Mar 8 2013

Trip to Kenya: ‘Becoming an instrument of peace’

“Bob’s notes” are reports from CFCA President Bob Hentzen, who regularly accompanies awareness trip participants. You can see Bob’s full update on his Facebook page.

Heartfelt greetings from Kenya.

I am very grateful to the Kansas City awareness trip team and the staff in Kenya for all of their preparation for this journey.

Photo credits for this report go to Regina Mburu, CFCA communications liaison for Africa. Regina was with the group for the entire trip. Don’t miss her latest blog post, which features her reflection about her visit to Madagascar.

The estimated 2012 population in Kenya topped 43 million, with more than 3 million living in Nairobi, the capital and largest city.

Kenya’s education system focuses on eight years of primary school, four years of secondary and four years of university studies.

The academic year for primary and secondary school in Kenya is January through November.

Kenya is a diverse nation with more than 40 ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language and culture. The CFCA program in Kenya strives to work across these groups and be a tranquil, unifying force among various communities.

Since 1989, CFCA’s presence in Kenya has grown to 20,852 sponsored children and youth, 1,273 sponsored aging friends and 4,628 children, youth and aging friends on our waiting list.

Kenyans strike me as being able to minimize the negatives. I see a disposition to walk great distances: walking to school, walking to work and walking to visit a friend or neighbor. Thank you, friends, for inviting us to Walk2Gether.

As we travel through Kenya, hundreds of friendly children greet us along the red, dusty road. I will never forget a vibrant, one-armed little boy waving to us.

In our visits to many families in the urban slums and the countryside, we hear of the same “one work, one eat” reality depicted the CFCA documentary, “Rise and Dream.”

We gathered with the sponsored friends and their families, CFCA scholars and colleagues at the Nairobi Arboretum, which was unifying and fun.

The arboretum offers a very pleasant green space within Nairobi. It is a nice venue for some of the getting-to-know you exercises we do at the beginning of our trip. CFCA staffers, youth and mothers of sponsored children provided a great atmosphere.

CFCA’s Hope for a Family program in Kenya works with groups of mothers of sponsored children to provide personalized benefits and attention.

Mothers of sponsored children form groups that give members mutual support and access to small loans.

Mothers groups were initiated in the Nairobi project in 2007, and more recently in the Meru and Kisumu projects in Kenya. The goal is for every sponsored member to have a parent or guardian participating in a group.

These groups allow parents to have a central role in determining the benefits and services their child and family will receive.

“Thank you, CFCA. Ö Inside me is all happiness,” Sandra, a single mother, said.

Sandra and her two girls rent a one-room home in the Mathare slum and struggle to make it.

I have been very inspired by the mother and father leaders in these groups.

They brighten the rough urban areas and the countryside with the light of their hope and perseverance.

Staff member Lillian coordinates the mothers groups. “I like adventure,” Lillian said. “I turn challenges into adventure.”

Culture of learning

We believe in drawing out the natural beauty and goodness of each individual. Education is an insight into our surrounding reality.

Ten former sponsored children are now working for CFCA-Nairobi.

Up in the country

I love going up to see CFCA sponsored friends and their families in the “big sky” country of Nanyuki, Timau and Meru, Kenya.

The cool climate is favorable for potatoes, green beans and peas.

Amidst all of the poverty of our families are the enormous ranches and flower farms in this area.

A nutritious lunch was offered by the New Hope mothers group of Nanyuki. It was energizing when the mothers welcomed us with lively dances.

Their drums were fashioned from 5-gallon water containers and their maracas were made from tin cans and rocks.

Meru, Kenya: Roughly 3,600 sponsored children and aging friends

As the name indicates, this area is populated mainly by the Ameru people. It is an area of mixed forests, small towns, villages and the ever-present rural haciendas. Our families engage in basket weaving, carpentry, street vending, construction work and small-scale farming.

An 18-year-old sponsored youth indicated his interest in becoming a soldier during a visit to his home. I encouraged him to “sing like a soldier of peace,” a reference to lyrics from one of the songs in the “Rise and Dream” documentary.

Final note:

I ask for your prayers for the good people of Kenya. They are in the midst of general elections. During the last election (in December 2007), more than 1,000 people were killed.

We are all praying that in the communities where we work, CFCA will become an instrument of peace.

After a two-day visit with our Kansas City community, Cristina and I will continue the journey with our sponsors, this time to the Dominican Republic, followed immediately by Costa Rica.

I thank you for being with us all along the way and for helping us to remain pilgrims on the earth.

Bob Hentzen
Nairobi, Kenya

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