Good Friday

March 31, 2016 by Nicole Owens

  We drove to the stone gate of an orphanage at the very top of the hill, where the earth crests to graze the blue of a wind-raked sky. It was Good Friday, which should have been a school holiday for our KKC teachers. I used to teach first grade in the good city of Goshen, Indiana, and I thought about how that conversation might’ve gone down in the teachers’ lounge: “Hey, so tomorrow is a holiday. What do you say we all...

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February 26, 2016 by Nicole Owens

  Some three miles down the escarpment sits the town of Maai Mahiu, a truck-stop community built from tin and painted block. The air in this place is fevered and dry, the earth itself a picture of the quality of life. Barren. Hardscrabble. Desolate and unyielding. It’s also one of my favorite places on the planet, because it’s home to some of the small folk I love best. On Sundays Todd and I bring a team of high school students to do street...

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The Lucky Ones.

October 30, 2015 by Nicole Owens

Sukuma wiki is a scrappy little plant in the collard green family, and it usually looks just like this—wiry and half-combed; a mass of leaves perched on a knobby stalk. Its name means “push the week” in Swahili, as it’s a popular culinary choice when one is short on food and long on week. Several of our KKC schools have seeded gardens with sukuma wiki, cabbage, or potatoes, and as the plants mature, the schools augment lunches with chunks of vegetables....

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June 15, 2015 by Nicole Owens

It happens at nearly every school. We step from the car with skin veneered in dust, and half the students constellate around us. The brave among them press in as close as breath to hold my hand and twist my hair through their fingers, hair that hangs in a bewildering sweep instead of wisping into proper clouds on one’s head. The shyer kiddos risk furtive glances before skittering off to giggle in the shade. And nearly every time, at nearly every...

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Servant Leaders.

October 21, 2014 by Nicole Owens

It was a Wednesday, and the sun was cutting its trail across a limpid Kenyan sky. We met up with our KKC teachers on a snatch of dirt just off the highway, where everyone packed into a couple of cars and collectively inhaled as we coaxed the doors shut. If you imagine tins of sardines with wheels tacked on, you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of transport in Africa. This was our first-ever KKC service day, where the teaching staff...

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August 18, 2014 by Nicole Owens

It was a side trip tacked to the tail of a long, blistering day. We’d been out visiting KKC schools, and I’m sure we looked a fright, sporting grime and sunburn, our hair blown tumbleweed-stiff. But still the good folks at Oiti Primary welcomed us like dear friends. They’d been writing for months with a candid plea: Please include us in your feeding program. When we finally made it out to their school, they pumped our hands with gusto, radiating nervous...

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Infinitely sweet.

March 16, 2014 by Nicole Owens

    Last week Kenya Kids Can was invited to attend an academic celebration, and PEOPLE. That thing was so much fun. They sat us front and center, guests of honor at this first-ever Longonot awards ceremony, and with all the stops pulled out: balloons, poetry, song calling, cascades of faux flowers. Hundreds of students packed the courtyard, whooping as their schools were announced and trophies bestowed. Highest performer. Best in the district. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to dance. I’m guessing...

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Valentine’s Day.

February 21, 2014 by Nicole Owens

  The road twisting down from campus to the valley floor cracks me up every time. We braved that bumpy guy again last Friday, a small crew of us riding out with Mark to visit a couple schools, and as our teeth rattled in place Mark joked, “You know, lots of people pay money for seats that shake.” We arrived at the first school as the kids were washing up for lunch, scrubbing small hands under a ribbon of water poured from...

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