Children’s laughter rings through the school grounds. You wouldn’t believe that we’re in the middle of the Kaptembwo slums where many people live on little more than hope.
I look out of Christopher’s office window. The children across the road at the Kaptembwo Baptist Nursery are running around, kicking a small ball and playing with tyres.
A woman with a sickle cuts crops in a vegetable plot. Matatas bounce noisily along the main road a block away. And young people walk along the street in pairs.
When I walk out on the balcony I see young children walking towards the outside washrooms. They wave and smile when they see me. “Mzungu” they call. “How are you?” they ask. I smile and wave calling “Jambo. I am well thank you. How are you?”. It makes them laugh. The younger ones just wave while the older children call out “I am very well thank you”.
A small brown face pokes around the corner and stares at me. More faces join the staring. “Jambo” I say. A brave little boy puts his hands up indicating he wants a hug. Soon I have picked up all the children one at a time. Some hang back at first, but after they see the smiles on their friends’ faces they can’t help but join the queue. They all tell me their names and I tell them I’m Andrew.
It starts to rain so the children’s teacher calls them back inside. I take cover under the balcony outside their classroom an soon am mobbed. These children whose painful stories I have spent the morning reading are holding my hands and pulling at the hair on my arms with fascination. From the smiles on their faces and songs they are singing, you would never guess the poverty and hardship in which they live. They look just like any other young school child, all smiles and optimism.
I kneel down to their height and let them tell me their names. Some touch my hair and then their own; I feel so foreign. The teacher tells me they love when Mzungu come to visit and that the children love school because it is a place where they have hope. For over an hour, the children entertain me with songs and laughter. When I take my camera out, they all clammer to have their pictures taken and to see what they look like. It’s exactly the same way my nieces, nephews and grandchildren at home behave: we’re not so different after all.
For more information about how you can support these children and their school, go to the Nakuru Hope Project website.