|By Briege Mwangi|
The day is 17th July 2021 when the journey to Brydges Centre children’s home begins at exactly 8:50 a.m. As usual, I would often plug in my earphones after realizing it would take an hour to get to the place and given the usual traffic on Mombasa Road, probably even more. I needed to highlight this bit as it came in as a surprise when we were asked to hand over our gadgets and mingle. If you are a generation Z as I, we essentially classify phones as basic needs. The idea of leaving behind your earphones is equated to starvation. I am not being extra, ask around. It explains why it felt strange that once our gadgets were taken, you begin to feel seen.
Our journey felt short following the games we engaged in while in the bus accompanied with the usual chit chats, time flies. As we got to the children’s home, the children were lined up as they welcomed us with songs, one could not help but dance along with them. After a brief introduction and a welcoming speech from our hosts, we all dispatched to perform tasks where needed. Given that a good number of the members were newbies, our hosts took time to walk us around the home. We got to learn a bit about the center as our guide went ahead to point out, “Brydges Centre (B.C), is a children’s home that cares for the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs of orphaned, abandoned and abused children in Kenya. Brydges Centre is called a children’s home and not an orphanage because the children at the B.C. are not considered “orphans.” From the moment they enter the gates, they are members of the Brydges Centre family!” Following the ambience of the place and demeanor of the staff members, it felt homely.
Seeing the world through your neighbor’s eyes
The Centre is home for 132 children, with older students enrolled in boarding school, university, or a life skills training program. Given that the children all have hopes and dreams that they wish will come true, the center facilitates development and nurturing of these dreams for each and every child. After our short tour, we joined the Community Service Centre (formerly COP) pioneers who were already engaged in different activities. We got to help the staff in the home prepare lunch as well as carry out other tasks of the day.
As we got to chop onions, peel potatoes and make chapatis among many other kitchen tasks, we got to interact quite a bit. We would often shift from philosophical topics to issues affecting the youth which in a way gives one a new perspective of the world we are in. You get to see the world through your neighbor’s eyes. Need I say that the men proved to be quite an asset in the kitchen.
A karaoke challenge
Afterwards, we went ahead to serve the children. This has to have been my favorite bit. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as they savored their meal. I am yet to find the right words to explain the emotions it comes with. It reminds me of how it felt when a few CSC members engaged in the entertainment bit. Ideally it involves a bit of karaoke and mostly dancing. You could tell that despite COVID halting most of the CSC activities, the fondness never fades.
A few members braced themselves for some karaoke challenge. One member choosing to sing My love by Westlife, I do not mean to be shady but you can tell somebody pierced his heart from the way he raised his voice when he got to the chorus, “… So I say a little prayer, and hope my dreams will take me there, where the skies are blue, to see you once again, my love.” It is never that serious, I chuckle. After having a heavy meal of chapati, stew and pilau, we topped the cherry by going to the field. Of course, a few members went to play soccer, okay most members chose to play soccer. Soccer is usually hyped; I understand why but I choose not to give it much attention right now. I went ahead to rally a few children and chose to play Extender.
Work hard and change your story
As the day came to an end, it felt like just the beginning. It dawned on me that we can easily make a difference in the smallest ways. As we convened to give our parting shot, I was moved by the administrator’s words of encouragement to the children as he said, “You have seen the children from Strathmore come here and talk to you and even one of them expressed having been in your situation a few years back, all you need to do is work hard and change your story.” It might sound a bit cliché but there is depth. As I reflect on my stay in Strathmore, I chose to see the world in their eyes. Not only did I promise to cut back on my social media hours, I also promised to smile and love every single person in the best way I have learnt how. I know it will not always be easy, we all have bad days, the idea is to try.