Gladys, Leonard, and I met for two hours Tuesday morning to review the projects at hand. We broke them down by description, then estimated cost, and then by priority. I have created a spreadsheet on my laptop to track projects and costs against the donated funds.
While the completion of the electrical wiring for the second and third floors of the new school building is important, the connecting of a well-fed cistern to the new bathrooms, a 50m+ run, is imperative as the Nakuru sanitation authority has condemned the current facility, disallowing additional removal of waste. The full assembly of students (400+) return to school in just a few weeks, so we have little time.
Eager to jump into the projects, Gladys introduced me to Isaac, a bright young man who lives at Pistis and attends a school off-site, as someone who can assist me with finding tools, supplies, and coordinating labor forces.
He and I walked to a third and then fourth hardware store (one-room store fronts that offer a surprising array of necessities) in search of shovels and spades. I asked Isaac if he would attend college. He shared that while his grades were in the B+/A- category, ample to potentially win a government scholarship, he desires to join the military first and become a fighter pilot. I stated that his goal was very good. He added that he wanted to live and to die like a man. I concluded, smiling, “And to die going very, very fast.” He laughed and agreed.
Isaac is humble, for I later learned from Gladys that he knows nothing of his biological parents and was raised on the streets by whomever would take him in and yet he is top ranked in the nation for his scholastic achievement. He graduates next year, his proper British English damn near perfect with a vocabulary that baffles me. When he speaks, he commands attention. When he takes charge, the kids follow. And when he and I talk, we cover a half dozen subjects as though we have been talking for as many years. Isaac aspires to be a fighter pilot. From the streets of Nakuru to the skies of Africa, what an amazing story he will tell.
The transition to any country is one of training the body to accept the new time zone, learning the social norms through sometimes awkward trial and error, and adjusting to differences in food and language. In my coming here, I have perhaps more than any of my travels, grown to be aware of the beauty in the basics that we all share.
Every child in the academy laughs. Every child plays. Every child has more than one hundred brothers and sisters with whom they have lived for a few months to a half dozen years. Through basketball, soccer, blowing bubbles, washing clothes, brushing hair, and helping with projects, these children are receiving support, hope, and joy. Pistis is a selfless refuge that allows the children to just be children, their basic needs covered and time for play guaranteed.
The boys and girls wash their own clothes, eat meals from over-turned frisbees with spoons whose handles are missing, and have but one change of clothes. And yet the children’s personal dignity transcends the challenge of their immediate surroundings.
A boy of sixteen or seventeen years introduced himself to me when we began to dig the trench for the water pipe. He wielded one of the new pick-axes (“jemba” is the local name) and said with a wide smile, “I am Bernard. I am Maasai”. His first name he pronounced with soft consonants and ‘Maasai’ carried the haunting depth of a whisper in a narrow passage. Perhaps the images in my mind were reinforced by Hollywood films, but a chill moved down my spine for the strength of his tribal conviction and pride in his people.
I have a house filled with things that I do not need, but do not know both the first and last name of my neighbors two houses down. The children of the orphanage and surrounding families own virtually nothing and yet they have community. They love and support each other in a way that perhaps only the farmers of our Midwest knew when family farms were spaced every mile and survival depended upon community.