The jeeps rumbled up the mountain, winding on bumpy dirt roads. Out the windows were fields of green interrupted by rectangular dung huts baked hard in the African sun, several of them with brightly colored cloth drying on a fence.
Everything was so new to us. Life is slower there, taken at the same pace as the plants growing in the fields. As always in Suswa, every time we passed someone, they would smile and wave.
It was the Mau. We were on our way to church.
The church stands atop a green hill, surrounded by farms. The building itself is made of wood and corrugated metal. As we entered, we were met by hugs leaning to the left, then to the right, and greetings of “Supa oleng.” We were invited to sit in pastel plastic chairs, and services began in song. Immediately we are invited to take part in dancing with the congregation. Music is a universal language and soon we are a part of a writhing mass of worshipers. We learn the steps quickly and wind around the church.
When the song was over, we sat in our chairs again, a part of something new and different, but ancient. We were introduced one by one and sang for the congregation.
After services, Pastor Ben invited us to walk to the home of a woman with three children. “She has been ill,” he tells us. “She wasn’t at church today.”
We met Emily and her three children outside her dung hut, surrounded by fields of corn. The roof of her home was a sheet of clear plastic held in place by stones and logs. Her children’s faces were surrounded by flies. The children without shoes. Emily with a slight limp.
The depth of what we are trying to do struck us. After the upbeat, faith filled church service, this was a crash back to reality. I think the whole team had the same question, “What are we going to do for this family? How can we teach self-reliance in the face of such poverty?”
We asked Emily if we could enter her home. Three of us stepped into the shadows and had to turn on the flashlights of our phones to see. Smoke hung in the air from the cooking fire in the tiny kitchen. It nearly choked us. Everything was a deep black color from the soot. There was no ventilation.
Heidi turned to me, “Living like this is as bad as smoking.”
Through interpretation from Pastor Ben and Moses, we learned that Emily has access to water. She has experience growing corn, and can use that experience to grow other vegetables. Our decision was that a garden box would be a good start for her.
The weight of this work seems too much to bear sometimes. Self-reliance and success seems so far away for some of the families. So much needs to be done and all we can do is a small part. Our efforts are a drop in the bucket of the need we see as we travel up and down the rough roads of Kenya.
The walk back to the jeeps was far quieter than it had been on the way to Emily’s. All of us lost in the vastness of need.
In my two trips to Kenya, I have learned much about the power of “the start.” I’ve learned to have faith in the waiting and watching of these families. Emily will get a garden box. And like the planting of a seed, through the garden box, we will watch her begin to grow what she can.
After finishing up the garden at Joyce’s house she invited us to learn how to make chapati, something sort of like naan bread. This was just one of the experiences of cultural immersion on the November Trip.
She pulled a table out into her yard and gathered all the ingredients flour, water, salt and oil. Then, started a fire in a small stove to heat a pan.
She showed us how to make the dough, stirring it with her hands. Muneria came to help as well.
Like mothers all over the world, she reminded her child to wash his hands before preparing food, which he did in a large blue bowl sitting next to the table. A special plate served as a platform to roll the chapati into perfect circles. He worked quickly, handing the rolled out flat bread to his mother who cooked them. She turned them with her bare hands, using no instrument to protect them from the heat.
Muneria then offered us a chance to roll out the chapati. We took turns, none of ours turning out as round as his. We laughed, feeling the warmth of home with this family who lives a different culture half a world away.
Sarah’s turn came up. She rolled the dough one way getting it stuck to the plate and stretching the dough as she freed it. She used more flour and rolled it some more. “That’s too big.” Joyce laughed, handing her more dough. “Try again.”
She started again, this time paying careful attention to the size, but not the shape. When she finished, it looked like a map of the United States. She handed it to Joyce with a shrug. Joyce shook her head and it was put onto the pan with a little oil to cook.
When David was finished with the water storage system, he came around the house to join us. We invited him to take his turn rolling chapati.
“Fine.” He said. “But mine is going to be round. Not corner, corner, corner, like Sarah’s.” This was met with kind hearted laughter from our group. Joyce pointed to the bowl of wash water. He obeyed.
Then, while rolling out the dough, David told us about how there are times in their culture when men and women separate and make their own food. He showed us how to roll it out to make it round. “See? Like this. You roll, and then turn it.” He pat the dough down. “Roll. And then turn again.”
He handed the dough to Joyce who watched us all with love, curiosity, and a little disbelief at how nutty this group of Americans is.
We dined together on our unifying chapati, rice, and carrots. It was the end of a full day of work, service, mentoring, and unconditional love.
When I say we experience cultural immersion, these are the types of things I am talking about. We get to be in the homes of the families. We learn from them and love them. We put our hands in their soil, climb onto their roof to put up rain gutters, collect water in rivers, dine with them, and hear their stories from their own lips.
By the time we leave, we have a new name, an expanded family, people who pray for us, and a home to come to when we return.
If you would like to join us for an expedition, learn more here.
Okay, I know that kind of sounds MLK-esque, which isn’t by design … it’s just the fact. I did, indeed, have a dream. At the beginning of the dream, I found myself in my parents’ house, but it wasn’t *really* their house, you know? I mean, I intuitively knew it was supposed to be their house, but it wasn’t any house that I had ever been in. In this house, there were some pretty well-vaulted ceilings–very, very high. My mom was … I dunno. Floating? Hanging? She was suspended in the air well above the floor, and she was doing something really important. I couldn’t tell if she was spackling, painting, or what it was she was doing, but it was clear that she was super-focused on whatever it was she was doing.
All of a sudden, I was standing in a mall, watching all these different backgrounds of people walk around.There were kids; there were adults. There were tall and short people. There were people from all kinds of backgrounds and nationalities. They all seemed genuinely happy, but they were just wandering around aimlessly because none of the shops were selling anything. They were all open and displaying merchandise, but there wasn’t a single sales person to help you get what you needed.
As I wandered around the mall, I found a set of stairs that looked like the descended into a basement. Out of curiosity, I wandered down these stairs and stumbled across a room full of people who looked hurt and angry. I have no idea why they were burdened such, but I felt like their troubles became my troubles. I *wanted* them to be happy! I NEEDED them to be happy! In my dream, I found myself becoming incredibly anxious and scared for them. And then I woke myself up …
I literally woke up my wife from semi-screaming this.
And that was my night. I woke up at 1:30 in the morning, and I could not go back to sleep. I was relieved to learn that that entire basement full of sad people weren’t real. I was kind of startled by my solution to their moribund melancholy, yet I wasn’t.
See, Kenya is just that kind of place. You really can’t be unhappy while you’re over there. Not truly, anyway. Even if you’re in the deepest throes of despair before going over, the service you perform and the service you receive (and indeed, you will know what I mean when you come on an expedition) leave you without choice BUT to be happy. You interact with a whole new culture. You gain a perspective on life that is simply impossible to achieve over here. You witness first-hand how our projects and work transform not only the lives of those who are within our focus, but (and, arguably, more importantly) you witness a transformation within yourself.
There is a peace in Kenya that simply cannot be replicated here. There is joy in service. I hope you’ll all accept our invitation to come on an expedition and see what changes take place in your life and the lives of those you serve.
KARIBU KENYA, AFRICA – 100 Humanitarians International
After two trips to Kenya, Africa, I was ready to lead my first official expedition to Kenya. Turns out so many people wanted to go, that I stayed in Kenya for two back to back trips with 13 people in each group. It was crazy. I was crazy.
But let’s start at the beginning and tell the story.
Brittany was the first person to sign up for a trip, and quickly recruited a bunch of her friends to come along. I booked my flight a day early so that I could go with my daughter, and Brittany came along. It was so fun for us to get off the plane and have the Maasai warriors all to ourselves for a little while. We checked into our hotel, got a not so awesome night of rest, and then headed out the next day to visit the Giraffe Centre before the team arrived.
We not only visited The Giraffe Centre, we stopped by the Kazuri Bead Factory to see the women in action making the beads. It was a beautiful day, and Christine joined us on our adventures. We decided to visit The Galleria Mall for lunch, and then after a nap, headed to the airport where we met the rest of the team. Everyone arrived safely and ready to go. We were grateful that all of our bags made it as well, because the next day we had plans to drive to Narok for our first projects.
Our team was made up of 13 travelers – one kid and 12 adults. Our objective for the trip was to do a couple of Days for Girls workshops, visit families, build desks at a school, donate soccer balls to an orphanage, and go on safari!
This was the first trip to Kenya, Africa for everyone on the team, except me. In fact, a few people had gotten their passport for the very first time to go on this trip. No pressure! We were all excited for what was to come, most of all me. I had a hard time sleeping…
Kenya, Africa – The Giraffe Centre & The Elephant Orphanage
Kenya, Africa – We woke up after a decent night of sleep to a lovely breakfast at our hotel, followed by an excursion to The Elephant Orphanage and The Giraffe Centre in Nairobi. Every team loves to kiss a giraffe and pet a baby elephant. Both organizations are to protect the animals, and there is a lot to learn there. At The Giraffe Centre, the guards give you pellets to feed the giraffes. If you put one in your mouth, the giraffe will “kiss” you and grab it right from your lips.
The Elephant Orphanage is only open to watch the baby elephants feed for about an hour, but The Giraffe Centre is open all day, and has a fabulous gift shop.
Our drive to Narok was looming, and so were the clouds. We loaded up the jeeps and hit the road, with a stop at the Escarpment that overlooks The Great Rift Valley. The views are breathtaking, and after an hour in the jeep, it’s a great place to make a pit stop before heading down to the valley floor.
This particular team had Bob, or “Uncle Bob” as my daughter loved to call him. He was the “Manny” of the trip, and kept her supplied with orange fanta as a reward for trying out the latrine pits without freaking out. He kept the rest of us entertained with constant stories and jokes and songs. On the way, we stopped to try some grilled corn, or maize as it is called here.
Verdict: Not awesome.
We arrived at our hotel in Narok, and were greeted by friends who would be spending some time with us and helping us with projects over the next few days. After getting checked in and assigned to our rooms, we gathered in the restaurant and assembled 100 Days for Girls kits with underwear and soap in preparation for our workshop the next day at Tasaru Rescue Center.
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