The following blog was written by Aislinn Antrim, a rising Sophomore in the Bonner Leaders Program at the Campus Y. Aislinn works at Rogers Road Community Center as a Bonner; she is working with Carolina for Amani this summer through the Bonner International Summer of Service internship.
by Aislinn Antrim
I’ve been in Kenya for one week so far, and have two more weeks until I will be dragged (kicking and screaming) back to the US. I’m one of twelve Amani interns working with the New Life Home, and we’ll be in Nairobi, Kisumu, and Nakuru. While at the homes, our job is to take photos, update adoption profiles, and write psychosocial reports for each child (thank goodness for the psych majors here!).
The Nairobi home houses children four and younger. They have five units, split by ages: the isolation unit has the tiniest newcomers, the ICU has newborns through three months, the special care unit is three through six months, the crawlers go through age one, and then the toddlers. I spent most of my time with the crawlers and ICU, and got really close to one little girl in particular. She’s in the crawlers, but she’s very small compared to most of the other kids in that unit. She was the happiest, most joyful baby I’ve ever held, which became important after the exhaustion of the second day. The first day was spent entirely holding babies and playing, but the second day was spent organizing files and hearing about the children’s histories. It was an especially heavy day, as we all realized the depth of some of the children’s stories and struggles. Since we were leaving for Kisumu the next morning, I got some last-minute snuggles from her, and her smile reminded me to continue seeing the children as more than their pasts or their stories.
The second home, Kisumu, is the biggest. They have 66 children, ranging all ages. There is an ICU, crawlers, toddlers, older boys (ages 9-15), and a special needs unit, which was especially impressive because the caregivers work tirelessly to meet the specific needs of each child. The caregivers are amazing, truly exemplifying unending love for every child. Again, I spent a lot of time in the ICU and crawlers, since I’m definitely best with babies. Like in Nairobi, I was amazed by how happy they all are as they bounce and roll around. The love of the caregivers seems to have a lot to do with this, as they deeply know every child. As the kids age and transition between units, I noticed that the caregivers already know all of them, to the point that they’re able to sort the massive amounts of laundry without even looking at the labels. The hard work and love of the caregivers not only made it a real home for the children, but made Kisumu feel like home for us.
Finally, I’m currently sitting in Nakuru. We’re only here for a day, but it’s so much fun playing with the five toddlers who live here and seeing how the babies that I’ve played with so far develop into children that run and play. This home also has older girls, who we’ll see tonight when they get home from school. I think, for me, Nakuru is when I’ve finally settled in to Kenya. It’s settled up in the mountains, and the drive here yesterday made me realize how diverse and beautiful Kenya is. I feel like we’ve experienced so much in the last week, and can’t believe we still have 2 more. If I found some really good French fries, I don’t think I’d ever come home.