Hi! Sorry that we haven’t posted a blog recently. We have been on a little adventure. On Friday morning we left Neema accompanied by Joshua, Miriam, a guard, and a caretaker, as well as Boniface, Diana, Margaret, Paul, and Sharron to go to a different area of Kenya called Makueni. Makueni is Joshua and Miriam’s home town. Joshua’s parents live there and they have a couple outreach programs there as well. It is a loooong journey. We woke up at four in the morning (bleh) and arrived at the Mbithi homestead at around two in the afternoon.
Makueni has a different environment as well as a different culture than Eldoret. It is much more rural area and very poor. One of the large reasons for this poverty is the lack of water in the area. It is extremely dry there. The land is covered in sand-like dirt and brittle leafless trees. Most of the people we drove by on the road were hauling jugs of water. Even though it is so dry, the land is also very beautiful. Wherever we were during our stay, we always had a breathtaking view of the mountain range. There were also many bright flowered trees randomly found in the sea of brown. The contrast made them even more stunning.
The first day there we didn’t really do much except play with the kids in the dirt. How can I describe the children during this trip?....CRAZY. I don’t know what it was about Makueni. Maybe it’s something in the air or possibly just the excitement of being in a new place without the rest of the Neema kids that made all five of the children practically explode with energy and excitement. Seriously, they were more like blurs than children. Callie and I took to hiding in our rooms when they were particularly hyper.
The next day we accompanied Joshua and Miriam to check up on their land. They own a fairly large piece of land there and they plan on using it for an exciting project: Neema Makueni. They hope that this new Neema will be larger than the Neema in Eldoret (corresponding to the poverty there vs. that of Eldoret). It’s a fairly large property; about 40 acres. Miriam told us that the climate there makes it possible to produce good fruit year round (that is, if you can find enough water) and she wants to plant many fruit trees to go along with the lemon trees that are already there. The Mbithis would still live at Eldoret’s Neema and hire people to help run the new Neema. I’m not sure how Joshua sleeps at night with all this planning going on in his head. Actually, I’m pretty positive he doesn’t sleep at all. That’s the only way to explain how he gets everything done.
Another reason that the Mbithis come to Makueni is to check on the children they sponsor and their families as well as meet with people who have applied for their help. After inspecting the property, Joshua told us that we would be paying a visit to a very bright little girl named Roslyn who they’ve been sponsoring for some time. The last time Joshua visited this family, he had believed that the girl’s mother was going to die very soon. The mother is infected with AIDS and Roslyn is HIV positive. We were happy to discover that she has improved and will be able to take care of her kids for at least a little bit longer. When we arrived we were greeted by seven children as well as Roslyn who immediately asked if she could recite a poem for us. She began: “Ladies and Gentlemen, The young student who stands before you is called Roslyn. I have prepared a poem for you to listen to so sit back, relax, and please enjoy.” She went on to recite a poem, in perfect English, about the difficulties she has with school. The poem told us of how hard it was to get to school on time because of the distance she had to run. It also described her problems concentrating on an empty stomach. She told us that when her mother couldn’t pay the school fees she was sent home and when she was finally able to return the rest of the class was already four topics ahead. At the end of the poem she discussed how even with an education, her older relatives were still unable to find work and it probably won’t be different for her after she graduates. She performed the piece in a loud clear voice along with motions and hand gestures. Callie and I were surprised and amazed (we had not been expecting that) and we raced back to the van to get the camera and asked her to do it again.
We went on more home visits as the trip went on. Sunday was a sunny day, but not too hot, and Joshua decided that we would walk to visit a family he hadn’t been able to see in a while. It was good to get some exercise and be able to appreciate our surroundings instead of just whooshing by them. Another benefit of walking was that we got to talk to more people. We mostly saw children on the path. Even though Joshua didn’t know the children specifically, he knows pretty much every family in the area and always chatted with the kids for a few minutes. The sense of community and belonging was nice. We could tell that Joshua was ecstatic to be home with his people, in his favored climate, and speaking his own language.
When we arrived at the homestead tons of children, and some teens, gathered to stare at us while Joshua talked to the grandma. The grandmother was very shaky and didn’t look well but she seemed really happy to see Joshua and have someone to listen to her problems. Throughout the weekend Joshua kept reminding us that people really love and appreciate being listened to and knowing that someone cares about them. He said that even when he can’t give anything to help their physical state, he always listens.
Joshua doesn’t continuously support this family because there are so many children and he can’t afford to help all of them. He has, however, provided support for one of the boys who needs special attention. When this boy was six years old he fell out of a tree and landed with a thorn in his ankle. His parents have both died (his guardian is his grandmother) and his family doesn’t believe in the use of modern medicine. Because of this, the puncture became infected and eventually started emitting puss and blood. The infection spread to the rest of the foot and, three years after he had fallen, part of the boy’s ankle bone fell out. When this happened it became too painful for him to walk to school and he was forced to drop out. Now, five years after he initially received the injury, his foot is still painful and infected. His grandmother would take him to the hospital but she is too ill and the visit would be too expensive.
It is difficult to see these things. I feel so overwhelmed by their problems and my inability to do anything. I can’t even listen to them like Joshua! Before we left for Kenya I was talking to my youth minister (Anne!) about the trip and how I feared that Callie and I wouldn’t be able to do much to help the people we saw. She told me that just being present would help. I thought about that conversation on these visits; hopefully it’s true.
Even though I visited these homes, shook the family’s hands, saw their injuries, and was told of their stories, I still don’t know them. I can’t talk to them. I don’t know their quirks and their likes and dislikes. I still can’t really think of them as people because I just know them as faces and stories. I am touched by their stories and appreciate the opportunity to meet them, but It really made me appreciate the relationships I’ve formed at Neema and the reason that Callie and I came back to Kenya in the first place: to really get to know the people and culture. When you get to know the personalities behind the stories; that’s when they feel real and I think we (and maybe the people we meet) get so much more from the experience.
P.S. I was horrified to notice an odd-looking bump on my arm while driving back to Eldoret Yup, I have ringworm. I suppose I shouldn’t have mocked Callie…
P.P.S. Sorry I couldn't post pictures last time. Our internet is a bit fussy. We'll try to get them up eventually