Study Tour

Children and Sponsors Bond in Kenya

ChildFund Sponsorship Day

by Virginia Sowers
ChildFund Community Manager

When our bus pulled up at the park, the children were waiting tentatively. Most had traveled long distances from ChildFund projects in Kenya the prior day—many had never been away from home, much less in a large city like Nairobi.

Sylvia spends time with Moreen and her mother.

Yet, with the skillful coordination of ChildFund Kenya staff, children and their guardians were quickly matched with sponsors — and the day of fun and fellowship began.

“Meeting my child was fantastic,” says Sylvia Moran, who traveled from Alexandria, Va. “Moreen is three years old, and she’s just a beautiful little child. Her mother came with her, and it was obvious that she is a good mother. It was just such a wonderful day. I’m so glad I did it, and I’m looking forward to going on more study tours with ChildFund.”

For Marie-Paule and Jeff De Valdivia of Westport, Conn., meeting 6-year-old Daisy was a memorable moment. “It was really lovely to meet our sponsored child, who clearly is living in extreme poverty right now, but is incredibly bright and possibly has an incredible future ahead of her,” says Marie-Paule. “For me, personally, I loved it because I really see the opportunity to make a difference, and we bonded with her really well. It was great.”

Jeff and Marie-Paule meet Daisy.

Jeff adds, “I hope we’ll be able to help Daisy’s mother in a significant way so that she will be better able to take care of Daisy as well as three others, and one coming. Healthcare for Daisy’s mother is a primary short-term concern. Then it will be education for Daisy. Of course, I’ve started dreaming about her going to university.”

Across the park, similar sponsor-child stories played out, as gifts were exchanged and morning tea was sipped.

Sponsor Mel Zwissler of Powell, Ohio, entertained his four sponsored children with bubble blowing and hilarious antics that caused giggles to erupt.

It wasn’t long until a soccer game was under way and balloons were floating in the breeze.

Changing a childhood will change the world.

Experiencing the Beauty of Kenya

by Virginia Sowers
ChildFund Community Manager

Jambo and greetings from Nairobi, as the ChildFund Study Tour continues in Kenya.

Since last checking in following our ChildFund project visits, our journey has taken us deep into the bush (and away from telephones, Internet access and even 24/7 electrical power).

We’ve been off the grid and immersed in an amazing educational experience.

We’ve traveled to Amboseli National Park, located at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro; Lake Nakuru, a famous migratory stop for flamingos; and Masai Mara National Reserve, known for its lions and golden grassland plains.

A Maasai village

Our last stop this morning before returning to Nairobi was a Maasai village, where the semi-nomadic tribe greeted us warmly and explained their unique culture preserved through generations and closely interwoven with nature.

In addition to brushing up on our Swahili (by the way, jambo means “how are you?”), we’ve learned that Maasai has two “a’s” when referring to the people, but one ‘a” when referring to the land.

Maasai tribesmen

And, of course, there have been animals — close-up encounters (from within the safety of our vehicles) with elephants, lions, giraffes, wildebeests, gazelles, flamingos, tawny eagles, hippos, rhinos, and many, many more species.

Spotted at Amboseli National Park.

Sharing these experiences has brought our ChildFund group together in a companionable way.

As we returned to Nairobi today, our conversations began to center on child sponsorship day with ChildFund Kenya tomorrow. Many members of the tour will be meeting their sponsored children for the first time.

It promises to be another amazing day.

You Are Very Welcome

by Virginia Sowers
ChildFund Community Manager

As I travel the back roads of Kenya this week with the ChildFund Study Tour visiting projects outside Nairobi, I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.

At each stop, entire communities have turned out for us—cheering, singing, dancing, drumming and grasping our hands tightly. “You are very, very welcome,” they say again and again.

Although these children and their families are living in some of the poorest areas of Kenya, their hospitality is unmatched as they greet the 29 ChildFund sponsors and four staff members, including Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO.

ChildFund Kenya’s national office and area staff have taken much time and gone to great effort to immerse us in the communities and for us to see a rich variety of programs.

As we travel to early childhood centers and community centers, children and youth confidently tell us firsthand how ChildFund is impacting their lives.

We’ve had magical moments all week—shy smiles and exuberant laughter from tiny children in red-and-white gingham school uniforms; lively songs, poems and skits that demonstrate commitment to children’s rights; and heartfelt stories from those coping with HIV/AIDS.

One of my “wow” moments was planting a tree seedling at the Wamunyu ChildFund project office grounds. When we entered the compound, it was amazing to see little placards with each of our names marking pre-dug holes for our trees to be sunk into Kenyan soil.

A youth representative of the Wamunyu Self-Help Group explained that proceeds from the tree nursery have helped fund the group’s efforts to address unemployment issues among youth while helping protect the environment. With ChildFund’s help, the group is promoting youth education and vocational training while participating in community improvements.

As I washed the red dirt from beneath my fingernails and surveyed our group’s work planting nearly 40 trees, I felt so very welcome.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 859 other subscribers

ChildFund
Follow me on Twitter