As always, I arrived in Kenya with a suitcase full of donated items for the children of Future Stars. Sadly I was stopped by customs at the airport and charged import duty on the lot after failing to convince the official that the ‘age 4-5’ jeans were my personal clothing! I realise I have to follow the rules but it was rather galling to have to pay 5000 shillings to bring second hand clothes and some school supplies to the children of the slum.
The resentment over the payment didn’t last long. Actually, it lasted as long as it took to get the donations to Future Stars. Once I saw the children’s reactions I was fighting the tears for a very different reason.
There’s something overwhelmingly humbling about seeing the response to such a simple act. Back home, many children would have turned their noses up at unbranded second hand clothing. At Future Stars, every item was met with cheers and excitement and dancing. Each of the resident children received several new outfits and were absolutely delighted.
I don’t know quite how to describe my own emotions, witnessing it. The donations don’t come from me – they come from the wonderful supporters of Chaffinch. There’s something very special about what I get to do. I am privileged enough to be there to see the smiling faces and the excitement and be enveloped in the positive emotions. The gratitude is all poured out in my direction and it’s overwhelming. All I am is a courier. I wish there was some way I could share the emotion with the people who really made those children happy – the people who donated the goods.
On that note, a special shout-out should go to Louise who is the sponsor of one of the residential children, Samuel. She made up a small parcel of items that I was lucky enough to be able to deliver. The smile on Samuel’s face was a delight to behold, especially when you know the horrors he’s faced and the terrible start he had in life. He couldn’t believe someone had sent him a gift. He asked me several times: “ni wangu huyo? tu kwa ajili yangu?” (It’s mine? Just for me?). Louise made him feel special, like the most important, most loved person in the world. That’s an incredible thing to do for someone – to make them feel like that. For me, the emotion brought tears to my eyes. I long for some way to share that feeling with Louise but I fear it’s something that no words, no description, no photographs, will ever be able to express satisfactorily.
There were other donations, too. I handed over much needed pens and pencils, chalk, colouring crayons and felt tipped pens. Then there was a visit to the school by NVS volunteer, Maria, a young blind woman from Mexico. She gave us some more pens and pencils as well as two recorders so the children can make music. I haven’t touched a recorder since my schooldays but perhaps I’ll have to brush up on my skills!
Making donations of unwanted items, like clothing that children have outgrown, is something that is relatively easy for many people. It doesn’t involve spending any money and it also means you clear some space in your closets. So good news all round. Then the impact of that act is really immeasurable. Turning your ‘unwanted’ into someone else’s ‘longed for’ is pretty awesome. Maybe it’s an altruistic act, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get something back. I’m lucky – I get to witness it first hand and be showered with happiness. One day I hope some of our supporters make it out here to Kenya to experience it for themselves.
Interested in helping? ‘Like’ the Chaffinch Facebook page to be kept up to date with opportunities and donation requests, or check out the profiles of the Future Stars children if you would like to sponsor a child as Louise does.