When my Dad was fifteen years old, he lost his parents in a plane crash. He and his sisters were orphaned by a thick fog hanging over the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It isn’t a topic that my family discusses often. But, as I hear the stories of many of the children living on the streets who have also lost their parents, my mind sometimes wanders around to my Dad’s own history.
After my Grandparents’ accident, my dad and his sisters were taken in by their grandparents. In spite of being in the prime of their golden years, they honorably chose to raise a second family. Parents coping with the loss of their children chose to care for children coping with the loss of their parents. Together, they had been through a tragedy and together, they would try to heal and go forward.
Sometime after the accident, my dad’s grandparents insisted that he and his sisters join them for a family night at the movies. They drove to the movie house in downtown Idaho Falls to see the newly-released Mary Poppins. My teenage father probably wasn’t too thrilled about the movie selection. But, they watched it anyway.
That evening, while watching men dance on chimneys and a clever nanny give children their sugar fix, my Dad, his sisters, and his Grandparents laughed. They laughed out-loud and they laughed together. According to my dad, it was the first time after the accident that they laughed together. After the tragic loss of their parents, my Dad and his sisters needed a good laugh, and Mary Poppins delivered.
Children living on the streets in Kenya are like my teenage father; they have known tragedy at a young age and need to heal. Part of that healing process is learning to laugh again. My dad and his sisters got their laugh back from Mary Poppins. Many children in Kenya are getting their laugh back at Undugu’s Kitengela Center.
I first visited Kitengela several weeks ago. Prior to visiting Kitengela, I had met the children in several slums where I had been greeted by dozens of children that were cold, hungry, dirty, and high on glue. It was depressing. But, the afternoon at Kitengela was much different; clean children with sober eyes ran and played while laughing and smiling. Seeing the children at Kitengela was like seeing redemption.
A couple of weeks ago, I took my friend Kelsey to Kitengela. She saw the same happiness at Kitengela that I saw. It is a place where children can laugh and smile after months, years, or a lifetime of tragedy. Kelsey wanted to give these children something that they had probably never had: a birthday party.
Together, Kelsey, my coworker Norah, and I planned a birthday party. Thanks to a sponsor that Kelsey recruited, we went back to Kitengela last Thursday with pointed hats, a birthday cake with candles, decorations, and bags full of games and prizes. The children chose their teams with team names and team cheers. Then, they learned how to bob for apples, run three-legged races, throw water balloons, and walk with an egg on a spoon. They laughed, we laughed, everyone laughed. We all laughed together!
Posted By Jonathan Homer
Posted Aug 14th, 2007