|Posted by Sue Badeau on August 29, 2015 at 3:45 PM|
We have returned from Kenya with full hearts and overflowing spirits. Thank you to every person who supported this trip through your donations, thoughts, prayers, and encouraging words. Our team leader, David Ching, blogged each day of our trip and those blogs, with photos, are posted on the Imara website. Read on below for more about our amazing experience. Its a little long, but I hope you will enjoy it! I will be posting a few more blog posts in the weeks ahead reflecting on some of the lessons learned and wisdom gained as a result of our trip. Stay tuned.
Kenya is a dramatically beautiful country with stunning mountain views, lush green areas, dusty fields, brilliant flowers and of course magnificent animals from the smallest yellow birds that graced our breakfast veranda at the guest house where we stayed to the jaw-dropping elephants and rhinos. But the most wonderful part about Kenya is the heart and spirit of the people. We met people who are kind, funny, faithful, smart, talented, hospitable, eager to learn, grace-filled, forgiving, sweet, serious, and warm. The poverty is deep – deep, deep, deep, yet the richness of spirit and the generosity of the people is deeper still. From the very first moment when we met Carol, the founder of Imara, greeting us at the airport when we arrived, to the last Matatu driver Nicholas who took us back to the airport 2 weeks later, we were in good hands and made many friends we hope to stay in touch with for a long time to come.
Imara International is an incredible program, providing safety, healing and hope for teen moms and their babies who have nowhere else to turn. The six young women and their precious children have formed a family, together with the hardworking Kenyan staff, Carol, the founder, and her sidekick, Sandy. We were enormously impressed by the dedication, respect for culture, and continual optimism portrayed by Carol and her team. The young women, in spite of horrific past experiences, are the very definition of resilience and they each have unique personalities and talents which are being honored and nurtured. From singing to baking, painting to sewing, learning science to caring for farm animals, everyone contributes. What is most meaningful is that this program keeps mothers and babies together, it is not an orphanage, it is a trauma-informed, family-oriented, family-strengthening program. It gives me great hope to see this approach to caring for very vulnerable youth and babies achieving such incredible success just a few short years since its founding. Carol has a vision and a heart to serve many more and new land has been acquired to make this dream a reality in the not-too-distant future (as funds come in). But for now, the warm, loving and healing family atmosphere at Imara is a testament to what is possible with faith, a dream, a vision, hard work and support from near and far.
And of course the babies stole our hearts. From Bella who was just learning to smile when we arrived and couldn’t quite stop smiling by the time we left, to Caleb who is a mini NFL linebacker, to Gabe with his ready smile and dimples, Lewis who loves being read to, and Ruthie and Gift, full of impish mischief and energy, they are growing and thriving.
We came to work, and work we did. During the course of our stay our small but mighty team of 4 adults and one 10 year old built a walkway, a chicken coop, and a school desk with individualized cubicles. We re-covered several tables, and did many art projects including stunning decopage tables and a full size Noah’s Ark mural on a local church Sunday School wall. We painted many interior walls, peeled hundreds of tomatoes, fixed clotheslines and garden plots. Together with the Imara young women and staff we planned and executed a Vacation Bible School camp for over 30 children held at a local church in the village of Nanyuki. The beautiful faces, exhuberant voices and genuine joy expressed by these children who came streaming across dusty fields on foot to join the camp will stay with us for a very long time. We tutored and taught lessons from reading to science with the teens, and spent many moments reading books with babies. We shared some of our favorite recipes from home and learned some new Kenyan recipes as well.
It wasn’t all work and no play. We also spent delightful chunks of time playing wonder ball and other games with the children. We had a spectacular one-day field trip to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy where our safari guide deftly took us through dusty trails to show us elephants, giraffes, zebras, wart hogs, rhinos, gazelles, chimps, baboons and many other animals in their own habitats. Alas, we were unable to see any of the great cats – lions, or cheetahs or tigers – but we imagine they may have been watching us.
We ate such fabulous food. Our guest house host, Sophy G, made sure we had a hot and hearty breakfast each morning and a table filled with meats, vegetables and the best roasted potatoes ever for dinner each night. Lunches were traditional Kenyan fare at Imara where we experienced Ugali, multiple versions of kale and some of the best cabbage we’ve ever had! Carol and Sandy treated us to dinner at their home one evening where the fresh pineapple tasted like sunshine and twice we ate in restaurants – one owned by Sophy, called Cape Chestnut, a fun, funky, homey Nanyuki social spot with great food and friendly people, and the second time at the most amazing restaurant ever – the Trout Tree, which is literally built in a tree and where they serve up whole trout freshly caught from the waters below. A couple of Hyrex and several Colubus monkeys in the surrounding trees kept us entertained while waiting for our food. On our last night in Kenya, back in Nairobi, we ate at the Westgate Mall, newly re-opened after the 2013 terrorist attack. So much to absorb.
We had many moments to “ponder in our hearts” throughout the trip, but none more poignant than our last hour at Imara when a miraculous reunion took place. A young mom who had been at Imara and left nearly a year ago with her baby returned. There are many private circumstances I cannot go into here, but know that her return was nothing short of a “prodigal son” (daughter) moment and the laughter, tears, hugs and pure joy with which she and her daughter were received back into the fold will remain in our hearts forever.
We do hope to go back one day. In the meantime, we are committed to continuing our support for this program, and for the Nanyuki Vineyard Church in town where we held the VBS camp. We hope you will join us in supporting this amazing and important work. You can do this directly through the Imara website or email us if you want to know more about how you can help and what the specific needs are.
Thank you again for your faithful support. Asante Sana.
Categories: Building Bridges of Hope