Guest Post by: Laurra McGregor
This morning after breakfast we visited a cash machine so I could withdraw funds to buy candy to give out to all the kids I run into everywhere we go. Cash machines in Kenya are better than in the states–they’re located inside a closed off area, kind of like a large English telephone booth. You’re safe to withdraw your money without anyone’s eyes on you. Richard, Deb & I fit into this one perfectly, and we all soon found out that MasterCard (mine) doesn’t work here (at least at that bank). Note to self–check which bank cards are most likely to work when traveling abroad. Thankfully Richard exchanged my final dollars & I was able to buy many bags of candy.
Our next stop was to purchase balls for the boys detention center. God has really put this center on Matt’s heart over the last six or so years, so I was really overjoyed to be able to see it in person. I think we left the store with two basketballs, three volleyballs, two soccer balls, and nets for the basketball hoops & volleyball court. We were all really excited to give them out to the boys.
The Shikusa Boys Detention Center is a government run juvenile detention center. When Dr. George, a WorldCOMP board member, became involved with the center nine years ago, the boys were in terrible shape. They ate off of wooden “plates”, they slept on the floor, they had scabies, were sick from pneumonia, had terrible hygiene, etc–the place was miserable and hopeless. Dr. George got WorldCOMP involved & within a very short time the boys & the center have turned around in unbelievable ways.
Deb & I both commented that this place was most likely better than where a lot of the boys came from. They have tremendous opportunities thanks to the vision & dedication of Dr. George & WorldCOMP.
The boys are all taught skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. They are educated & trained in areas that will enable them to work once they are released. All of this from one man’s faith in a child’s potential, even a child who had made bad decisions. Dr. George’s hope was that this detention center would produce reformed & revitalized young men that would enter back into society with something to give back. And it is happening.
There are so many amazing new projects going on that I just must list them: an organic garden that the boys tend & that feeds them; a huge field that they plant & harvest (hard manual labor); livestock that they maintain (goats, pigs, & chickens); a wood working shop; a welding area; a library full of books, and my favorite–the sports court.
One of the most impressive things about the center is that a majority of the buildings were built by the boys. In fact, as we walked in, the boys were building another classroom. Richard & Dr. George pointed to a row of buildings that the boys had built in the last few years. “When I first visited the center, not one of these buildings was here. Constructing these gives them ownership, and it teaches them an important skill. They can leave here & become a builder with their experience.”
And so, when it came time to resurface the basketball court, it was the boys who worked days on end laying the concrete in the blistering sun (and I mean blistering, you should see my face right now). They refused to take lunch breaks & finished in record time. It was evident that they were so proud of themselves & their hard work. From the time we arrived to the time we left, there were boys playing on that court non-stop.
The administration brought the entire group of boys outside to formally introduce us & thank us for the court & new equipment. They sang to us & thanked us & clapped a special 3 part clap to show their appreciation. We loved it!
Deb wanted to teach the boys how to play the game “bump” (it’s a basketball game where you line up & try & make your basket before the person behind you makes theirs–if you’re too late you’re bumped out. It gets down to one winner). She called the basketball team into the court to teach them first. It was absolutely hilarious watching her teach them while Mesh interpreted. No one got out–the boys kept getting back in line–I was laughing & yelling “you’re out!!” until I decided to join in to help demonstrate. If you know my basketball skills, you’ll know that for me to stay in the game for three rounds does not speak highly of their team’s skills. At least now they’ll have the chance to practice more & maybe next time we come (or Matt goes) it’ll be a decent game of bump!
The detention center was so uplifting to me, it gave me great hope & joy. It is the fruit of what’s been poured into it for the last nine years. A whole group of boys has graduated & gone out into the world since the beginning of the changes. Dr. George said that from that group there are a number young men that have become pastors, and that most of the graduates have not re offended. They had a chance at life & took total advantage of it. It’s so rewarding to have been & continue to be a part of positive & uplifting change.
From there we traveled to the school for the deaf. Richard & Val had purchased loaves of white bread & juice for the 70 kids there, and Val had with her photos that she had taken of almost every child.
Talk about one extreme to the next. When we arrived at the center all the children came to greet us. We were immediately surrounded by smiling, curious, excited children.
There were all ages–from six years old up to eighteen years old. There were all different capabilities–a child with Down’s syndrome, a child who looked four but was nine, a child who was just simply deaf. They were all in very worn, dirty uniforms, some of them literally threadbare. They stood in line for bread & juice patiently. I watched them get their bread, sign “thank you” and literally shove the bread in their mouths and devour it as quickly as they could. I’ve never seen a child eat like that. They were starving. It put me into shock. It broke my heart.
We stayed for a while longer & I passed out candy to all of them, once piece at a time, two times until the candy was gone. Their personalities came out to me a bit–the helpful older boy who kept them in a straight line & made sure no one was cheating, the sweet little autistic girl who liked to closely stare at me because she could see herself in my sun glasses, the little boy with stunted growth who grabbed a juice box from an unassuming girl so he could have a little more, the teenage girl who wanted to show off her jump roping skills….they were all so sweet & dear.
I have to note that about 3/4 were wearing Tom’s shoes, so yes, it’s worth it to buy those shoes!! I was so happy to see that–I just wish that they had not at the same time been in threadbare clothes & starving.
WorldCOMP has pledged to visit those kids once a week & bring them food, juice & hope. It’s a state run school, and from the condition of the children, funds are not getting to the children, obviously. Having Kenyan WorldCOMP leaders checking in weekly will bring change.
I left the school in shock (I still can’t get their hunger out of my mind), but I look at what’s been done at the detention center & it gives me tremendous hope. I feel like God was showing me both ends of the spectrum in one day. I can’t know fully how awful the detention center was for those boys nine years ago. But I can see where the School for the Deaf can be nine years from today.
God shines His light in the darkness…
We arrived at the hotel around six to have dinner with the ladies from the micro finance project here in Kakamega. I’ll have to write about it later, but it’s great to say women are helping to transform lives in a big way through micro finance.
It’s 7:20am Thursday morning, and this afternoon we will fly back to Nairobi for the last two days of our trip.
Again, I so appreciate your prayers, emails, & for just being part of this journey.