Monday, August 24, 2009

And then there was singing...

[Posted for Marie Harkey-- Chris A. Marie wrote this Saturday night.]

It will surprise none of you who know me that hearing a group of kids singing makes me cry. Hell, I cried at my students' choir concerts when I taught high school. But a bunch of Kenyan children at an orphan feeding program on a Saturday morning? Call me a goner.

The orphan feeding program is run by the Mother's Union of a parish (which is a group of churches here in Kenya). They are sort of like our ECW - the women of the church. We visited two different churches in Luanda, a market town near here. At the first, the kids were grouped into classes by age, learning different English lessons and math. We wandered from group to group and amazingly, although it was clear that our arrival caused some stir, the kids kept working. By the time we had had tea with the volunteers (tiny bananas, ground nuts, aka peanuts, and tea), the kids were done with their lessons and we got to go out to play. Carlos, a resident who's doing a one-month rotation at Maseno Hospital with Gary Hardison, brought out bubbles
and stickers and suddenly the wazungu were the most popular people going.

It was such fun to see all this beautiful faces laughing and smiling and running after the bubbles that we and they were blowing. And not one of them could get enough stickers, even when I teased that I would put them on their noses.

And then we all piled in the car to leave and that's when it happened. All those kids gathered up in a big crowd beside our car and started singing and waving. And suddenly, the role of Lady Bountiful of the Bubbles didn't seem to be nearly enough to overcome all that I could imagine in these children's lives.

The "Orphan Feeding Program" was started for children who have lost at least 1 parent to HIV/AIDS. Most of them live with aunts or grandmothers, and there are some who live in child-headed households. Every Saturday the program provides them with breakfast, a hot lunch, some school instruction (because many of them can't get uniforms or fees necessary to go to school), and some play time.

I couldn't help but notice the contrast between the after-school programs that I've worked with that hope to provide kids with at least one hot meal a DAY and the Orphan Feeding Program here that hopes to provide these children with one hot meal a WEEK. Nan says it's made a huge difference in the kids' health and energy level. Imagine, just one a week.

I guess it's true that once you've seen things for yourself, they take on huge significance. If you want to donate to the Orphan Feeding Program, here's the website. I'll be bringing some Kenyan kids home in my heart. Hope they can work their way into yours as well.

Love from Maseno,



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