Recently I was privileged to go Kenya, Africa to do a project there. I journeyed there with eleven other women, ten from Australia and one from New Zealand. It was just too much of an amazing experience not to share it more widely.
I have been thinking a lot about the experience since, and have been telling a lot of people about what happened in this African country.
I had always wanted to go to Africa but I never thought it would become a reality. One of my friends messaged me about this project and I applied and got accepted. We had training sessions once a month to learn and plan as much as we possibly could before we went over. I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest. Once we got there it was a whole new world, culture and experience. It changed the way I thought of things such as what we eat and how much we waste, and even the things we talk about and waste thinking about. When there are more relevant cares such as what one will eat that day, rather than what someone said or what to wear, it makes these things look so trivial.
There are so many things I could write about but I will only include one story here. I can always tell more things later. One of the things that struck me was the politeness of the children. I am a teacher so I do notice these things. Especially the teenage boys! They were especially polite and not cheeky at all! Boys in Western countries around twelve or thirteen are very cheeky and will second guess anything you tell them to do. Not these boys! They listen attentively to every word you say and reply with “yes teacher” afterwards. This was a major blessing for me. Another experience that further highlights this is when we did a home visit to two of the boy’s homes, who were brothers. We were walking along the street to his house and I saw a shop and remarked “this is a nice shop, does your mum shop here?” The boy replied “no, my mother is not alive” I was so shocked and didn’t know what to say. I don’t do well in these situations. My only response was “my Uncle also passed away when I was little”. I felt that he was more capable of supporting me, than I was of him. Pretty sure it should be the other way around! I think because death is a more common thing for these children, that they are able to deal with it better and support people.
This same boy had a brother who was slightly younger and the two were going off to high school the next year. There is no help or support for them there. You try your very hardest to get the marks you need and get into a good school or you don’t. Fullstop! It is not like Western countries where the Government will support you if you don’t have an income or a good job. These children literally have to work hard to survive. There is no other option! And that means studying hard!
One of the ladies who was with me, a Kenyan herself, was telling the boys a plan of how they could get their desired marks in order to get into the school they wanted to. I could tell that getting into this school was detrimental and that it would influence the boys futures dramatically. My friend proceeded to ask both brothers their grades and then she encouraged them to aim higher! I feel like African women are good at doing this. They are harsh but gentle at the same time. But it is harsh enough that the message is pushed in a way that makes you want to strive really hard in order to achieve it. That is what these kids really need. If they got 20/30 in a subject she would say “Not good enough! You should be getting 30/30,” especially in religion because their Father is a pastor. I was just listening to my friend and imagining how a child in a Western country would respond.
She was telling the boys that they needed to wake up at 2am and first read the Bible so that it would help them to study, next would be two hours of Mathematics and one hour of English. She told the boys that they should fast from friends and technology similar to how you would fast from food. She said do not worry about friends as they will be exactly where you left them when you come back. She reinforced them by saying that “these four months are the rest of your lives. If you do well in your exams, it will set you up for the rest of your lives.” I could really see the impact this would have on the boys and their entire lives and changing the cycle of poverty in their family. Their Mother had died from curable things, stomach ulcers and typhoid. This means that they lived in a poor area and probably didn’t have access to clean drinking water. I was amazed by the boys response to this speech. They are only twelve and thirteen. They were nodding the whole time and replying “yes” to everything my friend was saying to them. They realised the importance of what she was saying and the relevance of it all. Meanwhile I had tears in my eyes and was a little overwhelmed by the whole situation and the man who was also with us on this visit suggested “should we say a prayer?” I kind of snapped out of the state I was in an said “sure”. To match his prayer was equally emotional and powerful, evoking the boys to try hard, to do well in their exams and to help the family and keep them safe. My friend was in tears by the end of this prayer and could not hide it as well!
It was these kind of experiences that puts everything into perspective. I didn’t want to tell everything in one post so I have told one story that has changed the way I look at things and think about everyday situations. When you meet twelve and thirteen year old boys like these in Kenya who have been through so much and are supporting their Dad and themselves, you can’t help but change. They are going to school and trying their very best in being able to go to the high school that they want, that will change their entire future. These children are truly amazing!
One thing that is so important here, is that I went into Kenya hoping to help the children and people there and instead I came away with a world of experiences and a changed person! They helped me in more ways than they can know and I will be eternally grateful.