Caring in Kenya

By Julie D., CE Asia & Latin America Programs Coordinator 

I believe it is safe to say that volunteering at the orphanage was the most unexpected high of our recent trip to Kenya. As the coordinator from Cultural Embrace, I poled the group and learned that the majority was most excited about for the safaris (the trip was timed perfectly to see the migration of the Wilde beasts in the Masai Mara). I also learned about each participant’s fear and concern towards what we might experience during our service project at the orphanage. In one way or another, everyone halfway expected to feel broken hearted by the visit and questioned whether 4 days of work could really make a difference for the children at the orphanage. This is a difficult but common question I often receive and the best answer is to experience it since what we know we understand and what we understand, we love. Cultural Embrace’s commitment towards education, conservation, leadership, creativity and healthy living is rooted in this philosophy.

Our first hand experience in Kenya to really “know” the community began with a bumpy but beautiful ride from Nairobi to the orphanage. We were greeted by huge smiles, friendly waving and children running along side out matutus (vans). Everyone helped us with our luggage and to find our shared dorm rooms before dinner. There was one big bunk room for all the ladies and one for the men. We all got situated and enjoyed finding our personal washing buckets under our bunks which included outhouse shoes and a small washcloth. The children informed us the rule was that everyone must wash their feet and hands before a meal and their whole body 3 times a week. This sounded great to me as my face had become more “expressive” due to the thick coat of dust sitting on my eyebrows and eyelashes. The outhouses were just basic holes in the floor so to wash you would first fill your bucket with water from the well and then quickly work from top to bottom cleaning all the pertinent areas!

Washing was important because we did get dirty! Beyond sharing meals, games and chores with the children, we had a major project to complete which was the digging of a silage pit. The orphanage supports itself as a sustainable farm with fields of fruits and veggies as well as livestock. During the winter the cows are difficult to kept fed as there is very little grass; however, their manure is used for bio gas to run the kitchen stoves. So, the digging of a silage pit was the obvious next step. We dug and dug, and dug some more. By the end of our 4 days, the pit was complete and we had all learned something real through the effort. Instead of feeling broken hearted by the sad stories and harsh reality of how each child ended up at the orphanage, we were uplifted by a spirit of giving and common bond shared through the sweat, blood and tears of hard work. Life was good because everyone had experienced the truth: someone, somewhere cared.

Julie Dean
Asia and Latin America Coordinator

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