December 21. Ilja’s birthday. Beginning of the orphanage.

And so we wake up and look around. We are in a house made of mud, the traditional Luo way of building, and we are surrounded by cattle, chicken, children, long grass and aloe vera plants. This is it. They show us the plot of land where we are going to build the orphanage and we pin down the exact location of the poles. Yes, we are going to build it the Luo way, and we are going to learn how to do it, so we can repeat it at home, somewhere in Europe. It is Andrew Ogol, Philips father, who has kindly donated the land he inherited for the sake of the orphanage and Excellence Center. We will remain very thankful to him.

And we start: on the marked spots a group of volunteers dig deep holes with sturdy spades. They have to be about two feet deep to make the logs stand strong. I feel like a tough Teuton that wants to prove his Germanic strength and take up the shovel with a hubris-struck vigour. I dig and dig around a stubborn tree trunk but it wouldn’t go out. Blisters and scratches cover my weak skin and I give in. Ben, a local youth who occasionally proves to be a reliable volunteer (although on other occasions a more reliable drinker), cuts it out in an instant. I stand sullenly in the hot sun watching them finishing the holes. Meanwhile Yeon is sketching the  first draft of the design of the orphanage to be.

We buy one thousand bricks for a good price (8 Shillings each) and rent a lorrie to bring them to the orphanage. Volunteers and children help to unload and offload the truck. Some of the volunteers are drunk and unwilling to work. I have to see to it that the kids are not doing anything against their will, but they obviously like carrying the bricks into the lorrie. The bumpy truckride was an awesome experience Yeon and I enjoy very much. Here we are, we have just arrived in the village we are donating an orphanage to, and we are where the action is, sitting on top of our bricks. Only few of them break.

Today is the birthday of my mother. She would have turned sixty. I hope she would like what we are doing here.

December 21. Ilja’s birthday. Beginning of the orphanage.

And so we wake up and look around. We are in a house made of mud, the traditional Luo way of building, and we are surrounded by cattle, chicken, children, long grass and aloe vera plants. This is it. They show us the plot of land where we are going to build the orphanage and we pin down the exact location of the poles. Yes, we are going to build it the Luo way, and we are going to learn how to do it, so we can repeat it at home, somewhere in Europe. It is Andrew Ogol, Philips father, who has kindly donated the land he inherited for the sake of the orphanage and Excellence Center. We will remain very thankful to him.

And we start: on the marked spots a group of volunteers dig deep holes with sturdy spades. They have to be about two feet deep to make the logs stand strong. I feel like a tough Teuton that wants to prove his Germanic strength and take up the shovel with a hubris-struck vigour. I dig and dig around a stubborn tree trunk but it wouldn’t go out. Blisters and scratches cover my weak skin and I give in. Ben, a local youth who occasionally proves to be a reliable volunteer (although on other occasions a more reliable drinker), cuts it out in an instant. I stand sullenly in the hot sun watching them finishing the holes. Meanwhile Yeon is sketching the  first draft of the design of the orphanage to be.

We buy one thousand bricks for a good price (8 Shillings each) and rent a lorrie to bring them to the orphanage. Volunteers and children help to unload and offload the truck. Some of the volunteers are drunk and unwilling to work. I have to see to it that the kids are not doing anything against their will, but they obviously like carrying the bricks into the lorrie. The bumpy truckride was an awesome experience Yeon and I enjoy very much. Here we are, we have just arrived in the village we are donating an orphanage to, and we are where the action is, sitting on top of our bricks. Only few of them break.

Today is the birthday of my mother. She would have turned sixty. I hope she would like what we are doing here.

December 20. Lake Victoria!

We have a safe but exhausting Matatu journey to Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, where we install ourselves for the first time in the cybercafé in the Megaplaza, which will become our main communication channel for the next weeks. We meet Philip, the future managing director of the orphanage, and like him at first sight.
It takes us a while to brief family and friends, so that we arrive in the village in total darkness, after a long bumpy tuktuk-ride. We are welcomed by Philip’s parents and a group of children, some of them orphans, and we shake many small hands. Philip has prepared a room with a mosquito net (recall this is right next to Lake Victoria, with a real risk of malaria). To take away any worries: we are not infected, and our Kenyan friend Eric who does contract the germ will take a few days to recover to full strength. So we sleep right away, awaiting our first sunrise in the Kenyan countryside.

This photo is part of another project we do en passant. We collect portraits of people around the world with a grimace and local flowers in their ears. It would make an awesome poster. Humanity, unite. You can send your photo to kamielverwer at hotmail.com.

December 20. Lake Victoria!

We have a safe but exhausting Matatu journey to Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, where we install ourselves for the first time in the cybercafé in the Megaplaza, which will become our main communication channel for the next weeks. We meet Philip, the future managing director of the orphanage, and like him at first sight.
It takes us a while to brief family and friends, so that we arrive in the village in total darkness, after a long bumpy tuktuk-ride. We are welcomed by Philip’s parents and a group of children, some of them orphans, and we shake many small hands. Philip has prepared a room with a mosquito net (recall this is right next to Lake Victoria, with a real risk of malaria). To take away any worries: we are not infected, and our Kenyan friend Eric who does contract the germ will take a few days to recover to full strength. So we sleep right away, awaiting our first sunrise in the Kenyan countryside.

This photo is part of another project we do en passant. We collect portraits of people around the world with a grimace and local flowers in their ears. It would make an awesome poster. Humanity, unite. You can send your photo to kamielverwer at hotmail.com.

December 13-19. Chameleon.

Picking up Yeon from the airport early in the morning. Her flight is delayed so we wait and introduce ourselves to a British lady who is on her way to Tanzania. There she is – she has made it, and we are happy. I brief her about what Charity Travel has been doing in Kenya so far and she becomes a part of it. Let’s sketch that first week together, when Charity Travel becomes a teamplay. There are lazy days back home in Kayole, enjoying good conversations over lengthy breakfasts, taking cold and warm showers, sitting next to the hens on the roof overlooking this part of the capital, doing the groceries in the small shops, buying kerosine for the stove, getting home early enough to avoid nasty murderous thugs, making peace with the landlady whose patience declines with her methylated breath, traveling downtown in a crowded Matatu to catch up with our communications, indulging in Kenyan specialties like Tilapia, beef stew, and beans, all served with the inevitable pile of ugali, the Kenyan staple. We visit Duncan’s orphanage to do a tv-interview with KBC, which is never aired, probably thanks to our relunctance to pay them a fat bribe. The interview is conducted in an utterly unprofessional manner. A few journalists with an amateurish camera and an even more amateurish set of suggestive questions.

“How much did you donate today?”
-“Well, we do assess the necessity first, and then we…”
“What do you see here today? Poor malnourished kids right? Without proper clothing?”
The kids were standing right next to us in their beautiful uniforms, and they just had a rather copious meal. This is an orphanage that has to play a proud role as an example to all the other orphanages Vision Alive is going to work with in Kenya. Our Vision – to establish Community Excellence Centers, I will keep repeating it, to create useful linkages between communities so that their expertise in terms of income generating activities, in terms of how to deal with the community and convince them to cooperate with the center, in terms of writing proposals to CSR departments, and dealing with the hierarchical structures of Kenyan politics.
The KBC guys get from me a disappointing 1,000 Shillings that probably triggered them to dispose of the tape with me and Willis introducing Charity Travel and Vision Alive. I hope to find an echo of our passion in the heart of a journalist, because the movement of Charity Travel is something that is – unfortunately – more unique than you realize.

So, after that visit we go home with mixed feelings, and a couple of days later we are in Nakuru, where we visit yet another orphanage, and gather a large group of children in an ironsheet church. I buy them a meal (bread, bananas, juice, candies) and we present them the movie we use to tell them about their rights. It is a success again, and long-term cooperation with that orphanage is in the air. We have a great meal at Pauline’s place – Thank you! that gives us all the energy we need tomorrow when we travel to Kisumu to do the real thing – building our own orphanage from the ground.

December 13-19. Chameleon.

Picking up Yeon from the airport early in the morning. Her flight is delayed so we wait and introduce ourselves to a British lady who is on her way to Tanzania. There she is – she has made it, and we are happy. I brief her about what Charity Travel has been doing in Kenya so far and she becomes a part of it. Let’s sketch that first week together, when Charity Travel becomes a teamplay. There are lazy days back home in Kayole, enjoying good conversations over lengthy breakfasts, taking cold and warm showers, sitting next to the hens on the roof overlooking this part of the capital, doing the groceries in the small shops, buying kerosine for the stove, getting home early enough to avoid nasty murderous thugs, making peace with the landlady whose patience declines with her methylated breath, traveling downtown in a crowded Matatu to catch up with our communications, indulging in Kenyan specialties like Tilapia, beef stew, and beans, all served with the inevitable pile of ugali, the Kenyan staple. We visit Duncan’s orphanage to do a tv-interview with KBC, which is never aired, probably thanks to our relunctance to pay them a fat bribe. The interview is conducted in an utterly unprofessional manner. A few journalists with an amateurish camera and an even more amateurish set of suggestive questions.

“How much did you donate today?”
-“Well, we do assess the necessity first, and then we…”
“What do you see here today? Poor malnourished kids right? Without proper clothing?”
The kids were standing right next to us in their beautiful uniforms, and they just had a rather copious meal. This is an orphanage that has to play a proud role as an example to all the other orphanages Vision Alive is going to work with in Kenya. Our Vision – to establish Community Excellence Centers, I will keep repeating it, to create useful linkages between communities so that their expertise in terms of income generating activities, in terms of how to deal with the community and convince them to cooperate with the center, in terms of writing proposals to CSR departments, and dealing with the hierarchical structures of Kenyan politics.
The KBC guys get from me a disappointing 1,000 Shillings that probably triggered them to dispose of the tape with me and Willis introducing Charity Travel and Vision Alive. I hope to find an echo of our passion in the heart of a journalist, because the movement of Charity Travel is something that is – unfortunately – more unique than you realize.

So, after that visit we go home with mixed feelings, and a couple of days later we are in Nakuru, where we visit yet another orphanage, and gather a large group of children in an ironsheet church. I buy them a meal (bread, bananas, juice, candies) and we present them the movie we use to tell them about their rights. It is a success again, and long-term cooperation with that orphanage is in the air. We have a great meal at Pauline’s place – Thank you! that gives us all the energy we need tomorrow when we travel to Kisumu to do the real thing – building our own orphanage from the ground.

December 12. And let there be darkness. Projection in a church.

We travel back to Nairobi in the morning, arriving at 4pm but still in time to do our session in the church. There are 200 children singing and clapping when we arrive and introduce ourselves. First we offer all of them a simple healthy meal of rice and beans, and they like it. We call it a Sustainable Feeding Program, making it sound very official and attractive for corporate sponsors. But this one is real. The little child feeding his friend a spoonful of beans.

We are going to show you a movie. And so we do. The children like it, despite of the lacking darkness that is takes for the image we project on the white sheet to be sharp. So here we are in a church, hoping for some more darkness to catch the concentration of the 200 children.

The roleplay we show them in the first break is a big success. I play the abusive uncle again, wrapping myself in Willys’ graduation gown, and when I am arrested and thrown into the corner I hope the children understand what we teach them about their rights. We get a good applause, and continue the movie with smiles on our faces. We can’t finish it because the kids have to be home before darkness, but I can see on their faces that they have enjoyed themselves and might remember the day – and what we’ve taught them.