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Perhaps the most inspiring event was this. We sponsor a couple of children through CFCA (cfcausa.org) and one lives in Kenya. We arranged a visit. CFCA sent a guy out in his older car and then took us for a ride through Nairobi. We turned and suddenly entered the Mathare slums, one of the largest in Africa. It was an amazing mass of humanity, living crammed in 5-story buildings covered with laundry and in tin shanties, dirt instead of roads or sidewalks, barefoot children, with occasional small herds of goats being driven between the buildings. (Learn more by doing a Mathare search on Google.) Shortly we stopped and entered a concrete building housing the Mogra Star Academy. The classrooms were small and inside each were approximately fifty students. The rooms were usually dark, having only one light fixture near the blackboard that was often not working. The students were interested and orderly. They are self-disciplined and courteous and they so very much want to be there. This is their hope to escape the slum life. We learned that the founder, Hannah Njoroge, who was also raised in the slums, had not had the opportunity to learn to read or write when she was young and she didn't want other children to endure the same seemingly hopeless hardship so she started this school. There are gallant teachers reaching 1200 students whom no one else would help. These children, all, are orphaned or have lost a parent. They are in buildings that would never pass our standards and fighting incredible odds to actually teach these children. I looked at the blackboards in each classroom and was impressed at the quality of education that these kids were getting. We complemented each teacher for the good and eternal work they are doing. We could hardly believe it. We stood in awe of such selfless people who would take on such a hopeless (seemingly) mission.
As we visited each classroom, the principal, Lawrence, would ask how many children were sponsored (by CFCA) and it was usually around 70%. We met our sponsored child, Hamfrey, and his sister. They were precious and, again, they were kind and grateful. They as well as Hannah, the founder, are so appreciative and impressed that there are so many benefactors in America who are willing to help strangers in foreign lands. Lawrence said over and over that the school couldn't do a thing without sponsors. They were so grateful.
After visiting Hamfrey and the school, Hannah and Lawrence took us to visit the housing they had started for orphans, again made possible through CFCA. Within, there were 50 (now 65) children, one (in the floor, European style) commode, 2 bedrooms filled wall-to-wall with bunk beds and a meeting room. The children have to get up at 4:45 AM in order to have time to take turns cleaning so they can go to school. The rooms filled with bunks were even more impressive when we learned that there were two children in each bed. Their personal belongings, in plastic grocery bags, hung from the ceilings and the walls. Their meals are simple and whoever cooks them also washes dishes for them... by hand. We were beyond impressed. Anne and I both agree that this visit was the most inspiring gift we had in Africa, if not our lives.
We said good-bye to the wonderful people who ran the school and said that if you ever visit America to come visit us. In African custom, we found, that means move in with us and we will take care of you. A couple of weeks after the trip, Hannah called and said that she was arriving in about a week and could we pick her up in New York! She arranged to land in Asheville and she has been with us for a month. We continue to be the richer for it! She leaves in mid-December. Anne says it is like having Mother Theresa living in our home. She is wonderful and fun, too. I can't tell you how good it is. She is so amazed by our culture and our country. "Americans are very good." she says with a refreshing African accent. "They have a lot of heart." She is still amazed at the kindness of our people. She told her husband on the phone that we live "in the bush" and she feels part of the family and insists on helping us keep out "hut" clean since it is her "hut," too, while she is here. She is so amazed by our dishwasher as she had never seen or heard of one before. She is getting an eyefull of America. We are traveling with her in Louisiana and soon will go to Florida and have her visit Jackson Hole, Wyoming where ET, Jon Overbay and Leah Maddox are living. She will stay with our paddling consultant and friend Katsey Long. That part of the country will blow her away!
We are also helping her to raise money for a real school building. The Kenyan government has given her some land right outside of the slum and they can build a building for her students for about $200,000 dollars! (Update: 3/2008 It's nearly done!) Here it would cost millions. Let us know if you wish to give. At any rate, we recommend that you sponsor a child through CFCA or us. It is such a gift to both you and the child.
We had the privilege to visit a number of humanitarian projects and really got to see a side of Africa that most travelers miss. We spent two days with the Rendille people near the Ethiopian border as well as a short visit to a Massai village. These people live on a diet of milk from goats, camels or cattle mixed with blood and occasional meat. They are friendly and comfortable, but if there is a drought or sickness, they can be in serious trouble. To see the good work going on in these areas by Samaritan's Purse and other groups was so awesome.
So that is what is going on in our lives! We are so gifted and blessed. Our trip to Africa was only part of that blessing as is our families and you, our camp family which has enriched our lives beyond even our wildest expectations. We are humbled by you and the blessings you heap upon us and upon those who join us here at Kahdalea and Chosatonga. Thank you and may God bless you
Camps Kahdalea & Chosatonga
2500 Morgan Mill Road
Brevard, North Carolina 28712
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