Hi everyone! I am continuing to love Kenya more and more – every moment with each child here is so precious to me. They give the best hugs and kisses and they always fill me with joy.

There is so much to say about the past week. One of my highlights was playing with the village kids after church on Sunday – they all remembered me from the first week!

On Monday, Fred Mwaura, a friend of the Sander’s family, came and picked Sara, Carly and I up to show us his orphanage, Joy Divine Children’s Organization, and the second largest slum in Africa, Kibera. He was supposed to pick us up at 8am but didn’t show up until around 11:30 – a great example of the Kenyan concept of time. While we waited, we helped out with laundry, the dishes, and we swept a lot of the rooms. We also found a stray puppy on site so we decided to give it a bath! It seemed like a good idea until we realized all of the bugs stuck in his hair – ants, ticks, etc. We used lots of hand sanitizer after!

Fred came with his friend Kevin, who is also a missionary. It was a very funny day because they were familiar with many American things so we were able to laugh and joke around.

First, we picked up a lady named Beatrice. She is the director of a program in Nairobi that networks children’s schools and homes, so she knew places we could visit in Kibera. She said that many people have big hearts, so they start an organization, but they don’t have the means to keep it running.  Therefore, they hold trainings and conferences throughout the year to help these people.

At the slums, she took us to three different “informal schools” – they are informal because they are not funded and are not through the government… it is a group of people trying to give these kids the best education possible with the means they have. They do follow the Kenyan curriculum though. The experience at the slums was very overwhelming and heartbreaking. Pictures do not capture the experience because they don’t show the vastness of it all or the smell. Garbage was everywhere.

The first school we visited was very difficult for me – I had to hold back tears multiple times. The headmaster gave us a tour of the place. It was both a school and orphanage and it educates 300+ children. The orphanage part was very overwhelming for me to see… they had around 14 beds bunked in a room barely bigger than mine at home and they slept 4 or 5 kids to a twin size bed. All of the beds were side by side with few blankets and the room was very dark. I cannot even imagine sleeping in conditions like that. The classrooms were VERY small as well, especially when you consider how many students they have. The headmaster told us he faces three main challenges:

1. Food. Since they aren’t funded, they oftentimes run out of food to feed the kids.  They usually have only one meal per day. When this happens, the kids are unable to focus in school and they begin to think about their homes, families or horrors they have witnessed. For instance, most of the kids are total orphans (have lost both of their parents) and during the political/election conflict, many of the children’s parents were murdered right in front of them.
2. Medicine. The headmaster told us he wishes they had access to basic medicine to cure colds, headaches, or stomachaches. When the kids are feeling ill, is all they can do is pray for them and tell them to go rest. This was hard for me to deal with because at home we have such easy access to things such as Tylenol, Advil, or Tums.  I thought about my bottle of Advil and Tums back at the orphanage and wished I had brought them with me to give them away.
3. Keeping the staff. They don’t have money to pay the teachers, so they have a very difficult time keeping staff. The teachers will often get stressed and quit because they can’t care for their family, pay their rent, or they leave because they can work somewhere else for a salary. They used to have about 15 teachers, and only two of the same ones are still there. The head teacher left last year. This really got me thinking, because I want to be a teacher. I have SO much respect for these teachers who are helping these kids and are so dedicated – they are willing to teach for no pay and that is amazing. They have such big hearts and are really living out their faith.

This orphanage and school was very needy – the headmaster told us if we even came across a pencil, they would love to have it. Despite all of the hardships he faces, he still was praising God for what He had blessed them with. This amazed me. I have seen so much of this in Kenya – people praising God and thanking Him, even when they have so little. The people here choose to have joy from God no matter what. The people here truly depend on and trust in God. It really challenges me to have faith like that. I'm not sure how you could come here and see that, and not believe in God. In one of the classes in the slums, the students stood up and sang a song about Jesus to us. The headmaster gave us his information in case we were ever able to donate or help them out – and I have a strong desire to do so.

The second school that we visited was very different and overwhelming in new ways. The classrooms were even smaller than the previous schools, and the building was very dark. Upstairs, where the orphans slept, was devastating. They sleep on a little mat on the ground with one blanket in an empty room. One little baby was asleep and I just wanted to pick her up and take her home with me. When I thought about how the girls and I had complained about our beds back at the orphanage (the mattresses are very hard), I realized how selfish we truly are. I can’t even compare the room that we are staying in to what the kids in the slums stay in. That night, I kept thinking about the kids that were sleeping on the mats and I just wanted to cry. I wanted them to have the bed I was sleeping in.

This visit to the slums really got me thinking about a lot of things. I have never been so thankful in my life for what I have at home, but I have also never felt so selfish. I am realizing how much I have that I don’t need. I have never been in a place like the slums before, where they have so little and need so much. It made me think about the amount that my family is paying for my education, and how high it is, and what that money could do for others. I realize I am getting a good education so that I can go and serve God as a teacher in the inner city and abroad, but I know I could do that for a lot less money at a different school. After I left the slums, I felt very called to respond to the situation and it is still on my heart to do so. I don’t know how you could leave a place like that and not be affected. I was given the contact information for the schools in case I would be able to help out in the future, and I am definitely praying about that. They need volunteers to help teach and need money donations, or blankets, medicine, school supplies, etc… really anything you can give.

After our visit to the slums, we visited Joy Divine Children’s Organization, Fred’s orphanage in Nairobi. Most of the boys were at school when we were there, but we were able to meet a few of the high schoolers since they were on midterm and we met the youngest boy as well. The visit was very nice – they were so hospitable. We had a tour of the place and then had lunch which was delicious: chipati, stew, and stoney (an African soda that I love!). We looked through their photo album as well.  It was very eye opening because I realized how blessed Into Abba’s Arms is. Joy Divine is awesome though because they are putting the boys through high school and hopefully university - this is very rare in Kenya because finding the funds to even put them through high school is difficult. Fred asked for prayers for the funds for schooling.

I’m sorry for how long this update is - I just have had a lot that I have been thinking about this past week. There is SO much more I could say about the slums, about the village kids, moments with the kids at IAA, etc so I am excited to come home and have the opportunity to tell all of you everything and be able to show you pictures and video. I want to share the stories of each of the kids at IAA with all of you.

I have been thinking about Jeremiah 29:11 a lot on this trip – what it means for me and the people here. I thought I’d share it with you: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I am finding comfort and peace in this verse.

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