Today I woke up to find out that I was supposed to meet Moses, who heads up the Inspiration Center at Mathare, in the city center within a half hour! Well, that didnt happen, but then again time is alittle different here. I did ride on a matatu all by myself though and found my way through the city to meet up with Moses. When we arrived at Mathare the children had been waiting since 9 am for this picnic and it was then 11. We didn’t end up leaving until around 1230. The children were so excited though- and these will be the kids I will getting to know on Saturday art classes so I was happy to meet them before I start teaching. We piled 70 people (mostly kids) in a matatu van with our chapatis, lentils, juice, biscuits, and cake. Moses said that for some kids this is the first time they will have left the slum. One little girl, sitting on my lap, seemed very miserable with a runny nose and bad cough but when asked if she was too sick to go she kept shaking her head that she was not- she was determined to come. Once we got there, before we ate we introduced ourselves and also shared what we want to do when we grow up. This was so neat to hear… each was unique and the children were so proud to share their dreams. Then we ate- one line with children holding out bowls and another girl and i dishing out lentils and chapatis (flat bread). A man came through offering to paint the children’s faces for a very low price so they were also able to have their face painted! They were so proud.
These kids ranged from age 4 to 18 but all seemed to enjoy themselves as we played soccer and other group games and then many of them danced to music coming from a cd player we hooked up to a generator.
I was amazed a a few things during this picnic. One is how happy and eager the kids are to share- they actually boast about sharing! I thought this amazing because for some of these kids this was their only meal for the day and yet they were not grabbing but receiving with an open hand. Even the cake that we had- for all 70 children- was 10 by 10 inches and so we literally tore off small bite-sizes pieces of cake and passed them around in a cup for each child to receive only one piece and yet they were so happy for it.
Another thing that struck me was how my perception of the children changed based on their surroundings. When we waited for the bus at Mathare the kids were playing in dirt but when we were in clean air and open grassy field laughing and playing games the kids changed in my mind or something. They transformed from these unfortunate children with little hope to children who had such potential, gifted-ness, and beauty- which I had somehow missed when we were in Mathare. I was so encouraged by this time with the kids, that though they live in awful conditions- their “kid-ness” has not been stolen from them. The little girl with the bad cough actually stopped coughing all together until we started home again.
I am very excited about working with these children, and will begin next week on saturday morning. They have a movie time in the afternoon and a few other classes so it seems like morning is best. We’ll see how it goes! Also I am still thinking about a theme and am now stuck on “what is Beauty?”. I would like to show the kids beauty in themselves, other children, and even in Mathare Valley.