Whatever you have imagined is different from the reality… at least for me and my vivid imagination.
The heat, the bustling Matatu minivans with no blinkers, fare-taker hanging out of the overflowing human sardine can!
There are very many people here!
Finding orphanages to donate footballs to and share smiles with. An easy task in this beautiful and impoverished country, always done with the intention of not disrupting the lives of the children too much.
An afternoon of sharing, exchange and play.
Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it?
Cold reality in the African heat.
What we found at the Happy Nairobi Kids orphanage in the midst of the green cornfields along a red, muddy dirt-road, kilometers from the nearest road, town or even larger shop, took our breath away.
19 girls and 1 little boy living in tiny quarters, sharing 7 double bunkbeds, drinking red water from a hand-dug well that leaks mud whenever it rains. Over 30 local children who come for meals… when there is enough.
It has taken me a while to be able to write something about our two afternoons there… my emotions mixed and flip-flopping from despair to hope to anger to resignation and back to hope.
The first afternoon was just to scout the place out, sort of prepare ourselves and them for our visit two days later. My friend Dee, who has been our life-saving guide and chaperone in Kenya was so moved by the sorry state of the pantry (one sack of flour and some sugar) and garden (a few droopy cabbage plants) that she immediately gave Francis Kamau, the founder, some cash for food.
Francis founded Happy Nairobi Kids four years ago, inspired by a Mzungu (white person) who rescued him from the street and sponsored his education. His social work and counseling studies reflected admirably in the manners of the children.
Thursday morning it was pouring rain… the day we were going to play football!
What to do? Cancel or go ahead?
The four of us, Jordi and Vanessa having arrived they previous day, decided to go for it and were rewarded by nature in the form of a bright, shining sun when we reached the orphanage.
The children were waiting patiently for our arrival to begin eating their meagre lunch of rice with peas, which they devoured with visible pleasure once they were given the go-ahead by Francis.
Imagine their delight when Dee produced chocolate donuts for each child as a special treat!
While they were eating, Jordi and I, with the invaluable help of Isaac, Dee’s shy driver, proceeded to set out the uniforms for them in the special house reserved for volunteers (anyone coming to Kenya soon?).
Thanks to the generosity of our two Ibiza teams, Penya Independent of Sant Joan and P. Deportiva of Santa Eulalia we were able to donate 54 shorts and shirts to the very seriously happy children.
Naturally, we also donated footballs. Special balls made by Alive and Kicking, a company that uses only adult labour to hand-stitch leather balls. African footballs made by Africans for Africans. An excellent example of help that helps to help. Double FootBallSmiles!
When everybody looked professional, we set out to the local field, the whole village coming out to gawk at these crazy, smiling Mzungus and the radiant orphans in their new kits.
The older kids quickly put the goals up (two sticks held together by a string) and made two teams, verbally challenging each other. One even said he wanted to dribble against me, a one-on-one challenge!
As they were all barefoot, Jordi and I adapted to them and had a great time!
After another game with the younger ones, we all headed back to the orphanage, for a goodbye lollypop, which they thanked with some song and dance.
Until next time, Happy Nairobi Kids!
Our return trip was mostly in silence, Footballsmiles had finally really begun, our souls beginning to awake to realities different from our known worlds…