For the past four days I have been experiencing a cold. It started with a sore throat and was soon joined by a low-grade fever. My head started to pound and dizziness would set in when I lowered my head. Seeing that it is quite cold here in Kenya, I assumed that I had simply caught the cold that my fellow teachers have been passing around these last weeks. Well, you know what they say about people who assume...
I did in fact catch that cold but, seeing as I am not a native Kenyan, I do not have the same immunity. Dosing up on Tylenol and Advil did not seem to be working and, after missing Saturday's classes as well as Monday afternoon at school, I decided it was time to seek the advice of the compound's nurse. I woke up this morning feeling a sight better. No longer was my head pounding with every small noise, but for some reason my throat hurt more. I played doctor and looked down my throat, "yup," I thought, "your tonsils are HUGE!"
So off I went to hunt down the nurse- Joanne. After explaining my symptoms, we were about to embark on an adventure to locate some penicillin tablets when two young boys came through the clinic's door.
One was sniffling and the other was helping him limp along. He has smacked his shin on a bed and it had swollen to a huge size. It turns out that this was the same boy that was brought to Omwabini late last week by the Webuye police. They had found him on the streets and, seeing as Omwabini has such a good name and the police are ill equipped to handle children, they brought him to us. Through the course of Joanne's conversation with this boy, and her sporadic interpretations, I learned that his name was Vincient Otieno and he was 13 years old. His parents had died and his uncle had taken him in. Unfortunately, like so many of the stories I hear, his uncle mistreated Vincient and he decided to take his chances on the streets. Police have really been cracking down on street children and they found Vincient.
In the few days that Vincient had been at Omwabini he had been settled into a new space, new bed, new school, new people, new friends, new city... And, as he explained his story to Joanne, the tears just kept coming, rolling off his jaw. His shirt sleeve was kept in business swiping at the tears that pooled in his eyes and the snot that plugged his nose. I could sense that the tears were not simply a response to the physical pain in his shin but there was also a little soul in there crying out for help. It was a release that had been building up for a long time. My heart broke for Vincient. My heart breaks for all the children here who share similar stories.
Well, being moderately healthy and seeing that Vincient was petrified of the injections that Joanne was planning on giving him, I tried to make myself useful. I walked over to where he was sitting and tried to comfort him. Joanne was not concerned about who saw her load up the syringe and pushed the air out the tip of the needle in full view of Vincient. The first injection- tetanus- went into the left buttock. Vincient screamed loud enough to wake the dead. His tears started to pour down his cheeks and his cries became sobs. His short legs hanging off the end of the plastic lawn chair were visibly trembling. Trying my best to comfort through the language barrier, I rubbed his back. One more needle to go. This one would go in the left arm. Vincient was watching so I tried to get him to turn away. "Don't watch the needle go in" I mentally advised him. Again, the crying and the screaming and the trembling. This little one had no one and here he was suffering so much! My heart broke even more. The smell of the antiseptic started to make my stomach hurt but I ignored the discomfort in favour of trying to help Vincient.
Suddenly, I began to feel sensations I had never felt before. My vision started to blur and the room started to sway and I thought to myself, "Hmm, I should probably sit down and put my head between my knees." Well, I didn't. Instead I told myself, "Naw, you've never fainted before. Just breathe calmly and focus. Buck up! That's a good girl." Next thing I know I hear Joanne yelling something in Swahili and I feel people pulling on my arms. I woke up shortly thereafter flat on my back on the examination bed. "Well, that's a first, I thought." There were people everywhere, people on cell phones, people asking if I was okay, people talking about what to do with me. I came out of my fog and wondered why people were showing me such concern. There was a little boy over there on the chair who was sobbing and in pain. I'd only just fainted. It's no big deal!
In record time they had a driver and a vehicle and had me loaded in the front seat. Thankfully, I was capable of walking unassisted to the van and was able to salvage some of my dignity. It was recess however, for the students so they lined up to watch the procession of taking the mzungu to the doctor.
It turns out that I have tonsilitis. I thought so. They checked my blood for malaria- I'm clean. I am now finished one of three injections to treat the infection in my tonsils and am not really looking forward to the next injection at 5 this afternoon. It is conducted similarly to a reverse blood donation. And those of you had gone to donate blood with me will know that my veins are virtually non-existent. Well they stick a small needle into the vein. Attached is a tiny plastic tube. To the end of the tube they attach the syringe with the antibiotic and two syringe-fulls were pumped into my bloodstream. My body is starting to ache from its sudden collision with the concrete floor and I have been banished to my room to rest until I am finished treatment. No more helping at the school for a bit...So here I am thinking and resting and praying.
I have felt utterly useless these last four days. Cooped up with my "cold" and praying that I would be healthy soon so I could get out and help as much as I could. But, I am realizing that even here in bed I am still learning. I am being humbled. The courage that I have was replaced by a fear of fainting again. The health usually have has been replaced by illness and my pride has been replaced by humility and the need to accept help from others. I have been continuously reminded that none of what I have done during this trip has been because of anything I possess. I am not courageous enough, strong enough, or energetic enough to complete what has been done these last months. It is only through God's grace that I have remained healthy for this long. That I am able to be of any help is only through God's wisdom and divine intervention.
In my 10 weeks here in Africa I have learned so much. I have seen so much need and so much pain here that I am usually on emotional. There are so many that need help and I have learned that this is not a forever kind of help. This help that they need is simply prayer and the support to get their project off the ground. Once going they are able to create a self-sustainable organization. For example, the school here at Omwabini was started in January. They took their first examinations and scored 4th out of 17 schools. And this is after fewer than 7 months of operation! Once a school in Africa achieves such a distinction, other children, children who are able to pay school fees, want to come to this school that is succeeding so well. These school fees are then used in the betterment of the school and the lives of the orphans. It's a win-win situation.
Their ability to maintain their self-sustainability is a miracle in itself, but they are doing it! Both the people at Tata and at Omwabini share a similar vision- it's all about the kids. They recognize that the whites do not always have money and work to wean themselves of dependence as soon as possible.
To put it into perspective. A year of secondary education costs 24,000 Ksh. That's the equivalent of around $300. For a YEAR OF EDUCATION only $300! And children are being sent home because they are unable to find the funds to pay these fees. $300!
To start a secondary school here at Omwabini it a hope for the future. That way money will not have to be channeled into school fees. There are enough buildings to house this school. And they plan to be self-sufficient within a year using the same method that is working for the primary school. But they need capital for that first year. To pay the salary of the 6 teachers they will need. To begin this school and sustain it for a year will cost $12000.
Victorious Primary School in Uganda started construction on permanent buildings on July 1 of this year. I just received pictures from the administrator and was so pleased to see the progress that they have made. They do not have funds. They are making their own bricks. But they could not just wait around for someone to come and hand over money. They started on faith. And I believe that God is going to greatly reward their step of faith!
As you can see, there is so much need and I am completely overwhelmed trying to keep track of it all while maintaining open eyes and a sympathetic heart to the cries for help. So please pray for Vincient and the thousands of hurting children like him. Pray for them to find the Someone who loves them more than life- God. Pray that they may be blessed with a great education so that they can find a job that pays enough to support them. Please pray for Joanne and the clinic as she has malaria and typhoid patients and has nothing with which to treat these children. Please pray for those who are working so hard for God, who have the faith and the passion to make a difference but their only stumbling block is finances.
Oh, and please pray that I don't faint again- once is more than enough for a lifetime :)