Penda means "love" in swahili. Today's post is one of a different tune, a more sobering sound. The first post I made about Kibera mentioned the things I saw and encountered. Today's post is much of the same, but more to do with the kids.
This morning our agenda was geared towards the two grade 8 classes. We were to have the students to write a brief biography for their (possible) sponsors to read later on. Well, we instructed them in what to write about; basic things, age, family, where they live, hopes and dreams, hobbies, etc. Well, when that was going on nothing really came to mind about what they could be writing. I mean, I know they live in Kibera and that many some had lost one or both parents. Another part of my job while here is proofreading and correcting these bios, so I know exactly what these kids have encountered. I was blown away, almsot to the point of tears many different times.
Out of the 20+ that I proofread and corrected, only two said they live with both parents. Many times their mother of father had died when they were young, due to "sickness" or "illness." In almost every case the base cause is due to complications following the contraction of HIV/AIDS. Some have lost parents to car accidents and others due to election violence, specifically following the 2008 elections. I don't know about you, but when I have to correct a sentence because it reads "because father is died" my stomach churns and heart wrenches. Mind you, I am reading these things like two sentences into the bios. There was a lot left to read. But I would often think "well, this is normal," and I would press on with the corrections. I would at some point come across the difficulties they have encountered in life. Almost all have something to do with not enough money to be fed on a regular basis. One I read said that at one point he was living in the streets of Kibera for over a week because he and his family had been kicked out of their home. I encountered similar stories a few more times. Heartbreaking. I wanted to stop reading and just hug these kids, but I had to keep going. Other common difficulties were the inability to pay school fees. In Kibera, if you dont pay they send you home, no questions asked and no argument allowed.
As I read these things, I go back to thinking about the cause of the problems. In many cases its because a father has died due to complications of HIV/AIDS, which brings me to another thing that New Hope does in Kibera, testing. Its estimated that one out of three people in Kibera are HIV/AIDS positive. After testing last year, New Hope found that the ratio of students that tested positive was much lower than 1/3rd, 4/550. Many of you have seen my facebook profile picture with the twins, Amos and Joshua. Well, they have a story of their own. As I said before, last year all the students were tested, and to my knowledge more will be tested next week after I'm gone. Well, last year when they were tested Amos came back ad negative, while Joshua came back positive. They are twins, which means that he must have contracted it somehow like stepping on a nail or cutting his foot. Due to the difference of the twins New hope has tested the Joshua FIVE different times. Three of the tests have come back positive and two, negative. We're all confused about where Joshua stands currently, but hopeful. Those little buggers have been a blast to be around and I would love to see the two of them grow up.
Another hard thing to read, and something I didnt really expect, is the abuse of alcohol. I think four of the bios that I read today said that their father or mother was an alcoholic. Other things that you read about are abuse for family members, usually if the student is living with extended family like cousins.
But there is hope. Many of these children, regardless of the struggles, know that the Lord is their father in whom they find comfort. These kids have genuine smiles and love life. "It may be hard, but the Lord helps" is something I have heard when I ask the kids about life in Kibera.
I think tomorrow we will be sitting with the kids one-on-one and helping them rewrite their bios. I'm not sure if I'm excited or dreading it. All I know is that I will be emotionally exhausted.
Prayers: the hearts of the kids. my heart when working with them. Yes some of us are still sick, but we're alive. Heck, most of these kids have constant mild fevers of 100 F. Pray for the kids.