I recently came back from East Africa after exploring the region on the 15-day Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas trip. One of my stand-out experiences was the time we spent at the East Africa Mission Orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya. Here's a bit about how I spent my time at this special place...
Our truck slowly bounced along the road as we pulled up to our campsite on the edge of the orphanage. We set up our tents as a group of kids gathered just down the hill, at the end of the school buildings. This group slowly grew and after a while a few kids got up the guts to give us a wave, we waved back and the excitement began to grow. After our camp set up was taken care of it was finally time to meet the kids. And before we knew it the kids were running towards us with their arms wide open! It was a moment of pure mayhem as each child scrambled to find the hand of an adult to grab hold of.
My hands were snatched up quickly by two boys whose smiles I will never forget – Julius and Raphael. They took my hands and we started walking. I asked their names and ages and Julius asked mine, but Raphael kept on looking at me without saying a word. After asking Raphael more questions without getting a response, Julius told me Raphael did not speak much English and he had only arrived at the orphanage recently. I was fascinated to find out more about the backgrounds of these two kids.
The next day after our game drive in Lake Nakuru National Park we pulled into the orphanage to an awaiting crowd of kids. They were waving and each of us could hear our name being called! It was the best greeting I had ever received! We greeted the kids and Julius and Raphael had found me again. This time the action was down at the soccer field with a Gecko’s vs Kids match on for all of us to watch or participate in. And for those of us who chose to sit the match out we cheered the teams on as the younger girls built up the courage to come over to us and start braiding our hair without so much as a hello! They struggled with our ‘mzungu’ (white person) hair and would break out in a fit of giggles every now and then, while we had no idea what was so funny!
That night a volunteer at the orphanage came to chat to us after dinner. She gave us a folder to look up the stories of the kids we had met. One by one as the folder was passed around we found out how these kids had come to be at the orphanage. Each of their horrific stories was right there in front of us, contained in only two sentences. Some had come from displacement camps and others were there because their parents were in jail. I don’t think many of us got much sleep that night as the reality of orphanage-life took hold.
When it came to saying goodbye the next morning everyone in the group was dreading the thought of driving away. After packing up our camp, with the kids waiting in their usual spot, watching on, they guided us into the dining hall for their morning prayers. I sat in between Julius and Raphael. Julius sat with his legs crossed like a wise old man singing along, while Raphael held my hand and rested his head on my shoulder. This is the difference a place like EAMO can make to a child's life, over time with love, attention and affection lives can be transformed. It’s an encounter I won’t ever forget.
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