So after much organisation, time, fundraising, excitement and energy we finally arrived in Mombasa. It was a beautiful morning in October and we were delighted to see Uncle Kevin but were not really prepared for the hustle and bustle, it was only 6am!! There were people everywhere busy going to work, walking to school, wheeling and dealing, carrying water, pushing carts, so many people. And that’s how it started and how it was for the next 16 wonderful days that we spent with Papa Kevin and Mama Mary.
Looking back now it’s difficult to make sense of all the experiences we had, I can tell you we have had many conversations trying. It is therefore difficult to know what to include in our Family Blog. The Feeding Station really has had an impact on us all. It was a very humbling and emotional experience. 1200 hundred children of all ages queuing for a tray of rice and beans to share between four. It’s so hard to find words to describe what this looks like but we are asking why is it that in 2013 children are having to walk miles, with their baby siblings strapped on their backs meal that may be all they get until they come back the following week!
Our arrival at The Good Life Orphanage in contrast was truly wonderful. Here there are 62 healthy, happy, busy, vibrant children being cared for by a wonderful, committed group of people. We have been hearing about the GLO since before the first piece of earth was dug and we felt very privileged to finally be there. The busy theme continues, caring for so many children is not an easy task. The responsibility and dedication demonstrated by the Mama’s and Aunties was amazing.
Even though we wanted to spend all our time with the children in the GLO we were delighted to have the opportunity to visit a number of schools. All the schools were very different from our schools in N.Ireland but also very different from each other. We enjoyed a delightful morning in the Loreto School in Mombasa. Sister Gertrude welcomed us at the morning assembly and we even had to introduce ourselves to the whole school! The music and singing was wonderful. The children were very interested and keen to get talking to us which made us feel very welcome. When it was time to leave we couldn’t find everyone, some of us wanted to stay.
The next school was in Shanzu village. This school was important to us as we knew about it from Granda Pat who had been involved in the re-building project organised by Kevin and Mary in 2005. Mikiroshoni Primary School is a small busy school providing education to children in a particularly deprived area. These children were not as confident as the Loreto children but still very welcoming. They were much poorer and life very difficult. To be-able to go to school is a life-line, a chance for surivival.
In Shanzu village we met a remarkable woman who had suffered from Leprosy but still has to go to work in order to earn a few bob to feed herself & her family. We have talked lots about her but one part of our visit that we won’t forget was her need to ensure that we all had seats to sit, we were her guests!
Back to the GLO and the chance to visit another very special school. As visitors we were allowed to take the short cut through the wonderful vegetable plot, past the chickens, cows and bananas through an opening and wow! There it is, St Bernadette Mary School which provides education to 350 very lucky children. We were even lucky enough to be there at the closing day of the school year where Neema Kazunga was chosen as the pupil who embodies The Spirit of St Bernadette Mary School and we presented her with her chosen gift, a pregnant goat, a little bit different from prizegiving as we know it.
As a family we managed to raise over £1,200 in donations from very generous friends, family and supporters of The Good Life Orphanage through various fundraising events, we know this money will be spent wisely on the project with the children’s wellbeing the No1 priority. Co.Tyrone has very close links with the orphanage as both Papa Kevin & Mama Mary come from Dromore, it was a pleasure to hand over the cheques to Madam Mercy, the Manager.
On our return home Roisin had the opportunity to put a piece into her Year 12 Newsletter alongside a photo of herself with and the charming Lawrence she wrote “This experience has taught me to be grateful …in Ireland we take education for granted. This is the only free school in the area offering these children a future”.
It wasn’t all hard work and eating rice and beans. We enjoyed a few nice meals out but even this was challenging. Something we don’t see here but did see in Kenya was very beautiful young Kenyan women sitting with older white men. There were lots of question’s and discussion about this. Papa Kevin asked which should they choose, to be at home poor with no food or out with an older man getting nice food and clothes. Anton replied “they shouldn’t have to choose either”, a very sensible and thought provoking answer.
As we prepared to go on our trip many people said they were surprised that we were taking the children to an orphanage in Kenya. Yes they were exposed to some very difficult sights but this has been the most positive experience for us as a family and individually. Papa Kevin and Mama Mary have created a truly wonderful home for a group of truly wonderful children. When asked what’s your best moment of our trip Sinead said “the way we connected with the children”.
We believe this is because they are loved and cared for dearly and are therefore able to love and care about those who visit and spend time with them. We thought we would be the ones giving but they embraced and gave to us.
Fionnghuala continues to feel very emotional about her time at The GLO and continues to protest ‘why did we have to come home, why could we not have spent more time with the children?’ And so again when it was time to leave some of us wanted to stay.