Today was a great day of celebration in Kisumu at the Ring Road Orphan’s Day School. The event was of the magnitude that the major television station and newspaper from Nairobi arrived to cover the event. Yes, I was on the evening news.
What could cause such commotion and partying? An ablution block. Wouldn’t that do it for you? Perhaps you don’t know what an ablution block is. It is a building containing rows of flushing toilets. And that is what we have at Ring Road now. Maybe you don’t think that is a big deal. But this is only the second primary school among the 76 in the Kisumu region that has flushing toilets. And our ablution block had 15 of them.
It is hard to believe from where this school has come. I remember praying over the ground hoping that one day there would be school buildings on this site in the Nyalenda slum. Now there are multiple school buildings. There is a clinic. There is a church. And there is an ablution block. I remember praying with Jared Odhiambo that someday there would be some children sponsored there. We didn’t have a single one sponsored. And now there are nearly 500, and many others have already graduated from high schools and colleges. We had a lot of hope for this ministry. Hope means a joyful anticipation of the future. Now we have a hope fulfilled.
“Orange is the Color of Hope.” That is what all of our new tee shirts that we distributed in Kenya say. Actually, we have been giving them away in the U.S. too. I had forgotten that the shirt would be more popular in some areas of Kenya than others. Yes, “Orange” is a political party in Kenya. And it is a political party that is very popular in some areas and not in others. Fortunately, it is popular in Kisumu. And our CRF people in other areas of a different political persuasion were gracious enough to wear them, not give us a hard time, and respect the fact that people like me make cultural mistakes or are generally stupid.
I have more hope than I did the first time I was in Kisumu. It is still the place with the second highest prevalence of AIDS in Kenya. Thomas gave me some statistics that one out of four in this area are HIV positive. But back then we were just hoping. Now we have a center that is helping. I talked to a group on our site of about 75 women who had AIDS. I told them as my friend Audie did too that there is no cure for AIDS but there is a cure for death. I remember speaking to a similar group in a similar place years ago. One of the ladies told me that she knew how to die, but she didn’t know how to live. Now we are not only telling people how to die but also helping people live. Our clinic and Voluntary Counseling and Testing Center are helping people live through all stages of HIV/AIDS. We still need help and are grossly underfunded. But if we and all the other people in medicine, government, business, and non-profits continue the course—I think that we will see a cure in my lifetime. At one time that was too much to hope for—not now. A little more help is needed for a little bit longer.
When you see these hundreds of orphans running around Ring Road, you have to pray that they will be running for many years and have long lives. We have sponsored a girl there nearly all of her life. She is precious. I think all children are precious. I told them all what I always told my children every night—“God loves you and so do I.” As I think of all of you out there who have given these children hope and a second chance—“God loves you and so do I.”