Day 7: Nyumbani Children’s Home: Multiple Layers of Connection

Written by: Emma Kahle

Today was a day of multiple layers of connection. Every day so far on this trip we have had opportunities to learn about incredible work being done here in Kenya, and every day we have been lucky enough to form connections with the inspiring people running these programs through one-on-one interactions. However, today we made connections embedded within other connections. Today we had the chance to join with the Nairobi Jewish community to bring a Day of Good Deeds to the Nyumbani Children’s Home. After meeting the community members at Friday night’s Shabbat dinner at the Nairobi synagogue, we reconnected with many of them as we built new connections with the Nyumbani children.

The Nyumbani Children’s Home (link: http://www.nyumbani.org/nyumbani-childrens-home) is a safe and supportive organization for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. The home was the first of its kind back when it was founded in 1992 by Father Angelo D’Agostino, an American Jesuit priest, along with Sister Mary Owens, a nurse, who we had the pleasure of meeting. The home is a refuge to over 120 children that are referred from hospitals and communities across the country, and, through additional programs, Nyumbani serves over 4,000 children in Kenya. The home focuses on care and support, providing food, medical care, and community support. The children live in “families” in houses around the facility and are enrolled in nearby schools. After finishing secondary school, children are supported in college and in seeking employment. So far about 75 individuals have reintegrated back in the community, leading healthy and
productive lives. With over 1.3 million Kenyan children either infected or orphaned by HIV/AIDS, the work that Nyumbani does could not be more important.

Alongside the Jewish community, we celebrated Tu BiShvat, the holiday for the birthday of the trees. Ravit, the head of our delegation, explained the significance of the holiday, emphasizing the happiness and life that comes from planting trees. With the children, we each planted a tree on their property, symbolic of sustainability and hope for the future. In interacting with the children, I did not perceive anything other than hope and joy. During our visit, we donated school backpacks and notebooks, art supplies, and Frisbees. The majority of our visit was spent creating art and playing with the discs.

For me, the true magic of the visit came from sharing my passion for Frisbee with the children. From the moment I heard about this delegation to Kenya, I knew that I wanted to contribute by donating Frisbees, wherever it would be appropriate. Throughout my life, this simple, plastic object has brought me so much joy, connected me to amazing people, and kept me healthy and active. Inexpensive and transportable, Frisbees are an easy choice for entertainment and recreation for communities all over the world. One member of the Jewish community was particularly impressed and suggested we work together to find more outlets for Frisbee donations here in Kenya.

To help me demonstrate how to throw a Frisbee, the Nairobi Ultimate Frisbee team joined the morning’s festivities. I had connected with some of the players over email before departing from the US, but I was completely blown away when the entire team showed up to participate. Mostly local university students, they eagerly jumped into making art projects and dancing with the children, but when we brought out the Frisbees, then they truly began to shine. About twenty-five Frisbees donated by the Freestyle Player’s Association (link: http://www.freestyledisc.org) were spread around the yard and most of the air space was taken up by flying discs shooting back and forth. Seeing the joy and wonder in the children’s faces when catching a Frisbee or spinning a disc on their finger for the first time was an unbelievable experience for me. This experience created another set of embedded layers of connection as I connected with the local Ultimate Frisbee community while they connected with the Nyumbani children.

The morning was capped off by birthday cake and an Ultimate Frisbee demonstration game by the Nairobi team. Shane and I got to play with them, furthering this fantastic international Ultimate connection. As we all walked out together, the team connected with Protus Lumiti, the Chief Manager of Nyumbani Children’s Home, and they hope to be back to continue supporting the children’s connection with Frisbee even after our delegation heads back home.

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