Today I was up at 5AM bright eyed and full of excitement because we were going to find a youth group to work with. I had explained to Maggie, my host thus far, that I am a drama teacher eager to do work with the youth of Kenya. She immediately jumped on board to make it happen. We agreed that her support would involve " reaching the unreachable". First stop would be about two hours outside of Nairobi in an area called Kajiado. Here we met almost fifty young ladies from ages six to nineteen who were at this particular center for one of four reasons. The Kajiado Adventist Rehabilitation and Education Centre rescues girls from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); early childhood marriage, economic orphans and those whose parents are no longer with them. These girls are predominantly from the Masai communities and find refuge at this center with the hope for an education and a better chance in life.
As we arrived, they had all just finished attending church service and were crossing over to the main building for lunch. They were to get their bowl of rice and peas and head over to the hall where we would meet and greet. This was my first opportunity to see my dream of being my work to Africa come true. I could not believe it was actually happening. We chatted for a bit and then got into some activities. I must say that I did not expect everyone's English to be as polished as it was. When we got to the improv activity one young lady in particular shocked me with her storytelling abilities. I then realized what true potential lay before me. And then felt a heavy weight of reality smack me silly. Because of time and place and circumstances many of these amazing talented gems will never see their true potential come to fruition. We can live in hope though and do what we can to help even one of them realize their dreams. At the end of the workshop the girls asked me to sing for them so I chose a favorite which speaks of hope. I shared with them the best rendition of Bette Midler's The
Rose I could give. They listened intently and applauded politely at the end. As they started to ask me
to sing again I redirected the focus on them and asked if they would share their singing with me. They did and it was effortlessly entertaining. In the end several of them sat with me to ask questions and to share their stories.
"Naima, I thought you were a boy when you first came in!" blurted the first statement from a quiet and unassuming fourteen year old named Tiffany.
"Well, I am a tomboy" I replied and they all laughed out as though they fully understood the reference.
" Are you married Naima? Asked Evelyn.
" Do you have children?" Jane pushed in.
" No am not married and no I have no children of my own but I consider all my students my children. So now you are my children"
Jane sat just to my right and eyed me cautiously soaking in all I had to offer. I could see her in my
periphery and knew she was the one. In all the excitement and array of questions I quietly leaned in to her and asked,
" Will you tell me your story?"
She nodded yes and indicated that she would only do so privately. I then returned my full attention to the group and slowly brought our session to a close. Jane took my hand and led me away from the group to share with me that she had been orphaned when her parents both died of illnesses for which they could not afford to seek medical attention. Being the last girl of eight she was separated from her siblings and brought to this home. She expressed how lucky she is to be there and how hopeless her life had seemed only three years ago.
" Will you come back to us Naima?"
"Yes I will Jane"
"You must come back Naima. You have to do your work with us!"
" Jane, this is not the last time you will see me. Thank you so much for sharing with me and know that I will return. I then removed the blue rubber wrist band she had been playing with during our conversation and gave it to her. It reads " TODAY I CAN DO ANYTHING!" in bold white letters.