This year, my friends and I decided to go to Wells of Hope Academy, a school my friends visited last year and wanted us to continue reaching out to. Wells of Hope is a home for children whose parents are on death row or serving long sentences in prison. I did not make the trip last year and I was quite happy to do so this year. When we asked what the Academy needed us to take for them they said anything could do but that opening a library is one of their biggest priorities at the moment. And thus we started out #StartALib campaign.
We reached out to fellow Church members, friends on social media and asked parents for books their children do not use any more. We asked people to buy a book for a child and one of us made mandazis that we sold at Church to raise money to buy books.
As the day of our visit drew closer, we were asked to think of things we could talk to the children about in terms of career, discipline, cleanliness, you know…the things people talk to children about. For most of us, that was the hardest part. How do you talk to children? How do you talk to children whose only moments with their parents have been a handshake through prison bars? How do you talk to a child who has been called a child of a murderer for as long as they can remember?
I resorted to a book because my books have bailed me out of the most awkward situations. Story books are what I placed on my lap and stealthily read through a boring lesson. They are what I turned to because I was that out-of-place kid who had no TV at my home and so could not contribute to stories about the previous night’s episode of Inspector Derrick. They are what I went to bed with in high school, covered my head with a blanket and turned on a torch when it was lights out and I needed to read at least one paragraph. They are what I have turned to when I am bored, need to recharge, need to discover, need to be entertained, need to cry, need to purge, they are what I have turned to. If I could not counsel these children, I could read to them and hope that somehow, the words they would hear would change their lives.
I have never read to a large group of children before (I have read to my nieces and that is a lot easier) but I have seen pictures of Michelle Obama doing it and it sure looks fancy. I could do that type of fancy.
Words are very life changing. Books will entertain, teach, warn, expand our imagination and sometimes, literally blow your socks off. But what I needed was a book that would bring hope and so we went with the timeless Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss. I have read that this book is one of the most popular gifts for students graduating from high school and college in the US and Canada but I figured it is never too early to give someone some hope, is it?
And so with our cars full of books, clothes, toys and other things, we set off. With our hearts full of excitement, on we went.
The kids welcomed us and thanked us for coming back. After lunch, a tour of the Home and some presentations from the children, it was time for our reading. To be honest, I was little worried about it. We had been told that some kids come from as far as Northern Uganda and when they get to the Home, there are many problems they have to deal with one of them being language barrier. We had also been told of a boy that was brought to the Home in April but has not been able to talk to anybody. There are of course children who should be in, say, Primary Seven but have not been to school so they only fit in Primary Two. I wondered whether they would comprehend or even just enjoy the message of Oh The Places You’ll Go.
And boy did they surprise me! Some stanzas they read out loud after me and four of them volunteered to read; clearly and correctly. Where I said, “You will move mountains,” they shouted back, “I will move mountains” some of them closing their eyes as they recited the lines.
That just brought me to tears. Tears I could not shed because I did not want them to be misunderstood. I did not want them to think that I was crying because I pitied them because I did not. They brought me to tears because I have seen how words have changed me and I could not believe I was seeing the same thing happen to someone else. I could not believe that they could understand what we had read and I could not believe it when they shared the stories they learnt from our reading. I could not believe that once again, a book had bailed me out and brought me to tears yet again!
On behalf of my friends and I, I would like to thank everybody that gave. To Bev, Susan, Joan, Ke’mo, Bless A Child Foundation, The Njoroge children and Anne. I would like to thank people that bought our mandazis after service at church so we could raise money to buy books. I would like to thank people who sent in money and gave whatever they could so we could buy books. For parents that encouraged their kids to give up their toys and books, thank you for teaching them about giving, counting their blessings and sharing. Please read them a wonderful story today as a reward.
I would also like to thank my friends. For being awesome, crazy doers!
We raised Shs974,000 (about $389.6) that we used to buy text books, story books, sugar, washing soap, salt and some biscuits.
Thank you for your support. Because of you, a socially awkward kid is going to find solace in a book. Because of you, a kid who has seen so much that has left him so shaken that he can not find the mouth with which to speak will read a book and maybe find his words again. Because of you, there is a kid that believes that she will be, as Dr Seus says, the winning-est winner of them all!