As my husband and I prepared for our trip to Kenya this summer, we heard words like "poverty" and "living with nothing" mentioned by people who had visited Huruma or wrote books about these topics. Hearing these phrases, I pre-built a picture in my mind of what to expect to see: sad-looking children, begging for food; piles of trash, dirt roads and crumbling buildings. I knew the trip would be a heart-wrenching experience and that I would continue to be overwhelmed with guilt for the over-stuffed closets, extra shoes and bedrooms that we already own. So, in some ways I thought I was ready. Prepared to see the poverty and prepared to know what to do or say and to act heroically. But none of this turned out to be the case.
Nothing can really prepare you for this reality. In my case, seeing really meant believing -- believing that poverty truly exists in our 21st century world. Everyday in Huruma was eye-opening, and every moment revealed a new layer of life found in the most unexpected place -- a slum outside of Nairobi made up approximately 500,000 people. What surprised me most was what I didn't expect to see. Smack in the middle of dirty, muddy, sewer-filled streets I discovered VIBRANCE! From brightly-colored clothes hanging off balconies, to colorful custom-made signs for every type of business to colorful uniforms and classroom décor. Diving in deeper, I came face to face with the vibrant spirit radiating from the people I met. Throughout the community a spirit of hope drives people to do whatever possible to provide a better life for the next generation. This hope lingers in the streets of Huruma and especially within the walls of the Furaha Community Foundation.
Today, several weeks back from this life-changing experience, I have a new understanding of poverty. Yes there are dirty, hungry children living in less-than-ideal homes - but there is SO much more to it. There are smiling, hopeful students, parents, and creative business owners who challenge me more than I ever thought possible to have hope despite all obstacles. The poverty I witnessed is larger than life and seems like an uphill battle, but the HOPE that resonates from the core of the community - especially for people connected to the Furaha Community Foundation (and WIGU) -- is contagious and powerful. If anything, experiencing poverty with my own eyes, reminded me of the overwhelming power that can be found in HOPE.
At a recent conference for Noonday Collection, a woman named Anne shared a powerful quote: "The poorest person in the world is not one without food and clothing but one without hope." Anne propels hope in the country of Kenya by creating custom hand-made jewelry at a company called Bawa Hope which is one of suppliers for the Noonday Collection. Learn more about Noonday Collection here.
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Traveling a Browns
This page highlights many of our adventures of traveling our nation and world.