August 10-21, 2023 - Guest Writer: Fountains of Hope Board Member and Kenya Trip #2 Team Member Dr. Jeff Soldatis
Though I'm a surgeon, our recent Fountains of Hope mission trip to Kenya was not about medical care but rather hygiene and clean water. I was going to learn a lot. We arrived at Nairobi International Airport around 8:50 pm on 8.11.23 (a day and a half after leaving Indy); two hours later, we had cleared customs, paid the import tax on our accompanying purifiers, then off to a quick overnight hotel. The next morning, we returned to the airport for our quick domestic flight to our ultimate destination, Kisumu and Point of Grace School. We first made several stops in Kisumu for some needed supplies, lunch, and Kenyan shillings.
The school is a ½ hour's drive on a dirt, sort-of, road off the main paved state route from Kisumu: pavement to dirt, an experience of grand contrasts we would repeatedly encounter during our trip.
Pastor Dennis and his wife Lorna were gracious hosts in their home, our base for the Kisumu area work. With the help of Richard, the school administrator, and Jared, the Kenya country director, we planned out the next five days to install two and ½ purifiers (finishing an install the previous group had started). Each site had its own obstacles and idiosyncrasies. Still, the common thread was the gracious attitude of the teachers and students who would directly benefit from access to clean water, such access a rarity I came to learn.
It was not ALL work as we managed to squeeze in a round of golf at Kisumu's only course (where Chris had to buy a collared shirt as he was "improperly dressed" in an SPF long-sleeve tee!) and a game of Frisbee with some students at Point of Grace Junior School near Kisi (a two-hour drive from the main school campus). There, we also were treated to mandazi, the Kenyan equivalent of beignets. Yum! Our final stop, after a day and a half safari in the Masai Mara National Park (great to see that Tanzania and Kenya have worked to preserve this area), we were off to our final installation at the Dorothy Girls School in Nairobi. Almost 40 girls, from infants to seniors in high school, reside here for care and education. They are there for various family situations, from poverty to single parent to possibly no parent. FOH, Bill, and Brain McCall have been supporting the faith-based school for several years, and it is doing great work despite very limited funding. The main need from us - a new purifier and tank to clean the available Nairobi city water, which is not potable without treatment. (another contrast)! I came away with a new understanding of the great need for clean water in Kenya, and probably a lot of Africa, the vitality of the common citizen to "make it" despite inadequate government infrastructure, and the faith-based gratitude we received at each site for the work we did.
Amazed, flabbergasted, joyful, humbled - it was an amazing trip. I highly recommend you join FOH on a mission trip if able - it will change you and deepen your gratitude for things we simply take for granted.
If you would like to join Fountains of Hope on a future trip, or you'd like to support a specific trip, you can find out more at FountainsOfHope.org!