Sunday, April 29, 2012

Two Girls and One Hundred Dresses

   I'm drinking Kenyan coffee to inspire my writing today. For once, I feel like I  have too much to say and all that I saw and experienced in Kenya is creating a log jam of epic proportions in my brain. When I try to sit down and write, all of it comes to the front wanting immediate attention and publication, which then causes me to shoulder the door closed and retreat to more manageable tasks, like spring cleaning the house from top to bottom.
    I had the huge honor while at KE214, of meeting two girls who are sponsored by friends of mine through Our Compassion, a website similar to Facebook set up for anyone who sponsors a child through Compassion International. 
   I had no time to prearrange a meeting with these girls as I only found out I was headed for their particular project a few weeks in advance. All I had was the girl's  name and ID number along with their sponsor's name and number written in the notebook that I carried with me everywhere. Risper Murugi and Doreen Wawira, ages 15 and 5. I really did not think the staff at KE214 would go out of their way to track these girls down. And I was wrong.
   Shortly after our team arrived at the project, I chased down an important looking staff member of KE214 and showed her my notebook. She looked at the names and said she would return with the children.
   Really? Return with the children?
    She went for them herself. Risper was "down the road" attending the local high school, and during my stay in Kenya I learned how to translate "down the road" and "not too far". Believe's far. Doreen was closer but was in the opposite direction attending her school.
   So now I was officially nervous knowing that the kids were being taken out of school and rushed to my side. I wasn't prepared for this and you know my obsession with being prepared!! I had no gifts for them, no questions scribbled in my trusty notebook to ask them and no idea how a 15 year old and a 5 year old would respond to this incredibly white, white woman.
   Risper came first and after formal introductions, they left me alone with her and trusted we would become fast friends over Kenyan tea and a stack of sliced bread.
   She was a beautiful girl with a stunning smile and she was about as nervous as I was. We attempted to communicate, and while we both spoke English, her accent and my accent made most of our words a mystery to each other. We did a lot of smiling and nodding until one of the male staff came along with little Doreen in tow. He told me that Risper was one of their brightest students and that her grades and performance were excellent. She ducked her head at his praise and concentrated heavily on her tea.
   She did venture a few questions about her sponsor and then asked how we in America manage when it snows and how do we stay warm? At that moment I was melting in the African sun and this girl had a sweater on!
   I learned that her mother had died and while in Kenya, whenever I asked how a particular death occured, the answer was always, "They took sick and died." Maybe sometimes there is no way to determine how someone dies in these areas of poverty. In America, we do autopsy's or have a diagnosis of some sort to detail exactly why our loved one died. In Africa, they simply take sick and die.
   I was saddened to imagine this young girl without her mother, but they explained that she was very close to her 17 year old sister and they comforted and supported each other.
   Doreen was led to a chair beside me and was handed a plate of boiled potatoes, bread, sweet potatoes and a cup of steaming hot tea. It seemed like a lot of food for one little girl. A project worker warned her in Kiswahili to be careful and wait for it to cool.
   I first noticed Doreen's huge, sad eyes and the dust that covered her from head to toe. But dust and dirt are part of life there in the dry months of Kenya's climate. The kids literally roll in it in their play and keeping that fresh washed look is not an option nor a concern.

   She was so precious, sitting there beside me with her legs swinging back and forth as she ate away at her plate of food. She ate a lot, but not too quickly, and I suppose this was her one substantial meal for the day. They rarely eat breakfast, and supper is unheard of as well. I wanted to stuff her dress pockets with my remaining potatoes, but she did look healthy and she thoroughly  enjoyed the granola bar I offered her from my bag.

   Her mother and baby brother were fetched from Lord only knows where, and we sat together under some shade trees, communicating as best we could. She explained that her eye condition was improving with the right medication. 
   Aaaaand, notice anything different about Doreen in this picture?
   My friend Gina, another amazing sponsor on Our Compassion, hand sews dresses by the hundreds to send with people traveling to areas of poverty. These dresses are very simple in design which makes them easier to fit on a multitude of sizes and shapes. But they are also adorned with the sweetest accents of ribbon, buttons, dainty pockets and frilly hems.
   Gina generously sent me with 100 of these dresses and KE214 is where the majority of them were handed out. The girls loved them and the mothers lined up to get a dress for their daughters. Between the balloons, bracelets and dresses being handed out, the compound was soon transformed into the scene from Wizard of Oz where the picture changes from black and white to a dazzling display of moving color.

   Thank you Gina, for sewing your heart out and for using your time so unselfishly in order to bless and enrich those in need!

Here's a super short video of Doreen. Don't blink!

This is my final report on KE214. As you can see, the total monies raised for the little library has steadily been growing! Risper and Doreen will be some of the children to use the books you have purchased. Can't you just picture it? I am so grateful to all of you for pitching in and sharing with them from your own pockets. Martin has promised to take pictures for me whenever the library has all the books in place. You know I will share them with you when they come in!