After a 2 hour, 250 shilling, 40 kilometer bus ride through rolling hills and scenic farm land, Matt, Roxy, and I arrived in Njabini, Kenya to visit one of our scholarship partners, Flying Kites, and their four students on The School Fund website, James, Hannah, Anne, and Francis.
Our drive to Njabini was one I personally will never forget. The sight of the Great Rift Valley was amazing; a scene usually depicted in a postcard was made even more spectacular when seen in plain sight. At the end of the ride we found ourselves in a place very different from Nairobi, lacking its heat and mosquitoes, Njabini was much colder, natural for a city based at the beginning of a mountain range.
We were first greeted by a Flying Kites representative at the bus station, and taken to their compound, about a 2 kilometer walk up hill. Passing surprisingly beautiful potato gardens, undulating green farm land, and children yelling “how are you?” (when a “mouzungo” or foreigner passes children usually greet them with the only English phrase they know) we reached the gates of the Flying Kites orphanage. Upon entry we were quickly overwhelmed by a rush of 27 children wanting to greet their new visitors. The inquisitive children barraged me with questions asking me my name, if I knew Kiswahili, how long we would be staying, etc. For the rest of the day we played soccer and jumped rope with the children who are all between the ages of 8-16.
During our stay we learned much more about our partner organization, Flying Kites. We were impressed with the structure of life at Flying Kites where organized readings, homework, supper and bedtime were key to providing routine and stability for the residents. Kids were also responsible for cleaning, washing clothes, fixing the chicken and rabbit cages, cooking, and making the fire. Along with the orphans that live in their fairly large compound, Flying Kites has over 1500 kids participating in their outreach program, and have a very strong community outreach and involvement programs, positively affecting all of Njabini. The nearly four year old organization is expanding its reach and finishing construction on a school and health clinic. What we were the most impressed with, however, is the large number of devoted volunteers living with the children coordinating activities and serving as mentors and playmates for the children. The competitive volunteer program brings college and graduate students from all over the U.S. and Canada.
One of the main goals and personally my favorite part of the trip was getting to sit down with and actually get to know the four students on The School Fund website. Roxy, Matt I each helped them write a journal post. By the end of our stay, I could say I was very good friends with Francis, Anne, James, and Hannah. Sixteen year old Francis, the eldest of all of the students in the orphanage, is someone I will never forget. Despite all of the challenges he has faced, he is first in his class, and a true success story. Francis is a role model to all the younger children at the orphanage, and not only inspiring to me, but is a constant source of encouragement to an entire community.
Although we only stayed for one day, there were many moments I will never forget. In getting to know many of these kids, as briefly as it was, it became easy to overlook the hardships they had once had, their yearning to play and innocent laugher many times obscured the fact that these children although many not even teenagers have had very rough days in their past that would be hard for most to imagine. Yet through a loving home, provided by Flying Kites, they are able to become children again, and not only pursue an education but excel while doing so.
Post written by Saeed Hassan.