Let’s Keep Doing This.
Once upon maybe five years ago, we bumped into Steve Peifer’s blog and fell headlong in love with school children in Kenya.
When I first found Steve’s site, where he shared accounts both funny and piercing about his work with Kenya Kids Can, I binge-read the posts in reverse to the very beginning. It was not unlike my Downton Abbey marathons—just one more, I’d say, and suddenly it’s 2am. (If you haven’t traveled back this far in our archives, please make the trip. Mr. Peifer can weave a story like nobody’s business.)
Once we finished reading, we naturally wanted to be a part of this daily miracle of nutrition and computer centers—but we didn’t want to stop with money. We also wanted to give time, and our affection, attention, conversation. We wanted to lend our skinny, half-baked talents to bring more schools and students, and more friends and supporters into this gorgeous chaos of school lunch and learning.
Like all great investments in life, the return has been startling.
We’ve spent the last three years getting to know the innards of Kenya Kids Can. Getting to know stories and how they stack up one by one to make the bones of a person, to build the outline of a young life. Common themes emerged: students who save half their lunch for younger siblings at home, moms who well up at the prospect of computer literacy and a future split wide-open for their kids.
Here’s what I can tell you: from start to finish, KKC quietly goes about the business of investing in Kenyan children. The teachers don’t only impart computer skills, they model work ethic, constancy, kindness. The cooks, school boards, parents, and communities work in tandem to make eating and learning possible. Mark (our director) and Lucy (our program manager) deftly maintain a thousand whirling parts: food deliveries, solar panels, hot lunches, training, giving, storerooms, curriculum. These two care deeply, and they are good at what they do.
And then there are the students. Our kids are wilder and brighter and sweeter than anything my camera could possibly frame. They’re alive, and while I wasn’t here sixteen years ago to see classrooms of kids wilting with hunger, I know enough to find the contrast stunning.
Our family is moving to the Central African Republic in just a few days’ time. We’re intent on following God’s lead, even if the path is curious. With the going, though, comes built-in loss: this place, these friends, this work, these kids. It’s enough to get my tear ducts primed again.
So we scoot on back to a spot of long-distance loving, and let others fill our shoes with far more capable feet. But no matter our role, or the miles that lie between, let’s keep doing this. Let’s keep praying and cheering our lungs out. Let’s keep giving and believing that these children can win back their families and villages from the jaws of poverty, one hard-earned inch at a time.
The road ahead for KKC is long and far from easy, but it’s lit by sixteen thousand smiles that speak of health and growing confidence. Lately, the kids have taken to asking if I’m famous in America, if perhaps I’m a rock star, or an actress in the movies. And I laugh and assure them I’m not, and then spin the question right around to wink in their direction.
“What about you?” I ask. “You look like you might be the president. Maybe you’re the one who’s famous.”
Inevitably, there’s that one kid, a little cheekier than the rest. And while his or her classmates dissolve into giggles, this kid says, “Well, not yet.”
And I nod, both smiling and fully serious, and make them promise to remember me when they’re the rock stars and the presidents. And I’ll carry the sight of their faces blazing in response for the rest of this fragile life.