M is for Mukaa Children’s Home

Monday, June 20, 2016

Readers -- please meet Denise! Not only is she one of the best dental hygienist in all of the land, but she's a pretty rad chick too. She loves to live an adventures life, always trying new things or making plans to a new location. Shes a lover of lipstick, cute hair and the queen of having fun. What I love about her most is her loyalty to her family, friends and those most in need. Have fun reading her AMAZING experience in Kenya at the beginning of this year. After reading it she will have you booking your own trip to help give back.

M is for Mukaa Children’s Home
This is my first blog EVER, so here goes nothing....

There’s a little village in the southeastern part of Kenya called Mukaa; a village that I like to think has become my Kenyan home.  Mukaa is full of green rolling hills, tall lush forests, and plenty of little makeshift fruit and vegetable stands with Coca-Cola advertisement stickers stuck to the side of them; a sight that I couldn’t even imagine prior to my first trip to Kenya.  But my favorite part of Mukaa, besides its beautiful originality, is Mukaa Children’s Home.

I am a dental hygienist, a career that took me years of college and thousands of dollars later to realize this was my true calling, and in my first few semesters of hygiene school, I knew right away that this was something I wanted to share with others.  Oral health education has made a huge impact on my life because I realize it’s a subject that not many are educated about even in America.  I’ve always dreamt, even as a little girl, of learning a trade or a talent and providing my knowledge to people who in a way, can’t help themselves, and I knew dental hygiene was it.

Mukaa Children’s Home became known to me after I had just graduated and received my hygiene license.  An old instructor of mine (ironically an instructor that I loathed) had contacted me and told me about this opportunity to go to Kenya and clean teeth with her at an orphanage.  Of course I jumped on the opportunity.  Children, poverty, Africa, cleaning teeth, it was a no brainer.  I was meant for this trip.  I only had a few months to prepare because the trip was scheduled for early January 2016, and in that time I had to come up with $3000 and enough vaccines that basically I would become the bionic woman.

So, $3000 is a lot of money to a girl who just graduated college, and doesn’t know how to save because she likes to buy too much junk on Amazon, but I didn’t care, I was determined to go on this trip and I knew God was going to help me.  Long story short, after months of stressing and scheming, and getting poked in the arm, it worked out, and before I knew it January 2nd came and I was boarding my flight to Paris, which eventually would take me to my Kenyan home.

We arrived in Nairobi Kenya around 9 pm their time, which immediately I was amused by the homemade Christmas tree and pictures of white Santa hung up around the airport.  I just thought this was funny because it was an obvious attempt for the Kenyan people to try and make American travelers feel “at home” when arriving in their country, and yet in my mind, I’m thinking “I’m in Kenya! AFRICA! How the hell is this anything like America?”  Anyway, there was supposed to be a driver there waiting for us who was nowhere to be found, but this is Kenya, which I learned, you can’t always rely on what people say they’re going to do  (not any different than the USA).

We finally get a driver who has a vehicle to carry the four of us and all our stuff to a hotel that would board us before we departed to the Children’s Home the next day that was a solid 3-4 hours away from Nairobi.  Now I have to just add this tid bit to the story, because I think it’s hilarious, but one of the first questions our driver asked us was “Is Donald Trump really running for president?”  YES!  This Kenyan man was astonished to find out that Donald freaking Trump was running for president.  An amazing thing to these people is that basically anyone in America can become president of the USA.  There are signs posted all around Nairobi illustrating Obama, which I learned then that Obama’s father is from Kenya, and they call themselves the land of the future Obama’s because it’s influential to them to work hard and follow your dreams, and one day you could be the next president.  It’s very empowering actually, and I was slightly jealous that we don’t even look up to our current president in that way in America.

Okay so Mukaa Children’s Home, I know, I’m getting there.  After breakfast the next morning, my first taste of Kenyan food, which was delicious by the way, Peter, our amazing driver, hauled us and all of our junk to Mukaa Children’s Home while explaining to us the lay of the land.  One thing that is very important when traveling to a third world country, always try and get in contact with someone who can provide you with a trustworthy driver.  Peter is known to American organizations and missionaries for picking American travelers up from the airport and driving them to their destinations while keeping them safe and showing them the ropes.  We also were very fortunate to have another amazing driver at the end of our trip, Nelson, who I feel the need to mention just because someone as simple as a driver, can really make or break your trip, and I felt truly blessed to have met these two men who really went out of their way to take care of me and my friends while staying in their country.

Okay anyway, the moment has come, where I first arrived to Mukaa Children’s Home! It’s a moment
embedded into my brain forever.  After hours of driving, and me having to pee really REALLY bad, we approach the blue steel gate doors with Mukaa Chilren’s Home painted on them.  And before I forget to mention, I do not at all understand how the hell drivers find any address’s because there are no real “streets”.  No street signs, hardly any paved roads, and Mukaa is so hilly, that places are basically stacked on top of each other.  It’s a mess, but a beautiful mess at that.

So I first expected that once we drove past those steel doors, that children would come swarming over to us, wanting to see us, touch us, hug us, I don’t know, I just imagined this happy moment of kids all around me who were excited for me to be there.  Yeah, not so much.  We pull in and all who is there is Armstrong, the home manager, Amos, the assistant manager, and Grace.  Oh Grace.  How can I ever forget Grace? I get out of the car and say my introductions, all while keeping my bladder as tight as I possibly can because I’m telling you, I had to pee that bad.  Finally I say hello to Grace, ask her to show me the bathroom, and she immediately grabs by hand with the largest smile and starts to show me the way.  I thought this was odd because Grace wasn’t a child.  She was a woman, around my age, who without hesitation, held my hand, and we basically swayed arms on our way to the bathroom.  I just met this girl, and yet, I already feel like we’re best friends.

The Children’s Home was unique.  Very colorful buildings, no air conditioners, electricity that only
ran sporadically,  sinks outside attached to one of the buildings where the children would line up before and after their meals to wash their hands, and a large play set with swings and slides directly middle of the home for the children to play on.  Looking around, I was high.  No but seriously, I’ve never felt such a natural high in my life.  At that moment, getting there, standing on the clay-like ground soaking in my surroundings, I thought I was going to cry.  Before I got there I was scared. How am going to survive in this place so different from home? But immediately after getting there, I felt so safe, so happy, so blessed to be there.

The children were all at school when we arrived.  DUH, they go to school!  The school is located literally a block behind the home which is convenient, so all the children can walk safely together to and from. I eventually got to visit the school, and with its broken windows, and lack of books along with electricity, I was surprised to learn that it’s one of the best schools in the area.  My friends and I got to stay in the guest house.  A cute little home with a kitchen, which we never cooked in because the women who work at the home do all the cooking, a living room where we ate meals every day, their nicest bathroom with a toilet that only flushed maybe twice a day, and a shower that was really a spout attached the ceiling over the toilet that had a drain in the center of the floor.  Our bedroom had three beds in it, one of my team members had their own room, and we all had super cute mosquito nets around our beds, which although cute, I learned that I never want to sleep with a mosquito net ever again because they are the biggest pain in the ass.

We took the grand tour of the home and were introduced to their home cow, which wasn’t a milk cow, and they didn’t plan on eating him, so I’m not quite sure what his purpose was, but he definitely added character to the home.  Mukaa Children’s Home also has a chicken coop where they get their natural eggs every day, and a hydroponic Tilapia farm that travelers from Kansas helped them set up, and a water well that a transformer uses electricity to send the water through a special system that converts the well water to clean drinking water.  Unfortunately, the transformer was broken, so they couldn’t use the well water, and only had collected rain water to boil and drink like many other Kenyan communities, but I learned that when the transformer works, it doesn’t only supply clean water to the home, but people in the village can come and buy gallons of clean water for a small fee. This place is pretty self sustainable and amazing.

Finally it was time for the children to be done school! They came trotting into the home with their school uniforms on, some of them not wearing any shoes even though they had them in hand, and they basically walked right past us with unsure looks on their faces when they saw us.  I realized right then that these kids were smart.  They weren’t going to just trust us in a second.  They wanted to learn about us before they showed us who they really were.  It took a day.  A full day of us approaching different age groups with our innocent smiles, and hands held out showing them that we were there at their mercy.  We wanted nothing more than to help them.  They didn’t want us to feel bad for them, and they made it clear that they were happy with their lifestyle, and once we realized that, they let us in.  Actually, it wasn’t long before they even started making fun of us, with our American accents and mannerisms.  They weren’t being mean, but they were letting us know they were comfortable with us, still shy, but wanted our friendship.

Soon the girls would approach us and ask about our American traditions and show us the stray kittens they had running around, and the boys would show us how to play marbles and how to slide down the slide at full speed.  There was no mercy with those boys.  They were tough, and played that way.  At one point I observed five smaller children sitting together on a ledge quietly.  I said hello to them, and they just stared at me wide eyed like they were in shock.  Armstrong explained to me that those children had just entered the children’s home about a week ago, and they only knew their mothers tribal tongue, no English.  They were all there for different reasons, their parents abandoned them in one way or another, or died tragically, but either way, they all knew that they were at a place that could provide them with a better life.  Actually, I learned that getting into the children’s home was a blessing.  Outside families envied those children in a way because they knew that they were being fed, receiving an education, and had regular clothes to wear.  It’s one of the only places in the world that you’re better off an orphan and staying at Mukaa Children’s Home, then having true parents.

After our first day, it was time to get to work.  We awoke with the sun; actually the loud ass rooster
woke us up every morning like clockwork, like it was out of a movie, and we cleaned teeth every day until the sun went down.  We set up temporary shop in the cafeteria, where the kids would lay on blow up rafts, and we would stand, and we would give them mirrors to hold so they could see what we were doing, while they spit into cups after we cleaned and brushed their teeth because there was no suction.  That’s something I take for granted, suction.  Let me tell you, after hours of cleaning teeth, the spit bucket would really fill up, and it wasn’t just spit, there was blood, and HIV, something we had to be very careful about, along with the heat and the flies, YUCK!  Suction is something that I will forever be grateful for.  We would take traditional “tea breaks” and have tea and biscuits in the living room, along with lunch and dinner, and we were never under fed, but our main objective was always to clean as many teeth in a day possible.  Towards the end of the week that we were there, we were exhausted, and dirty because we could only shower maybe twice for 3 minutes the entire week we were there, and so the irritation was there, but it never deterred me from the natural high I experienced every day.

On our last day as we were eating dinner, we could hear the children singing in the background.  It was so beautiful.  Armstrong told us that they were working on a song and dance they had created just for us, and that after dinner, we were to go see their show.  We walked down there in our traditional Kenyan attire, which by the way, women are usually expected to wear long dresses or skirts that cover their knees, and sat down amongst the rows of chairs they had set up for us.  Before they performed, Grace, Armstrong, and Amos made a few speeches thanking us for our service and commitment to them, and right before the show began, something amazing happened to me.  One of
the little boys, part of the five I mentioned ea
rlier who just got to the children’s home, came up to me in silence and sat right on my lap.  He walked right up to me like it was a natural instinct, and my friends, and some of the other children just observed in slight surprise, because this boy hadn’t shown any emotion since he had arrived at Mukaa Children’s Home.  We sat there together and watched the show.  Of course I cried because their words were so beautiful, even though they were in Swahili, and it was such an illustration of appreciation towards us.  It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  I still cry when I watch the video I recorded of it.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

That little boy who sat on my lap the last night I was there, his name is Shadrack.  He is 5 years old, and he is now the first little boy I sponsor in a third world country.  The day we were leaving, I talked to Armstrong, and learned that he was without a sponsor, and I don’t think it was a coincidence for this little boy to randomly sit on my lap one day.  We were meant to find each other.   Every month I send money to the orphanage to provide food, clothing, and schooling for him, and I recently sent him some new shoes along with books for school.  Facebook is a glorious thing, because Armstrong posted pictures of Shadrack receiving his gifts and I was so happy to know he was happy. I thought before I arrived at Mukaa Children’s Home that I would want to adopted several children, give them things they don’t even know exist, and I would be so much more grateful for everything I have, and although I am tremendously grateful for the simple things, my bed for instance, I left Mukaa with a completely different mindset than I thought I would.  I would never want to take any of these children away from their beautiful home.  Yes their schooling is not as advanced as America, or their medical care a bit sketchy, but the simplicity of their lives is something I envy.

I learned that I don’t always need an iPhone, TV or electricity for that matter.  I survived without taking a shower every day, and all the extra accessories in my life that I THINK I need that many people in Kenya don’t even know exist, is actually all just added stress!  Mukaa’s Children’s Home is more than just an orphanage; it’s an example of the way life should be.  It changed me forever, and now I can only count down the days until I can get back to my Kenyan home.

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