One of our Masai friends is Jackson. I met him in 2000, when he was a scrawny, shy little boy in tattered clothes missing his right hand. Many kids needed sponsors, but Jackson faced extraordinary obstacles. Today, Jackson is well on his way to becoming a leader in community development.
One day, Max was feeling sick so he sat out the baseball clinic. He laid down under a tree, put his hat over his face and dozed off. He was startled awake when he felt something against the outside of his hat. It was a Masai cow licking his hat. He realized he was surrounded by a herd of wandering cattle.
Everyone we encountered at the Mara, from camp staff, to community leaders, to teachers to kids, implored us to come back.
We also saw some great wildlife including the legendary “Big Five” (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Buffalo and Elephant). Grephus has got to be the best driver and guide in the world.
The trip was culminated on Friday evening with dinner at Grephus’ home in Nairobi. We had a chance to talk some more with Selena about local efforts to help the slum residents, and to visit with Grephus’ children, Zenna and Kike (“Kee’ Kay”). Being invited to his home is a great privilege for us. The whole family rode along to the airport for fun.
Our team had a wonderful time together. There was strict enforcement of the “no whining” rule. Joking and wise-cracking was relentless and a necessary release of the emotional weight of this experience. There were some pretty good pranks—like chasing Drew with a live chicken, convincing Max that the tent camp conditions would be horrible and he wouldn’t be able to use a bathroom for three days, and telling Ralph that our Baptist hosts were about to baptize him. Others cannot be mentioned here.
We each experienced common yet very individualized reactions to this trip. We are still trying to comprehend what our visits really mean to the students and kids with whom we interact.
The Assistant Principal at Kochogo Secondary School, a lady whom we met and had given a ride home on a previous trip, introduced us to three orphan students whom we are sponsoring. She asked us into her office, and told us how important the work we are doing is to her school. She explained they have a lot of orphans, and being with people from the outside who care about them gives her students a sense of purpose and a beacon of hope. She strongly urged us to come back as often as possible.
We heard similar comments from every teacher and administrator we met. The only complaint we got was that we don’t come back frequently enough.
I find myself continually amazed by the personalities that emerge from the masses of children we meet in Africa. Each and every one of these children has a heart and soul, feelings and dreams, pain and joy, talents and potential. Can we, as a human race, really afford to waste the talents and abilities of these young people? This isn’t just Kenya’s problem. It isn’t just Africa’s problem. It is the world’s problem. It is our problem.
Those of us who read this letter cannot solve all the problems. But we can start. There are countless Margaret Oburas. They are everywhere in Kenya, needing only a spark from us that ignites a passion and transforms a young person’s life.
As I reflect on this experience, the realization overwhelms me that my last observation works both ways, which is the true beauty of this project. Within each of us also lives a passion needing only the spark of an experience like this to ignite it and transform our lives.