Local voices: 'They swarmed us like bees': an African visit, Part 2

April 9, 2011 6:01:00 PM



Editor''s note: This is the second of three articles by Karen Overstreet detailing her 17-day visit to Kenya where she worked in an orphanage partially supported by Global Connections, a nonprofit created by the Puckett family of Columbus. On Tuesday: ''As profitable to God as possible'' 




The Limuru Children''s Center, the primary focus of Global Connections, is home to 42 orphans. By our standards the facility is substandard, but when I went into town and other places, I realized how upscale Limuru is by comparison. The Center, a residential facility for elementary school age children, is open during the day for preschool children. 


Sixty preschool children, 2 to 5 years old, from the surrounding area walk both ways by themselves to the Center from as much as two miles away to be fed and to get somewhat prepared for school. They swarmed us like bees when we got there. We played with them, held them and learned a little Swahili. 


When the boarders returned from school in the afternoon, the atmosphere changed. As the children arrived one at time from various schools, it was as if you were a visitor in their home. Each child spoke to each of six adults. They shook our hands and looked us in the eye. We''re talking about children 5 and 6 years old. Such lovely manners. They sought to make us feel like family as they had been made to feel as family in this orphanage. After they spoke, they went to do their chores and homework. Chores entail transporting wood for the wood-burning stove, cutting vegetables for the soup, stirring the big kettle with spoon that looks like a paddle and hauling water. 


Story of the day: John, who is Kate Brown''s godchild through Global Connections, had been very standoffish with Kate. Kate pays for his schooling and writes him letters every month. He seemed embarrassed to be around her. She was patient and when we went to the Center to pick him up, he came out in his Sunday clothes to meet her. He evidently was self-conscious about his dress and when Kate just dropped by and surprised him, he felt he wasn''t dressed appropriately. Today he was stylin'' in an outfit she had bought him. Tomorrow Kate is going to spend the day with him, eating popcorn, watching movies and just being together. 


When John was 3, he and his brother were at the market in Limuru. They got separated. Ads are run in the paper often with pictures of children who have been lost or abandoned. No one ever claimed John, who is now about 10. I say "about" because they don''t know his name or age or birth date. 




A visit with the Maasai 


One afternoon we took a two-hour drive to visit the Maasai, the tall, elegant tribesmen, who live very much as they have for centuries. 


The Maasai country was vast, dusty and sparse of vegetation. We saw zebras, goats, sheep and two ostrich and wildebeest. 


The Maasai had killed a goat and were busy cooking for us when we got there. The four wives of a man who had just died were all dressed up in beautiful jewelry and bright clothes. 


The Maasai are primitive people who have chosen to live in huts made of cow dung. There is no running water or electricity. It is a small place with only two or three houses. We all sat around in a small hut in a circle and tried to communicate. Some understood English; most didn''t, but it worked. We toured the homes. They are very proud of their lifestyle. 


When the food came in everybody in our group made their own decisions about eating. I was wearing a vest with a lot of pockets in it. I would pretend to eat and then put the goat meat or jipati (flatbread made with flour, oil, crunchy flies and other insects and dirty hands) into my pocket. Others ate. Kate had gotten us worm pills we had taken, so there were no ill-effects. 


They danced and sang for us, jumping and sticking the chins out with jewelry flapping. It was fun to watch, but even more fun to do. I believe our dancing and singing with them will be a YouTube attraction soon. Sorry Wade, Kane, and Blair. I had to do it.