After a fabulous weekend in the Maasai Mara (post to follow) we arrive at Rachel’s Home- the orphanage we are scheduled to be at for the next three days. Once again- I am a tad anxious to get this ball rolling. I realize that we were coming from a luxury safari and the adjustment might be a tad overwhelming.
Rachel is bubbly and you can tell she runs a VERY tight ship. I welcome that at this point and am excited to hear what we will be working on. We have a short conversation as she explains that today we will be taking it easy and tomorrow she plans to make us very busy. LOVE THAT! She calls out to Stephen who is a long term volunteer from Kenya and he takes us for a tour of the grounds. The home has 6 cows, some chickens and they grow veggies during certain seasons. We pass the kitchen where some of the older children are preparing dinner- making chopati (think pancake like deliciousness!!!)
We get to meet the kids- there are 59 children here at Rachel’s. We get the opportunity to see some of the rooms and they are so tidy- just confirming my belief that Rachel runs a tight ship! Some of these children have families but cannot be provided proper care. There is a school on the grounds as well. The children introduce us with songs and dances our first night and it so great to see them all and I am excited to spend time with them. Their smiles and enthusiasm as they are welcoming us is heartwarming. It is part of doing these projects that makes me realize we can choose to have a bond with all of the faces that we come in contact with. We conclude with a prayer- where they mention for God to watch over them at night because “things happen at night”…Think to myself that is odd- but maybe people have scary dreams.
We have dinner with Stephen and chit chat about Rachel’s home and non sense. When we are ready to retire- Stephen informs us to tell “Mom” that we would like to go to bed. Sidenote that Stephen is very timid and almost looks nervous with “Mom”. I quickly learn that everyone calls Rachel – “Mom”. At first I think it is strange that people other than the children are calling her mom but it seems to be a respect and nurturing thing here- so I go with it. (just to be clear- I don’t call Rachel mom but understand why others do) We explain to Rachel that we are tired and would like to go to bed and she understands as she “releases” us. For some reason, I find that term so bizarre!!!
Allow me to start that there was a great deal of melding and metal doors being put up through out the house- Rachel said the old wooden ones weren’t good so these are better. Sounds good to me…Then she illustrates how to lock the door- there are THREE major latches to lock- think like a jail cell. I think to myself what is this about? Then we notice the bars on the window. As I lay down on the barbie sheets- I think they must just be cautious here.
So exhausted and lazy- I see a switch by my bed and press it thinking maybe I don’t have to get up to turn off the lights but after two presses it doesn’t seem to do anything so I get up and close the light. An hour or so later I am fast asleep there is knocking aka banging on the door – it is Rachel. She explains that the switch on the side of my bed is to the security in case I hear anything. Doesn’t mention much more than that…I am so exhausted that I just think this lady is paranoid and just concerned for our safety and wants us to feel comfortable.
The next morning we awake – have some breakfast and are so happy to see chopati and peanut butter and of course…tea. We are told that we will be making charts for the classrooms- I get a little nervous, I am certainly not the artist- but whatever can handle it. We go over to where the school is and sit in the “faculty room”- picture small desk and broken chairs. All is fine and I am drawing a fish while Kassie will be drawing the map of Kenya that winds up look liking a masterpiece. We continue to draw an insect and a hen (that almost looked like a unicorn). I am pleased that there is pink poster board and get to work and find that once the outlines are completed the coloring is so therapeutic!
Another volunteer joins us for a short time and we get to talking. She is here with her church and has been doing bible studies- like Kassie and I she is from the US. She had gotten pick pocketed the night before and her phone was stolen. Somehow we get on the topic of the security in the house and she says – “Yeah especially after what happened!”
Totally confused we inquire further- as Stephen has the look of fear on his face. The volunteer explain how TWO weeks ago- the house had an “incident”. Allow me to clarify- 15 men came in with machetes, gagged and tied up the security , entered the home (of which we were sleeping) , not sure of the details- but they were in Rachel’s bedroom where there was also a baby, they stole money, computer and apparently went into other bedroom- where a volunteer would of been(and the room we were in). I am in shock and just don’t know what to say- how could no one have told us this. We later learn there was another robbery about a month and a half ago – again breaking into the room that we were staying in and people feel it was an inside job targeting the volunteers.
I am sure you are shocked- as was I! Two attacks in less than two months? We were bringing danger not just to ourselves but to all of those children. One of the other volunteers says she doesn’t feel safe and leaves before it gets dark and would never stay there…literally I feel like a movie is playing and that there is no way this could be real l! She then tells us she was car jacked at the bottom of the hill the week prior! We speak with Rachel and explain that we cannot stay (this after she gives us a padlock for our room). I traveled to Kenya a week after Westgate- I am able to assess risks but not being given this information is completely unacceptable. It put us and the entire Rachel dreams family at risk. When I speak with the country coordinator- he basically says I am selfish to be thinking of my safety and that I don’t know the meaning of “help” . The conversation is just being unproductive so we agree that I will just take control of the rest of my stay as it is easier and I can work directly with the Kibera group. (there is more here but none of which is worth getting into- I wish him the best & am thankful for the connection he has made with Kibera).
All that is going through my head is that we have to leave- so I call my tried and true Hemingways but they are booked and they offer to help us find another reservation at a nearby hotel. I then call Joseph- my tried and true driver- he is able to come and get us. When I see him- I hug him and feel a huge relief. Joseph- as I have mentioned previously- has been a sounding board and has become a friend to me. When I explain the story – he understands and it is good to be with him. I am so grateful for the entire community of friends I have made in Kenya- they have become a second family to me and there is a tremendous amount of love, protection and support!
As we are leaving – all of the children are confused. Saying “you are leaving?” “Cheryl- (or Sharon as many call me) why? “ Of course they are confused it is barely 24 hours and we are leaving. It is heartbreaking- and I am half mad that I was put in this position ( this didn’t need to be the case- there are other housing options available) and half truly sad to be leaving but in my gut I knew no one was safe with us staying in a place that was targeting volunteers.
Rachel’s Dream is a great place- the children are awesome and Rachel has a heart of gold. She loves those children and has provided a home for them. I plan to write Rachel when I return and to see how I can help them with what they have lost. But at the end of the day- it was the right decision- for all parties and their safety and I hope when they prayed that night they felt a bit safer than the night before. I know that I have been saying extra prayers for the entire Rachel’s Dreams Family and that they have sweet dreams every night. Won’t you?
Wishing everyone very sweet dreams!
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