I've been in Kenya for the last week travelling around with a small group of mostly Australians, and my Mum.
There is a common saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and during the week we have met many, many happy and smiling children who were so excited to see us visit them. Each day travelling in the bus meant waving to all the children we passed as they waved to us.
On the first day, we visited New Hope Children's Home, which supports 140 young girls and boys who are either orphans or from extreme poverty. On the way we dropped into the shops to collect some gifts for them... mine was coloured pencils and books for them to create their own journals of their future dreams. We were given a tour of the facilities, and how it was all built on donations from foreigners. There were a few volunteers who stay there for a few weeks to teach and play with the children. The kids performed some songs, and then we mucked around for about an hour. Here is a pic with me and 3 girls who live and study there. So much great spirit in them.
Here we are with a whole bunch of the kids giving the gifts we brought. I'm right at the back with 2 of them on my shoulders.
The New Hope Children's Home is also supported by the Intrepid Foundation, who we are travelling with. Check out www.theintrepidfoundation.org for all the projects they work with. This is the same foundation supporting the Project SAMA that Mum and I have been fundraising for in Uganda, and is similar to the New Hope project focusing on helping girls with education. We are so close to reaching our $6000 (Indian headress for a week!) so if you feel inspired, please donate here.
The next day we camped in a village in Nakuru, in the magical Rift Valley, Kenya. In the morning, we were taken on a walk through the village to meet the women entrepreneurs who were supporting their village with a range of small business endeavours. Surrounding our every move was a whole group of young people, curious about these foreigners who were visiting. It is school holidays here in Kenya, so they have been occupying themselves with helping in the fields (lots of corn/maize) and football/soccer (a national obsession). I was instantly drawn to the groups of energetic young boys, and we hit it off instantly.
As the group watched the older women perform traditional dances and songs, I stayed with my new "gang" and sang and danced outside. We played, laughed, chased each other and fell rolling on the ground. I later learned that many of these boys were also orphans and had little contact with their fathers, so I felt humbled to be able to experience their youthful joy and happiness, and just hoped that I had made even a small difference with my time with them. One of the older ladies watched us chuckling to herself, and after came up to me and invited me to come and stay in the village again one day to spend more time with them. Pretty awesome.
As we were leaving they were still with me running after our truck, yelling "Bye Tim". It was almost heartbreaking to leave them.
Back on the road, we headed to the Maasai Mara, camping next to a village in Loita Hills. We met the chief and learnt about the Maasai ways, experiencing the traditional dances of the women and the Maasai warrior men. Again, many children were curious to meet us, taking our hands as we walked around their village.
One young man, Moses, stood out to me. Smart, articulate and well mannered, Moses is the son of the Chief and in line to take the responsibility for his father's tribe and land in the near future. Moses is 14 years old, beginning high school this year, and will begin his training as a warrior at 16 years until 25 years old when he will marry his first wife of his parents choosing.
His father, Joseph the Chief and regional tribe elder, was passionate about balancing the traditional Maasai ways and progressive thinking, and ensured that education was available equally to boys and girls in his village. One of his daughters was a recent university graduate in business, yet still came back to the village to actively contribute to the community.
I feel compelled to continue my connection with Moses and his community, so we have exchanged details and committed to stay in touch. His asked if I could send him some photos of our time in his village, and a football for him to play with his siblings. I think I could manage that one for sure!
His father and I spoke about what could be possible for Moses to experience Australia as part of his education, and even his plans to become a doctor. It got me thinking about how possible this would be to support him in Australia for some study, and the positive impact this could have for him in his leadership journey for his community, and his own personal development. How amazing would it be for a boy from the Maasai tribe to visit Melbourne to learn about our culture, about our incredible Indigenous Australias, and bring it back to his people. I'm sure we could also learn so much from him too.
It struck me after writing this that most of my focus and energy during these village trips was on the children, and that they were a source of such motivation and inspiration for me. I've also reflected on the moments in The Village where we have had kids visit us, such as for Bottle for Botol events, or school excursions. There is a different buzz in spaces where children are, and they give adults something different and exciting... maybe they remind us that there is an inner child in all of us that wants to play, be mischievious, learn and grow, be curious and go on adventures. Perhaps I feel like I'm the biggest kid of all in these villages, but I love that it allows me to connect with kids in a way that engages them.
We need more opportunities and spaces to share and connect with our young people, outside of just our family life. Perhaps The Village can play a more active role in connecting generations and be a place for us all to let our inner child play.