I have been in Mombasa for five days now. My life has already changed.
I don’t know whether I should tell you about Jackson, the nine-year-old street boy who carries a small cardboard box stuffed with all of his belongings? Or about Ashoora, the three-year-old girl who ties a rag around her head to hide her beautiful baldhead?
Every experience thus far has touched my heart in one way or the other, but it was my visit to the Goodwill Academy that restored my confidence in my thesis project. In fact, I have decided to work with the Goodwill Academy and provide them with an educational facility that would support their academic efforts and celebrate the harmony and respect that exists amongst the Muslim and Christian student body.
To get to the Goodwill Academy in Likoni we had to cross the ocean to the mainland of Mombasa by means of an industrial ferryboat. George, our driver, friend and gifted writer, drove our decrepit bus onto the ferry’s platform. Once all the cars had been loaded, the gate of queued passengers was released and a storm of workers, mothers and children ran towards the ferry, cramming themselves between cars and every other inch of free space. Our group of volunteers decided to leave the comfort of our parked car and join the people on their journey to survival. The crisp wind blew through my hair and the smell of the ocean filled my lungs. The ferry glided over the still surface of the ocean. We arrived at our destination and began to disembark onto the meek terracotta earth.
Our bus made its way up the hill and took a sharp turn onto a dirt road. Concrete structures, no larger than a car’s trunk, lined each side of the serrated trail. Some were used as an open kitchen, some as homes for families of six and some as a backdrop to a kiosk adorned with colorful fruits and vegetables. Barefooted children ran towards our bus, jumping and screaming for joy at the sight of foreigners visiting their humble terrain. I slipped my hand through the crack in the window and waved my hands enthusiastically, saying “Jumbo, Jumbo” to every beautiful child sitting on the side of the road. We were minutes away from our destination.
I will do my very best to describe to you the first glance of the shabby school in the heart of Likoni:
The landscape enveloping the school was a deep and unkempt emerald green. Nestled in the effortless beauty was a field of reddish-brown earth. The children, in their buttoned down shirts and navy blue skirts and shorts were anxiously awaiting our arrival. Their uniforms were stained with the residue of the earth. Behind them stood a proud ram shackled structure with a sloped tin roof and a baby blue façade. The children stretched their arms out to shake our hands, proud to be able to say “hello” and “fine” in English. I held each child, touched by their warm and genuine welcoming.
A little girl, slightly out of uniform in her navy blue skirt and bright pink shirt, tugged on my hand until she acquired my full attention. She raised her arms to the sky, motioning for me to pick her up and wrap her around me. Her scarred legs, innocent smile and youthful trust filled me with compassion. Untangling Ashoora off of my body must have been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The headmaster of the school was ready to give us a tour of the classrooms so I placed her on the ground and promised I’d be back in a bit.
The headmaster walked us through the dark and dingy classrooms. Each classroom contained a few wooden benches, a blackboard, plastic bags for backpacks and a small window that emitted an ounce of light into the dungeon of a classroom. The teachers expressed their gratefulness for the books that were donated the previous year. Apparently, the books had become the talk of the village, and now the school is known for it’s exceptional resources. This year they are requesting new uniforms and desks. Unfortunately, K4K’s budget doesn’t permit us to provide them with everything they need, but we will do our best to supply them with essentials.
I have been reflecting on my life and the life of the people I know. We complain about everything; our meal, the weather, and the noisy next-door neighbor. At the Goodwill Academy, a handshake, a smile, a piece of sugar cane the size of a pea, and a game of “Camel Walking” brings the children stupendous amounts of joy.
From this day forward I will make an effort to appreciate the little things in life.