Our next interfaith group is traveling from Indiana to visit the Umoja Project in a few weeks. Sixteen travelers ranging in age from 16 to 72 are looking forward to spending time with Umoja students, teachers, guardians, and staff.
The next interfaith trip is scheduled for February 2020. If you are interested in learning more about it, please contact Celia at email@example.com.
The following excerpts from Kim’s 2018 travel journal showcase what happens on an Umoja trip:
Although many in this area are poor in material wealth and formal education, they are not short on grace—actually they put me to shame. Despite all their hardships, they were hospitable, kind, welcoming, forgiving of our ignorance of their customs and willing to share—actually to give their quests the best (seat, food, etc.) that they had to offer.
We had dinner with 6 Umoja college students/graduates. Their hope for the future and their more than appreciation—love—for their Umoja family shines on their faces despite all the hardships that they hide-saying it’s too emotional to express. The hardships of their childhood flash across their face, but using the resilience that got them through childhood it only flickers there before they recompose themselves. Most of them have lost one or both parents at a very young age. All of them experienced hunger, hard work, very minimal shelter, and long walks to and from everywhere they went. All of them mention a period of hopelessness before the Umoja Project provided them a means to meet some of their basic needs—food, clothing, shelter—and a means to hope for a better future through education. It was that sense of hope and feeling that they were not left alone to despair that was most valuable to them. I sensed from them that their connection to the Umoja family and hope of raising themselves and those around them out of poverty eased that emotional pain, which is often more damaging in the end than lack of adequate food or shelter.
What always impressed about the local people’s expressions of gratitude for the Project’s actions is their sincere request that we are able to do the same for others in their community. As we are their guests, they insist on feeding us everywhere we go despite their limited resources. As mostly the men mudded the house, the women cooked all day. I am sure the chicken in our stew for lunch that day was the rooster that arrived earlier in the morning with a neighbor woman, legs bound and tucked under her arm.
For each of these families, the vulnerability of their existence seems razor thin. The strain of such hard lives shows on the children’s faces in one moment, then the resilience and innocence of childhood, despite all that they have experienced, returns them briefly to being children-smiles, bashfulness, and the joy of play. If that 5 year old boy comes up missing, we should check Garland’s suitcase, because I am sure if allowed he would have carried all the way home to our house.
It’s a sad day for all as we leave St Anna’s Hostel in Kisumu and the Project area in Chulaimbo County. We truly leave behind new friends, warm welcoming people that are working so hard to continue to raise their fellow citizens out of poverty one child at a time. They have reached a milestone in their journey where they see their own graduates on the precipice of being able to start providing financial support to expand the program. I have never taken a trip as an adult where I have gotten to know people and identify with the people so well. I truly look forward to when I meet them again.