We decided before arriving in Kenya that we were not that stoked on doing super touristy things. Instead, our interests were focused on further imbedding ourselves into the town we have grown to love, Meru. The highest priority on this list was to visit our friend, our first friend in Meru, Dennis. He is a 13 year old boy who has the most capturing smile ever with whom JP and I immediately came to adore. So much so that we decided influencing his future was important to us and sponsoring him for school was the answer. Today that happened.
I could not believe how excited I was, even though this was not foreshadowed in the least on the cab ride to the school. Work here is about as hard as I've ever known and there are times, like the cab ride, when JP and I take full advantage of a few minutes to catch a snooz. Entering the school was an absolutely amazing site, as we walked through the gate into the school yard all eyes turned to us. In the middle of the sea of children, alone stood Dennis. His look changed from fear, to confusion, to joy and his face was overtaken by his radiant smile. After our greetings we were introduced to several other IPI children who attended the same school and all of us were ushered to a bench outside the administrative offices. At this bench we did the things kids do and sat awkwardly for a bit exchanging glances and smiles. This happened until we found some activity that turned those smiles into laughs immediately bonding everyone involved. The Sister in charge tried to explain how Dennis was doing in school but we barely listened as the excitement of being with him and the others left little room for an attention span. There was no room for the difference in culture, age or language as we all thrived off one another's energy and the time we spent was very joyous. All 5 of the students disappeared to grab a quick bite to eat as it was dinner time, giving JP and I a minute to just hang out and take a look over the school grounds. When dinner was over they all returned, each glowing and smiling more so than before. I had an idea that they may be the most popular kids on campus at that moment and this was confirmed when Dennis smiled large and enthusiastically replied "YES!" when asked if this was the case. Lisa returned at this time and didn't miss a beat. The younger girls took an immediate liking to her exciting energy, and we all continued to laugh, play and joke until it was time for us to leave. The goodbyes were sweet hugs and promises of seeing each other in Meru when they were home for holidays on August 5th. Our visit was an energy giving rejuvination that I needed as our interaction with those who will eat out of our kitchen is limited. We were already in love with Dennis, but quickly fell in love with Alice, Sharon, and the others. Just knowing that there are people out there who are willing to step up and donate some of what they have so these kids can get an education is inspiring.
We found out just after our visit that IPI's(International Peace Initiatives) funding for schooling had been cut back a bit as donations had decreased due to the economy. As understandable as this is, we found that 70 children are without funding for school starting this January. Can you imagine having to tell a child they can no longer attend school with their friends? Or imagine what they will be doing when their peers are in class? This was just shocking to me and JP and Lisa. It is one of the hard facts of life in Kenya, one that we have had to come face to face with several different times while being here. Not only have these beautiful children lost their parents, but they may have just lost their education as well.
It is at the difficult times like this that I have found solace in this quote - "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded." -Ralph Waldo Emerson (brought to my attention by Michael Johnston in his book In The Deep Heart's Core, that I had the privilege of reading at the beginning of our time here.)
If you are interested in helping support one of these children please visit www.ipeacei.org or keep checking back to our site as we hope to have information on helping soon.
Mikey, Dennis and JP
Karamana and her 16 yr old son Dennis