Written from the journal of a volunteer
Claudine volunteered with us at Gabriels 2013 her writing told the story:
I looked into the face of death.
Death didn’t scare me for it was there to collect another, although her time wasn’t quite there. Death was waiting, slightly obscured by the shadows but there to be seen should you look hard enough. Death is patient; he is quite certain we all come to him in turn, and he knows she will be with him before the next full moon.
I could see Death in her sunken eyes, and I thought I could see Fear there too. At the sweet age of fifteen, the victim of a brain injury sustained from a beating, she didn’t want to go either.
Or perhaps I imagine the fear in her eyes, and she is long gone. Why do we always wish to minimize the pain of such events?
I leave, wondering how I can cheat Death from his prize. If she could only have a feeding tube, a drip, she would make Death wait another decade or two to claim her.
But to what avail? Her family, already poor and in the slums, could hardly feed themselves prior to the beating she sustained. Now, one of the sisters must stay home with her 24 hours a day. They had to rent a second room to house her crippled body. Her colostomy bag is blocked with no-one to change it, she can’t swallow and as a result is slowly starving to death, and her family are burdened.
But my efficient problem-solving Western brain can’t accept that. Early the next morning, I rise and walk to the hospital. I visit the only hospice in Nakuru, and learn it is for cancer patient palliative care, not for long-term disabled patients. I leave with a half-solution; they will try to send a nurse out.
Having returned to Perth now after three months in Nakuru, Kenya. I sit here in front of my very familiar computer screen, the sun is only just warming me as the temperature is not what I have been so used to in Kenya.
My feet freeze, Ralphy my shadow, my dog, sits as close to them as possible in the hope I will be able to warm him. It is difficult for me to let you know my thoughts and feelings now, but I have a need to share them with you as you have followed this blog along the path that I took with our wonderful volunteers.
Back in 07/08 when I returned from my last stay in Nakuru, I was not a nice person to live with; my husband and children can vouch for that. I felt that I had abandoned those I tried to help in Nakuru, whilst teaching. I thought that I was ‘going to save the world’.
f I turn my head left, as I type this note upon my very dusty, hardy and work when it wants to work laptop computer, and look out through the barred louver window I see in the distance one of the main streets of Kaptembwa. There are the local people going about their daily business, some trading in vegetables, some in kitchen supplies; buckets mops etc, some selling charcoal.
The beat of African music can just be heard and gently the leaves on the banana palm near the window moves slowly a gentle breeze almost cooling me. It’s actually hard to believe that I am sitting here, in a room with two ‘Kenyan made’ desks from plywood and chipboard a little rough around the edges but they do the job just as well as the tables from the departmental store. The office chairs are perhaps the only ‘fine’ looking pieces of furniture in our little office here at the Gabriel Learning Centre. There are boxes of supplies still to unpack, chalk, rulers, pencils to be used by the nursery school children and the students that work committed in the next room with their pedal sewing machines.
Already I have seen progress by these dressmaking students, from paper patterns now to small skirts being made, practice items but nevertheless I am amazed how quickly they are learning a skill that will keep them in good steed for the years to come. It used to be hard to imagine even having my own project, where would I start, how could it be done, what will I do? A thousand one questions that would circle my sleepless brain. Now that the Project is up and running and I see the students and babies come in daily I can only wonder why I worried so much. It’s true if you put your mind, commitment and hopes into your dreams then it is possible that it will come to pass.