Hello! Kelli and Alyssa here writing from a hole-in-the-wall wifi lounge in Kaptagat, Kenya. Pull up a seat and grab a bowl of popcorn (or two) because so much has happened since our last blog. We will do our best to quickly recap the last few days, but are excited to share our journals, photos and full stories with you when we return. On Friday, Madi and Luke began their journey back to Colorado right as the Brewer family arrived to the Grace of God orphanage. The parents, Jim and Rachel, are both college cross country coaches at the St.Martin's University in Seattle, Washington. They brought with them their 2 young children, Holden and Karen, and have been tagging along on our adventures. Today, Cambria, Lauren and Brooke safely arrived to Eldoret airport to begin their trek home to the U.S.
Today, our big activity was meeting with all of the parents/guardians of the students whose education was sponsored by the Harambee Foundation. Their children would be joining us tomorrow when they got out of school for the week. All fifty or so of us crammed into the small preschool classroom on the Grace of God's property. It was incredibly humbling to hear the parents/guardians, one by one, stand and share the name of their sponsored child. Theses families traveled several miles by foot to come thank a bunch of Mzungus for an idea 4 years ago that has turned into 47 high school sponsorships, two cows, countless donations and a community pulling together in the name of Harambee and learning. A quote that stuck with us today was spoken by one of the elders thanking us for the work we had done: "We have very little we can give you to show our gratitude for what you have done for us. But we can thank you from the bottom of our hearts and pray for you always."
Today we got to meet all of the sponsored students! We were able to talk with them one on one and ask them questions about their every day life and how school was going. We really enjoyed getting to know each and every one of them. We took pictures and hung out with them for the rest of the morning. After the interviews were complete, we handed out shoes and clothes that were generously donated by people back at home. Thank you to all who donated. The students were truly grateful. Afterwards we hung out with the kids at the orphanage and helped make Chapati with the staff.
What an eventful day!! The day began with a beautiful church service lead by one of the sponsored students, Caroline. The other kids took turns singing and reading from the Bible. Jim Brewer delivered a wonderful impromptu sermon. He did great! I counted more than 65 small children in this tiny preschool building! After church, we all went to the middle of the village where the Sports Day (similar to the Four Miles For Kenya race) was being held. There were several heats of races ranging from 1k to an 8k. Children to Older adults competed. There must have been more than 300 people there. It was incredible to see the athleticism in the small kids as well as the older adults. After the races, the board of the foundation (Jackson, Philip, Francis and Evelyn) greeted us all one again and invited us to dance with some of the most famous musicians of Kenya. While we were all dancing together, the parents of the sponsored kids presented us with "lasos" (which are similar to togas). We felt like we belonged. It was an incredible moment (and yes there are pictures). This long, eventful day left us all very happy and tired. We finished the day with ugali, potatoes, and chai tea (of course)
1) If you see a praying mantis it's good luck here in Kenya- even if it is in the shower.
2) The stars here are unbelievable. You can even see the Milky Way!
3) Flushing a toilet here is quite the ordeal.
4) Evan seems to be a bit taller than the average Kenyan. He has hit his head on the gate we walk through daily at least 3 times and bashed his head on the ceiling of the Matatu van while going over the massive speed bumps (No side effects or concussions to report).
5) There has only been one MIA passport (don't worry Brian's mom, the passport has been located and is in safe hands).
6) Things that transcend across all cultures: smiles, waving, Avril Lavigne......and hair braiding. Molly, Devyn and Alyssa all got their hair braided by a sponsor child's mother who had never played with "soft Mzungu" hair before
7) Even roosters in Kenya can't successfully fly through fences when chased by dogs. Awkward.
8) Starbucks has nothing on Kenyan chai.
9). We've been eating the staple foods of Kenya the last week including: Ugali, Chapati, Mandazi, Rice, Beans, Potatoes, Carrots and Lamb Stew. The lamb stew resulted in a few (resolved) issues of food poisoning.
Food for Thought
Respect. To most of us this is just a word we use to describe a quality we wish to see and strive to have for one another. Here in Kenya however, respect is everywhere. Respect is a lifestyle. The children show respect on the playground for one another by helping each other when they fall down. The sponsored students show respect to their elders by shaking their hands, speak only when spoken to, and give the deepest thanks to their sponsors halfway around the world. The elders show respect for each other by standing when they speak, not interrupting each other when they are talking, and giving praise to the Lord often. They have all shown an unprecedented amount of respect to all of us. The word "karibu" means "welcome" in Swahili and that is exactly how they have made us feel since the moment we stepped out of that Matatu (the bus). One quote that resonated with us all was from Philip Maiyo, a respected member of Kaptagat. He was speaking to the group of sponsored students about the importance of getting a good education. I quote, "If you do well in school, we will embrace you. If you fail, we will laugh at you." Can you imagine being told that in high school? The elders and other leaders of this village expect so much from their youth and only want success and happiness for them. There is an amazing amount of respect between the leaders and the kids. It is truly humbling to see. I can't speak for everyone, but this trip is changing my heart and my life. This is one of the many lessons we have been fortunate enough to learn while on the other side of the world. This place is inspiring. Truly
-Alyssa & Kelli