This week I went on house tours of some of the children who attend The Hope Centre’s school and food program, and I was shocked at how small the living quarters were. These children all come from rough homes, from having alcoholic parents to having mothers that bring home different men every night to living in severe poverty. The biggest house I went into had two rooms for eight people. Most of these families were living in a one room house, a room the same size or smaller than my bedroom with five to eight people. That one room was their bedroom, kitchen, and living room. Some houses didn’t even have beds, one house had two couches for five people to sleep on, three adults and two children. Another house had six people with one ‘real’ bed and then a mattress pad they put on the floor for the night so they couldn’t fit any other furniture. They make food on the floor with portable propane burners, it’s a dangerous fire hazard but they have no other place to cook. None of these homes had their own bathrooms either, there’s communal bathrooms outside that everyone in the compound shares. They aren’t sit down toilets either, but squat toilets (which is a norm here but still unpleasant to use).
I can’t imagine that these kids ever get a good night sleep when they have to share a small couch with two plus others. They get no privacy or space to store their own things. Imagine being a teenager and going through puberty with no privacy! It’s crazy. They don’t know anything different though and they are all thankful that they have a roof over their head rather than complaining about how little they have. Everyone was so welcoming to having me come over and look at their homes, these are some of the happiest people I’ve met.
There was this young boy playing tetherball with a string attached to an empty pop bottle filled with sand and he was having a great time. There was another two kids kicking a bucket back and forth playing football because they didn’t have a real ball. I admire the resilience of these children, they make due with what they have rather than letting poverty hinder them.
There’s so many lessons to be learned here, the biggest is that you don’t need to have things to be happy. Happiness comes from inside, it comes from community and not fancy houses or cars. Community in Kenya is so strong, everyone knows and looks out for their neighbours here, and it’s something I think we can all learn from.