Deep Thoughts from Kenya…
The Children are The Reason…
The reason we traveled 15 hours by plane and another 16 hours over mountains and dried up river beds by truck. The reason we’ve spent months planning, day dreaming, meeting, prepping, stressing and praying. The reason we got multiple vaccines shot into our arms. The reason we showered with our mouths sealed shut (because of the water) and gave up all the comforts of home. The reason it was all worth it? For The Children. Without all of this they may never know love, clean water, education and food.
Our primary mission on this trip was to collect data for the child sponsor program www.NoChild.org . My job was photographer, specifically to take portraits of approx. 800 children to be used for their profiles on the website. I was also to get photographs and “b-roll” video of life with the Potok people.
Of course as a photographer I shot much more than just portraits. Every where you looked was “that photograph”. A cute little kid playing beside a mud hut, a little boy driving a cart pulled by donkeys, a warrior out in the woods hunting with a long bow, women washing their clothes in a muddy river along the road side as we traveled… the list was endless. And I tried to make the most of being in such a remote location.
I was given a great piece of advice from my friend and frequent Kenya traveler, Clint… “you will get plenty of photos, just put the camera down and immerse yourself with these kids lives and they will change yours”… Boy am i glad i listened to his wise words. All of my greatest memories did not come while behind the lens but when it was put away. I will share more on that in another post.
I was prepared to me an emotional wreck while at these orphanages, the thought of these kids all alone with nothing sounded heartbreaking… and it is. But when i was there I found myself filled with joy for these kids. They were all SO happy. They were surrounded by their friends 24/7, had clean water, 3 meals a day and had the privilege to attend school. And it was viewed as a privilege. When talking with many of the teenage boys they were so curious about America and just learning in general. Most had a very mature mindset.
There is probably a good reason for that, most of them were forced to care for their siblings at a very young age. One boy who was 15 and had 2 younger siblings had to become the family provider at age 7. His parents were murdered in a cattle raid. He told me that he “felt blessed because God gave him the gift of being able to go a long time with out needing to eat so that he can feed his brother and sister first”. Blessed?! Let that sink in… This is a 15 year old
boy man talking. Stories like that were all around when you talked to these kids but yet they had such true joy and appreciation for what God has blessed them with each day. To hear a boy actually thank God for providing water, food and health was humbling to say the least. But that’s just it, they view all these things that we take for granite and expect, as a blessing. I came away with a strong feeling of Appreciation. Not one of guilt or sadness, but to simply appreciate the basic things in our life. At any moment we can walk 10 feet and have clean disease free water, for most in this region that is not the case.
The wonderful, extremely loving, Pokot children changed my life. It is my hope that, as I raise my boys, I will filter decisions through the lens of my experiences among the Pokot. If I keep these children close to me, my experiences can help to change, not just me , but the legacy of my family as well.