Furaha Community School is an oasis in a desert. It is not that it looks very different from its surroundings (it is located in the middle of slums and space is still at a premium) but there is something unique and different about this place. Today, I think we found out why. Jennifer and I were part of a team lead by Josephine, one of Furaha’s social workers, and Christopher, a social justice advocate. On average, Josephine conducts 500 home visits a month, and today she took us along to meet some of the families being positivity impacted by Furaha. We visited seven families in all. Each home was similar yet different. We walked through dark alleys, often crossing running sewer water, up or down various flights of tight stairs, through short metal doorways, and into a 10 ft x 10 ft room that serves as the living room, bedroom, and kitchen – where often an average of 5 people live. Each home has its own style and each home has its own story about God’s transformative work. Here are a few of these stories:
We entered into Grace’s home and we were warmly greeted. We were invited to sit on her couch as she sat on the only bed in the one room home talking to Josephine about her child’s academic performance. As the conversation continued, we learned Grace had recently moved into this apartment because where she had been living had been marked for destruction.You see, about two months ago a building collapsed just a few hundred yards from the Furaha Community Center. Grace lived in a building that neighbored this failed structure. With cries of public safety the Kenyan government has moved to condemn and destroy several, “At-Risk,” buildings throughout the Huruma slum; and Grace has been impacted these actions. As we sat in Grace’s home listening to her story I was reminded of God’s provision and faithfulness. Yes, Grace’s roof leaked; yes she has been forced to find employment outside of the home, and yes her apartment is cramped beyond knowledge. Yet, there is a joy in her when she speaks about Furaha and their support, there is hope when she describes all that her daughter is learning, and there is love in her eyes as she embraces Josephine. The road ahead for Grace will be difficult but she is not alone.
10 years ago, Esther married and had a beautiful little girl. After five years, Esther’s husband passed away and after a short time Ester remarried. Since being remarried she has had two other children and this has put her oldest daughter is a vulnerable position. Frequently, within Kenyan culture stepchildren are mistreated. In Esther’s case her new husband feels no obligation to the daughter from Esther’s previous marriage. This has resulted in this little girl receiving various kinds of abuse. The one good thing to have happened to Esther and her little girl is that she is a student at Furaha. When this girl’s grades began to plummet her teacher became worried and notified Josephine. As more information came to light Josephine was able to help Esther see that the best way for her little girl to receive an education and have better opportunities in life was for this daughter to be removed from the home and be placed in a safe house operated by Furaha. This is not a permanent situation but it will be a safe home as long as it is needed. For this 4th grader, the safe house is a dream – she is gaining confidence again as she is provided with a warm bed, safety from abuse, consistent meals, a caring house parent, and a place to focus on her studies. On holidays and long weekends she is able to go home and be with her mom. As a result this girl’s grades have risen sharply, and her sense of safety, security, and trust are being restored.
Iglee’s story is one of community. Iglee has five kids and one them is a student at Furaha. A few weeks ago Iglee brushed her foot up against something, which left a long scratch. The scratch did not go away and in fact it got very bad. When we stopped by to check on Iglee late this morning we found out she had just returned from hospital. This amazed Josephine, and then me, as she explained. Another Furaha parent notified the neighbors of Iglee’s situation. One neighbor stepped in to care for Iglee’s 5-month-old child, another grabbed all of Iglee’s laundry and did it for her, two other neighbors prepared meals for the family, and yet another assisted with care for the other 4 children. This happened with very short notice and allowed Iglee the opportunity to the seek treatment she needed for her foot. This tight-knit community responded with great care and love for one of their own. This picture of community amazed our group but for these Kenyans, this is just what you do as a neighbor and friend. As we talked about the visits with Josphine during the day, she shared that IT IS hard work – that sometimes leads to “Compassion fatigue” -- but at the same time, she loves working for Furaha and seeing the hope and joy that the school brings to these parents, who more than anything want to see their kids' lives be better than their own. The word Furaha is Swahili means Joy. And, today this is the difference I saw. The families connected to Furaha are different from those in every other corner of Huruma because of a consistent joy that echoes throughout the small homes, businesses, and sewer-filled alleys.
Everyone lives in abject poverty but Furaha families are marked by a miraculous joy – that truly is God given. Today we ask that you pray for the social workers who make hard decisions everyday. Pray their compassion grows stronger and is sustaining. Pray for parents who are struggling to balance what is best for them personally and what is best for their kids.
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Traveling a Browns
This page highlights many of our adventures of traveling our nation and world.