A Teenagers Reaction To Kenya

Each year we bring students, teachers, and volunteers with us to carry out our Global Act of Kindness. In 2011, Alex Lee and I were introduced during a large Think Kindness campaign and school tour in the Milwaukee area. That year he made the commitment to join us, step outside his ‘box’, and truly roll-up his sleeves to impact lives around the globe. In 2013, he returned.

I asked Alex to share is initial reaction to Kenya, the orphanage, and of course, the children. This is what Alex had to say. ~ Brian


As I walked through the gates of Huruma Children’s home, I felt joy. I didn’t notice the malnourished goat tied to a rusting pole, or the red mud that covered the kids’ clothes. I noticed the smiling faces and the manager, Nancy, running to greet us. I knew that Nancy, as manager of the Huruma orphanage, takes care of  about 67 children and young adults, several of whom are severally disabled, yet she is the happiest person I have ever met. That is not an exaggeration. Nancy is, to this day, the happiest person I have ever encountered. Like her, the children of Huruma have a radiant joy that surrounds them and wraps around anyone they meet or anything they do. Why?

Because they have nothing.

They have nothing! Nothing but a few books from school and some clothes and shoes that others have given them. The first few days of our trip I saw only the overwhelming poverty of these kids and their surrounding area, but as the trip progressed I saw the pure joy that flowed from not having things to depend on. I began to see the joy of the soccer game these kids were playing, not the fact that the ball was made of wound up trash bags. I saw the pride that they had in growing their own food, not that they barely had enough to feed all 67 of them. But the true turning point was Kumongo.

Teenager traveling to kenyaAt first sight, Kumongo is a underdeveloped 30-ish year old man with warped bones in his feet and tattered shoes to put them in. But once you get close to him, you begin to feel that he is something more. I was introduced to him two years ago when I made my first excursion to Kenya and built a strong relationship with him. Not a relationship in the common sense of the word, considering that he is very mentally handicapped and can only speak a very few words in his tribal tongue.  What I mean by relationship is that I felt so much happiness around him. He would dance and sing, he would run and rap and he even preached a sermon to me (I think). When the Bible says, “Have the unrelenting joy of a child,” it may as well of said, “Try and act like Kumongo.”

My friends tease me about choosing to go to Africa, and rightfully so. Kenya can be a dangerous continent torn by tribal war, draught, poverty and plaguing disease. So why do I go? I go for Nancy. For Kumongo. For Peter and Grace, and all the others I had the pleasure of meeting. I go for the smiles. I go for the laughs. I go to see that even with nothing to hold, one of them has more joy inside than a hundred of us back home. I go to prove those TV ads wrong, that true happiness is not found in the clothes you wear or how you smell or the phone you buy. No, true joy is often found in the absence of stuff.  It is found in what you do with life. We call them poor, but poor in what? Paper, plastic? They have much, much less stuff than most of us. When I go to Kenya, I consider myself in one of the richest nations on the planet. Not rich in things, but rich in joy. That is why I go.