Home Again….A Month in Kenya
Recently some of our team spent a month in Kenya with our HOPE kids and program volunteers.
The difference in the kids was noticeable. Maybe not to everyone, but to those of us who are learning who they are. While they are still rough and tumble boys, they were different. There was less of a rush to be noticed for the first time, less need to grab you and hold on. They’ve learned that there is some stability here. Some have even begun the process on their own to go back for informal education. We danced with them, talked with them, and laughed with them as they showed off talents. Gody is a great rapper and Chris keeps everyone laughing with his impersonations, this time of a pastor.
On our last day with them we did intake forms. It was a hard process at first as many of them don’t really want to tell you their story or where they are from. Actually, it is a part of our process that they be done again to make sure that their stories match up. It is our goal to reunite them with family if at all possible and safe. Eventually, all in attendance that last day gave us their story and took a photo. Some of them told us why they were on the streets while in tears, and not many of them with their head held high. It was hard to write down ages they were guessing at with no clue as to their birthday. It was even harder when they tell you how many months or years they’ve been on the street and you realize how young they were when they started. Listening to the situations that landed them there was the hardest of all.
The boys all have pride in themselves. They all have goals and dreams and ambitions. They just want to be VISIBLE to someone. A few of them can afford to live in shantys, some of them share the small spaces with other people. They took us by the hand and led us through the slums to show us home for them. They held on tight and wouldn’t let anyone say anything bad to us or come too close if they thought we could be in harms way. No one holds a “street kid’s” hand. But we did. They aren’t allowed in the stores but with us they were. When they would find us in town we would go in and they would push our cart or grab things from the shelf for us. They were visible, they were allowed to be there, they were helping someone else.
One of the best things about our time there was all of the community members who are starting to notice them too. The amazing way that, one person at a time, their eyes are being opened to the children they’ve been ignoring and now are calling them “my kids”. From church leaders, to government education workers, to policemen….they are becoming aware of the needs for them.
The HOPE program is so much more than a feeding program. The kids are being fed emotionally, spiritually, and physically but their needs are greater than even that. There are burns to be bandaged, malaria to be treated, IDs to be sought after, skills to be taught, and hopefully families to be reunited.