Saturday, November 21, 2009

Do you have a sink?

Florence, her first time ever to be on the beach, touch the sand or be in the ocean. It was also her first time on a plane. We took her along with us on our family vacation to the coast last Spring. It was a true joy to enjoy some of her first experiences. :)

Another one of those Kenya moments...

Hannah was washing her hands yesterday at the kitchen sink with some soap. I was standing beside her as she stood on the stool and our housekeeper, Ms. Florence walked up beside us. Hannah said, "Do you have any soap?" to Florence. She said, "Yes, a little." She then said, "Do you have a sink?" Florence then kindly replied, "No, I do not have a sink."

I just sat there with a small smile on my face thinking of the innocence of Hannah and holding back the tears for Florence knowing she does not have a sink, a bathroom or even an oven. She most likely doesn’t even have mattresses for her children to sleep on at night.

But she said to me in such a kind way, as she always does, “See Mum (that is what she calls me), she is learning. This means she is getting very smart.” Then she just smiled.

The people here have such a wonderful peace of mind, such big hearts and a beautiful outlook on life. It is difficult to see these sweet people "living" in this third world country. The things Florence must endure on a daily basis are beyond any hardship we have ever had to imagine.

She brings fresh water home with her every day from my house because they have no water that they are able to drink. I buy her daughter cheese (and many other meats and vegetables) because she is diabetic and they cannot afford cheese here as it is just too expensive for them to buy. They have no sink, no bathroom, no toilet, and no shower. They do not have an oven, but what they do have is kindness and a beautiful unassuming nature.

Florence is a sweet, peaceful woman with an honest, open heart that leaves me wondering most of the time, where does she find the strength? And more importantly, how does she maintain the peace that surrounds her? I've come to realize that Florence is truly an amazing woman. She is going to do anything and everything she can to make sure her family is taken care of at the end of the day. This is all that is important to her and all that matters. Isn’t this all that really matters to any of us? At the end of the day we work hard, we do the right things to make sure our family is provided for in the best possible manner. We make sure we have food on the table and want our family to live a healthy and good life. Is a good life measured by the amount of toys our children have or the amount of clothes in our closet? Is it measured by the size of our home or the kind of car we drive? These are questions I ask myself many times a day while living here in Kenya. Living here has given me a different perspective on life. One that has shown me how powerful the human condition is, in spite of diversity. I thank the Kenyan people for opening my eyes, and especially Florence, for showing me that love, kindness, joy and peace. It is a priceless gift that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

The realities of their life are not as evident to us in the area where we live just outside the city of Nairobi in what they would call the suburbs. We are put up in a beautiful home on a safe secluded compound. The slums are not next door, nor are the far either. Taking a short fifteen minute drive can get you to the deepest and roughest parts of not just Kenya, but Africa. We rarely have to see it because it is not a safe area or nor would we want to go there, but it is there. In the back of your mind you know it is only a few miles away. So, when you see those people on the side of the streets walking to their home or walking to work (as cars are only for the very wealthy) you wonder, what is their house like? Do they have a bed to sleep in and a blanket to keep them warm? Did they have a good breakfast this morning, or did they even eat? And when I see the children walking to school in their torn uniforms I wonder if they have enough clothes to meet their needs. Yet the children smile and laugh with their friends as they walk. They know nothing different and make the most out of what they have and are given.

So now I am wondering, how can I help these poor people increase their quality of life. And then I thought of you, my family and friends, and wondered if you had ideas on ways to help the Kenyans or if you would personally want to make a difference in their lives. I have been on a soul searching journey for the past few months thinking of all the things I can do to try and raise money and help the people here in Kenya. I am currently working out a way to start a non-profit before I leave in the next six months and am planning on trying out many other ideas in hopes to do something and just simply make some sort of difference here. This is something I feel very passionate about and I hope that you can help, that "WE" can help do something not just for them in the future, but hopefully…now!

I finally realized instead of trying to help all of Kenya at once, why not start with just helping Florence and her family. She has a family of six; two boys, 14 and 16 and two girls, 2 and 5. They are such good people. They have even offered up their home, a two bedroom concrete building (with again, no bathroom, no toilet, no oven, and no stove) to strangers when a building behind them burnt to the ground last week. All the people in that building lost everything. That's the way Florence and her family are, helping others when they are barely able to help themselves. These beautiful, kind souls could use your help.

I wanted to explain a little bit to help you understand what the situation is like in Kenya. Florence makes around $8/day. This is actually one of the best jobs you can get in Kenya. Most jobs pay only a few dollars a day and if you are a housekeeper for a rich Kenyan (not an American or other foreign diplomat), then they only pay around $2.50 a day. They spend on average $25 a week on food for their family of six. All the clothes they receive are from friends or bought at a used clothing store at about 100 ksh (shillings) per piece. This averages to $1.35 per item of clothing. For a Kenyan, when you only make $8/day, spending $1.35 for a piece of clothing is A LOT of money!

So, with this personal mission of mine, I am asking you again, my family and friends, to help make a difference in just one person's life here in Kenya. I wish I could help so many more people and maybe before I leave, I can find a way. But for now, let’s start here...let’s start at home and with someone we KNOW!

I would love for you to send any used clothes, shoes, toys, etc. On average, a medium sized box (depending on weight) will cost you approximately $20 - $30 to ship. This can be a lot just to mail a box of used clothes; however, it gets your old clothes out of the house and at least you know this time, exactly where it is going. It is going to Florence! J

Also, if you like, you can send me a check for any amount. She does not have a bank account, but if you write the check in my name, I will make sure that she gets EVERY penny.

If you would like to help me make a difference, please send clothes or a check to:

Heather Rhodes

Unit 64100

APO, AE 09831

Note: DO NOT WRITE ANYTHING ELSE ON THE BOX!! Do not write Africa, or helping Africa, or Nairobi, Kenya....the box will get returned!!! Just simply write the name and address as it is stated above and that is it.

You will also need to fill out a customs form declaration. It is a white multi-page form that is found on the counter in every post office. You can label the item as a gift and then just simply describe the items listed in the box as clothes, toys, etc. and put the approximate value of the contents.

I would be so very grateful if you could also forward to any friends that you think might also want to help, or maybe even your church! Let’s make a difference this year, especially to someone we know can really use a helping hand!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season this year filled with many blessings.


Heather, Tom, Hannah and Chase


PaperCourt said...

Wow, Heather. So touching! I'm going to put some things together now!
-Courtney Fisher Witter

Reagan said...

I agree with Courtney - I'll either send a box of stuff or a check. I hope we all can make a big difference. I think it's great that you are starting with one person, one story - very compelling. Let me know what transpires! I'm excited for you and for Florence.