I was an older voluntourist in IHF Nakuru for just over a month. It was a wonderful experience. The center was full of love and joy. The children are delightful.
I can’t remember how I started sewing. Not sure if I spotted a tear that needed fixing or if a child asked me to borrow a needle and thread but somehow, minor repairs became a favourite passtime. I sat on the front steps enjoying the Kenyan sun and the children gathered around me. I love the way they sat very close, either right next to me so our pant legs were touching or right in front of me where they could fill my field of view and get most of my attention. There were always several kids chatting and squiggling and trying to sit closer to join in discussion.
At first, one or two kids brought clothes with a small hole to fix. When they saw that my work was not too bad others came along. It wasn’t long before the kids wanted to do their own sewing. I bought a few more needles and thread and the kids found all kinds of colourful rags that needed fixing. I also had a tiny kit that the preschoolers could use; it must have come from a Christmas cracker;the scissors were pliable and harmless, the thread was all tangled but there were lots of pinks and reds and there were lots of buttons to count with tiny fingers.
A few of the kids became a little better at sewing but for me it was just a way to spend time with them, show them that I cared, and teach them another way to care for themselves and for each other. It was also a sneaky way for me to help them work on their English conversation skills. Some kids sat for hours, others dropped a pile of clothes on my lap and said “I come” meaning “I’ll be back”. They had something very important to run off to – a friend, a cat, a football game…
I also loved getting them to draw. The kids wandered into my room, sometimes as early as 6 am. I handed them a piece of paper and a pen. Even the little ones preferred pens to wax crayons. When they finished a drawing, I gave them coloring pencils, crayons, or for the older ones, felt pens.
They all started by drawing a hut, then two huts joined by a path usually with a tree in between. Then they might add a bigger building – a school. The more they drew, the more I discovered their world. One little guy, about 6 years old, drew cows with long eye lashes. He drew cats with big ears that he carefully colored bright blue. His world was a wonderland filled with bright cartoon-like creatures with big eyes and long limbs. He presented his work to me with a big smile with the special cuteness of a six year old missing his two front teeth. Another little guy, same age, drew buses and bicycles and anything with wheels and gears. He filled the page with mechanical devices and then colored every detail in beautiful reds and blues and greens.
The kids were proud when they saw their drawings taped to my bedroom wall. My room was gorgeous with all their creations. I loved sitting on the bed distributing paper and crayons, and giving praise.
This post is just a small account of my granny-like activities but the environment offered much more including soccer, volleyball, a vegetable patch and farm animals. I’ve been back for 2 weeks and I still feel home sick for the IHF Nakuru Children’s Center.
Best regards, Claudette Dwyer