Hi readers. Put your hand up if you are shocked, saddened, depressed, overwhelmed, or afraid when you learn about current events in the world. Come on, I know it’s not just me. When I look at the news, I feel like we are living in a more hostile world than ever before. Thankfully, there is some dissonance between what I see in the news and what I see in my personal life. Because guess what, guys? In my personal life, here in Kenya, I have been privileged to get to know some of the absolute best people. These people give me hope for the world: that yes, perhaps though the ones in power might be corrupt or violent, corruption and violence can never win as long as there are people like this inhabiting this planet. So, here are some snapshots of hope: people I have met and moments from my time here in Kenya that convince me that we’re going to be OK, after all.
Local 'street youth' in the officeOne day, as part of the Christmas celebrations at our workplace, our office hosted some street youths from Nanyuki. I do not exaggerate when I say these were the poorest of the poor. During this Christmas celebration, we gave each person a loaf of bread and some milk. Now, one of these street youths had a small little girl– I presume her daughter– with her. When nobody was watching, I saw a young man give his loaf of bread to the young mother. At this moment, I knew I had witnessed something beautiful. This man, with tattered shoes and dirty clothes, likely without a shilling to his name, gave the one thing he had to someone who needed it more. His kindness put us all to shame.
Tigithi School: talking to the teacher about the proposal for the feeding programIn my time here, I also got to see the formation of a new program at a rural primary school. I accompanied the eRoots manager and the social worker for the area as they proposed a partnership with the school with to support their feeding program. We talked about the importance of proper nutrition for learning in the school, and surveyed the grounds to see if there was a place suitable for a small farm. The head teacher agreed, and we formed an enthusiastic partnership. Now, like in other schools in the area, the students can learn how to grow food, and they can benefit by eating that food at lunchtime daily. This will hopefully reduce drop-out rates and improve students' academic performance. At the time I left Kenya, the program has already started and the land is being prepared by the students, teachers, and parents, for growing potatoes.
Through home visits and interviews, I met a lot of remarkable people. One of these people was Susan, who runs a children’s home. When I visited people’s homes, I usually had a questionnaire to give them. The first question on this questionnaire was “How many people are in your household?” Susan answered: “Forty-one.” She takes in children to her home and they call her mother. These are children who have nowhere else to go: street children and orphans. These are children who may not be used to having discipline or having a home. They may not be the easiest children to love. Susan has given her life to mothering these children and giving them a place to belong. A few of her children are sponsored through Chalice, but I can’t help but think how small a sponsor’s impact is compared with the huge impact Susan has on these children as she invests in their lives daily.
I also met Hannah, my name-mate, who welcomed me into her home. Her child is sponsored, and she is the secretary of the microfinance group. She has used the money from the microfinance group to start a small shop, and she is making money for her family from this shop. On her little land, she has a kitchen garden. After we visited, she sent us with a bag full of spinach. It fed us for three days.
Mid-meal photo of us eating nyama choma. From left Peter, Donald, and Priscillah (and me)Then, a few days before we left Nanyuki, our coworkers at the office took us out for lunch. They surprised us with nyama choma, a roasted meat meal that is popular for celebrations. I could not believe the generosity of these folks at Chalice’s Baraka site. For four months, we had been with them as outsiders, and from the very beginning they had welcomed us in as one of their own. The Baraka staff had patiently answered our many questions, moved office seating arrangements to accommodate us, carried us on the back of their motorbikes, translated conversations from Swahili and Kikuyu for us, and had even helped us move. I don’t know what my expectations were, but they went absolutely above and beyond them. And after all that—they surprised us with a special meal! There was no way we could ever deserve such love and generosity.
One day, in the microfinance group meeting, I was asking the members some questions about their goals and plans: Where did they hope to be in one year? This was a group of town-dwellers, so they did not have access to land. They expressed desire to have a piece of land of their own where they can reside and farm. “How can you, as a group, help one another to reach this goal?” I asked. One member of the group, Jesse, was very enthusiastic. He began his statements with the question “What if?” I was very inspired by that kind of attitude. Instead of being discouraged by the many obstacles to reaching his goal, he actively tried to think of ways to overcome these obstacles. At the end of my conversation with the group that day, they had made a tentative roadmap of how each group member would obtain a piece of land. Although each person in the group needed land, they knew that together, they could reach their individual goals faster.
I am just sharing these snippets to remind you, friend, that there is hope. There are people who are doggedly working for the good of their community; there are people who love selflessly and sacrificially. There are people who are lifting themselves out of poverty. There is hope.
Hannah Main is working as a Business Development Coordinator with Crown the Child Africa in Kenya.