Note from Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family: Today I continue the story of my experience with my daughter, Grace, bringing shoes to orphaned children in Africa. You can read the first part of the story here.
On our second full day in Nairobi, Grace and I started the day with a trip to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the world’s most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program and one of the pioneering conservation organizations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. That was INCREDIBLE, and worthy of its own story another time, so I’ll move on with our adventures with the shoe project for now!
After we ate lunch, we headed out to our next orphanage. When we arrived, we saw that clearly it was the smallest of the three that we’d been to and had the least amount of resources… definitely the most lacking in accommodations by far. This is an orphanage where all of the kids come from the street, really rough and tough, but they’ve found hope, and pride, and their self respect.
It was rough. I mean, they were raising pigs and cows right next to their showers for their boys and girls. All of the girls were in two rooms, and all of the boys were in two rooms. There were 16 twin bunk beds and 26 boys in that room. That’s two boys to a twin bed. And though they may have had every reason to be ashamed of where they were due to their meager accommodations, they wanted to show us their rooms, their beds, their little cubbies where they had their few clothes. They were so very proud of what they did have.
We were a little worried about whether everyone would get a pair of shoes, but it all worked out; not only did each kid get their own pair, but every staff member also got a pair of shoes. A lot of the kids were in high school, and they have to have a uniform and good shoes, so instead of putting them on and wearing them right away, they were saving them.
When all of the kids came out to say goodbye to us and take pictures, they brought their shoes out. They started singing to us, and they were banging their shoes together. Check it out:
These are the kids that have nothing, but yet they have everything, because they believe in God, and they believe in themselves, and really, what more do we need?
The story of this particular orphanage was pretty neat. The lady who runs it, Lucy, used to go out once a week and feed street kids. One day she had this big idea to get her friends together, go down and feed the kids, then invite them out to her house so they could see that they were loved.
The problem was that they got this food and this love, and some of the kids said, “Miss Lucy, I can’t go back. I can’t go back to the street.” But she didn’t have any space in her home for them. She couldn’t raise them. So, she said, “I’m sorry I don’t have a bed; I don’t have clothes, and I don’t have a way to feed you.”
They responded with, “We don’t need any of that. We just need a place that we’re not going to get rained on. We’ll sleep on the floor. We don’t need any bedding. We just want to stay here.”
Just as Lucy was going to send them back, her husband arrived home and said, “Wait a minute, you’ve been telling these kids they have to get off the street, but you’re turning around and telling them you’re going to send them back to the street? We have to try to do something!”
So the kids stayed there that night, and Lucy tells a funny story about taking a twin bed from her own kids and putting it out there for her visitors, all six just sleeping sideways on it with their feet hanging off!
That was the beginning of those six kids living with them. When other street kids heard about this, they started showing up at Lucy’s doorstep too, saying, “Can we stay here?” That’s how the orphanage was born.
One of the first kids from that original six was a young man named Ken, and he is still there today, helping to take care of the boys.
I got to talking with Ken about how a six-year-old could even survive on the street, asking him so many questions that he invited Grace and I to join him the next day to go and see what it’s like for ourselves. He wanted us to meet the street kids.
So, we donated some money so they could go buy food for the street kids, because you have to feed them. If you don’t, if you were to give them money, they would just buy glue and get high.
I have a lot to share about that experience, actually, so stay tuned next week for Part 3 of our Amazing African Adventure!