During my last stay in Kenya, there were people in the village and staff that I grew very close to. In particular is the boy next door- I’ll call him James. One of my first posts on this blog was my argument discussing how $5 can make a difference. The boy who needed shoes was James. He and his brothers live next door to Watoto Wa Baraka (WWB). Two of them used to eat dinner at the orphanage. In 2008, I sat down for dinner next to James on my first night, and we forged a lasting friendship. After setting down my stuff my first evening back at the orphanage, meeting some fellow volunteers, and taking a tour of the new buildings and grounds, Joseph (one of the older boys) asked me if I wanted to go visit James and his brothers. Of course!
We went over to his house. James and his younger brother used to share a stick and mud house that was maybe 10’ x 10’. It was gone. He had written me a few months back to let me know it had fallen during the rainy season. They’ve divided his older brother’s house, and he and his younger brother share a room there. Joseph called for James but no one came out. He was working in the shamba (field). Some boys went to go find him and a few minutes later he comes strolling down the path in front of his house. Both of us grinning ear to ear, we greet, go inside to sit, and he asks, “How many years are you staying this time?” If only :) I promised him when I left last time, that I would be back. And it came up in virtually every letter we wrote since. Throughout conversation he kept saying, “Wow,” and expressing his shock that I was sitting in his house. He reminded me how, “it took so long” for me to return. I said, “Yeah, but doesn’t it also feel like I was just here?” No, he didn’t feel the same way. Originally I told him I might be here a couple of months sooner, so the last few months have dragged on. His brothers joined us, and the five of us huddled around a lamp in a room with a dirt floor, talking and laughing.
When it was time for Joseph and me to head back for dinner, it was dark outside. With no streetlights and no flashlight on hand, I had to rely on Joseph to get me back to the orphanage. I looked up and was amazed to see so many stars. I hadn’t seen a sky like this in a long time. It was a clear night and with no lights in the village it was beautiful. And then I tripped. Joseph clutched my hand, and I had to laugh that a 25 year old was being led back and reassured by a 12 year old boy. It’s impressive how the locals find their way in the dark. James walked with us to the first gate and then headed back home. He and his brother no longer eat dinner at the orphanage. They still come over before dinner to play volleyball or football, or to help with cooking or gardening, so I will be seeing them on a daily basis. And I’m sure I’ll be visiting them at their home too. Even with all of the changes that have taken place, the familiar friends and children are comforting and make me realize why I returned to Watoto Wa Baraka. The organization has helped many, as not only does it care full-time for 35 children, but there are children in the surrounding communities that are sponsored as well. It provides educational opportunities that most kids in Kenya can only dream of. There is a micro-savings program as well as other community outreach programs. Yes, the second time around is going to be different, but it will be a whole new experience to learn from and provide new opportunities for me to give of my time and skills. (And by skills, I think I mean manual labor. I’m not too sure a village in Kenya is seeking an interior designer at the moment)