In Aug. 2011 I made a decision to travel to Kenya and volunteer my services at an orphanage. I knew that I would choose a children's home where few volunteers visited, so that my time could be utilized to the fullest.
After some research, I was introduced to a Kenyan man in Vancouver that suggested I go to Neema Home. His childhood teacher had used her family land in the mountains to create a home and school for orphans. He explained that it was remote, they had few visitors and Katherine Kahui (the owner and director) was desperate.
Six weeks later as I approached the gates of Neema, I could never know that it was to change the course of my life.
I paused to drink in what I was seeing. One hundred and forty little faces stared back at me. Most had no shoes, many had no sweater (at 7000 feet it was cold and wet) but all had a look of wary excitement to see a “Wazungu “on the property. It only took moments for one child to jump forward and pinch my bare arm, to see what my skin felt like, and if it would feel pain.
In the weeks that followed, I taught in the classrooms, played in the fields, sang songs, held hands, taught games, bandaged sore feet, and hoped against hope each night that there would be enough of the continuously stewing Gathari to feed all the children supper. I handed out the meager clothing I had brought so naively, thinking there would be enough, and then quietly shedding tears because I was so lacking.
When it came time to leave, I realized that this was not the ending, but the beginning. I could never leave these children I had grown to love, knowing the extreme hardship they were living in.
I was to return to Canada and create “Project Aid For Neema”, a charitable organization that raised enough money through fundraising to purchase a 40’ sea container, fill it with bedding, clothing, medical supplies, pallets of freeze dried soup mix, school supplies, farm equipment and sewing machines.
I returned one year later to watch as the container made its way into the gates of Neema. Together we sang and danced, and gave thanks. I put my hand on a spot of the container, where I had last placed it in Canada as we closed the doors, and I bade it safe journey.
The next few days were spent distributing clothing, bedding and setting up new class rooms. Building a library, and a playground with a slide.
Since then, I have worked toward attaining funding on a monthly basis for Neema.
Believing that by helping this group of children to live a healthy life and achieve an education, there will be the trickle-down effect, and ultimately countless families will benefit.