First Days in Mombasa, Kenya
Cecilia is a volunteering through our Chalice Overseas Volunteer Experience (COVE) program. She is learning from and working alongside our partners at our Mombasa Sponsor Site, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity (OLC). The OLC order was started right in Mombasa itself. The site is situated on the outskirts of this coastal city, where the city’s poorest live. Many have migrated from rural areas seeking work at the port, oil refinery, large scale factories, and heavy industries. Poverty and disease are extensive and people live in very crowded quarters. The OLC Sisters strive to assist families and their slogan, “Give portions unto whom nothing is prepared,” is lived every day. You can read more about Chalice’s work in Mombasa here: www.chalice.ca/mombasa.
It was slow and steady work (or ‘ploeploe’ as the locals would say) getting here to Africa. After months of communication trying to get Visas, Permits, and arrangements all in order, Wednesday July 18 I was finally given the go ahead to book flights. Only to find out the very next day that the Permit would take longer than expected and I wouldn't be able to start my work as a nurse as quickly as we thought. There was talk of cancelling the flights, postponing the whole trip, or just giving up, but thankfully it didn't end up that way. Because the flights I managed to book were extremely cheap and an actual gift from God, it didn't seem right to cancel, and I knew I would be able to help in other ways while I wait for the Permit. So on July 21, just 3 days after I booked my flight, I jumped on a plane and started course for Mombasa, Kenya.
And as always, God hasn't disappointed. After getting settled in my new home (a lovely little convent) I was set to start work at the Grandsons of Abraham Centre. A place where boys who have been living on the streets are welcomed and are preparing to start school full time. There are 11 boys there at the moment the youngest being 8, and the oldest 18, and each one has been an absolute joy getting to know!
Our days start at about 9 o’clock with school. The subject changes from day to day with Math being a favorite of the Boys, but they also love doing Social Studies and quizzing each other on the countries of Africa. There are 3 volunteers there at the moment, and we each help out a different grade group. I help out the Kindergarten - Grade 3 boys, and each day I am in charge of assigning them work in the respective subject and keeping them busy until 11-11:30. The classroom is plain, but it isn't without cause, these boys (as I was told and have come to experience) are not used to respecting objects. So even if you gave them the world it would be ruined in a minute. Between this and the concern that they would sell the objects to go and purchase drugs, the decision to keep the classroom simple was made.
Then after class I often play soccer with the little ones until lunch! Playing soccer has been a great way to get to know them and earn their trust and respect. Nothing like having fun that allows kids to feel comfortable! The lunch is always prepared by the boys and is always delicious consisting of rice and some form of bean. After lunch we either continue playing soccer, read, or dance to music!! These boys have a passion for making beaded bracelets so once everyone becomes tired in the late afternoon we sit and visit (perhaps watch a movie), and bead.
We also run to the field next door when it is available, and I am told after I head out for the day they will go down to the river to swim before dinner.
My first week here, myself, 1 other volunteer and 2 social workers went out to where the street boys normally hang out in order to invite them to the home. And there we got a glimpse of their day to day Life before the centre. From swimming in the ocean, begging from government officials, and the lack of interaction they had from all other kids except their own few was eye opening. It allowed me to see how far these boys had come, and the social Dynamics they are used to. It gave me comfort in the fact that we are impacting these boy’s lives even if it isn't what I initially set out to do. Currently Grandsons is the only group working with the Street Boys of Mombasa, so I am happy to help where I can, and ensure each and everyone of them is having fun, feeling loved, and being safe.
So it is a simple, but good life of getting to know the boys, where they come from, their likes and dislikes, their families, and hope for the futures. These boys have a need to feel loved and like they belong so I am happy to help them.