I don’t even know which movie we stole the cliche’ from, but we (the teams that have traveled over since the beginning) have stolen the cliche’ T. I. A. (meaning This Is Africa) and changed it to This Is Kenya-We say it every time something does not go the way we thought it would go. Usually, we attach this saying to our expectation of time and schedule. We go as Americans with a very American agenda. We intend to drive that horse as an American and “get ‘er done!” I have learned to let go of my agendas and to sigh and say-T.I.K. when things just go in Kenyan time and in Kenyan space. It’s almost like there is not time…except for lunch…Lunch is always at 12:30. Anyway, I am rambling, but the point I am trying to make is this-when I told you we would be posting about a really great project we had not intended on doing but were now doing, I really thought I would have a post in a few short days. That was simply not meant to be!
For a background: When we decided on this trip, we did not really intend to be doing any major projects. Ours was a trip intended to gather information on each child, set up the infrastructure for a child sponsorship program, get some responses from the community on the impact of the well, and assess the basic needs on the ground. I really thought that would be enough! I worked hard the first weeks to get the files set up and lay the groundwork for the team to come in and gather the missing information. However, in a conversation that took place in the well tower, our mission changed-or grew that is. We still spent considerable time working on the profiles, and Matt did some painting, but the project that made the biggest immediate impact was one we just were not expecting. While Sam was showing the Moores the water tower, he mentioned that they were hoping to find a way to get some big rocks and softer dirt to repair the road beside the well tower. The idea was that a business could actually be created whereby young men would bring hand carts in and haul water out to the community to sell. This would not only create jobs for seemingly aimless youths, it would also provide a greater source of income for the school. In addition, the community at large would be able to benefit from the clean water.
On a side note, I learned something I am glad I did not know before. Teacher Dan told us that many times when one buys water from a vendor, he has no way of knowing whether that water is “fresh” from the city, or if it indeed came from the sewer. That grossed me out!
So, the problem with the road is that it has deep ruts and pot holes-it is a dirt road for those of you who have not been there. This is not only tearing Sam’s car up, but it is making it impossible to reach the larger community with the water. Here is what the road looked like:
So you can see that the ruts are deep and hard to manage. Samuel had approached the people that live on this street, and they all really wanted to help fix the road, but they barely have money for food, so buying rocks was out of the question. (I keep laughing every time I say buying rocks. It’s just weird to me to buy rocks.) However, we needed to buy rocks.
SO…I really thought these rocks would be there by Monday or Tuesday, but they came on Thursday-Still pretty good timing as we ordered them so late. (still laughing that we had to ORDER rocks) When they came, the youth from the community came out and spent the rest of the day crushing the rocks and spreading them to make the road. Later, Samuel told me that they were so impacted to see Matt and Michael working right along beside them. They said they didn’t know white men knew how to do manual labor.
Unfortunately, there are no pictures of how this road got to be “smooth.” It’s primitive. They have this long steel pole attached to a heavy block and they pound the rocks until they break apart. They also used mallets and hammers. It was really hard work.
Of course, now I am going to tell you how this small project brought hope. I pray you do not tire or hearing me talk about how the little we have, when given, brings life change. Sometimes those changes are small, but they matter. Within hours of the road being completed, I saw a truck come in and fill up several large containers with water. Fresh water. Water pure enough to be bottled-now available. And, while I think that is awesome, this was not what struck me about this project. It was the following day when we drove onto the street and where there had been piles of trash, there were small stacks of filled trash bags. And when we pulled up, one of the ladies came out of her house and began to dance and laugh and sing! With tears of joy, she thanked Samuel for repairing the road. Why? “Because now she felt like a ‘real’ person.” Have you caught it? Before the road was repaired, the trash men wouldn’t come to pick up her trash. Now, these ladies feel a sense of pride-the trash men can now reach their places to haul away the trash. I know that sounds so small, but when you live in a small one room house, the sides of which may be tin, it’s hard to feel human. When you eat every other day-if you are lucky-it’s hard to feel whole. When your spouse gives you HIV them leaves so no one will know his status is as yours, it’s hard to feel important. It’s little, but when someone picks up your trash, you feel a little more normal-you feel like you belong to a society. Take my word for it, she told us herself. It’s just a road, it’s just trash, but to her it was hope. You can call it what you will-but I like to call it hope. It’s a small thing that brightens a dark day and makes you feel like maybe someone out there does know you exist-perhaps someone does care-and just maybe tomorrow will be a little better.