"It was through the Alternative Break program that I was able to travel to Kenya to work with the Nyumbani Program, a program that works to provide medical and holistic care for children inflicted with HIV. The Nyumbani Program has three different sectors. The work of the program reflects and promotes the true message of community, to connect with and love your fellow human beings.
The first section of the program that we got to work with was the Nyumbani Home for Children located in Karen, outside of the city of Nairobi. The Nyumbani Home is a program where orphaned or abandoned children affected by the HIV epidemic are cared for. Our group from Le Moyne did most of our service work at the Nyumbani Home, spending time with the children. On the first day the children took us around to all their little houses and we got to meet their house mothers. We got to spend time with the teenagers and see their dorms and talk to them about their lives and interests. We also got to talk with a twenty-two year old who had grown up in the Nyumbani Program who was starting her first job that the program helped find for her. We got to meet and work with people of all ages in the program, and really see how the program beautifully raises these children to be healthy productive members of Kenyan society. Our group sponsored a New Years Eve party at the home with pizza and dancing. The next day, we sponsored an inflatable bouncy castle and a trampoline to be brought to the home for the children to play with. We also brought ten suitcases of donations for the children filled with clothes, school supplies, and toys. We were able to spend many hours at the Nyumbani Home playing and interacting with the children there, connecting and having them touch our lives in so many ways. The children are so inspiring and full of life; they do not let HIV rule their life. They have big hopes and dreams, and I have no doubt that they will reach them.
The second branch of the Nyumbani Program that our Le Moyne College group worked with was the Nyumbani Village, located near the village of Kitui. The organization's goal in founding this village was to create a self-sustaining community to serve orphans and elders who have been left by the lost generation of the HIV pandemic.
The Le Moyne group split up during the week and helped in a lot of the different areas in the Nyumbani Village. While we were there we helped Joseph in the Sustainability Office plant seeds in the fields, water plants, milk cows, and pick up plastic litter for recycling. We all came together at the end of the day to see the kids get out of school, and play games and sports with them. The greatest work we did at the Village was just talking and connecting with the people there. Their impact on us and how they showed their strength and perseverance was a far greater gift to us than what we could give to them.
The third branch of the Nyumbani Program, and the last branch that the Le Moyne College group worked for, is the Lea Toto Program located in the impoverished communities surrounding Nairobi. The phrase "lea toto" is Swahili for "to raise the child" and it is a community-based outreach program= that provides services to children who are HIV positive. The Le Moyne College group spent two days working with the Lea Toto Program and learning what they do for the communities. We split our group in half to go to different communities and clinics. On the afternoon of our last day working there, we got an overview of the entire program from the coordinator of all the clinics. Working for the Lea Toto Program was an eye opening experience for our group. Our days working there showed us the devastating conditions that the slums in Nairobi have, but the love and support that the workers of the program have for the people that they help.
Working with and learning about the Nyumbani Program in Kenya was an uplifting experience. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa is truly heartbreaking, but to see the workers of the Nyumbani Program's response gives great hope to the situation. The work that the Nyumbani Program accomplishes shows true human compassion and sacrifice. Their work shows that being part of a greater human community, with empathy and love, can triumph disease and destitution. I am thankful to be a part of the Le Moyne College Service Learning Program who allowed me to have this experience working with the program."