Music and laughter fill the room as CTC’s 15 ‘malaika’ children sing and dance. These beautiful malaika, or ‘angels’ when translated in English, have either mental or physical disabilities – something that prevents them from being accepted into a government-funded public school.
“Many of the children here were locked up in their homes and hidden from the community because their families were embarrassed by them,” Nathan tells us.
It sickens me to think that anyone could hurt or abandon these children. Malaika Kids is the only available program in the region for children with disabilities. CTC has also established Malaika Moms, a sewing clinic for the mothers of these children, where they make canvas bags and sell them to the U.S.
After an introduction by CTC, the nine of us are split into four groups and taken around the village of Maai-Mahiu by local volunteers for CTC.
Our guide, Tony, takes us to Ngaya school, the only government-funded school in the region. As a result, the school has limited resources, including desks and classrooms. As I enter the school grounds, I’m greeted by 1500 “Hi! How are you’s?,” while children pull at my hair, tickle me and follow me wherever I go. They’re fascinated by my camera and even more so when I show them a picture of themselves through my viewfinder. I’m excited to know that our project will be to build new classrooms for the school.
We also visit AIC Polytechnic, where students who cannot afford university can take courses such as IT, carpentry or sewing. In fact, the woman who teaches the sewing clinic for Malaika Moms was trained at AIC Polytechnic. I can already begin to see the far-reaching effects of CTC’s programs and their work in the community.
Later, we walk into the village and visit the local police station, health centre and council offices, where posters calling for a stop to corruption are posted everywhere. We’re told by Tony that the one thing preventing Kenya from being all that it can, is government and police corruption. The lasting effects of the 2007 post-election violence continue to resonate, as IDS or internally-displaced camps litter the surrounding area of Maai-Mahiu.
In the late afternoon, Tony takes us to his family home to meet his parents for tea. Like every other home in the village, Tony’s house is self-built – held together by wooden beams and insulated with cardboard.
Tony’s Dad tells us how happy he is that we have come from Canada to visit Kenya.
“Now, we don’t have to tell you our story because you can see it with your very own eyes.”
But even though I am here, I still feel like I have so much more to learn and see.