The Giving Tree

Entry by FK Volunteer Krystal Moon:

As I sat in family meeting, I started getting a little nervous. I was about to stand up in front of a room full of children, who had worked hard all week in school and nightly tutoring, and ask them to wake up on their day off and join me in some hard labor.

Let me back up and explain myself….

Since coming to Flying Kites, I have had the pleasure of participating in the children’s daily lives. I have also had the experience of seeing other Kenyans in their daily lives. And while the children at Flying Kites don’t necessarily have it easy–they certainly have struggles and don’t lead the lives that we’re accustomed to in the States–I can’t help but notice the people here whose lives are even more challenging. I’ve seen children sleeping in a pile of rocks in Nairobi; I’ve watched toddlers who are obviously struck with illness crying on the road; I’ve noticed elderly men and women wince with pain as they struggle to carry heavy supplies down the road on their backs; I’ve seen kids working in shambas during school hours; and I know that for every one of these people I see there are many more out there that are challenged with daily activities that I have taken for granted. So, as much as the Flying Kites kids need our help, I also know they are comparably fortunate. They are well-fed; they are given the proper medicine if they’re sick; they receive an education; and they have a loving family that will always support them.

So, as I sat in Family meeting, clutching a copy of “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, I knew I was doing the right thing by talking to them about helping others that are less fortunate than them. But, I was still a little anxious to see if they’d be willing to give up their free time that is usually spent playing games and running freely, to labor at the benefit of others.

When I stood up and moved to the front of the room, I told the children that I wanted to read the book to them for two reasons: 1) A special person gave me the book a long time ago, and I have loved it ever since and 2) I wanted to use it to talk about something special I wanted to do with them on the weekends. As I read aloud the book, I realized that their eyes were glued on me. Not one person was fidgeting, or whispering. They were genuinely interested in the book, and what I was about to ask of them. As the book came to a close, we discussed all of the things that the tree had given the boy. We noticed that none of it took any money, and at the end of the story, all the tree gave was it’s time, and it’s self. I asked the kids if they would be willing to do something for others that didn’t cost us any money, and only took our time and effort, “have you heard of community service?”

Almost every head in the room nodded, and the next ten minutes were spent with a flurry of hands being raised, offering past experiences of service, and new ideas of how we could help out our community. I was astounded by the excitement in the room, and at the willingness of these kids to dedicate themselves every Saturday to helping other people. We decided our first project would be to fix the road that leads down to town. The holes in it are created by the rain and make it incredibly hard for people to travel on, and we knew many people would benefit from us filling the large holes with rocks.

The next morning as I drank my coffee and walked into the kids’ rooms to say Good Morning, I wondered if the kids might have lost their enthusiasm for our activity. I crept towards Daniel’s bed and watched as he opened his eyes for the first time that morning. He saw me, grinned, and said “When are we going down to the road for service?!” The other boys heard this, and popped up in their beds. I smiled wide, told them we’d leave soon, and felt my heart swell.

The rest of the day was spent with 20 plus kids and adults working tirelessly on the road. We took as many tools as we could find, and didn’t stop until we were satisfied with our work. The neighborhood kids saw what we were up to and came to help as well.

As we walked back up our hill, tools in hand, the kids were already talking excitedly about what our service project would be next weekend. We decided on helping in Uncle James’ shamba because “he is old, and needs our help.”

I couldn’t be more proud or impressed with the number of helping hands in this house.

~Pamjoja~