10 October 2015

Where A Kid Can Be A Kid

Over the years, I've become really passionate about creating "moments of childhood" for the kids in my life...actually, I believe that even adults need moments of childhood every once in a while. A moment of childhood, is a time when you are so free to be silly, to have fun, to laugh, to play your hardest, that, for a moment, you forget everything else around you.

For many children, all over the world, moments when they can forget the world around them, are few and far between. And, even then, for children like those who live on the streets of our town, moments of forgetting the world around them are most often drug-induced.

When I worked with Oasis of Hope, a drop-in center for street kids here in Kitale, I knew this was the feeling I was trying to create, but I did not have the term yet. I loved teaching art lessons, playing tag or freeze dance, I loved dragging out silly props or making everything in to a hat.

I love a good dance party. L O V E  a good dance party. I love to begin cartwheel contests (and then conveniently point out that I am wearing a skirt and can't participate, which is okay, since I would win anyway.) I love to jump rope--until I'm out of breath--I especially love Chinese jump rope.

Sammy is so great at creating a space that is conducive to these moments. These children, many of whom have had traumatic lives--painful pasts with unsafe homes and untrustworthy adults--really have been given a place to be kids. To laugh and play and grow in a safe environment with adults who love and believe in them.

With all of this in mind, here are a few silly moments of childhood (some prompted, most unprompted) from last few weeks.

Sharpie tattoos while we waited a a medical clinic...Jabal's fresh scar from a tumor removal turned in to a face and Lillian, waiting to have a wound on her foot checked, was given a Precious Kids Center spin on the classic "Mom" tattoo.

Speaking of tattoos--a few weeks later, I gave Jabal a few sharpie chest hairs since he was wearing a button-down shirt with too many buttons open.

Eye mask beard, obviously.

So many patterns in one picture...and a painter's hat

I am, daily, trying to reinforce the importance of dance parties.

Suzie carried this little speaker around for over an hour--dancing it out. Kid's got some pretty good rhythm!

She also went absolutely crazy over this doll. She kept grabbing it tightly, looking it straight in the eyes, and then giggling as if looking at a small human was the silliest most exciting thing to ever happen to her.

The first time I met Henry, he lunged at me and took out a big chunk of my hair. After months of working on him--especially with the front-facing camera and some ridiculous face-making abilities, he ran over to hug me. It felt like a real victory for me. We celebrated with some selfies (he will only smile for the camera when he can see himself) and a lot of laughter.

Julie, Maureen, and Praise awaiting pick-up after school. All with varying degrees of special needs and speech delays, they played together on that bench for about 15 minutes.

It's never too early for cookies--snuck Suzie out around 11am and we bought a package of cookies to eat in the car on the way home.

There's always time to take a break and play. Tea with Isaac and Christine.

Laying on the floor after lunch, as a few kids await their diaper changes.

Saturday morning water colors for Quinta (thanks to Sammy's mom!)...while watching Enchanted

Anything--anything--can be a hat


A scarf (Zippee tied this around my head and everyone called me Grandma all morning...even the house moms)

Restaurant napkins

An old school sweater cut up and made into beanies.

After a mid-air photo we took a few weeks ago, the boys spent an afternoon out front jumping and trying to catch the perfect shot. This one of John is pretty rad. They ran all over the compound showing everyone.

An important part of growing up with siblings: wrestling matches. Here, Sam is sitting on Willie, who is laughing uncontrollably, Allan joined in, which only made Willie's laugh turn in to a high-pitched squeal of sorts. And then, Suzie bent down to look Willie in the eye--to make sure he was okay? To add to the hilarity? A little of both?

 I came out to find Manu in the driver's seat of the van. He looked at me and, with a totally straight face asked, "Okay, where do you want to go?!"

Tied up and twisted Linah's hair in to knots while we watched TV. It looked crazy.

One of my favorite memories from my childhood was crawling up in to my mom's lap to fall asleep. Or being carried from the car after a long drive and put in to bed to continue sleeping. I love that this home provides the opportunity for these children to experience those moments, too. 

And I'll leave you with this sweet smiley photo of Japheth because, my goodness, he's cute!

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