Back in January, I led a group of Rosslyn students to Kitale for our Cultural Field Studies (CFS) trip. While I was there, I thought it would be pretty cool to someday bring the family back to reconnect with Helen and Richard, the directors of Seeds Children’s Home, and even stay at Karibuni Lodge.
About a week ago, we were able to do just that, thanks to a former EMHS student, weirdly enough. Kate was one of my 9th grade students in a former life in Virginia, but she’s now a nursing student at JMU. Kate was in Kenya with classmates to volunteer in different clinics in Kenya, and she decided to stay a few extra weeks to do her own volunteering. Because of my CFS experience, Kate connected with Richard and Helen, and set up a time to work in Kitale.
So the Leonards thought they could take her one way- but only one way, since the trip takes more than 6 hours.
Anyway, our time in Kitale was both very good and pretty hard.
First of all, the morning after we arrived, we travelled to the school that Richard and Helen started about nine years ago. As we drove into the compound, we were amazed to see the entire school in the yard, lined up, just waiting for us! As we got out of the Hippo (our pet name for our 20-year old car- it has a turning radius of a hippo), they started to sing for us! Then the headmaster addressed the students, telling them a little bit about us, and then she asked each of us to speak to all 300+ kids! I can’t even remember what I said. (Although I heard Anisa’s talk, and she did a very good job.)
After that, we were run over by the little ones. A pile of almost 15 of them grabbed me,
ostensibly saying hello. We all survived.
After that, we had a tour of the school. Some numbers: 300 students (or so), about 40 per classroom, and the teachers are paid about $75 a month. All of the kids are fed for lunch- and it’s the only meal many of them get. They employ their own seamstress who creates, by hand, the sweaters and shorts for the students’ uniform. (It has to be different from other schools’ uniforms, so if the kids or parents try to sell them, at least the child will be attending the right school!)
I recognized a few of the children in the sea of faces- but I couldn’t find David, until he
came to me. The January before, David and Manu, two buddies, appropriated me to be their playmate when I was with the students. Manu spoke no English, but David did, so we spent quite a bit of time talking, playing with a volleyball, and touring the orphanage. After we spoke to the kids, David left his class and walked over to me. It warmed my heart that he remembered me, and I gave him a big hug. Then he hustled back to class.
After the school, we went to the actual home- the orphanage. Seeds now has 200 youngsters living there! Not all of these kids are orphans; some have terrible home situations in which their parents can not raise them.
The bus makes two trips from the school, and we were there to witness the arrival of the
young ones first. David came over again, and he was hanging around the whole tour, popping in and out, smiling, and then ducking back out to play. (By the way, David’s in 2nd grade.)
Before the older kids arrived, all the young ones, along with me and Glenda, Anisa, and Kate, stood in a circle for devotions. We introduced ourselves again, and this is where it got pretty difficult. We introduced Anisa to the group, of course, as “our daughter.” Immediately, a little girl whispered something to Helen. Helen laughed, and then said, “She wants to know how Anisa can be your daughter. She is African and you are mzungu.”
I suddenly realized what was about to happen.
I looked across at Anisa and invited her to speak, but she just shrugged and said, “You tell them.”
So I did. “Anisa was an orphan, and we adopted her, so now she is our daughter,” I said. Helen added a few more words.
I could almost see the wheels turning in David’s head. I was not surprised when he pulled on my sleeve a little later and asked, “Do you have any sons?”
I answered, “No, I have two daughters.”
He was quiet for a bit, and then said, very quietly, “Maybe you can be my father.”
It hurt my heart more than I can say. I have a bit of a savior complex anyway- I would love to “save” all of them. I just smiled, gave him a little sideways hug, and then he took off running to play with his friend Derrick. It gives me goosebumps even a week later.
Ok. We stayed with the kids another hour or so, through the older kids’ devotions (same
question was asked of us by the older ones, too), and then it was time to leave. I had brought two super balls and two hats, so I gave one each to David and Derrick. They both declared they would write to me, and that I shouldn’t forget them- I said don’t worry, that won’t happen! Both boys ran alongside our car as far as they could as we drove out.
Well, that was about it. We tried to sleep a little bit, and then left Kate and headed back for Nairobi. It took us all day, and we had a very interesting traffic jam between Nakuru and Naivasha, but that’s a story for another time.
We wish very much that Kitale was closer to Nairobi so that we could visit more often, but in the meantime, I don’t think I’ll be forgetting Seeds any time soon.