Thursday, September 15, 2011

Breaking the Cycle Of Poverty.... day at a time.

OK.  So I'm assuming you have seen the previous posts about my trip to Africa.  If not, go HERE and HERE to get all caught up to what is going on.

Now I apologize for making you wait so long to see what happened next, but things have been a wee bit nuts around here.  No matter how many hours I want to spend blogging, I still have four kids.  Who are crazy.  But that's another post for another day.


So when I last left you, we had toured the Kibera slum and the Saviour King's Academy.  It was incredible.  Knowing that we wanted to do all we could to help these kids while we were there, we did something super simple that rocked their world.

How do you teach children that there is life outside of the slum if they have never been outside of the slum?

You take them on their first (for many of them) ever field trip!

This was the view as we drove up to the spot we were going to meet the kids.

We parked in the parking lot of a gas station just outside of the slum, and eventually the kids swarmed out to greet us.
The teachers said that many of them had woken up several times in the middle of the night, asking their parents, "is it morning yet?  Is it time to go?"

They were so stinking excited they couldn't hardly stand it!

We waited in a little grassy area next to the gas station for our bus to arrive.  And we had a blast.  The kids are so entranced with having their picture taken, then they all want to see themselves in the back of the camera. 
We thought it was so cute, then it dawned on us.  They don't have mirrors.  These are the only times they get to see themselves, when someone visits them with a camera.


I knew, going into this trip, that I take a lot of things for granted.  I knew this trip would open my eyes to the incredible blessings we as Americans have.  I assumed I would learn more about the incredible blessing that is clean water, and healthy food, and electricity.

But there were some things that I didn't even think about that I take for granted every day.  Like this next picture.
 For some of these kids, this was the first time in their lives that they had ever seen grass.


It's humbling, isn't it?

We played with them till the bus came.  We were on Africa time, which runs a little later than American time.  It was over an hour that we hung out with these kids in the small area next to the gas station, but these kids had the time of their lives.  I don't think they even cared that we had something bigger and better planned, all they cared about was that someone from far away cared about them enough to come for a visit and play...
 ...and take their pictures so they could see themselves and their friends and laugh and laugh....
 ...and talk to them and care about what they had to say as well.
We got close to them.  Our team leader warned us that chances are, we would bring home a souvenir that we weren't expecting, like ringworm or something fungal.  We chose not to care, and to just love these children.  We have medicines to treat ailments, they need people to love them.  It was a very simple choice.

(A rare photo of me.  I don't think I show up much on this blog, do I?  I'll have to work on that.)
They loved, loved, loved seeing themselves in the camera.
And they all wanted to see themselves next to us.
Jen hung out and got to know the kids...
...we played games with them...
...Lauren ran around the largest circle of duck-duck-goose that I have ever seen...
...Kayla introduced them to Simon Says...
...basically, we just had a blast, hanging out next to a gas station.

Then, the bus arrived.  I counted the seats on the bus, there were 36.  However, the rules in Africa are a little different than in America.  There are no booster seats or seat belt laws.  You just do what you have to do to get where you are going.  So on this 36 seat bus, we put all 12 of the adults on our team inside, and then added 130 children, squished up on our laps, on their laps, in the aisles, anywhere they could fit, we packed bodies.  This is the best picture I could get, as I was squished up against the window with four kids on my lap.
The bus started moving, and I waited for some child to cry.  It never happened.  Little kids were sitting on seats, three kids piled on them to the point that their heads could not move, and instead of complaining or whining or crying, they did something incredible.

They started singing.  They sang praises to Jesus, at the tops of their lungs with all they joy they could muster.  it was absolutely incredible, I had a hard time keeping it together.  People on the streets stopped and stared as we drove by.  We were our own parade in Kenya.


We finally got to where we were going and got set up.  The bus went back for the other load of kids, and we got underway.

We had taken the kids to a park.  It's such a small thing by our standards, but to these kids, it meant to world.  They live in a slum of one million people in ten square miles.  There is no space to run.  Their streets are filled with rotting garbage and a river of human waste.  Before this day, many of these kids had never seen wide open spaces or grass.

How do you teach kids that there is a world out there to be lived in if they have never seen it?  How do you break the cycle of poverty and slum life if these kids have never seen firsthand that there is a world outside of the slum?

You can't.

We played Awana games all. day. long.

And oh, my goodness, these kids had a blast.
My sweet Ann.  She will forever live in my heart.
Sweet babies.  These are the same ones who go to school in the tiny classroom, without even a light bulb to see.
Many of the chilrden took off their worn, too small shoes in order to run and play.

This was a new game that we were introduced to called wall, gun, rabbit.  OK, I don't know that it was actually called that, but that seemed to me the most logical name.  Basically the same as our rock, paper, scissors; but there were two teams and they would both turn around facing away from each other and decide which one they wanted to be, then when the leader yelled "go!", they would quickly turn around making the motion of what they had chosen. 

This team was doing 'wall'.  In rock-paper-scissors fashion, rabbit jumps over the wall, the gun shoots the rabbit, and the wall stops the bullets.  We all shook our heads at these sweet kids pointing finger guns at each other.  It was a bit of a culture clash, but it works for them!

The kids were such good sports.  They cheered and cheered when they won, and didn't get upset if they didn't.
This is Washington.  He is the most incredible Awana games leader I have ever seen, and he has an amazing heart for these kids.  Boundless energy, he was just 'on' the entire day.
Also, it was awesome that a group of people form the great state of Washington traveled to Kenya to play with these kids and met a guy named Washington. 

He could dance, let me tell you.  The kids adored him, and he loved them as well.
All day, we played with these kids.  I don't know who enjoyed it more, us or them.
Then it was our turn to play a couple of games.  Most of us were assigned to teams, so the kid cheered for their mzungus (white people, what they called us most of the time).  Jen is an awesome balloon-blower-upper!

Imaging the excitement in a tree, if you don't have one.
Or the calm that comes from a clean place to rest.
Or the simple joy of clean, sandy dirt.  Did you ever realize that you take dirt for granted?  I didn't either.
We served lunch; rice, beans and a banana.  For many of these kids, this is the only meal they eat in a day.  We tried to load them up as much as we could, but we did have to feed 300 so we had to be careful.  I do think everyone got to eat their fill.

The kids brought their own bowls, but only a few had silverware.  Most ate with their hands, the hands that never get washed and are covered in dirt, grime, and feces. 
There were port-a-potties in the park.  We headed out there to see, and were not too surprised to see that they were squatty potties.  However, the smell was horrific, they were filled with flies, and this floor was only attached to the walls by giant staples along the sides.  A few of us waited till the last possible moment to go, and then we took turns and stood outside the door and literally prayed over who was inside that they floor wouldn't collapse on them.  We all survived, and the floor stayed intact, so we were relieved.  I never knew this was on my bucket list, but...  check!
Some of the gals on our team had prepared a skit for the kids, and they were all engrossed in what was going on.
They didn't laugh at the funny parts, we weren't sure if they didn't understand it or if they thought we were being serious and just didn't want to offend.  Jen asked them questions at the end, and they all seemed to get the point, so we called it a success.
After lunch, we went back to the games.  The little kids joined in, and although they didn't play, they just sat for hours and watched their older teammates and cheered them on.

Then it was our turn to play tug of war.  that's me in the blue bandanna.  We tried hard, but were defeated by the team of teachers that you see in the black shirts.  These gals were determined!
We handed out cars for the young kids...
...and cross necklaces to the older ones...
...which were worn with great pride.
The cars were donated by an incredible organization called Toys For God's Kids.  A huge thank you for donating 1,000 cars, we spread them all over Kenya and Tanzania!
Finally, the bus came and the kids headed out.  The little ones stayed behind, as it took several trips to take the kids home and they wanted to vans for the littles to drive them into the slum and home, instead of letting them walk home like the older kids.  My heart breaks every time I think of it, but I didn't notice the bus come so I didn't say goodbye to my Ann.  I hope she knows how much I love her.

We were sitting in the late afternoon with the little kids, singing and teaching them songs when suddenly, they all took off screaming.  Chants of "Monkey!  Monkey!  Monkey!"  echoed through the park, and they all gave chase.
Apparently in the evenings, the monkeys come out to graze on the garbage and food scraps that get left behind.
This was a fantastic experience, not just because we as Americans got to see wild monkeys for the first time ever, but that we got to share a first with these kids.  Many of them had never seen a wild monkey, so we all got to experience something together. 

We didn't see the sign that said, "please don't feed the monkeys" till we were leaving.  In this case, ignorance is bliss.

Finally, the van came and all the little kids crammed in and headed home.
We stayed behind waiting for the van to come back for us, and were there after dark.  It was an incredible, exhausting say, but I'd do it again tomorrow if I could.

Who knew that something so simple as taking kids to a park would have such an impact?  But really, how do you tell kids that slum life isn't all there is unless you show them that there is something else out there?

I really wish we could have done more.  It is hard to be there for such a short time and try to make a difference in a child's life, much less make a difference in 270 children's lives.  We did what we could, and we did it led by God, and that's enough for now.

I want to go back.  I want to see these amazing children again, and hug their necks and tell them I love them.  I plan to return someday, I don't know when but I want to make it happen.

Anyone want to go to Kenya? :D

(Coming up next: the family that had the biggest impact on the majority of our team.  The will and determination of some of these people just to live is amazing.)


Bliss said...

amazing touching posts, the part about never seeing grass is almost to much for brain to even comprehend.

momluvs4kidz2000 said...

Thank you Tiff for sharing the story of your trip. I'm sure there is not blog large enough, nor words adequate enough, to describe the emotions you have must have gone through--suffice to say you did an amazing job capturing as much as you did through pictures and your eloquent words. I am touched and somewhat re-grounded on a crazy, "whyisthishappening" kind of day, so again...thank you.