Starved. Babies. Children. Teenagers. Adults. Absolutely Starved.
I am not talking about physical starvation, although there is definitely a lot more of that in Kenya than anywhere else I have been. I am talking of a different type of starvation, one that I didn’t really realise existed until I came to Kenya. But one that is just as destructive and painful as starvation of food. One that leads to messed up lives, to underdevelopment, to lack of achievement, to sadness, to fear, to violence, to low self-esteem, sometimes even to death.
A starvation of love.
Coming from an Australian background where love and care is the norm, it’s hard to understand what it is like for many Kenyans. To be born into a family where you are not really wanted, where you are just another mouth to feed, to grow up with extended family members or neighbours, to shift from place to place, for no one to really know or care whether you are here or there.
I noticed it at a children’s home when I went into the boy’s dormitory to check on a lad who had a wound on his leg, instantly 3 other boys poked legs and arms out from under their dirty sheets to show me various wounds they had. They hadn’t told anyone because there wasn’t anyone who would care.
Showing one of my students some photos and videos of a good friend’s newborn baby in Australia, he pays close attention to the screen and then looks up at me with a startled expression- ‘this is very different to here in Kenya. Here the father says ‘You should have used family planning!’ or ‘No, this isn’t my child”. But this father… this father really loves his baby!”
Upon return back to the school here in Kamukuywa, I was greeted with an enormous overwhelming display of excitement and joy from all my students I taught last year. One thing I totally hadn’t expected though was the shock on their faces when I greeted them, when I addressed one student by his full name and asked how he was going, he responded ‘Madam! surely you don’t actually remember an insignificant person like me?!”
Another student — after asking me how my time in Australia was and hearing about my home life and family — stopped and looking me in the eye said, ‘Madam. Thank-you for returning. Thank-you for loving us”.
I don’t think I have ever thanked anyone for loving me.
I have never felt the need, because love has always been there. But for Ferdinand being loved was something out of the ordinary.
One of the high school students here expresses her feelings about her sponsorship in a letter: ‘I sincerely appreciate for the love that you have to me, I was wondering how a person I have never seen could be paying for my school fees!’ When you don’t experience love from people around you, it is hard to comprehend love from someone who doesn’t even know you.
Of course this isn’t the case for some, there are exceptions and there are children who have very good relationships with their parents. But the fact that this is reality for so many is heart wrenching.
Not having the security of being surrounded by loving people is something that affects humans more than we would realise. Supporting these kids and showing them some of the love of God is something that does and will totally change their lives.