Day 4: Woke up in the middle of the night last night and had trouble falling back asleep. Eventually I did, but while I was lying awake I witnessed Kitale’s power cut as all outside lights went completely black. The power went out not because of a storm but because of rolling blackouts that occur every so often as a way to conserve energy. By morning time the power was back on and we all had breakfast prior to heading out.
Instead of going to the school first thing in the morning, we headed to the orphanage. There were no kids there because they were all in school, but there were several workers present working on building the orphanage foundation. Approx 20-25 men and women in all, working in 6 different groups on a specific specialty. Each person within the group was an expert at their skill and each person was the epitome of what manual labor is all about. Every task performed to build the foundation would have been done with machinery and equipment in most place of the world. But here everything is done by hand.
One crew of women was shoveling sand into a homemade sifter made of a wooden frame and chicken wire. The sand was hand sifted to remove larger stones and rocks so that the sifted sand could be later mixed with water and used as an ingredient in the cement mix. Another group of women had a job of walking approx a half mile, one way, to fill up a bucket of water, carry it on their heads another half mile back and dump it into larger barrels.
Another group, this time consisting of all men, had the job of mixing the water with rocks that would be used to pour into the foundation. They would load up 5 wheel barrows and carry the mixture to the worksite and dump it down onto the foundation where another crew awaited and began to spread it.
A fifth group worked on taking large, jagged stones…. Probably 50 pounds each….loading them into wheelbarrows and carrying them over to the foundation site. These immense jagged boulders were then chiseled down, by hand, into rectangular cement-block looking bricks that were being hand cemented to form the foundation walls. In America, we would’ve simply bought rectangular blocks and had them delivered. Here, they are all hand cut.
A sixth group worked on taking apart the giant kilns where the 50,000+ hand made bricks that were being formed during the first MJC trip had been fired and cured. These bricks will soon become the walls of the orphanage. It was an unbelievable site to witness and to participate in.
What an incredible team of hardworking, never complaining Kenyan workers. The men and women really got a kick out of us helping (or trying to help). And it definitely made me realize how none of us on this trip have any idea what the words “physical labor” really mean. These Kenyan workers do this all day long in the hot sun for 8-10 hours, 6 days a week. And us, after our 1.5 hour shift was done couldn’t have lasted another 30 minutes. Even though there was a significant language barrier between us, it was fun communicating with them.
One conversation we were able to work through involved them asking me what I did for a living. They assumed I was in construction and that was why I was here to help…but I told them I was in business and spent most of my day in front of a computer or in meetings. They laughed and kept saying that I “buy and sell goods and services.” They thought that was so funny and after a while I started laughing too.
After our construction time was over, we headed back to the lodge, ate a quick lunch, and drove to the school to see all of wonderful kids we met the day before.
A lot of the vehicles in Kenya are safari type vehicles with a top that can be flipped open and passengers can sit on the roof while the driver drives. So several of us have been doing that the past couple of days and did it on the way to the school today too. As we approached the school, we were just high enough that we could see over the security gate in the driveway and the kids, who were out in the playground (if you even want to call it that…it’s just a big patch of dirt) could see us too just as we started to pull up. You would not believe the screams and yells of excitement as they all came running across the playground and pouring out of classrooms to greet us. Talk about an amazing feeling to be on the receiving end of that.
As the drivers pulled in he could barely get through the mob of children who were all chanting the name of their favorite new friend from America…Scott, Caleb, Doug, David,…. Each kid has their favorite.
We eventually get pulled all the way in and make it out of the vehicles and of course my two little shadows David and Rebecca each grab one of my hands. They are both just so cute and sweet and innocent. Rebecca says absolutely nothing…but just hangs on to my hand and arm and walks with me. David is a little more talkative, and says multiple times during the day as he pats my hand “David, my friend. David, my friend”. They are both just so precious and happy and it pains me to think that each day after school they walk back to the slums (which we learned today consists of 3000 families (not just 3000 people, but entire families) living in a 5 acre area) will probably not have dinner, and will play and sleep in the dirt and mud and garbage….an area that is absolutely unimaginable for us. How they can be so happy and so loving and so filled with joy when living the way that they have to live is completely beyond me.
After the excitement settled down, we all got ready to run our stations at the school. Today Nate, Caleb and I were in charge of the outdoor activities. So we taught the kids how to play ‘duck duck goose’, we did relay races, we played red light/green light, we tossed footballs around and kicked soccer balls around, but by far the most fun was the huge parachute. I remember doing this in elementary school and how fun it was back then. Well, it was just as fun today, if not more so. Even though the parachute had a large rip near the middle, we were still able to get it to work just fine.
The first group of kids to come to our station (they rotated among five stations during the day) were some of the littles ones. Probably 6 years old or so. But they are fairly good at following directions (you’ll see why I didn’t say “very good” at following directions soon). They have this little two-way chant that the teachers taught them. Teacher : “one two”
Students: “make a circle”
Teacher: “three four”
Students: “a big circle”
After a few times repeating that chant, the kids are all perfectly formed into a big circle and holding onto the parachute. We all bend down and squatting and get two hands on the parachute. Then it’s supposed to be “1, 2, 3” and we all stand up and start moving the parachute up and down. Well, that’s not what the little kids do. As soon as we all got in that circle and grabbed on to the parachute and said “1, 2, 3” we all stand up and lift the parachute up and the kids instantly let go of the chute and run into the middle underneath it and start jumping up and down trying to touch the parachute up above them and yelling and screaming and laughing! It was hilarious and Nate and Caleb and I could not stop laughing. Nate has some great video of it as he’s hanging on with one hand onto the parachute and trying to take a video with the other.
We made it through the day at the school and it was a complete blast. I got to talk to many of the teachers. They are all so nice and so beautiful and are just wonderful, caring teachers for these kids. And the kids….well you cannot walk around the school with at least 2 or 3 kids fighting to hold your hand. And the minute you crouch down to talk to one of them or take their picture you are bombarded with 20 others who just want to touch you and hug you and look at you and rub your hair.
After our exhausting but completely enjoyable day at the school we went back to the orphanage for a brief time. What I will remember most is Pastor Richard gathering Brian, Clinton, and Nancy and pulling them aside and letting me give the backpacks stuffed with gifts and clothes that I brought over for them. And I told them, and Pastor Richard translated for me, that I was so happy to meet them and so happy to see them and that Denise misses them terribly and that they are loved by us and that they are thought of often. And then I sat down next to Nancy and I showed her the cute little animal backpack I brought over and all of the goodies inside and she just smiled and said thank you and then smiled some more and said thank you and she was just so sweet and I don’t think she had ever received a gift before in her life! Then I sat down next to Brian and gave him his hot wheel backpack filled with clothes and books and toys. And he just smiled and smiled and wouldn’t stop. And then I gave Clinton his backpack and showed him the Legos I brought over and explained that Legos are a building toy …. kinda like a puzzle. And I showed him his new clothes (perhaps the only new clothes he has ever been given) and his books for reading, and the photo album of all three of them and also of pictures of their family in Indiana with pictures of us and Gabe and Joe and Franklin ….I think they were confused as to why we would have a picture of our dog :). And I told them….trembling as i type this….that we will always be thinking of them and praying for them that they are safe and healthy and happy and that we cannot wait to come back and see them again….