Today finds us sitting outside our hut in the Amboseli National Park looking at Mount Kilimanjaro across a field of grazing elephants, zebras and wildebeests. We are resting up for our long journey home while processing all that we have seen over the past weeks.
As we left you in our first letter we were preparing for our second full week in Kakamega. On Monday the 19th we headed to Itegero Primary School which is where Suitcases for Africa started its first program. We arrived as the children had just been dismissed and were on their way home. The children spotted the van, realized who it was and en mass escorted us back to the school singing and cheering while running beside the van. What a welcome! Unfortunately for the staff the students sat on the grass and refused to go home until they had greeted us. Due to the newly formed music program, funded by Suitcases For Africa, we were treated to a performance by the student choir. This is the first choir to be formed at the school and it is already winning acclaim. The choir was accompanied by traditional African drums & a guitar. The funds for the instruments were raised by Hilary Adams. The Ebi Kimanani Memorial Library looks fabulous with new shelving, a new ceiling and fresh paint. The new Music Section is well stocked thanks to the numerous recorders, tambourines and various small instruments that we brought in suitcases on this trip. The whole library is a far cry from the one we saw initially in 2006. At that time it was a storage room with a leaky roof and chickens wandering through.
Our visit to St. Ursula was a pure delight. After loading the van with HUNDREDS of multi coloured squares knitted by dozens and dozens of our caring supporters we set off to visit the disabled children at this special school. No sooner had the gate opened when a young student opened the passenger door of the van and just crawled right in. It was heartwarming to see so many of our little friends looking so well and so happy. We scattered the squares on mats on the floor and were delighted to see the joy on the faces of the staff and the students as they chose their favourite colours and began to sew together their own blankets. The sheer determination, focus and patience were evident on all the faces. As their blankets began to form the children were exhilarated and proud. Even those who could barely hold a needle due to crippled or rigid fingers persisted beyond our wildest expectation. The lunch bell rang, which is normally the highlight of their day, and not one child moved! What a rewarding project this has been. Thank you for all the love that was transferred to these amazing children stitch by stitch by stitch.
The Beraldo Family had the privilege of experiencing firsthand the powerful tribute that was paid to the late Rosario Castrogiovanni. The ceremony included the blessing and opening of a community well constructed in his memory at Sacred Shrine. Emotions ran high as the water flowed. We also celebrated the opening of a chicken coop built for the community by Suitcases For Africa supporters. This was the third chicken coop of this trip. Local musicians and students entertained us with dancing and music. A group of Community Healthcare Workers ended the festivities with a moving song entitled “Suitcases For Africa”. They had written this song as a tribute to the changes brought about in their community thanks to our projects and we were all moved to tears!
We have just been distracted by galloping zebras a few yards away!!
One of our last official visits was to say goodbye to all of our friends at Mukumu Home. Hilary had the opportunity to hand deliver 37 dolls that were made by students at St. Edmunds School and each doll had a handwritten message inside. The kids were thrilled. Lucas, Alexis and Hilary also took advantage of the time to play football and skipping one last time. A great time was had by all.
Our search for new projects brought us to the community of Mukomari. Located between the Rain Forest and the Rift Valley escarpment this is a community of 300,000 that has only one nurse and no source of clean accessible water. At the one dilapidated clinic serving the whole region we met a hard working, dedicated nurse named Grace. On the day of our arrival Grace had just returned from the hills after delivering a baby. We learned that any women experiencing complications or difficulties delivering her baby must travel, by motorcycle, a great distance to a hospital and many don’t make it. We were so shocked by Grace’s living and working conditions and lack of medical equipment. Knowing that Grace routinely covered vast distances on foot each day we immediately ordered a bicycle for her. We hope this will ease her burden somewhat. As we left her at 5:00PM she still had a long line of students waiting to be seen. One young girl was suffering from malaria and others were coughing and listless. Grace’s day never ends.
After a tearful good bye to our friends we boarded our plane in Kisumu knowing we were leaving a part of us behind. In contrast to the chaos of Kakamega we now sit in the peace and calm of the Amboseli National Park recuperating and reflecting on all that has transpired over the past few weeks. We know we are making a difference here and we thank all our supporters for making that possible. Kenya is surely a country of contrasts: rich/poor; good/evil; generosity/greed; honesty/corruption; hope/despair. We try to focus on the positive as do the good people we have met and work with here. They never stop believing in the possibility of change. Their faith never waivers and their hope for a better future inspires us.
It has been a privilege to represent you all here in Kenya. THANK YOU FOR CARING.
Baraka Za Mungu.
Darlene & Wendy