Last year two wonderful people were married in August 2012, in Kenya. Celmali, a friend who I met in Kenya, though originally from New York City, was married to another friend of mine who founded and runs the Inspiration Center in the Mathare Slum. After knowing them each individually and then getting to know these two as a couple, with Shem, I was privileged to be at their wedding in Kenya last year. Since getting married they had promised to come to the USA, however the complications of Moses getting his visa to come (even though they were married!) was a slow process and seemed to delay again and again each month. However, last month they final were cleared to come and I got to hang out with them both as Celmali took Moses on a tour of Time Square!
They are now visiting churches and organizations that support the Inspiration Center in Seattle and Denver. In November I am looking forward to seeing them again before they return to Kenya. You can follow the inspiration center blog here.
An opportunity sparked months ago that Shem would intern with talented photographer living in Morocco. Ingrid Pullar was born in Sweden and is also the New York Times resident photographer in the city of Casablanca.
Though Shem’s expertise is concentrated in moving pictures, when the possibility to learn from this well-established photographer came up, it was a great chance for him to extend his knowledge into another realm through the context of another cultural lens. Plans were set for Shem to work with Ingrid in the month of August, however because of many failed attempts at the Moroccan Embassy, the visa was not granted until September, after the photographer kindly advocated to the Moroccan office of foreign affairs on Shem’s behalf and came back with a letter speckled red with stamps!
On September 8th Shem flew out of the city of Nairobi and landed in Casablanca almost 20 hours later (yes, Africa is a big continent!). From the beginning he was welcomed, exposed to new languages and culture, and given a variety of jobs to work on in Ingrid Pullar’s studio!
Through a variety of work, such as doing a photo shoot for a yoga studio and creating the photographer’s new logo, Shem learned new skills in photography. He was also able to explore the city, Marrakesh, and the Great Atlas Mountains. He commented on enjoying the olives and fresh breads that are usually accompanying a Moroccan meal and also we now plan to plant a lemon tree and an orange tree in the countryside so that we can always have fresh juices, just like in Morocco!
This camp was a new experience for Mathare team and the children since this was the first time they had taken the Art Camp to Eburru. The Eburru weather is windy and cold, which was a different weather from what our kids from Mathare are used to. The kids were able to learn how to make beads, sculpture, mural, culinary, photography and performance and also attended an hour or two of devotions every day. At the end the students and teachers were all awarded certificates after participating in the camp.
According to Moses, the Founder of the Inspiration Center, “One of the most captivating moment was taking 105 kids to Lake Naivasha to see the hippos, fish eagles, ducks, monkeys, water-bucks, and gazelles among other wild animals. All the kids we took to the lake had never visited the lake before and enjoyed every moment.”
Another special treat that the kids enjoyed also was watching movies on a big projector every night. They watched Lion King, Home Alone, and Tangled. Also, the students got to go boating on the lake, which is an activity few had experienced before!
Inspiration Center is now planning to hold an art camp in December, which will include the high school students as well as the younger kids.
Thank you all for your past, present and future support towards these camps!
On the day that I went to see my students in Mathare slum, whom I taught art classes to for almost 2 years, Shem and I had decided to teach the lesson together. Since I left last year, Shem has taken on the responsibility of teaching Saturday photography and filming classes. It was great to see my students again and teach them a lesson in watercolors. Through Shem’s initiative, a TV station had even gotten word of a particularly talented student among Shem’s class and they had chosen that day to come with the camera and interview one of the students. So between a film crew and my 30-some children squeezed int the small inspiration center room, it was a happening place!
At the end of the class I had each child stand up and present their work of art to the class. Afterwords, Shem stood up and formally thanked me for coming to teach and for inspiring him to do the same. He made me come up to say a few words, which I thought nothing of besides a culturally appropriate way to welcome a visitor. After my “few words” I turned to sit down. Shem grabbed my arm telling me he wasn’t finished and that is when I noticed that the film crew had shifted focus from Ben, our talented student, to me. Shem’s speech got more personal. It is a blur, really, though I will be able to refresh my memory because of the video. He dropped to one knee, revealed a beautiful ring in his hand, and asked me to marry him.
I looked at him, looked at my kids, looked at my American friend and her Kenyan husband, who were in a similar scenario just the year before. I think I scanned the crowd twice, lopping back to Shem each time. I wanted to take my time in answering and did not want to moment to slip by without absorbing the suspense in the room, all that hung on my answer. When I said yes, everyone cheered. I just remember hugging Shem very tightly after he slipped the ring on my finger and then inhaling coconut biscuits- maybe more biscuits would help my brain drink in and gulp the moment in its entirety. Our students asked when they would join us in the US for the wedding and I assured them that we would bring a wedding celebration to them in Kenya!
The Inspiration Center has been growing and expanding in their ministry. When I was there just a few weeks ago I saw that as the organization and church has grown, they have directed this blessing back to the basic needs of the children they serve. Inspiration Center has expanded to two rooms for their baby care program during the week and they now have a feeding program that provides anyone with a hearty meal after church on Sunday.
After church on Sundays
To learn about how this place first began and the details of their ministry please check out this video.
In the middle of June I went to Kenya to visit Shem and some good friends in Kenya and my students. It was a wonderful time to reconnect with people and I realized during my brief two week trip that Kenya will forever be inside of me, and I will also probably be living inside of it! I have more confidence writing this than I have in the past.
When I arrived off of the airplain, Shem met me with a whole flask of hot chai, chocolate, and a big hug and a kiss. I did not get to see him as much as I would have liked during the first week because he was at a film training course, however he made up for this with numerous thoughtful and sweet gifts and spending quality time once he came home. So I “jipanga”-ed (sorted myself) during the first 5 days.
During these days I…
Visited Kelly, a dear friend and former roommate and now works at an international school in Kenya. We celebrated her birthday while I was there.
Had lunch with a lady that I connected to about 1 year into my time in Kenya and who has constantly spoken encouragement and biblically sound wisdom into my life, over weekly cups of hot chai.
Visited a school, where a friend has begun a ministry to identify and rescue child prostitutes who are in a particular slum area in Nairobi.
Visited my friend Grace and her kids over our mutual favorite Kenyan food… Chapati!
Visited the school I used to teach at and do a project with the students there.
Visit my students at the Inspiration Center and use crayons and watercolors to create a wax-resist painting project.
Have a sleepover with Celmali and Moses, who run the Inspiration Center and are both dear friends.
The kids at the Inspiration Center in Kenya have been taking photography classes every Saturday taught by Shem, who operates cameras in his profession. I am traveling to Kenya on June 15th and am hoping to bring over a few more digital cameras for the class. If anyone has a camera that you would like to donate, please let me know! So far the kids have been building up their skills, though they have been having to passed them around and rotate because there are so many more kids than cameras. Luckily they are good at sharing!