Departing New York I was excited to begin my journey to Africa. I would be spending a little over two weeks visiting students and schools. As I buckled my seatbelt and settled in for the 16hour flight, I repeatedly ran through the itinerary in my head. First, my mom and I would visit a school in Kibera called St. Al’s. The largest urban slum in all of Africa, Kibera is home to nearly a million people. We would spend three days in Nairobi and then fly to Uganda to visit three more schools and 13 of our students. Afterwards, we would return to Kenya and head to Kajiado to see the Maasai girls, supported by Reverse The Course and then head to an orphanage in Kiserian.
After a layover in South Africa and another 4 hour flight to Kenya, we finally arrived in Nairobi! Our first stop was the Nyumbani Children’s Home, the first and largest facility for HIV+ children. Children of all ages are treated with lifesaving drugs and receive the nutrition, care, schooling and the love they desperately need. With so many children gathered, cleanliness a constant task whether the dorms or the children themselves. Saturday’s are reserved for hair cuts. Each child climbs onto a chair and has their head shaved. I’ve seen this before during my travels, but it is not something we think about at home. There is a lot that we don’t think about when it comes to how easy our everyday tasks are compared to so many other places in the world.
On Sunday I was eager to attend St. Aloysius’ Feast Day School celebration. A school I learned about this past year, St. Al’s was built to educate the children of Kibera, Nairobi’s heartbreaking slum. For many St. Al’s students, at least one parent has died of HIV and many have no living parents. Do not think, though, that this school is a place of sadness. It is truly a place of great hope and much joy; it is a school of promise.
We arrived and were greeted enthusiastically by countless students. The festivities were exuberant and joyful. The school choir sang wonderful songs boisterously and the large crowd laughed and clapped enthusiastically. Different clubs at the school shared their various talents such as dancing and playing instruments. The celebration even included baptisms and confirmations for various students. Administrators within the school spoke about the growth they envision for the future and the desperate need for dormitories. The Deputy Minister of Education spoke, as did Fr. Charlton, cofounder of St. Al’s, and various community leaders and supporters. Each offered encouragement and enthusiastic support to the students. I was offered the opportunity to speak to the students and I encouraged them to become innovators and problem solvers. I believe that the ability to adapt and employ creative thinking in numerous types of situations is what the world will need to progress into the future. It was also a day to congratulate teachers and students on their accomplishments. Last year was the first time a girl was the top academic student in the graduating class. There is real progress being made!