Our car swerves, bumps and grinds, balancing on the edge of a narrow road that spirals through the Rift Valley. We are left speechless from the vast expanse and the breathtaking view. It is here, nestled in the dips and creases of the valley, where Maai-Mahiu lies – a village of about 30,000 people, most of whom are children.
We arrive at the Transit Hotel and meet Dominic, the giggly and forever-smiling general manager. This will be our home for the next five weeks Nathan gives us a tour and tells us a bit about the village and the history of Comfort the Children.
“Maai-Mahiu” means hot water. Hot springs flow from Mount Longonot and bubble beneath the village. But ironically, drinkable water is hard to come by. It’s too salty to drink and even the locals need to have their water delivered to their homes.
The economic backbone of the village comes from truck drivers. Every trucker that travels between Nairobi and Mombasa stops in Maai-Mahiu before continuing their drive on what is called The AIDS Highway. It is the one major road that links the coast and the capital, providing an easy channel for truckers to spread the disease. Prostitution is rife here, and girls as young as 12 solicit themselves – earning more money when they don’t use a condom. Maai-Mahiu is considered a social blight, with one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in Africa and where the residents are virtually ignored by the Kenyan government.
Comfort the Children helps those who can’t help themselves. The symbol of CTC International is an open hand, to symbolize its five initiatives: community, environment, health, education and economics. Our team will focus on education by building two classrooms and working on a community garden in the school.
As I write this, the nine of us are sitting on the porch of the hotel – talking and laughing, and watching locals talk and laugh. It is the longest amount of time I’ve spent just sitting. And for once, I find myself not thinking about tomorrow. I am simply enjoying the moment of being here.