A journey packed with anticipation and hardly any sleep saw me arriving pretty knackered but was instantly energised when I saw a friendly face at the airport, David my driver I met on a previous trip to Kenya and kept his contact details, as deep down I knew I was coming back here, we laughed and joked while recalling fun memories of some of the trips we had done together.
Over three hours later we pull up at the gates and are greeted very kindly by Mary the security guard and shown in. I notice at the peripheral of my vision there are little children darting for cover and begin to look around, it is only now I am very aware of my appearance and what must I look like to the children? I can’t help but feel like “The Gruffalo” from the children’s story books, haven’t washed or shaved properly for days, I am tired and a bit grumpy from the heat and really hungry so no wonder the children are peering at me with their little curious eyes from behind corners. So I do what any respectable Gruffalo would do and pull faces at them so they giggle and leap off.
Upon meeting Julie, the current centre director, and doing the tour of the grounds it hits me really hard not only how basic the conditions are for the children but how little they have also…I thought I was prepared for this but obviously you can’t really till you arrive somewhere. It’s at this moment I am instantly wrapped up in Julie’s plans for improving conditions and realising the potential of the land and the subsequent value that would follow to assist an even stronger environment for these children, it’s at these moments you realise how lucky you are to have people like Julie around that are just beacons of responsibility and commitment…by now I just want to get stuck in.
A few days later the children are getting used to mine and Boshra’s (the new centre director that travelled in with me from the airport) routines with a mix of curiousness, mischief and playfulness.
This week I have been waking really early to go running round the football pitch and after a while I am pleased to notice a procession of children making their way through the grass from the centre to come see what this strange mzungu (white person) is doing. In no time at all I have 7 or 8 children running with me in line and we are clapping hands and singing while jogging. I stop after a while and watch the children continue running round and reach for my water bottle to where i left it and realise it’s now in the hands of little Chumbalaw cheekily glaring at me triumphantly that she beat me to it!
Once I reach my usual perch outside my room to rest after running my two main boys arrive to greet me as usual “Krop” and “Plilan” they are concerned I have no breakfast and they fetch me tea and some Mandazi’s (a from of fried bread made with sugar and coconut milk) then we begin the usual daily chit chat of life and learning about each other…these two are very clever and cheeky so I’ll need to watch them!
To my great pleasure I have now experienced trying to organise and get something done in Africa! Julie the centre director has asked me to call and make sure the Tractor comes on her day off to plough a 4 acre stretch of land so that we can begin planting and farming our own vegetables, the quicker we do this the better as then we would save a lot of money on our food spends that would contribute to school fees and materials. So I duly begin this on Julie’s day off and 4 hours later and as many phone calls I realise that there is a lesson to be learnt here!
“Soon” could mean days, “Soon Soon” could mean today, “Now Now” is usually today but you really need to get them to commit to “Now, Now Now” this and only when you have agreed a price and stress you could get someone else to do the job… that they still only MIGHT turn up when they say they will! But as miracles happen Jeff and his Tractor arrive the next day and have now since ploughed where we are now only waiting for them to finish leveling the area so that we can soon start planting! Very exciting times!
It is still the rainy season which is great news for our farmland. However, during these heavy rains in the afternoon and evenings our roofs are in desperate need of repair along with some windows so unfortunately some of the children’s bedding and mattresses were soaked, so late in the evening we had to get some of them to move from their beds (one of which was Plilan), wash and share another bed nearby until we were able to dry out the bedding the next day. Plilan was quiet and obviously sad about it and I felt so bad for him but once we got him to wash and settle with his cousin we headed back down to our own rooms. There were no leaks in my room and my bedding wasn’t soaked, I was still upset with it and it was a long night of thoughts about fundraising ideas to help speed up the repairs needed.
The last couple of days of this week has been all about preparing for school next Tuesday and has been absolutely frantic especially so for Emelie (local Kenyan volunteer) and Ann our matron also a local Kenyan where if not for them I don’t really know how the children would have been as prepared as they have been, as they have done a fantastic job working really hard… for all 76 of them that attend 11 different schools and all have different uniforms and school requirements etc, but the best part for me was offering to cut some of the children’s hair and save some costs as I had my trusty clippers with me…Almost 30 haircuts later and those that needed to have theirs done were ready. Funding for school fees, uniforms and materials are a huge important part of this centre’s function as getting into a good school and securing a solid education is absolutely vital to the future of these children and there is no room for complacency as each term needs to be funded.
So I’m really looking forward to the coming weeks ahead of schooling for the children, homework clubs, general guidance and who knows what other opportunities will cross our paths so that we can continue supporting them.