At 7:00 am the next morning, we ventured out to St. John’s Church on Piki Pikis (basically motorcycles). As a central cultural point within the community, St. John’s is located at one of the highest peaks in the surrounding area, giving way to views that took our breaths away. As people began arriving to the church with us, we were overwhelmed with their kindness and hospitality. Ishmael, the main pastor, and his kind son, Titus, invited us into their home near the church and offered up some wonderful conversation and many smiles. Ishmael was adamant about having us sign his guest book so he could remember us after we were gone. The service we attended was primarily geared towards the school-aged youth in the community. Upon our arrival at the church, we were greeted with even more smiles. The beginning of the service consisted of a variety of different “presentations”, or joyful songs lead by just a few girls at a time, along with songs that everyone joined in on. Their voices filled the room, the air outside, and seemed to light up the entire mountain. They were far better performers than we proved to be, although Lauren stunned us all when our group was called up to introduce ourselves and she lead the entire congregation in song. We received a standing ovation from the entire church. The pastor then preached a very powerful message. We were all glad that we had had the opportunity to be part of such an awesome community gathering.
Leaving the church, participated in a spontaneous meeting with the local Youth Group representatives for the community. They all introduced themselves to us and presented a few of their needs and project ideas for the local community, capturing our attention especially with a proposed library to help the literate members of the society educate themselves….future Invictus project idea? We’ll see! Their other project ideas included creating a computer lab and looking into some possibilities for agriculture near the area.
After leaving the church, we enjoyed an impeccable meal at a hotel over a pretty intense game of Uno. We then took our new favorite form of transportation, the Piki Pikis, to the Small Home, an orphanage in the community. Many of the children at the Small Home have a disability or are impaired in some way. One of the best ways to introduce the orphanage is by quoting the message painted across the wall: “Disability is not inability”. We were lucky enough to receive a tour of the home the previous day, and were blown away by the work that the house moms of each age group put into their care at the orphanage. Their whole mission is to teach the kids life skills, proving to them that they have a purpose in life and are not useless to the world like their society may lead them to believe. Keter, one of the men who works at the small home, explained that to spend time and work with the kids one needs to have an outstanding capacity for empathy—it really requires a servant heart to be able to take on such a position. These kids have overcome more obstacles and have more hope than most of us could ever imagine having, and seeing that inspired all of us. It was a privilege to spend the day playing soccer (futbol) with these mini superhumans. They were all in awe of Kerri’s mad soccer skills. Overall, everyone was able to enjoy each other’s company and have a great time hanging out, playing, and interacting with one another.
Back at the Harambee house, we were joined by eight elder leaders to discuss the Hawagaya Bridge project. After two hours of confusing conversation, a lot of frustration on both sides, and some very impressive translation by our one and only Gladys, the community elders had an ah-ha moment. They finally realized that they are strong, inventive, and have the power to come up with their own money and a way to build the bridge without relying on us. It was inspiring to watch and be a part of the meeting, as well as set some points of action moving forward. Perhaps the most inspiring moment of the meeting was at the end, when we all went around in a circle and recounted what we had learned from the meeting. Some big takaways included the importance of setting expectations, having accountability, having invested project ownership, not rushing into a project without considering all the different angles, and defining realistic goals. At the end of the day, the community felt like they needed us to do the project for them, when in reality, they had the majority of the resources and labor necessary to do the project on their own. The goal of the Invictus was to empower them to make them aware of this fact, as well as bring up other variables the community had not considered and offer a partnership agreement versus completely doing all the work for them.
After saying goodbye and taking many pictures with the elders and community members, we made some delicious pasta and cheesy bread. After a long day of interaction and conversation, we were all ready to head to bed in preparation for the next day.