The Homes of our Kenyan Friends
by Janet Stafford
On our “Two Countries/One Voice” Teaching Tour of Kenya, we also had the privilege of visiting the homes of our Kenyan students. It was both an interesting and emotional experience for us all.
There was really no way to prepare us for our home visits around the Male area. We were so blessed to be accompanied in our van by Joyce, a local Male resident with a smile that was infectious and such a gracious manner of accommodating our questions regarding her community members. Joyce had chosen to take us to three of her neighbors homes that were in the highest level of need. Driving up to these homes, I felt prepared to witness poverty, however, nothing could prepare me for how grateful and resilient these people are when faced with the diversity they are forced to overcome.
Our first stop brought us to a home in which a sweet elderly woman met us who supported her widowed daughter and her two children who attended Male primary. If there is one thing that brings women together universally it is the horror of receiving unannounced visitors when you haven’t had a chance to tidy up your house! This poor woman jgave Joyce the most severe “dressing down” about springing us on her and she apologized profusely about not having prepared something for us to eat! Her small home housed the five of them and the woman who admitted her age to be 76 supported her family by growing vegetables and selling them at a local market. Leaving her with a small gift of food and household items, the reciprocated blessings and affection left us feeling like the ones who walked away with the far better end of the exchange. We carried on to a home that I will never forget. A widowed woman with a son who had special needs and a young daughter greeted us shyly. This woman was essentially housebound as her son could not ever be left alone because of his condition. He was burned from a cooking accident and you could just feel the despondency of his mother. I couldn’t help but think how supports such as respite care and community services were in place for Canadian counterparts in a similar situation. This single mom was doing her best and on her home walls were articles posted on positive parenting and healthy choices for child nutrition. As we left her yard she blessed our journey with a tearful goodbye. Upon our last visit, we met a family of three of an elderly mother and her adult children who all shared a genetic vision impairment which made employment difficult. Yet these two women had a laugh that just washed over you and we found ourselves sharing in their humor regardless of the language barrier. She took us by the hand and led us into the kitchen: again poor Joyce received her verbal lashing about the lack of warning for company!
In the lottery of life circumstances, I have found myself immensely blessed with material abundance. Yet the commonality of joy, grace and appreciation that these Male people intrinsically carried is like a secret garden I hope to someday find the gate to. All these people have faced pain and adversity that I’m not sure I would have the strength to face. I think it’s safe to speak on the behalf of our van that we all came away from these male visits with an immense shift in perspective and a appreciation for the things that no money can buy.