Meeting the children of Lipela orphanageby kenya on Jun. 20, 2011, under Life
June 19, 2011
Dispatch from Kenya
By Fred Roberts and Amanda Rutherford, trip leaders
After many requests for a slow morning, instead of the normal 7 a.m. breakfast today the students had a chance to sleep in and breakfast was scheduled for 8:30. A half-hour before, however, most of the students were already up and in line for pancakes and chai. They seem to be in an early morning routine that even a seasoned teenager can’t break. Athena was in the kitchen helping our chef, Ngigi, but rather than making pancakes she was sautéing bananas to go on the pancakes. This was a new tasty treat for all of us.
At 9:30 we all assembled by the first element of the high ropes course at Batian’s View. After going over the instructions, each student tested their climbing ability on the six different obstacles high in the trees. This is quite different from the course at St. Gregory that uses poles. Here, not only do the students have to negotiate new challenges, they also have to do some tree climbing between the elements.
After the final element, the students stand on a platform and clip into the zip line, and then take a long ride that takes them over the top of some small trees near the end. A couple lucky zip riders saw monkey in the trees nearby. The students also had some fun on the Flying Hyrax, which is just like the Flying Squirrel at St. Gregory, but since we have more hyrax here than squirrels, it is the Flying Hyrax.
After a much needed cup of chai, we began the 3 ½ mile walk from Batian’s View to Lipela Children’s home. Lipela was founded in 1996 by a Kenyan who grew up in this area but had moved to Denmark. Through his stalwart fund raising efforts in Denmark, he raised the funds to construct several buildings for the home.
Many of the children there are orphans, or are from families who can no longer care for their children. There are 35 kids there now, and a few who are in secondary school who return to Lipela during the school breaks. For them, Lipela is home, and from the nurturing attitude of the staff, it is obvious why this is the case. Unlike other orphanages where the children are waiting for adoption, many of the kids still have extended family members in the area. Some will return to their families when they can be supported. Others will visit on occasion but return to live at Lipela. Lipela was set up this way with the children’s best interest in mind, to keep them close to family but to also insure they are cared for and can continue with their schooling.
When we arrived, the children had just returned from church and were in their Sunday best. We all squeezed into the dining hall where we had yet another traditional Kikuyu meal of irio. This time, however, we also had a delicious stew made of mutton and vegetables. Being Sunday, this is likely the more special meal of the week.
After lunch everyone pitched in by collecting dishes and cleaning up. The American students had brought along art supplies, beads, string and various games and balloons to give to the kids, which they revealed after the clean up was done. This led to a few minutes of chaos as the kids swarmed around to get first dibs.
Soon we all moved outside and all I could hear was laughter as the U.S. students began playing games and doing art projects with the kids. The group of three children surrounding Olivia and Emily making bead necklaces soon grew to 10. The children were mirthful as they romped around with balloons trailing in their hands and beaded jewelry thumping against their chests.
Others were creating chalky masterpieces on the sidewalk or reading books together in the grass. By the end of our visit, all of us had grown and learned from each other, and we were sad to say goodbye. While it was easy to feel sympathy for the children at Lipela, it was another wonderful example of how people look after each other here, and regardless of one’s condition, there is always much room for optimism for the future.
Back at Batian’s View, a few students hadn’t had their fill of the zip line, and multiple trips were made once again. As darkness approached, the last ‘zipper’ took a final flight before we all headed up for dinner. It has been a very full and rewarding weekend, and tomorrow the students will head off to school to begin another week of teaching and learning.
Fred and Amanda