Nairobi Day 1

Martha and Agnes

It was an odyssey getting here, but I am here. Without luggage, but safe. One of the biggest impressions I had of Kenya the last time I was here is of how friendly the people are everywhere you go. When I was without luggage and only questions, every person I talked to smiled as if they might be your best friend or a loving relative, with a personal warmth and a sincere desire to find out what you need and how they can help. It is rare and refreshing in a foreign culture to find such a general sense of this. Hakuna matata. Let’s be friends. What can we do?

I had the first meeting today with the woman who started the orphanage in the Kibera Slums, Agnes Musau and her wonderful assistant Martha. We started the process of organizing plans for the 30 people who will be here in a couple of days, who to arrange it so each will be productively, effectively and satisfactorily involved with the projects of the orphanage, which range from building to working with the children in classrooms and on field trips.

I am told that the Kibera Slums area of Nairobi is about the size of Central Park in NYC, and that more than a million people live there in utter poverty. Agnes herself moved to the slum from a different slum when she was 14. Some time in her growing into young adulthood she realized that no one was standing up for the rights of the children in this slum and that she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t. Agnes had her own child she couldn’t afford to feed and education, but kept finding other children who were abandoned, consistently abused, starved, raped, orphaned, castrated without medical care, who had no one defend them. She had had this experience growing up, and could not bear to see another suffer in that same way. She began to knock on government doors every day, hearing the answer – she couldn’t do anything about this. She began to believe them that she couldn’t do anything about it. But, she told me today, one couple she met watched her fire and spirit and told her, “You can do this. This is yours to do. You can!” She decided to believe them. She knocked on government doors every day, got turned away and came back the next day. She found ways to bring abusers to justice and remove children to safety. She is feeding 260 children 3 meals a day and working to educate them, train their caretakers, and house the ones who have no guardians in this world. She fights the fight every day of her life to give these children a chance at life. Agnes told me she has made enemies in government and other areas and worries for her own safety, but says if she has to die defending the rights of these children then that is how she will die. Her heart is 100% invested, and I can tell she is tireless and fearless.

Both Martha and Agnes talked about the fact that these children have been so neglected and traumatized that their healing involves people – anyone – acknowledging that they are wonderful, they deserve love, they are interesting to the world. Whatever else we do, to be with these children and acknowledge them is the most important. There are projects planned, and I offered to work with the kids in groups to listen to them and get them talking to and listening to each other. We may be able to work this out too.

I marvel at whatever forces of God and nature bring people together in these ways. Here we are.

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