Our first few days in-country were spent simply allowing us to get our bearings on why we were in Kenya and what we were going to be doing and seeing, as well as a little time spent in getting better acquainted with our fellow travellers.
The first day we paid a quick visit to a local organization that trains women to sew, so that they can better provide for their families. We also visited Heshima Children’s Center, an organization that provides care and education for disabled children and their mothers. The center was on holiday–while the physical, speech, and occupational therapists attended a training seminar–but we were shown around the grounds and told a little bit more about their program and the world they serve.
Children with special needs and disabilities are often cast out of a community along with their mothers. They are often believed to be cursed or bewitched. The fathers believe the mother to be cursed, as well, and often abandon them; leaving the mother to attend to these needy children on their own. They must provide the necessities of life for them and the rest of the family on their own. No one in their extended families or community will aid them because they are considered tainted or evil. The mothers often have no idea how to help their child and often have no money for treatment even if they could find a doctor qualified to treat them.
Heshima is a Swahili word for dignity. Dignity is what the world has stolen from these families and dignity is what Heshima Children’s Center restores to them.
Heshima takes these children in and provides healthcare, therapy and education for them, while providing the mothers with job training and a job to provide for their needs. The center also drilled a clean water well and provides water to the community in order to show the people that the children are not cursed or bewitched. Although the neighbors of Heshima were hesitant to purchase the water at first, they have decided that Heshima water is sweeter than other water and prefer to get their water at the Heshima well. I’m sure the fact that their water is less expensive is also an incentive.
The rest of the day was spent on a trip into town (the locals’ phrase for a visit into Nairobi city center); an afternoon respite at Java House, one of the local cafes; a visit to a local market; and dinner with Tracey & Erick Hagman, the owners of Heshima.
Our evening with the Hagmans was relaxing and enjoyable. We sat outside on their patio, letting the evening sun set in a beautiful exhibition of deepening color, as we got to know our hosts, and each other, better. The heady scent of jasmine filled the air, intoxicating our already exhausted senses. We were all still very tired from the 27-hour flight across the globe, and there were moments in the lulls of conversation when I would find myself beginning to doze, despite the desire to be fully present in my surroundings.
The second day, we spent visiting with the owners of two small businesses–one a leather goods company and the other a glass art studio. We had travelled to Kenya as representatives of a company called Trading Hope and most of the trip would be spent getting to know budding entrepreneurs. Trading Hope is a young company trying to make a difference in the world through business. To use their own words: “Trading Hope is all about job creation. Jobs here and jobs there. Through job creation, we are able to meet tangible needs of individuals all over the world. Our partners are engaged on the ground, daily to meet these goals. Trading Hope participates in the story by providing a market for their goods and development assistance through business, product and opportunity consulting.”
Trading Hope partners with small businesses throughout the world, providing quality products, which are then marketed and sold in the U.S. through direct sales representatives; thus creating jobs both here and there. They also provide these businesses with pro bono consulting services from top executives in the United States willing to offer their expertise for the growth and expansion of these budding global entrepreneurs.
Hope is a commodity in short supply in most poverty-stricken cultures. Without hope, a human soul withers. No solution to the devestating conditions one lives in can be found without the hope that things could improve; without the hope that life can be better. Hope is a lot like yeast in bread dough. A tiny little bit goes a really long way. Just a little bit of hope can season an entire community with the strength to continue fighting for a better life.
Obviously there is much more than hope involved in the destruction and the building up of a community; but somewhere in the center of the desire to find a better life lies the kernel of hope. That tiny speck, often found in the creative vision of one person, can rise to the surface and grow an entire community, just like a few tiny specks of yeast will grow an entire batch of bread. You just need the right combination of ingredients to create the rising process. This is what Trading Hope is all about–providing those ingredients to grow these budding global entrepreneurs–and this was why we were in Kenya. To find these kernels of hope and help provide the beginning ingredients to rise up a few new businesses in a world needing a little bit of yeast.
After our brief introduction to what our trip was all about, we spent the next few days on safari in Masai Mara, in order to relax from our flight and to build relationship with each other. What a better way to build friendships than to share quality (and quantity!) time enjoying the incredible world God created! Words cannot adequately express the beauties and wonders we were exposed to while on safari. And even though a picture paints a thousand words, there simply are no photographs or videos that can do ample justice to the incredible world we witnessed those three days. I will share some photos we took on the trip and say that if ever there was a doubt in my mind that there is an Intelligent Creator at work in this universe, that incredibly beautiful place has laid those doubts to rest for me. No accidental combination of cells or universal explosions could have created such perfection. But I leave that up to you to decide; for now, just enjoy the beauty! Next stop on our journey…a few tidbits of fun times in the Masai Mara! Be back soon…