Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cat Hawley Post #2: Nukuru

A stretch of the road from Nairobi to Nakuru overlooks the Great Rift Valley. We passed men transporting coal on bikes with bags stacked well over their heads. Most the scenery consists of small verdant farms.

Our destination is a home for street boys just outside of town. When we arrive the rain is coming down and the sky flashes purple and red with lightning. We enter the kitchen and the tin roof makes the big drops ring and we talk above the roar as Megan introduces me to Bev. She founded the house 14 years ago and is a retired teacher from Maine with a big heart and plenty of energy.

Once word gets out that Megan has arrived the boys pile into the kitchen. They crowd around a bench with us and we teach them thumb wars. Soon I’m playing two kids at once with both hands. Everyone is having fun and they want to play again and again.

The boys are darling but it’s hard to imagine all the challenges this shoestring operation faces. Nearly all the kids (there are 13 at the home – a few are at boarding high schools) have been on the streets. A recent arrival has a distended belly due to malnourishment, one boy in the home has Aids, others have learning disabilities that the Kenyan public school system is not equipped to address. The ones that have beaten the odds and excelled in school or have the ability to attend university won’t get the chance unless funds become available. Sometimes behavior problems are an issue and the older boys will beat up the little ones, or have been caught selling donated clothes.

Despite these harsh realities, real good is done here. The boys have four adults who care about them and provide shelter and fresh food from the shamba (garden). There is a goat that produces 3 liters of milk a day, chickens for eggs, and the children are clean and smiling. Somehow, there is order in the chaos. Last night they were crowded around the dining room table watching a documentary on boys who competed in a traditional dance competition in Uganda. Tonight they will hold an informal dance competition of their own.

This is a vast improvement from the alternative; sniffing glue on the streets of Nakuru. On the way to the market, Megan and I were approached by two little kids maybe as young as three and their seven(?) year old caretaker. They were in tatters and had little bottles of glue with them. Although the conditions at the boys home might not meet western standards the kids are offered a childhood and dignity. Megan has given thoughtful time, energy and resources to the boy’s home and as someone who has this bond with the children and she can’t help but constantly seek to make improvements. I’m hoping this visit was also a reminder of the tremendous impact she has already had on these young individuals.

(If you are interested in learning more about any of these kids, please visit here.)

1 comment:

Steve Shin said...

Don't think I am not reading your stuff. 8)

I think you are doing an amazing job and glad that you can be such an inspiration in both worlds.

...however, come home soon!!!