Muleji, Kenya Travel Report 4

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Jambo asana friends! 

As always, the last two days have felt absolutely unforgettablehere in southeast Kenya. Saturday was a day filled with football (soccer for all you Wazungu’s). We had the honor of meeting up with the beautiful Black Lions. A group of 34 strong and fun-loving women who spend the little free time they have perfecting their craft on the local pitch. A year ago Burt and the rest of the group were driving past their field when this group of women caught their eye and immediately became friends to Grant Victor Cares. 

We had the opportunity to test our skills against theirs as we played a full 90 minute match complete with a local referee and fans lining each side of the field cheering us all on. We even heard whistles, chants, and the African horn made famous from the 2010 World Cup, the Vuvuzela. Despite having a significant size advantage (Burt, Spencer, and Jon absolutely tower over these ladies) their skills proved too much for us as we were defeated by a score of 1-4 in favor of the Black Lions. Our group, The White Simbas, were thankfully able to keep the score somewhat respectable thanks to Johnny Lukac’s speed getting us our only goal. Jon Christiansen served as our wise coach and soccer mentor and Cheryl was brave enough to step in as our goalie despite having never played the sport! Despite taking a few soccer balls to the face, everyone had a blast. 

It was incredible to experience what these women play on each week. The field (if you can really call it that) is essentially a large rectangle of yellowish dust and stone. We often whiffed on kicking the ball as it bounced on the extremely uneven surface or as we slipped in dirt, sand, or rock. Several of us ate dust and ended up our back and we all certainly struggled to run in the heat and humidity for a full 90 minutes. These Black Lions are tough, and they are equally as light-hearted and fun as they laughed along with us through all of our struggles throughoutthe game. 

Burt gifted the team a donation to help fund their future soccer endeavors as well as enough money for a large dinner as a team which they excitedly received, we watched the younger girls in the village demonstrate their own skills for a quick 20 minutematch, and then another game of Burto-ball ensued! There is never a lack of enthusiasm for Burto-ball! For those of you who don’t remember, Burto-ball is played by inflating a ginormous beach ball and fighting to run, kick, or punch it all the way into the opposing goal. 

Thankfully the generous villagers gifted us all a large fresh coconut to drink after our soccer game to help fuel us for the remainder of our time there, because by the time we got to our Burto-ball match, most of us were absolutely beat. The smiles and laughs of the children always seem to gift Spencer, Burt, Johnny, Jon, and others a little more energy to help entertain the youth with this game. It’s almost a certainty that each game will end by the ball being popped due to the kids being so enthusiastic to score and fighting so hard with the ball. If you’ve never participated, watch some videos from Levi, Spencer, or Burt and then try giving the game a go at your next family reunion! 

A touching moment came when we were able to meet our dear friend Nzole’s family. Nzole is an extremely valuable member of our Koins for Kenya team and has been with our group on each step of this adventure. It was a blessing to have a moment to visit with his lovely wife, two girls, and two boys. Nzole’s son Dustine was recently sponsored by Koins for Kenya through Jen and Spencer Matthews. The money they’ve given will help him complete his secondary education and prepare for college. Dustine was a sharp dressed and extremely respectful young man and everyone who had the pleasure to meet him was so happy to celebrate his progress and excellent work in school. 

Similarly, we were able to meet with our wonderful hosts, the Kamoti family. The Kamotis have been unbelievably kind and accommodating to Grant Victor Cares. They provide a clean and calm space for us to come home to and Merriam and the rest of the ladies always make sure we are well fed. Mama Kamoti (as we know her), is a gentle elderly woman who speaks no English but quietly watches over the home. Her son William was a former Member of Parliament here in Kenya and has been a critical linchpin to making Koins for Kenya work here near Mombasa. William tragically passed away early this year in a car crash. Our group honored the Kamoti with a plaque posthumously to William for his service in helping to fund projects in several villages throughout the area. It was a moment of reverence and there is no doubt that everyone in the room left with gratitude in their hearts and a greater desire to give and to serve. 

Our third and final honoree for the day, was our daily security man Juma. Juma is a former military man and even bodyguard to the President of Kenya. He has accompanied Grant Victor Cares on our journeys since 2015 and has ensured our travelers stay safe. He absolutely looks the part for a bodyguard physically with big rough hands and a commanding stature, but he is truly a gentle giant. Juma is often the first person to come up and give us a high five, a big laugh, and a smile when we head back to the van at the end of activities. We had the pleasure of meeting Jumas four boys (all of which are in their late teens and early 20’s and pursuing higher education and outstanding careers). We visited Juma in his home and he was able to teach us more about his past, his family, and his faith in Islam. We presented some small gifts such as a solar powered light, soccer ball, candy, and pencils which the family humbly and gratefully accepted. They are a strong family and we are so thankful to have Juma as an asset to our team. 

After Juma’s house, we grabbed a few treats from a local gas station. The term few might be a little misleading as we have all found our favorite Kenyan treats from Ginger beers, plum jellies, macadamia nuts, or other candy or ice cream we aren’t able to purchase in America. We quickly went home to change clothes and then headed back to our friends in Nguluweni for a night of fun!

In Nguluweni we were able to meet our friend Buffalo who is head of construction on our building projects. Buffalo showed us the progress on the new school and it was truly inspiring. In a matter of days, they had already completed lining a 15 foot deeplatrine with bricks, mixed cement, and laid a foundation for the new classrooms. The men were all covered in grey dust from their work which surely had gone on all day. While we viewed their progress, we heard a loud leather drum beating in an older school building. We followed the noise and found a young man pounding the drum and singing accompanied by two teenage girls shaking bells/cymbals and singing along. This quickly turned into a small Grant Victor party! Needless to say, we have never experienced as many impromptu dance parties as we have here in Kenya. We danced for ten minutes or so and then quickly got to work on our project for the evening!

While we had visited this particular area earlier in the week for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new school, Steve, Burt, and Spencer noticed that many villagers didn’t possess electricity and didn’t seem to have any light to turn on at night. Many of these people are forced to light small kerosene lamps each night or start a fire right within their small mud and stick walled homes. The smoke fills their rooms and isn’t very effective to a child seeking to do their homework. 

We had the privilege of walking through the village in groups lead by the local area Chief, head of the school, and other local officials and delivering a new solar light to various homes under star light. It was such a joy to walk through a dark corn field and come up and hand a solar lamp to someone with absolutely nolight peeking through their doorway. We demonstrated the features of the light. These can be charged either by sitting in the sun or by cranking a lever on the side. They can be pulled up and out to use as a lamp or press a small button on the top to activate a more focused flashlight. It was humbling to see a smile creep across grown adults faces as they realized they would actually be able to see at night and that their children could now read and write in the evening. 

The capstone of the night also was centered around the theme of light as we played a game of soccer with the local kids on their field. Each child and member of our team was presented with a bright and colorful glowstick necklace which determined which team they would play on. Jon Christiensen rolled out a bright red glow in the dark soccer ball, we tied a few glowsticks to their goal posts, and what might be the most magical game of soccer of many of these kids lives began! We were surrounded with bright spots of yellow, green, blue, red, orange, and purple amidst a background of black. At one point a child made strong contact with the ball and we watched it sailed into the cornfield right next to a villagers home. I imagined what a surprise it may have been for this poor villager to see what looked like a fiery comet flying towards his home. Thankfully everyone had fun, no one was hurt, and everyone went home ecstatic just to be alive! 

On the way back, Jon bought three fish at the roadside market after calmly asking, “Hey Jackson (one of our drivers), could you please translate for me? I’d really like to buy a fish.” Jon has by far been the best at embracing the local cuisine. I’m just grateful he brushes his teeth well, or we would all be smelling rotten breath from a smelly Red Snapper every day. 

Today was delightful. We attended church at a local branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Several members of our group were excited to experience a service for their Church in Africa and the local attendees were very warm and welcoming. 

After the service we had the opportunity of walking around historic Old Town Mombasa and getting a tour around Fort Jesus (this spot has been occupied by Omani Arabs, and the structure was built by the Portuguese hundreds of years ago). We ate a wonderful dinner along the beach and headed home to be greeted for one final night by the local children of Rabai. 

We were touched to watch children play hockey with Johnny, sing and dance in the Kamoti home for us, and we had a line of about 50 kids eagerly await a temporary tattoo on their hands or face from Kim, Shay, Spencer, Brandon, Jen, and Addi. Cheryl was kind enough to spend time individually painting the nails of various little girls fingers, but unfortunately we learned the hard way that children who attend school at the local mosque are punished for decorating their nails. We quickly scrambled to help a sweet little girl name Sabrina wipe the polish off with alcohol wipes. At the end of the night, all was well, and it was an amazing send off from the children of Rabai. 

This experience has truly been a blessing for all of us, we can’t wait to see your beautiful smiling faces at home, but a part of our hearts will now forever be here in Kenya. See you soon Rafikis, and never forget the wise words of our Swahili speaking allies, Hakuna Matata!

Love the Kenya Travel Team

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