Hello all –
It’s been busy here in Nairobi! To describe the atmosphere in our office as chaotic is the understatement of the decade. We have 51 students getting deployed to various high schools. Before they report they invariably come to the office with their parent or guardian to get their trunk and mattress. So the office is FULL of kids, guardians, and stuff. In addition to these KCPE finishers, we have 37 high school graduates hanging around – attending computer lab, checking out books in the library, etc. The place is buzzing with activity. Peter, Naomi, and Tunda are all dealing with issues of one kind or another.
Almost every day there are new crises that require the attention of either Peter or the caseworkers. Yesterday it was a boy named Michael. I will share his situation because it is so incredible. Michael’s sponsor is paying his tuition and rent so he can attend university full-time. When his mother died last year, the surviving relatives gathered and agreed on who would take the lead with each of her children. An uncle agreed he would be Michael’s guardian and helper while he finishes his education. When this uncle learned that a sponsor is paying Michael’s tuition, he refused to give Michael money for food. He told him to get it from his sponsor. Then Michael went to an aunt and another uncle and they also refused to give him money for food. So Michael showed up here yesterday in tears and hungry. He believes these relatives are jealous but he didn’t want anyone to talk to them because their homes are the only places he can go during holidays. However, I had lunch with a man named Boniface yesterday. He and his wife Rose (one of our founding board members in Kenya) have mentored Michael. Boniface said he was going to call this uncle and insist he fulfills his obligation. Meanwhile, I have given him a bit of money to buy food. Those are the real-life personal crises that happen in this office virtually daily. Peter and the team have to find ways to deal with them and we seldom hear about them. Every day there is one or more of these.
On Saturday, I had two guests with me from Baltimore – Rev. Sue Tjornehoj (who first introduced me to Peter) and Dr. Jeanette Nazarian (a member of Sue’s church). We did the normal staff introductions, visited two homes in Ngando, went to the Saturday Program, and then had a special gathering for the high school graduates. We held it at JoJen, a restaurant right across from where the Saturday Program takes place. This was a very cool event where the students introduce themselves and say what they hope to do with their lives. Then they got to enjoy supper together. JoJen is famous for its roast goat, so everyone was thrilled. Our staff has involved the high school graduates with the Saturday Program. When I was there they were holding small group discussions with the 8th graders about life in secondary school, peer pressure, and how to succeed in their next phase of life. It was wonderful to hear the kids opening up with each other and I am so happy the staff is using the high school grads this way. And it was so satisfying to learn what kids are thinking about doing with their lives. Some aren’t yet serious about it but most of these kids by now are aware of how lucky they are and are taking things very seriously. It was beautiful.
We had a very neat thing happen at the Saturday Program. Jeanette works with a nurse (Barbara) whose 21-year-old son tragically died in a car accident in 2013. She has started a foundation to provide scholarships in his name, but has also produced these bracelets (think LiveStrong) with his initials and the words “Faith, Hope, Courage, Dreams, etc.” She brought 300 of these bracelets and gave them to the kids. Before leaving Baltimore, Barbara told Jeanette to take the bracelet she herself was wearing and give it to a special person. She said, “You’ll know who to give it to when the time is right.” Jack Otieno (sponsored by Keith and Kathleen Kale) came up to Jeanette and said, “Could we swap bracelets?” She said to me, “Barbara was right”.