Friday, August 24, 2012

Day Six: Surprised by Joy

Craig walking with Ray of Hope children
through Kawangware
The porridge had been served, a cup sitting before each hungry child in the younger class of 5-8 year olds.   The adults had left the room.   The children had been alone for a moment and as I rounded the corner there sat the children, hands folded, eyes tightly shut, reciting a prayer of thanks in unison.   Once the prayer was completed, no one touched their food.  They waited patiently for permission to begin.   Some had more in their cups than others but there were no comparisons and no complaining- just a concern that everyone had a cup in hand before beginning to eat.
No matter the urgency, when greeting someone for the day it is impolite to launch into a discussion about the business at hand without first taking the time to ask about the individual and his family.  It’s surprising how often we do not do this in the U.S.
Craig and a budding symphony conductor
On our way to the hospital the other day we saw a bus on the side of the road.  The driver was on the ground beneath the bus, the passengers with raised voices crowded nearby.  Our taxi driver chuckled and said, “there seems to be a drama unfolding”.   Apparently the bus had broken down and the driver was trying to avoid refunding the passengers their fares.   Women were shouting for the driver to come out from underneath the bus, hitting him with their packages and trying to pull him out.



After our morning ritual of camp songs, all of the kids and our group went to the homes of several of the kids.  The children were so proud to show us where they lived. It was heart-warming to see how some families are not together because of  blood, but because of love. Some kids are living with classmates' family or other relatives, because they were being mistreated or unwanted by their relatives.
Angela working on backpacks

I was surprised at the distance some of the kids walk to get to the Ray of Hope. One home we visited brought us to a lush green valley, where corn, cabbage and other vegetables were grown. It appeared to be a farm that was community operated. I believe it took us all by surprise because it is so different from the hard-stoned dirt that we've been walking on for the last few days.
Much to Evelyn's (Head teacher, who has been sick) surprise we all went to her home, which gave the children an opportunity to see her and give her a hug. Evelyn was so happy to see the kids, and got hugs from all of them.
Kwame and Angela walking in Kawangware
Today, we were to wrap up all of the activities of the week, and give the kids their backpacks. The first surprise was the project that the kids had been working on with Christina and Kwame. All week they had been decorating this square, that they were told not to decorate the middle. Today they received the square with reflective plastic in the center of their decorated frame. It was heart-warming to see their reactions, because most of them do not have mirrors at home.
Then there was the distribution of the backpacks. I reviewed the journals that the kids wrote in my class and attempted to give them a backpack in their favorite color. Inside the backpack was their journal, pencils, erasers (they call them rubbers-British term), a blank journal, coloring books, crayons, and a Warriors t-shirt. The joy that those kids expressed, almost brought me to tears. They were so appreciative and expressed their appreciation with hugs and repeated thank yous. One boy was so overwhelmed by the Warrior's t-shirt that he began kissing it.
To wrap up Classy's class was the Afro-Hawaiian song and dance, complete with hand-made hula skirts, and leis. There were two versions of the Hawaiian song. The first version was the Hawaiian, and then there was the African-Hawaiian version. It truly was a sight to behold, it was followed with the Macarena, and then the cha cha slide, all in hula skirts and leis.
Today, was the day that made all of the work, planning, and personal expense seem like a mild inconvenience given the joy that was on the faces of the kids.


Kirsti with Teacher Alfred, who is wearing a shirt that
 former Ray of Hope team member Josh Biddle gave him.
Now if we can  only replace that Cardinal's hat!

There is an old Kenyan saying that if you wake up to the sound of birds calling, you will have much to sing out about all day. 

I woke to the call of birds this morning, and there has been so much to sing out about all day. 

As we walked through Kawangware today, we heard the usual "how are you" as we passed the children on the street. There is such a difference between our cultures. We don't ask strangers how they are. In fact, we hardly say hello. But here, in the heart of a slum in Kenya, the children ask, "how are you"?  Of course I don't expect that they really understand the social implications of what they are asking. 

But when the do ask, it's generally with a smile on their faces. They don't seem to notice, the way I do, the litter in the streets, the goats roaming around or the chickens picking through the trash. How are you? Many of the children at the Ray of Hope school will tell you they are fine. They were proud to take us to their homes today. They are proud to introduce us to their families. They are happy to be walking with their class and their visitors, through their town. 

How are you? I am grateful to have learned so much from so many this week. My heart is full. I have so much to sing out about. 

How are you?
Kirsti with Boyce and his daughter


Robin with Evelyn in her home
Karen and Robin with Ray of Hope friends
Today we walked for miles in Kawangware to visit the homes of many of the Ray of Hope children.  It is always shocking to see this level of poverty but the children are so happy that we come to visit them at their homes.  Two of the boys lived with their grandfather who has severe malaria and can rarely work. Teacher Evelyn worries about what will happen to them when their grandfather passes away. Juma, one of the boys, told me that he and his brother do the cooking, and they can make anything, though there is rarely food.  I feel so inadequate and wonder what I can do. Karen and I sponsor two children to go to school and we hope each of the children will have a better future.


It has been a very full day as it was our last day in the classroom with the children. This is usually the day that challenges me the most, because my North American understanding of time and work kick in big time: what have we accomplished? What do we need to finish before we leave? Hurry, hurry, hurry, time is running out!

What my Kenyan friends remind me is that doing is not as important as being. There will always be unfinished projects, things that should have been done, items on the “to-do” list that await completion. But the bigger question is: have I taken the time to talk with someone, listen to the stories of their life, deepened the relationship I share with them?

Glide and Ray of Hope enjoying a festive dinner
Tea time!
Today, we deepened our relationships with our Kenyan friends by walking with the children around Kawangware and visiting several of their homes. Children would come up beside me as we walked and shyly take my hand. And soon they would point to their home, to a friend, to an aunt walking by. They were so proud to share their lives with us.

This evening, we invited the Ray of Hope staff to dinner. We gave them gifts from Glide and they gave us gifts from Kenya. We danced together, told stories, and laughed hard.

It was a blessed day!


Classy enjoying manazi with tea
Today was another full day. We wrapped up our curriculum with the kids. We brought them down at the end of the day where we did our performance. We had all the teacher, the clinic staff, and the cook come down and join us. We made outfits for them and they were so happy to be part of the celebration. It was a wonderful thing to see all the staff and kids dance to the Cha Cha and the macarena. All in all today was a good day....good night sleep, here I come!!!


Over the course of 2.5 hours, with the entire RoH Team, while accompanied by almost 50 students, we all took a walk through the village and visited the homes of a few students - Bravin & Sharon's, Oliver & Electine's, Richard, Faith & Treza's and Jack & Juma's. What a privilege to have almost 50 tour guides through Kwangware!  I spent a lot of time with Oliver, Kevin, Richard & Bravin. 

Christina handing out reflection projects
I didn't realize Oliver lived with Electine (their moms are sisters), or that many of the other children were related.  Oliver wants to be a lawyer and has a dog named Pinkey, who was bartered for manual labor. He is exceptionally inquisitive, a clear communicator, outgoing, proud to be a brother to two siblings, loves doing somersaults and football, tells good stories about the hyena and the hare, and loves to be photographed. 

Also got to spend QT with Kevin, a very quiet, gentle soul - who doesn't speak much English. Because of the language barrier, the challenge of the week was how to show him love in other ways besides using words. So after a handful of days with helping make his hula skirt, gifting him an orange ring made of pipe cleaners made by Joy Bet, and always scooting next to him on his stool when chatting with other kiddos on that side of the room - a bond had been established and this walk was icing on the cake. 

Richard was a new buddy made today, who is very quiet and shy, who asked (with Oliver chiming in) if I knew Naima. Naima was originally intending to come back to Ray of Hope for her second visit, but regrettably had to back out, which is how the opportunity presented itself to me... Naima - both Richard & Oliver have exceptionally fond memories of your time together, they reminisced about your killer breakdance skills and remember songs you would sing with them.  You left quite an impression! You are missed here!

The children looking at their reflection
Last, Bravin (pronounced "bra-veen" with a rolled "r") was the 3rd new friend made on this excursion. This little guy, probably around 7ish, is advanced academically - so even though he's a little peanut, he's in class with the taller, stronger, older guys. He warmed up to me today and it unexpectedly melted my heart.  Like Oliver, he's also a great story teller (ironically, another hyena and the hair story - but a different one), he lives near a farm and explained all of the veggies that are grown (cabbage, corn and an unfamiliar sounding green). He also learned many words in Ukrainian, including "cabbage" (his favorite), "cat" and how to pronounce "Christina" with the same rolled "r", which took about 20 minutes to master. 

These kiddos were SO. DARN. PROUD. to show us their homes.  It was beautiful, actually!  We walked a long time together, it was super hot, and a new perspective about this land was formed.  They were little rockstars - walking around knowing all of their neighbors and friends - and it was neat to experience Kwangware through their eyes for a brief blip. Between Oliver, Kevin, Richard & Bravin, I've never held hands with children for so long - and it was brilliant.  What a day.  My soul is happy.

Kwame ready to greet our guests for dinner


  1. Great work you guys.You are a blessing to the world

  2. What a joy it is to read your various daily entries of your experiences on this trip. I would love to be there with you. Thank you for taking the time to write so that the rest of us can learn. God bless you all!