Much like that small spark that starts a blazing fire, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that this was the start of something great. At that moment in March 2010, as I sat in Nairobi, Kenya, that thought resonated deep in my spirit. I began dreaming of what it would look like to take therapists on short term mission trips to work with orphans. The therapists could evaluate the children and then train the staff to know how to help them. With no access to specialized services, it would fill a great need given the traumatic histories these children have endured. I shared this vision with our trip leader, Colleen, whose heart had been stirred in the same way after having experienced the amount of services that her adopted children access in the U.S. and the lack of such services for the kids at Sanctuary of Hope in Kenya. We began to dream together and decided to take a step of faith to put together a trip for therapists and just “see what happens”.
Colleen and I learned that the dates that Matthew and I were already going to be in Kenya during our world trip would work perfectly to have a team from the U.S. meet us there. The kids would be off school allowing us time with them during the day. Also, the kids were scheduled to be in VBS for half the day which would allow the staff to be free for trainings. The next step would be to see if anyone would be interested in joining this team! I have to admit that I was a little nervous that either no one would be able to join the team given the limited amount of time for planning and fundraising, OR that we would have an entire team with only one type of specialist represented. I had been feeling so much peace about how things were coming together that I just prayed for God to bring together the right team members. I was amazed to watch this team form right before my eyes. It was a perfect multi-disciplinary team. In the end, our team consisted of a Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Speech Pathologist, Special Education Teacher, Pediatric Nurse, Child Trauma Specialist, and a Psychologist. Matthew and I co-led the team with Colleen who was also accompanied by her awesome kid Justin.
Matthew and I arrived in Kenya with five days to spend preparing for the team to arrive. It was a treasured time as we spent the days building relationships with the Sanctuary of Hope staff and getting to know the children better. One day Matthew and I quietly entered the room while the younger children were singing and praying together, and we were completely humbled to hear these young ones praying for us and for the team that would be arriving in a few days. Later that day, we learned that the older kids spent an entire hour praying for us. Talk about a humbling experience.
It is amazing to see how well these 23 children are doing, despite the history of neglect, abuse, and trauma they have each experienced. Most of these children were brought to Sanctuary of Hope from a slum in Nairobi known as Mathare Valley. Their parents have either left, died, or are living with HIV and can no longer take care of them. Mathare is home to around 600,000 people within six square miles and is the worst poverty that Matthew and I have ever seen.
A few of the kids also came from an orphanage called Mother Teresa’s. The therapist team spent a day touring Mathare Valley and Mother Teresa’s in order to experience the places where these children came from. It was a day filled with many emotions and many tears as we learned how people on the other side of the world live.
The team spent a total of 10 days in Nairobi. It was an intense time of studying the children’s histories, building relationships and listening to the staff, evaluating the children, completing trainings at Sanctuary of Hope and Mathare Valley, and working with the sisters and current physiotherapist at Mother Teresa’s orphanage. I loved seeing how this team of therapists came alive at the opportunity to use their skills to help their Kenyan brothers and sisters. I also loved seeing the team fall in love with the children.
I believe that the Lord used each of our team members to bless the Kenyan’s lives in many ways. From our Psychologist doing psychotherapy in her “office” (which was a van!)… to the Occupational Therapist and Speech Pathologist completing developmental trainings for community members and teachers at Mathare and for staff at Sanctuary of Hope…to the Child Trauma Specialist doing therapy groups to help the children deal with the trauma they experienced…to the Special Education Teacher interacting with the kids in the disabled children ward at Mother Teresa’s…to our Nurse and Physical Therapist working with the physiotherapist and building adaptive equipment together at Mother Teresa’s…this just scratches the surface of what was accomplished by this incredible team. It was an immense joy to see them serve and to see how lives were changed, and now I can truly say that I experienced a dream come true. And now, I wait in eager anticipation to see what dreams lie ahead...