Wednesday, October 7, 2015

All You Need is Love

"The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention." -Oscar Wilde

A small box TV filled the air with the sound of a dubbed over kung fu. The air smelled of a mix of watered down chai tea and body odor. Across from me sat three young boys eagerly guzzling their chai and chapati. It was a splendid way to end a great day.

That morning I sat with my two principle investigators (PI's) and a handful of colleagues discussing the next steps for my child sexual abuse prevention project. I nervously presented the material on the slides I had carefully created the weeks preceding this meeting.

It all started when a research assistant from one of our clinics reached out for help on how to deal with four girls who had disclosed being sexually violated, one of which became pregnant after the incident. Eager to help but not very knowledgeable about Kenyan laws or regulations I set off on a frenzy of research. Turns out 32% of girls and 18% of boys experience sexual abuse before the age of 18 in Kenya based on a 2010 Violence Against Children Study.

My study first began with the goal of how can I help everyone and change the world ... as it always starts . It soon shrunk down to a project I hope to complete in the next 9 months while I am here in Kenya. My study will aim to create a Kiswahili culturally-sensitive child-friendly body safety book teaching children the difference between good and bad touches and what to do if they ever experience a bad touch.
At my co-workers neighborhood

Today my meeting went very well, I am on my way to kick-starting my first personal project in Kenya. After a successful day at work I headed to a gym to sign up with my friend. After so much ugali, chips (fries), rice and chapati, I can use some exercise. I really wanted a gym with classes, since I am a social butterfly, but Eldoret does not have any.

As my friend and I happened on the gym on the 3rd floor of a large building we began hearing dance music, and to my surprise a room full of mainly women, dancing or jazzercising to the music. Hooray! Not only do they have aerobics they also have taekwondo. I paid 2000 KSH ($20) for a month long membership.  I start tomorrow.

As I was waiting for my friend to pick me up from the gym I ran into two street boys asking for food. I usually try to ignore them but these two were relentless. I walked into a small paper good store and bought two pens and a note book for the boys. They took it and began writing. I asked them to teach me some Kiswahili and they began writing words for me and drawing pictures. One said he wanted to be a teacher the other a pilot.

At my co workers house
I decided to take them to dinner. On the way to a place they said was around the corner we picked up another young boy. They lead us through a narrow dirty alleyway, past bustling barbershops to a small shack filled with people eating at long tables and watching the loud faded television set perched up on the corner. I perused the menu written on a small board hanging on the wall. What do you want I asked. "Chai and chapati" they exclaimed excitedly. Chapati was 10 KSH (10 cents) and chai was the same. My friend and I sat down at on the small benches and ordered the food. Three more boys joined in.

This brings me back to where I began this story. I sat across from the boys as they played tic-tac-toe in the notebook. I munched on my plain chapati and sipped my piping hot chai. They played a driving game on my friends phone and we laughed at the silly kung fu moving blasting on the small television set.

One of the little boys told my friend how he ended up on the street, my friend translated into Kiswahili so that I could share it with the world. He was about 11 years old. His mother died several years ago so he lived alone with his father. Five days previous he went to play football with his friends and his father chased him away and since then he had been staying on the street. In Kenya school might be free but uniforms and materials needed to attend class are expensive.

At Tumaini Center for Street Children
The shack was a meager 10 ft long and just as narrow. Four long tables filled the room, makeshift benches were squeezed on each side of the table. The room was filled with perhaps 20 people all chowing down on chapati and chai laughing at the movie. The room was warm and alive, I felt safe here, although most might not, and most of all I felt full of love.

As we walked back out to meet our friends the six boys followed us out thanking us for the food and the notebook. They even guarded us from other drunk and intoxicated street children making sure we arrived safe to my friends car. I even learned a new word in Kiswahili: Paka (cat).

They all gave us high fives as we parted ways. I spent 160 KSH ($1.60) on dinner for all the kids and myself. I think that was a dollar sixty well spent. Lets start paying it forward.

At the Tumani Center for Street Kids


  1. You are touching lifes of many people, Simple things but it means alot to someone, Bravo!

  2. Adrienne, I'm happy to read that you will be able to put your desire to help abused children to work while you are in Kenya this year. What a worthwhile project.