Despite their modest classroom consisting of dusty cement floors, damp walls, and gnarled wooden beams crisscrossed to support the tin ceiling, the children thrived. Teresa instilled the importance of education in each and every one of the kids. Her philosophy of empowering students and by extension the community with education was revolutionary. The fact that such ideas were coming from an impoverished woman in rural Kenya and were being carried out daily was nothing short of spectacular. Neither she nor her husband nor the dedicated teachers who stayed with the children from as early as 5 in the morning until 10 at night were personally gaining from the students’ success. Teresa and Stephen worked an extra job each and took out numerous personal loans to keep the orphanage afloat. They truly believed in the children and their futures. I felt like I was watching miracles daily.
Aside from teaching the students subjects like English and Chemistry, we also played their modest games with them, arguably one of my favorite parts of the day. If it wasn’t for their smiles and laughter their games would be absolutely heartbreaking. Some girls drew grids in the dirt and kicked a rock across it while standing on one foot while others played a modified version of chinese jumprope with a small piece of string that had unraveled from their tattered blue uniforms. The boys wrapped a trash bag around grass and nets to form a soccer ball that they religiously played with. While these descriptions sound gut wrenching (rightfully so), the children were truly excited and never felt that anything was lacking. They had a roof over their heads, food to eat, books to read, and a place to use the restroom. Within a couple of days, Amanda and I felt the same way. We quickly learned that life was simple, but that we as human beings have the tendency to unnecessarily make it complicated. I thought about the greed back home in America and swore to myself that if I ever felt an inclination in that direction I would think about the kids and their garbage bag soccer ball. In fact the time I spent kicking stones in the dirt with the children or playing soccer with a garbage bag were some of the happiest play time moments of my life. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt that childlike.
On day 3 of our trip we visited a nearby city and bought more medicine to stock the clinic we were setting up the following week as well as a soccer ball, volleyball, and jumprope for the kids. That night we brought out the blue and yellow soccer ball and were immediately surrounded by cheering children. We started a game of soccer, boys vs. girls, an unusual sight because until that point soccer was only played by boys (gender roles were followed strictly). While most games had lasted for 30 minutes max in the past, despite the looming storm clouds in the distance, we played for hours. The girls beat the boys 4-1, an epic victory met with cheers and high fives. This was perhaps one of my favorite memories from Kenya and something I cherish daily.