what they have.  As Alfred explained, this is simply their nature.  This is how they show love.  They are kind.  And they are selfless. And they are generous.  May we all be inspired to be as giving - and loving - and compassionate as these individuals. And while I'm 20 years their senior, *they* have been *my* teachers this week.



Today was the last day with the children, the week went faster than expected.  The children were not given a meal before we left today, because in the past they were so excited about the trip, they got sick.

Angela ensuring that teacher Evelyn can see the
children dance
The Crocodile Park was our first stop, and it was a new experience for everyone. The crocodiles were plentiful. I have never touched a crocodile before, but our guide picked up a baby crocodile and allowed us to touch it. The adults were just as excited as the children.

I was impressed with the number of older kids who on their own brought their small journals with them today, and were taking notes as the guide spoke.  We also got an opportunity to touch and hold turtles.

The ostrich and giraffe were an interesting combination of animals to see in the same fenced-area together. In an open field, without any restraints were several beautiful horses, who were not bothered by the presence of the children.

After a short visit to the Crocodile Park, we went to a park that was large enough for the kids to run free, play ball, jump rope, play basketball and be kids. Seeing the kids unabashed joy while running, reminded me of the small spaces that they spend most of their time in, home and school.  The yard as school, is a courtyard of an apartment complex; where at times games are interrupted by a car either coming in or going out of the courtyard.  But today they could run,run, and run. The kids singed on the bus, one of the songs that Classy taught them, and religious praise songs, to and from the Ray of Hope.

Back at Ray of Hope, we lined up to receive goodbye hugs from the kids. The kids, gave great hugs, and said thank you repeatedly. Kids who less than a week ago were total strangers, today were a part of my extended family. I did not feel sad, it felt as if I was saying goodbye to a relative that I expected to see in the near future.

One of the hardest things for me during the week, was looking at the Ray of Hope neighborhood kids, who would stand in the gate, or on the stairs looking at our kids, wanting to play or go to class. Every day the same kids would gather, and you knew that these kids were not getting, nor probably would ever get an education.

I am physically tired from activities of the week, but it is well with my soul!


Robin playing with a hula hoop

This is always our favorite day, when we go on an outing with the teachers and students of Ray of Hope. We had a great time at Nairobi Mamba Village, where everyone got to touch a baby crocodile (with big teeth!).

Then, on to the park, there the children (and all of us) get to play.  After an afternoon of play and eating chicken and chips (French fries) we were presented with gifts. This is one of the hardest parts of the trip for me, because they have so little, and yet they give each of us a gift in front of the children.

I am aware that the children probably don’t receive a Christmas or birthday gift, yet we are given so much from Kenyan friends. My hope is to remember this generosity and do likewise.
Robin, Angeline, and Hendrika doing the Macarena


Today was a bittersweet. We had a wonderful day with all the children and staff. We took them to the African zoo and the park where for the first time this week they got to run wild.... It was good to play with them for hours none stop. The day went by pretty fast. At the end of the day we said our goodbye to the kids and staff. We all lined up and each kids and staff gave us a hug and said thank you...I told them I would see them again and they smiled. All and all, I am blessed and looking forward to next year!!!

Classy and the children dancing for Evelyn, was out sick all week.
Evelyn watching "her children" dance.


Words cannot describe what it is like to see these children, who live in such tiny cramped quarters and then spend hours in a school room that is equally cramped, run wild through the park, playing soccer, jumping rope, hula hooping, and even (thanks to Kwame) playing basketball.

It is like seeing a spirit run free, unfettered. There is joy. There is laughter. There is blessedness.

Thank you, children and staff of Ray of Hope, for opening your lives, your community, your heart to us. We have been touched and changed by you!
Karen being dressed by the Ray of Hope staff

Agnetta taking on Kwame in soccer

With our Ray of Hope friends

Kwame and a new friend

A tired but happy team!

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