|Nyumbani Village Children Walking to Class|
I was assigned the role of village Volunteer Coordinator this week. My responsibilities include welcoming volunteers to the village, finding the proper job for each volunteer based on their skills and interests, preparing lodging arrangements for volunteers and visitors and providing a tour of the village to volunteers and visitors. Different people are always visiting to learn from the successful programs of the village or to simply confirm the successes of the village in person that they have heard so much about. Leaders of organizations often visit in hopes of obtaining knowledge and skills they can use in their organization. Visitors are never disappointed and always leave inspired and encouraged about the progress they can make in their own organization after learning from the village. Tour size can range from 1-50 people. Visitors can vary from young college graduates traveling throughout Africa to powerful Kenyan politicians and businesspeople. Most of the knowledge I am putting to use as a tour guide comes from my experience observing the witty and entertaining tour guides during my somewhat extensive list of brewery visits. I am quickly getting the hang of this tour guide and volunteer coordinator thing and am feeling encouraged that if my nonprofit career flops I can go into the Hospitality or Tourist Industry.
|The wife and child of a guest house cook|
In addition to volunteer coordination, I am acting as a consultant for the Homecare Department until the new Homecare Manager arrives (currently there is no Homecare Manager). I am creating a Strategic Plan to guide the department toward improvements. Its exciting to use the knowledge I obtained from my education in Nonprofit Management.
A recent college graduate from UK (Ed) that is traveling through Africa stayed in the village for a week. We enjoyed his company but this Friday had to bid him farewell, along with the two Jesuit novices and another volunteer named Angie. For 24 hours, the three American volunteers ruled the guest house. Then on Saturday evening, we welcomed two aspiring nuns that are novices. The sisters are young, energetic and passionate about their calling in life and their visit to the village. They are in their fourth year of training that began for both of them directly after finishing high school at age 19. As I was showing them around the village, they excitedly asked me if I was going to follow in my great uncle’s footsteps. I knew exactly what they were asking, “Are you going to become a Jesuit Priest like your great uncle?” I politely explained that I would be interested in becoming a missionary and doing work similar to Fr. Dag, but that I would like to marry some day. This response did not discourage them as they proceeded to discuss the importance for a person to listen to his/her calling in life. I made a compromise with them by telling them that I would consider the priesthood if priests are ever allowed to marry (I’m crossing my fingers). I felt like I was a young teenage boy again sitting at my grandparent’s kitchen table listening to my Italian Catholic grandmother explained the importance of considering a vocation in the church as my grandfather yelled at her to leave me alone. The sisters’ passion, stubbornness and persistence about the topic offer a warm reminder of those precious memories with Mayme and Tony D’Agostino.
|Ed, the Brit volunteer|
A Catholic Brother visiting from the surrounding community sparked up a conversation with me after finding out that I was a D’Agostino. Apparently he is fundraising to build a church just outside the village where people in the village and the surrounding area can attend Mass. Currently, Catholics from the surrounding community attend Mass every Sunday at the Nyumbani Village Social Hall. The Brother tried to explain to me the importance of celebrating Mass in an official church instead of the Social Hall. He proceeded to also express his displeasure with the plastic Chalice used at the Social Hall Mass. He said that God deserves a radiant church and Chalice. He estimated the cost of a radiant new Chalice between $300 and $400. I had three thoughts.
Thought #1: What do you want me to do about it, I’m Broke!
Thought #2: God deserves better? No these children that have no clothes, shoes or parents deserve better. The man, although good intentioned, has a warped perspective as far as I am concerned. The community has been blessed with a beautiful Social Hall to celebrate Mass. Furthermore, I could care less about buying a radiant and expensive Chalice to “Please God” when so many basic needs are not being met in the community. Faith is not demonstrated by luxurious churches or Chalices (Sorry for the rant).
Thought #3: The Brother has obviously not seen the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. If he had, he would have known when picking the cup of Christ to “Choose Wisely”. Poorly choosing the radiant cup will instantly decay and crumble a person into ashes. Choosing the dirty “Humble Cup” (in the village’s case a Plastic Chalice) will lead to everlasting life (and then Sean Connery drinks the cup and his gunshot wound is immediately healed). If you do not understand this movie reference, you now have entertaining Friday night plans. Please blissfully lie down on your couch and watch this Spielberg classic on your 50” HD flat screen while enjoying tasty popcorn and forget all about the guy that gave you the idea in the first place.
|Four of the Five Nyumbani Village boys attending St. Lukes School|
|Mambo and Me|
After receiving a call from Mambo every weekend for a month asking when I was coming to visit him at school, I made time on a Sunday. He and four other boys from the village attend St. Lukes all boys school, although he is the oldest. Mambo made sure that I greeted each one of the Nyumbani boys before he sat me down for a chat. He started the conversation by saying, “I wanted you to visit so you could see my school and so I could tell you more about myself”. He proceeded to recite the summary of his life and how he got where he is today. He told me that in third grade his mother died and he lived alone with his little brother (he never knew his father). In between his studies at school, he would help neighbors with their cattle ranching to make some money. He performed very well in the classroom and scored in the top percentage in the district on the national eighth grade exam. Throughout grade school his teachers paid for him and his brothers tuition fees. Upon finishing eighth grade he realized that he could not afford high school education and he began to lose hope. With no realistic options, he explained to me that he began to stop dreaming about his future and had begun to accept his future as a cattle rancher. With one last desperate attempt, with the help of his grade school teachers, he made an appointment with the Government Representative of Education in the District. Mambo is very articulate and explained his situation to the district representative. After seeing his scores, the representative pulled some strings and got him into St. Luke’s Boys School, although Mambo must pay back the four years of tuition in the future. During his sophomore year, Nyumbani accepted him and his brother into the village. When he is not at boarding school, he now has a safe place to stay (along with his little brother who is also now in high school).
Nyumbani social workers informed me that his story is true, that he is a respectful young man and that he is a lock to qualify for university next year. He finished his life summary by saying, “So I brought you here…..” Immediately red flags and warning signs flashed in my head. My first thought was that he was going to ask for money to attend university. He continued with “to sit you down and ask you for advice about what career to choose and any advice about life that can make me a successful person.” We talked for two hours about university, careers, values, responsibilities and much more. Words can not describe how moved I was by this young man. After all that he had been through, how could he be so determined, focused, mature and humble? There is no doubt that he yearns for male role models in his life, considering that he has never really had any and has always had to be the role model for his brother. I expressed, as best I can, my advice and wisdom that he should consider. I also promised to take all five of the boys to the village shop to enjoy a soda and snack and visit with them when they come home for break. I look forward to their arrival.
|A 14 passenger Matatu|
Until Next Time...