Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cat Hawley Post #6: Rotary Sunshine Rally

Megs wrote about this event a year ago but now you get it from my perspective . . .

Megan is an active member in the Hurlingham chapter of Rotary in Nairobi. Every year the whole of Nairobi Rotary clubs host an event at the Nairobi fair grounds. Hundreds of disabled kids convene in one place for a day of celebration, food and entertainment. Megan warned me that the retarded kids from Kenya would have more rhythm than I do. Even with this cautionary word it was humbling to see proof when she was right.

A group of Jains coordinates the food distribution. Hundreds of young Rotarians distributed snacks, juice, lunch, fruit, milk and candy. It was a literal Thanksgiving. Music was playing on stage and the DJ was keeping the large crowd engaged. Then it came time for the BMX bike races. There were little kids on bikes from Kenya’s junior team here to entertain their less able-bodied peers. They went all out and the kids were smiling and cheering. The kids needed to be kept off the field for safety and every now and then you would get an enthusiastic fan running after the bikes, flailing and sprinting with astounding energy. A Rotarian would go tearing after the child to keep them out of harms way.

As the bikes were whizzing around, a very young boy wanted to go across the field. I couldn’t let him but followed him at the edge of the crowd to be sure he stayed safe. I held his hand and affably made small talk but he didn’t respond. It turns out he just needed to make his way to the porta-potties. I told him I would wait off to the side for him (no response). As I waited four boys in wheel chairs with missing limbs rolled up (by the way these kids also have better rhythm than I do). I was totally unequipped to help these kids and was asking them if they had a teacher who could assist them. I was a bit distracted trying to round up someone who could assist with the bathroom needs of these kids and I realized I might have lost the little guy I’d brought over first.

Shortly thereafter I found him signing to another kid. It turns out I’d been yakking to a deaf kid for the last 10 minutes. I got him back to his group and there were plenty of hugs and high fives along the way. For all my fumbles I couldn’t top Megan. She asked a group of kids (including several blind kids) if they would like to “see” the digital image of the picture she had just taken. Thankfully, we didn’t dampen any spirits and the day was a success.

It rained in the afternoon but that didn’t stop the fun. We just kept handing out food and then Kenya’s most popular rapper took the stage. The kids wanted hugs, handshakes and to dance. At one point a kid asked me to dance and in what struck me as a formal way. He said something like, “It would be my pleasure if you would dance with me now” and held out his hand. Just as I reached out to hold it, a teacher rushed up and said, “Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you!”

It was a pleasure to see these kids in an environment where they were praised and the day would be filled with positive memories. These kids are facing stark challenges on many levels and it was glorious to see them spend some time away from their worries.

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