Saturday, March 28, 2009

Joy! Part deux

(please note, in an attempt to save time I've linked photos directly from my smugmug account. Unfortunately, this has caused some undesired cropping. To see the full image below, please click on each photo. Thanks!)

Today I joined Rotarians and Rotaractors from throughout the greater Nairobi area for the annual 'Rally for the Disabled.' I didn't know much about the event beforehand, and much like my visit to Red Rose it turned out to be a ball full of joy at the end of a busy week. Every year a different Rotary club takes charge of this large-scale event, and schools that cater to those with physical or mental handicaps are invited to enjoy music, performances, face painting and food at the Nairobi fair grounds.

My host club of Hurlingham was in charge of food, and my fellow Rotary scholar, Jinna Yun, and I had our hands full working with Rotaractors to distribute over a 1000 lunches. Jinna had been working on this for two days, and I'm not sure she ever even got a chance to get out and meet the kids she was so busy counting and distributing boxes. I was luckier to rotate between working with Jinna and delivering food to the various groups, which was a lot of fun and very humbling.

Though some schools work with one specific type of physical challenge (we had two large schools with over 100 children that worked with blind or deaf kids), many of the smaller schools teach children with all different sorts of impairments. I worry a bit that the stigma attached to certain physical characteristics has lumped children of normal intelligance in with children coping with actual mental disabilities, but for the most part the children seemed well adjusted and cared for in their school groups. What was wonderful and humbling to experience was the comraderie between classmates, especially between those in need of assistance and those who despite their own limitations were ready and willing to offer it.

The kids were spread out throughout the stadium, but all seemed to enjoy the entertainment . We rolled kids in wheel chairs across the dry earth and watched as they joined classmates and kindred spirits to get down to Kenya's favorite pop songs (and let me just say, it's absolutely true that Africans have more natural rhythm than just about anyone - even kids who could barely walk or sit still were dancing circles around me!).

There were some wonderful groups who performed, including a dance troup whose members had various physical challenges - from shriveled limbs to a lack of limbs all together (the guy standing in the photo above has only one leg) - which they managed to move gracefully while setting a powerful example that physical limitations need not hold anyone back from that which they desire to pursue.

The day ended with the Nairobi sky opening up to torrents of badly needed (though poorly timed) rain. A tent was finally assembled so the dancing could continue, and even in the cold I think the kids enjoyed the ice cream treats distributed at the end of the day.

More photos here.

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