June 19, 2014

Dagoretti jr. youth 1st service project

yesterday twenty-nine jr. youth traveled from st. luke's educational center to the Kikuyu Hospital for their first service project.  we began the morning by walking to the closest matatu station; the drivers asked for more money than the kids had brought, so we walked further up the main road to the next stop so we could afford the fare.  we waited for an empty matatu and thought only half would travel first, but one by one the kids piled into the taxi with us 3 adults and we all rode together, smooshed but very happy!  the kids started singing songs with great joy as the 5 minute ride got underway.  it reminded me of the days when the Delft kids would sing loudly whenever they were together doing something that made them happy.

we joined the congregational service that was being held at the hospital.  this was recommended to us by the chaplain who welcomes all guests.  the kids were to sing some songs for the gathering.  after listening to a short sermon and some singing, the group was recognized as special guests -- they were invited to come to the front and sing.  i had appointed Peter, one of the older jr. youth, to introduce the group.  when he went up, none of the other kids followed him to arrange themselves for singing; instead they all remained seated.  he spoke quietly and without confidence yet i felt so proud of him for his courage.  this is the first time these students are being exposed to anything related to the power of expression in public.  they are all learning so much in the process of trying to do new things.

as soon as Peter finished speaking, one of the chaplains invited the 'teacher' (while looking at me) to come and introduce the group.  before i could respond, Bilha, one of the mothers, and the friend who introduced me to st. luke's, walked to the front of the congregation and explained briefly who we are and why we had come.  the children had started to gather around Peter but they did not organize themselves well.  some tall ones were standing in front of shorter ones, and they were overcome by a sense of shyness.  all of the joy that i have seen them sing with was hiding inside of them.  they managed to sing 2 songs with the help of the congregation's guitarist but they didn't convey the joy or spirit that is in their hearts.  as soon as the service was over and we assembled outside to wait for the chaplain, one of the older students came to me and said, 'That was a shame'.  i responded that it is a learning, something we can reflect about and learn from.

listening to instructions
after figuring out with administration what our tasks would be and how to organize ourselves, the housekeeper came to give the students instructions.  we divided ourselves between the 'shining stars' (11-12 year olds) and the 'spiritual warriors' (13-14 year olds) and then set off to different areas of the compound.  the jr. youth were eager and excited to clean!  some did garden work; others cleaned toilets and picked up trash.  everyone worked for an hour before going to visit patients.  i was with the shining stars and could see their interest but hesitancy to actually go and greet the patients -- they stood together and sang different songs to the patients they visited in different rooms.  after taking one photo of them and disturbing their concentration i decided to step back and let them go with the matron of the ward.  afterwards we met up with the spiritual warriors before eating a snack and walking home.

washing hands before visiting patients
 there are some significant aspects of this outing.  they were more than willing to come up with the money for the matatu even though their families are materially poor and many cannot afford to pay school fees.  in the same way did they collect money to buy fruit to offer to the hospital even though some of them leave school and have no food to eat until they return to school and have tea for breakfast.  it is also significant how their hearts served so willingly and sincerely; they felt so good after working hard.  they all care about those who are ill; they consciously pray for others who are not well with that deep gratitude that God has kept them well today and that their health is dependent on God's Will.  lastly, they were so happy to walk 3km back to school instead of take another matatu.  it was such an opportunity to show friendship to one another, to laugh and run..to be kids.  i had such a great time talking with them that i wished we could have walked another 3kms so i could get to enjoy our time together more!  i also felt so happy to be on the back roads of kenya and see the rolling hills of planted maize and banana trees -- sights i never get to see on the main roads in a car.  i kept telling them how fortunate they are to live like this -- ie., to be surrounded by natural beauty and walk to many places with a sense of community that they all share so naturally.
singing to patients

it's important for me to explain that these students prepared for this service project without any material support except for printing out indemnity forms.  i guided and supported their ideas of serving at the hospital and called the chaplain to see if it was ok to come.  in our sessions we discussed the math involved for transport and buying fruit; they came up with the idea to walk home to save money on transport which they couldn't afford.  they knew which gospel songs they wanted to sing and came up with a plan on how to cover the cost of buying fruit -- some volunteered with pure-hearted joy to contribute extra money to compensate for those who didn't have any money to contribute.  they met their financial goals and worked together like a family who protects each other from any sense of loss.

we ended the day with reflections and discussion about what we felt and learned from the experience.  i felt like we all grew closer as a group, as well as having shared something special together.
walking home

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