I have met Sr. Mary Owen, the Executive Director of Nyumbani, and Sr. Julie Mulvihill, the Volunteer Coordinator. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. The Kenyan people are known for their hospitality and friendliness. I have been greeted with warmth by everyone in the home with the word "karibu" meaning "welcome" in Kiswahili. There is no possible way I will ever forget that word. The official language is English (so Kenya can compete internationally) but the national language is Kiswahili (which most Kenyans speak to each other).
The home shelters 107 children ranging from 2-20 years of age. To be accepted into the village, a child must be HIV+. Capacity is near full but there is room to accommodate a few more children. Many children are sent to the home because they are abandoned by the parent (a few have been found placed in hospitals or on piles of trash). Others are sent to the home because there parent have died of aids or the family cannot support the child and he/she is gravely malnourished. Many come from the slums, one being Kibera.
It is astonishing how happy and polite the children are even though they have so little. They are eager to come hold your hand or say hello. They are very loving and it is evident in their actions. This is not the place for those that do not like to be touched or enjoy personal space. The favorite pastime for the older boys is soccer, which they play every day.
The children are on school break for a month and volunteers have arrived to assist in daily activities. Six volunteers are residing in the home for 5 weeks. There are 5 Spaniards and one Irish woman. The volunteers have been very welcoming and have given me an orientation to the place. One of the Spaniards married into a Rockhurst family and now lives in Nebraska with his wife. What a small world!
|The volunteer home I stayed in|
The food is very basic and full of fiber and starch. Breakfast consists of tea, coffee, and bread. Lunch consists of some variation of beans, greens, and rice. Dinner consists of rice, ugali, and stews that include a variation of potatoes, bananas (more like vegetables), greens, and possibly meat (once or twice a week). The food has decent flavor but few spices are used. Ugali is a Kenyan dish that is made of corn, flower, and water. It is a bland, thick, hearty cake-like substance that is a regular staple with stews. Teas breaks are taken twice a day at 10am and 4pm. The tea is not like tea we are used to. It is mixed with milk and plenty of sugar to create a flavor similar to the milk you drink at the bottom of your cereal bowl that contains plenty of sugar. I am warming to it and am actually starting to enjoy it.
|The post for the security guard. Safety is a concern at night.|
I went into the shopping area of Karen yesterday to gathers several items for my trip. The shopping area is full of streetside merchants and taxi drivers that are direct and determined. Karen has basically everything you need including a large grocery store, bank, ATMs, and restaurants. The exchange rate is about 77 shillings for $1. Shilling can go a long way if you are smart about your money. A coke is about 45 shillings or around 70 cents. Matatus, which are European looking van transports, are cheaper alternatives to taxis and are everywhere. They are much cheaper than taxi's and are often packed full with 10 people. The drivers are pretty crazy and you drive on the left side of the road in Kenya. I hope to use a matatu soon.
|Driveway into Nyumbani Home|
The staff makes about $120 per month, which although difficult to live on, is a blessing in a country that has 40% unemployment and over 50% below the poverty line (I can't even imagine what is considered the poverty line). Over 1.5 million (probably much more) Kenyans have aids in a country of 35 million.
|The recently finished Fr. D'Agostino all-purpose room. The building is used for mass and hanging out at night.|