Sandra started FKC back in 2003. She was invited to attend a friend's wedding in Nairobi, in March 2006. Eldoret was just a short trip away so she was able to visit and see the work for herself. It has proved invaluable as she has been able to say, "this is what I saw and experienced" on many occasions since then. Here are some of her thoughts on that time.
Eldoret and the school
Ispent a week with the pastor and his family, visited the Eldoret school, saw something of the slum area in which he works and met the people in his church who, out of their own poverty, help to support the orphaned children from Lodwar. I was warmly received everywhere. It was quite something to have the little ones in the nursery stroke my arms gently to see whether this funny colour came off. It was a joy to play singing games in school playtime and to hear energetic young voices commanding, "form a circle, she said" and laughing as they bobbed up and down in time to the music. "Your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends" took on a whole new significance that day. And it was a nostalgic reminder of times past when each class stood politely when I went into the room, said "Good morning, Visitor" and sat down to get on with the work.
It was a salutary reminder of why I was there, to see little fingers struggling with stumps of pencils that we would have discarded long before, and to realise that the teacher had just one textbook from which to work so that everything had to be copied for the children. Resources were very, very limited; the exercise books in use were those sent out in our container, as were most of the clothes the children wore. But the enthusiasm for school, the wish to learn, the determination of the teachers, themselves out of work and lending a hand in return for minimal sponsorship from here, to do their best for the children. These things were tangible and wonderful. "How can we not see this project through to completion?" I thought as I came away.
During my visit to Eldoret, I was lucky enough to be able to visit the orphanage at Lodwar. This was no mean feat, it involved taking two days out of the pastor's busy schedule, hiring a 4x4 vehicle (he didn't fancy risking my welfare on the 10 hour journey by bus) and running the gauntlet of roads devastated by the rainy season which was in full swing. Lodwar is a huge region, consisting of miles upon miles of empty desert with the occasional village built alongside what used to be a road. We had a great journey up country, covering the miles in a shorter time than usual, the only heart-stopping moment was when the floods had carried away a road bridge and we had to edge over a broken bridge usually blocked off.
Iwas protected from the usual 40-degree heat by thick cloud that promised rain. We visited the orphanage, and what a privilege that was. In the time since the pastor and his team first found the abandoned children, back in 2003, the compound has been developed to provide dormitories for the 50 children living on site, a school / dayroom used by all the children, a piped water supply (when the region has any water in the pipes), a generator for electricity, toilets and showers, and a good standard kitchen. The compound stands out as providing good care for the children. But here is the snag. The 7 year olds taken in four years ago are now 11. There is no schooling available beyond nursery level.
Ialways knew this of course, but seeing the 50 children, looking into their eager eyes, watching them treasure small gifts we had taken, seeing their glee as we tipped out a sack of clothes (taken from the container) and shared out the contents - I realised in a whole new way that if we are to make a lasting difference in these lives, we really do need to find a way to move them to the school in Eldoret, find sponsors for each of them and set them on the path to freedom from poverty. We only need the money, these children will do the rest, they are so keen to learn.
With a head and a heart full of what I had seen and heard, I went to bed early in the conference centre in which we were staying overnight. That night, it rained. And rained. Like nothing I had ever seen before. Our journey home was an adventure of creeping through shallow floodwaters where dry riverbeds had been the previous day. And in the last of them, the water was too deep and we sank up to the dashboard and had to be towed across the flood waters, once the level had gone down, and into a village nearby. There, unexpectedly, was a mechanic who, in four hours of determined tinkering, got our vehicle going again. A modern electronically controlled engine, well and truly drowned, and somehow it started, and ran smoothly the 300 miles home across desert and hills. Then it died, never to go again until the engine was stripped and repaired!
The journeys, the scenery and the heat make a good story. But the children ARE the story. FKC is committed to help these children find a better life. And there is a moral in the pastor's story as it relates to this one. He lived on the streets for several years. He was not an orphan, but he was destitute. Someone "rescued" him, and now he is involved in improving the lives of some 240 children at present, with more to come as the work develops. If each of these were to replicate his achievement in future, think how many children would have a better life. It would not take long to lift Kenya out of poverty, would it? The maths works. But first, we need to work!