Kenya 2010, I remember the following week when I visited the feeding station for the very first time
Such an overwhelming sight of nearly 2000 children lining up for some food. How is this humanly possible?? I heard about it but really never knew what to expect.
My first feeling…ANGER. When I arrived I saw children in dishevelled clothing carrying their small siblings on their backs knowing that if they just risk the 3+ mile walk then they will get an extra bag of flour, and a banana! SERIOUSLY what is this world thinking?? Allowing this to happen.
I remember taking out my camera and hiding behind the lense with tears running down my face, worried that someone would think I was weak. My legs feeling like they wanted to buckle beneath me. I had to be strong, because no one else was crying. I had to try and hold it together but in that very moment I wanted to Scream WHY? Really loud.
I could see a set of tables which had a row of volunteers all giving up their time, to serve food to the beautiful poverty stricken children. The local ladies serving in cleaning the large plates, working very hard to help. The project is through the Indian community that ask for no government funding but from the goodness of their souls. Each child receives a plate that serves FOUR children consisting of beans and rice. Afterwards they receive a cup of juice, the flour and banana on the way out.
I could hear the children saying 'JAMBO' as they passed me. But personally at this stage I felt embarrassed if I am honest with you. I kept my head down or now when I look back was I ashamed? I put my camera down, and started helping push the plates along the human chain that formed. Sometimes catching the eye of a passing child. By the end of serving I felt I could offer a smile and received them in return. It was so very humbling.
I walked into the covered area and all of the children were singing. Wow what a beautiful sound. All in unison and clapping.
They had just eaten and were so happy. Some children wouldn't meet my eye, but looked down to the floor. My heart was beating hard and I couldn't really understand the feeling that I had. It was intense. The children finished singing and in single file, and calmly, then formed a queue waiting for their juice.
I remember going back to my lodgings at Lioness, and just laying there. Trying to recall every detail and trying to process what just happened. Asking questions as to Why this is allowed to happen? Why if there was a God why would he allow this to happen?? I felt awful in myself that materialistic possessions seemed so important.
I laid there and cried and felt very helpless at that point.
This experience also intensified the feeling I had, the burning desire to help Africa and to help towards the fight against Poverty. How I was going to do this, I had no idea!
The week continued and I visited the childrens' School. It was a dark classroom with no lights. Wooden tables and seats and a chalk board for the teacher to write on. As the children filed in, I couldn't believe how immaculate their uniforms were. I watched as they took out their books, some not in a particularly great state but some so carefully kept in plastic bags. I was quite taken aback by the stumps they had for pencils! Ground down till their last possible use.
I sat at the back of the classroom very apprehensive about the day ahead. I was warmly greeted by the teacher who got the children to sing for me. All clapping happily and singing praises to 'God'. I felt myself thinking he had let me down in so many ways in the past and after having seeing the feeding station, it was very confusing times for me. I felt bitter. I just about forced myself to start clapping but by the end of the songs I felt myself in the moment with the music. With the children laughing and pulling faces, and getting into the rhythm.
The class was Social Studies and it felt awkward as they spoke about their country and poverty. That the crops don't grow easily. Then I realised it was only the awkwardness I felt, not that of the childrens feelings. I realised later in the life that for the children it is a matter of survival and truth by telling the children this information.
THE red pen.
The class continued and I was handed a red pen by the teacher. She wanted me to mark the English books! I am no teacher, but this surely couldn't be too hard? I marked the papers and I drew a smiley face on a childs paper who got 100%. The smile on their face when I handed it back to them was so amazing. The pride evident and they pointed to the face and continued to smile. I then got a bit carried away in drawing silly faces on each childs paper no matter what they scored and it created laughter in the room. I later found out from the teacher that they have never done that before and that the red pen was the only one she had!! She was so happy though that I made her children laugh and thanked me. I really didn't realise the extent of this until after, when I realised how precious that red ink really was. The day in itself I can never forget. The children coming up to me at their break time to shake the 'Mzungus' hand. I was surrounded by such lovely smiley faces.
The week was drawing to an end and I was hanging on every minute with the children of Lioness. Just sitting there doing their homework, or helping them into their beds at the end of an evening was precious.
One moment that really does stay in my mind is helping Faith in the bathroom washing her face and brushing her teeth before bed. I scooped her up and placed her on the side of the sink.
I take some soap and cloth and start to wash her face. I then blow a bubble on my hand towards her and she looked startled. I did it again, and she smiles wanting to learn how! I realise then that I have probably made a mistake as she would probably now waste the soap!! I was so naive back then! But it was just a moment I wanted to stay in. It made her smile and thats all that mattered then. She let out this cheeky little laugh and tried to blow bubbles through her hand, but couldn't fathom out why it wasn't working; it was because she released her thumb and finger before she could get the bubble out!! Suffice to say the getting ready for bed took a little longer than it should have!!
I tuck Faith into bed and just watched as she fell asleep, with stinging in my eyes, but knowing full well by this time that it wouldn't be the last time I saw this little girl, or the rest of the children……..….