We all see the news stories, the documentaries, the charity appeals, but it’s not until you see for yourself that it all becomes real. When in Kenya, we visited what’s known as the dump site. This was literally a large landfill site. For miles and miles, there was rubbish distributed on the ground with goats, pigs and storks as tall as myself (which I know isn’t giant but we are talking birds here) roaming around , picking away at it all. The stench was atrocious. The sad thing was, this site was what fourteen thousand people called home. Like the goats, pigs and storks, they pick through the rubbish for scraps of food to eat or material they can use to make things to sell. The things they make from what they find is incredible; beaded jewellery, bags, purses. Here, you only had to walk out your front door to be confronted with the news. This really is the poorest part of Kenya, the people aren’t living here, they’re barely surviving.
Before we set off there, we met at another project called ‘The Walk Centre’. It had a similar aim to Hadassah Children’s mission school but with a lot more space and children. What was truly incredible was that a lot of of the children at The Walk Centre are residents of the dump site, suddenly, they have a chance at life, real life. One child was brought to The Walk Centre from the dump site quite a few years ago now, went on to high school and it now studying at university. Now, university places in Kenya aren’t quite the same as here, they are very limited and hard to come by. So just think, somebody, living on a tip with literally nothing to their name has now got the opportunity to attend and learn.
There are lots of different types of people in the world; there are those that want to change the world, those that think there’s no point in trying, those that have good intentions and try just don’t succeed and those that really make a difference. I once heard a story about a boy on a beach. The beach was completely covered in tens of thousands of washed up starfish. The boy picked up a starfish, walked down to the shore and put it in the sea. He then walked back, picked up another starfish and did the same again. He continued to do this until a man came up to him and said “I’m sorry, but there are tens of thousands of starfish washed up on this beach, I just don’t think you’re going to make a difference”. Without saying anything, the boy picked up another starfish, walked down to the shore and put it into the sea. He then simply said “I bet it made a difference to that one”.
Not everyone can change the world, just like The Walk Centre hasn’t changed the world but looking around the dump site, it didn’t seem possible that someone from here could ever make it to university. It’s our job to make a difference in whatever way we can, even if we just change the world for one person, we’ve still changed the world in our own way.
Unlike the home visits, as we walked around the dump, no one really cried. Maybe it was because it was less personal than the home visits as we didn’t know or even really see the residents here. Maybe it was because it was just too harrowing to fully believe that people actually lived here, it didn’t seem real. Or maybe it was because we walked around knowing that even people living here can really make a difference in the world.
As we got to the last day, everyone on our project was busy writing letters and getting presents for their special friends at the school. I couldn’t wait to hand out all my little presents including yo yos and bubbles and bouncy balls and finally give them something they didn’t actually need to live. But, in all honesty, I didn’t really have a special child, each child I’d encountered had affected me with their stories and lives. At least, that’s what I thought. On the last day of the projects, I met an absolutely beautiful girl named Rachel. She was ten years old and seemed to attach herself to me that day and as soon as I met her I took a special liking to her. I know it sounds incredibly cliché but I think it’s because when I saw her, I saw a lot of myself. She never stopped smiling throughout the day, when others were crying, she was laughing. It was almost like she had just been placed in what we would describe as a terrible situation and yet, looking at her face, it was almost impossible to label her as ‘suffering’. Throughout the day, my fondness only grew and it was then that I realised that Rachel was my starfish. The girl that made me have to come back and make a difference, the girl that made the whole trip one hundred percent worthwhile and the girl I am praying for every day. It took me all week to find my starfish, but this was most definitely her.
I could tell you countless stories of children that affected me deeply, but I will just leave you with one. Rachel’s brother, Salem, was a classic lovable but cheeky chappy. As we were handing out little presents, he kept coming back for more, particularly, the colourful bracelets we were giving round. Now, we didn’t have enough for everyone as it was, let alone for people to have more than one and so as he kept coming back without anything, we assumed he was hiding what he had been given in order to get more, like so many of the excited yet so desperate children. However, that’s when someone caught him. He hadn’t been hiding his things, everything he got he was giving to Rachel and his younger sister, only wanting more to give her. I recently heard that the greatest demonstration of love was sacrifice, and this was sacrificial love. Here, even with the little they had, they gave it away and quite frankly, I think that’s incredible. 🙂