Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kenya 2015 - highlights and stories.

Here are some highlights and stories from our trip.  
There were so many significant moments, conversations and hugs. 

The most significant thing I am left with is the impact of dedication & longevity. 
Mary and Wallace started the original school with 50 preschool kids. Now there are schools all over the Mathare Valley with over 13,000 kids (if I remember right). Friends, this is huge. When I first traveled to Kenya in 2007, the site with the original school was very dark. There was a lot of violence, kids high on glue to suppress hunger, drunkenness, loss of hope. There was sewage and trash everywhere with little access to clean water. 
But NOW... 
Now 13,000 kids get 2 meals, education, a chance to know the God that loves them so much, opportunity for a future, loving teachers and more. 
Their families have an opportunity to learn a trade and improve their families life. 
People are safe. Healthy. Making wise choices for a good future. 
The government has noticed this community and is planting community gardens to fund public restrooms, police stations and more. Trash piles that ran the length of a block are gone. 
This is great. And it is because of deep, long term commitment from so many people. 

What is most amazing is the slums of Mathare Valley, with some of the poorest people in the world living in the worst conditions, won't be what they are in our lifetime. As this generation of students go to college, graduate, find stable jobs and have healthy families this epidemic can end. I am honored for the part I have been able to play in this community and the impact I see as God does huge things here. 

So, here are some highlights..

As soon as we landed we began with a HUGE, energetic, love filled welcome ceremony from the students at the main school in Pangani. 

The community garden bringing much needed value and change

Welcome ceremonies at Joska - the girls boarding school. They go ALL out with energy, joy and love. 

High fives go a long way.

Littles in their classroom. 

Line drying clothes are seen all over Nairobi. 

Hold hands, chant and run in a circle forever = joy.

Sing & dance. How cute are these ladies? Also, I can't handle how cute these beanies are. 

Take our picture!

This is a pretty typical lunch. Rice, meat stew, veggies, chompati and fruit. It's different than our food here and the meat makes people iffy. When one of the students saw this picture on my camera she asked, "This is your lunch?" with longing. They get a meal of beans and rice typically and this was deeply desired. It really puts our attitude into perspective.

The girls dorm area. They have a bed and a "metal box" (trunk) of belongings. That's it. And they are SO grateful.

The girls just grab your hand and say, "Come sit and talk with us". Such deep value in simple presence. 

Shanti homes and a river of trash, etc. dividing these communities. 

This girl brought tears to my eyes. She commanded an ROTC type routine with her school. Her strong ability to lead, her confidence and her strength were overwhelming. A young woman who otherwise would be very limited in her future and her confidence becoming so strong, wise and ambitious really gets my heart pumped!

We took food boxes to homes with people who have been bedridden due to a medical condition. This really broke my heart. Many of these were fairly simple medical situations that they didn't have the money or opportunity for medical care. I am talking stuff that is an antibiotic or cast away from healing that has kept people in bed unable to work for years. I am not done processing this and what I do now. But I am grateful we were able to provide much needed food and personal care items along with prayer and encouragement for them.  I am so thankful for the community social workers who keep in touch with them and bring presence.

This was so heavy. I was in no way as strong as these women who walk effortlessly like this. I was smiling initially and then convincing myself not to give up. 

Our sponsor girl, Lydia. It was my 2 time spending time with her. She is so quiet and shy but her huge smile when she saw me was so meaningful. Sponsorship is more than just food and school. It means so much to these kids to know someone has chosen them as family.

Dance, sing, dance!

Another project was Bring the Light - solar lights that bring light to homes that are completely dark all day. They also charge cell phones which is life changing as most people have to pay for a charge.  These things are pretty amazing.

They were riding a motorbike (pretending) but turned so serious for their photo opp.

Our sponsor kids get new uniforms and backpacks. These green sweaters look so great on them! When you see their sweaters with holes that show their whole shoulder you see how valuable a sweater is. 

Hannah and her beautiful sponsor girl. Seeing her love for the Swaney family as her own was beautiful. 

The dinner part to celebrate our final day of ministry. Man, they can sign and dance. 

The view of the Matahre Valley from the 4th floor of the school.

These people.. I am so grateful for them. 

Judy! She brings all energy, all the time and it is so good. 

Team mates, friends, much needed partners in this trip.

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