August 9, 2008
Today we enjoyed an incredible day of celebration at the Makindu Children’s Centre. The children, the guardians, the MCC Board, and the staff put on a welcoming ceremony that showed how much they appreciate the Proper Walk and our supporters back at home. The children sang and danced with the youngest ones capturing our hearts with their presentations. This event provides the context of why we do the Walk – helping vulnerable children have hope and dreams for the future.
A young girl spoke of her dream of being a Dr. to help her village and to treat people. She named many groups she would help such as policemen, pilots, engineers… She was amazingly articulate about her dreams and her desire to help others.
We also spoke with Madona and Babu, two graduates of the Program who are successfully becoming young adults and serve as examples to the younger children in the Program. Madona has become quite the entrepreneur and Babu is studying pre-law at a Ugandan university.
Each of the Walkers got involved in the ceremony with Michael introducing the Walkers to the assembled crowd. He also gave a heartfelt thank you to the Guardians who are the key to the Program working. They provide a home for the children and without them the centre would not be able to help nearly as many vulnerable children.
Most of the Walkers danced with the children making the interaction between the Walkers and our new friends a great deal of fun. Ashley brought Miss Bindergarten who made the rounds with the young girls. Ashley also made drawings of the children while being surrounded by a crowd of onlookers. Tommy recorded the event on video while Dave Brooks and Cathy DeLong, an MCP Board Member, recorded the day in pictures. John and Bill spoke about how emotional it was to see how the Program has positively impacted the children and the community. I danced, played frisbee and soccer and thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with the people I met in ’06.
Some of the things we learned today showed we are making a huge impact. A new dining hall building is nearing completion which will help feed nearly 300 children at the centre. The program now takes care of over 400 children with several outreach programs in outlying areas. There is also a community outreach establishing a support group for women who are living with HIV AIDS. I bought several necklaces made of rolled up magazines and beads.
The success of the Makindu Children’s Program in changing lives was evident all throughout the day’s events and creates an emotional high as we will head north tomorrow to start the Walk on the 11th.
We are grateful for all the donors who have helped us raise over $75,000 so far with our target of exceeding $100,000 for Proper Walk 2008.
Proper Walk 08 Here We Come
August 10, 2008
We packed up the safari vehicles rented from Arid Adventures along with the drivers (www.arid-adventures.co.ke) and had breakfast at the Sikh Temple. The morning light made the white buildings of the temple grounds shine brilliantly. Dave, Michael and I climbed to the top to get a bird’s eye view of Makindu and the temple grounds.
Michael made a donation to the temple, as is customary, they do not charge for the rooms or the food as is the Sikh philosophy of helping travelers. Those who can make a donation typically do. We load up and head north to meet the camel caravan; John, Amanda, Roger, the guys (camel handlers), and the camels. It will be at least an 8 hour drive.
We stopped briefly in Nairobi to get some final supplies and to let those so inclined to check email to send some quick notes to family and friends. The landscape quickly changes on the north side of Nairobi as rain is more plentiful. The highway is soon surrounded by hills with intensely green agricultural plots dotting the landscape. Neatly trimmed tea bushes become the main crop we see which is one of the biggest exports for Kenya. Recently, cut flowers have become a huge export to Europe that surpassed coffee and tea in terms of total value.
We stop at roadside tourist area with pink and yellow stalls and an amazing view of the Great Rift Valley and high mountains in the distance. Dave buys a tourista simba safari hat to give him that special hiker look he is going for while Tommy buys a spear. The shop owners are all adept at getting visitors in their shop with pleas of “it’s free to look”.
We continue on towards Nakuru where we will meet Robin and Jessica and finally arrive in the mid-afternoon. Hugs and handshakes are shared with them as we meet at their sports club, a throw back to the old colonial days of Kenya. We each order a beer or tea and try and regroup after the long drive. We learn that Jessica and Robin will now take over the driving to get us to the Great Rift Valley Escarpment where we will meet the caravan.
We want to arrive before dark so there isn’t much time to waste before getting on the road for the final 2 – 3 hours. We make good time and meet up with Amanda, John, and Roger, a truly pleasurable event as Roger has been on each Proper Walk and Amanda has been on all but the first while John is the man behind the scenes who manages things at Ol Maisor with Amanda and the guys out on the Proper Walk.
We load up again and set off to find the camels. Unfortunately, finding the camels ends up being problematic as the camels are nowhere to be found as they didn’t set up camp where they had planned on meeting us. A positive outcome of our search is we see one of the most beautiful views we have ever seen of the Great Rift Valley below the escarpment where we will camp. We searched for the camels until well after dark and decided we would set up camp and have the camels come to us.
Setting up camp in the dark is not optimal but everyone had headlamps which certainly simplifies the project. We soon had visitors to the camp to inquire about who we were and why we were here. The mzee who came seemed to be the owner of the land so all seemed like it was going swimmingly until a group of young Kenyans showed up and wanted to be paid for staying on one of the young man’s father’s land.
Negotiation did not go well and it appeared we were going to pack up and move, a prospect that was unbelievably unattractive at this point. I moved over to these young guys and made small talk. Michael saw me talking and said, “Leave the negotiations to John and Amanda”. I replied, “I’m not negotiating, I’m just talking”. I got them talking and listened to them with one guy the primary speaker who spoke English very well. Periodically, he would stop and interpret for the other guys who did not speak English as well.
It appeared that the young men felt they had been disrespected and were not very pleased about it. I explained some of the issues we had encountered and that we were very tired after spending over 10 hours in a vehicle. The last thing we want to do is to pack up but that the powers to be were suggesting we do just that. I told him we were all from the United States of America and that we wanted to be friends, if possible. I asked him what they thought of Obama, a son of a Kenyan, running for President of the United States. This genuinely brightened up the conversation and we were having a great time talking about what an Obama Presidency would do for Kenya and the image of the United States.
I went to find Ashley who had brought a bag of Obama buttons and asked if she would mind giving these guys each an Obama button. She said sure and came over to meet them. I introduced Ashley to the young men and she presented the main one an Obama button and the mood genuinely lightened up. We took some pictures of him and with him as he started calling us his mom and dad. After laughing and talking a bit I said, “What’s it going to take to let us stay here?” He looked at me and said, “We’re not trying to be difficult but feel my friend should be paid for staying on his land and disturbing his cattle”. I said, “Sure I understand. What is it that would work?” He looked at me for a moment and said, “5 U.S.” “OK”, I responded, but I don’t have any power to say yes or no so, I’ll mention it to them and see what they say.”
I went over to John and told him what they wanted and he exclaimed, “That’s all they want?! I have a $10 bill I would be glad to give them. Do you think they would take it?” “Sure,” I said, “I think they just want something, anything to save face at this point.”
John got the bill and I gave it to the main dude. He had a confused look on his face and I realized he may not have ever seen a $10 bill before so, I explained who Hamilton was and when I turned over the bill and showed him the White House I said, “And that will be Obama’s new home when he becomes President”. Big smiles all around and the deal was done.
Michael looked at me with a huge grin and shook his head, “My apologies for telling you to stay out of it. You working this out will go down in the Proper Walk lore. Way to go mate.”
It was truly a funny, funny ending to a long, long day.