In April, I had my first home visits. Together with Mercy, the social worker from the MCC, we visited families from the community whose children attend MCC kindergarten or one of the MCC schools and receive support through the MMP program. Basically, it was just as I had imagined. However, it was also shocking to see the reality firsthand. Small houses consisting of approximately two rooms. One room serves as the living room and the other as the bedroom. The entire house is only about 16 square meters. The unbelievable thing is that NINE people live here together.
The kitchen is separate, although I found nothing more than a fireplace and a few cooking bowls—not comparable to the European kitchens we are familiar with. Sometimes, there is also a field nearby, which initially appears large, but then I realize that the harvest only lasts a short time considering the size of the household.
Most households have livestock such as goats, chickens, geese and sometimes cows. They either use them for their own consumption or sell them on the market to buy other supplies. Briefly, it’s about survival, the lookout for food, day after day.
A few weeks later, together with social worker Joseph, we visited the Mathare slums in Nairobi. As soon as we arrived, an unpleasant smell hit my nose. On one side, pigs were rummaging through garbage heaps, while on the other side, there were many small shops where residents tried to earn some money for the day. As we walked through the alleys, clothes lay trampled in the dirt, children ran through the streets and shyly observed the “mzungus” (the whites) from a distance.
The living conditions of the families we visited were strikingly similar. Families of six or more live in rooms of around 8 square meters. This is where they keep all their belongings. Tin huts lined up next to each other. Privacy is a foreign word here. It makes me uncomfortable to intrude into the private lives of these families and as a privileged white person to only be able to bring a small package, which would be enough for their daily meal. Joseph explained that at least we could help a little with that. He summed up the situation in the slums by saying, “they don’t worry about tomorrow, they worry about today.”
In the last few days of March, Barbara Krohne and Helen Milkau, the chairwomen of our association, visited the Maisha Mazuri Children Centre (MCC). They were here for nine days and attended several meetings with Jimmy, the director of MCC and Michael, the MCC manager. This allowed them to get up to date and discuss future projects. On the day they left, the new volunteer Marta arrived. The children welcomed her warmly and eagerly carried her suitcase and backpack from the car to the house. Marta will spend three months here with the children in the children’s home.
Since Easter was just around the corner on the weekend, we had decided to continue some German traditions here. On the day before Easter, we dyed eggs in various colors with the children. For many of the kids, it was surprising why we dye our Easter eggs in Germany. On Easter morning, we had the colorful eggs for breakfast. Some children made funny faces when they saw the brightly colored egg whites. After clarifying that it’s edible, they enjoyed eating the eggs. We also planned an Easter egg hunt with the children. Unfortunately, it rained throughout the day, so we spontaneously hid the chocolate bunnies inside the house. The children couldn’t wait to search for them. It turned into a big commotion as they all ran around and excitedly held up the found chocolate bunnies. 🙂
Since the first third of the school year was over, the children entered the long-awaited three weeks of vacation. The football field, which is usually occupied by secondary school students during school time, was now empty as they went home to their families for the holidays. The children took advantage of the vacant field and played on it for a few hours almost every day. A new Kenyan volunteer joined us for three weeks. He comes from a psychology background and tried to apply his knowledge in various workshops and daily activities. He was also passionate about football and spent a lot of time with the children on the field.
During the vacation, we used the time to hold small workshops with the children. We also involved children from the community, addressing topics such as hygiene, sleep, nutrition, resources, manners and privacy in a playful manner, such as through group discussions and activities.
Baking was also on the agenda. With great enthusiasm and fun, we made cookies, muffins and traditional chapati every Saturday.
Another workshop involved crocheting and both the girls and boys were interested in learning. Initially, the children had puzzled expressions on their faces, but with a little patience and help from the older ones, they created bracelets, scarves and started making hats. Continuing our creative journey, we also made beaded bracelets and necklaces together. Suddenly, all the children were there, eager to make their own bracelets. There was almost a competition for the beads. In no time, all the beads were gone, and the children were running around the courtyard with their colorful accessories.
The children in the home love baking. But now I wanted to specifically bake muffins with the children from the community, as it would be a new experience for them, something they couldn’t do at home. Similar to the children in the home, they were very interested and helped with everything. They admired the baked muffins, saying “wow, very smart” and enjoyed them with delight.
As the second to last term of the school year approached, we also used the vacation time for homework and studying. For some of the kids, this term is crucial as it determines whether they will go to secondary school or the skills center afterward. In the evenings after dinner, we enjoyed spending more time with the children in the kitchen. During this time, we sang, danced, shared stories or simply goofed around. Personally, for the two of us, it’s the best time of the day.