Spirit of Arkansas in Africa - Part 3: Arkansans teach love to orphans
NAIROBI, Kenya (KATV) - Arkansas and Nairobi, Kenya are two very different worlds. But in both worlds, people crave one thing - love.
Extraordinary volunteers from the Natural State are change the lives of Kenya's biggest hearts in the smallest bodies.
Reports estimate more than 60,000 children love on the streets in Nairobi. Many are AIDS orphans. Supper might come from the garbage or not at all.
"The streets life is so hard," said Rose Wangoi. "You sleep under sacks; you don't even have any place to sleep."
Still, 12-year-old Rose and her sisters chose to live in the streets to get away from their abusive mother after she tried to drown their youngest sister, Purity.
Hope came from a woman called simply "Mom" by hundreds of children.
"She took us. We came here in ABC," Rose said. "We took a shower, we ate, and now I'm in ABC."
The smiles are the most sincere kind at ABC Children's Aid School and Orphanage in Nairobi as some children experience joy for the very first time.
Dotted among the beaming grins and shining eyes are young women from Arkansas. The orphanage is run by Icelander Thorunn Helgadttir and volunteers from the Natural State through Go Near Ministry.
"I'd seen poverty but it's different in Africa and it's to a greater degree," said Annie Sixbey.
Annie, 19, is from Little Rock. She's taking a break from the University of Arkansas to spend five months interning at ABC after a previous trip sparked a passion she couldn't ignore.
"You hear that people go hungry, you hear they don't have shelter; but when you see it and you watch a child dig through the trash because they can't even feed themselves or because their mothers abandoned them it hits you hard and you can't forget," Annie said.
"An orphan in America, there are organizations to help that child," explained volunteer Chelsea Case. "There are people to adopt that child, but here an orphan dies."
Chelsea Case, 22, is also from Little Rock. After attending Arkansas Tech, she moved to Nairobi.
"Arkansas is making an impact here," said Case.
Worldly possessions were left behind. All they need here is love - something Chelsea quickly learned when she met with one young orphan.
"I taught her the song, 'You Are My Sunshine'," Chelsea recalled. "The next thing I knew was she had written me a letter with the lyrics of the song, and at the end she said, 'From your lovely daughter.' It was like, 'Whoa.' These kids, all you gotta do is teach them a song and that changes their life. That makes them want to love again."
There are still tens of thousands of struggling children in Nairobi. The devastating truth is some of these children will never be reached. Some will be beaten, abused and killed. Some will die from hunger and disease.
But through the simple grasp of a hand, a hug, a smile or a song, volunteers from Arkansas are bringing joy to the lives of children who once had nothing.
"They've taught me to be more humble, to be thankful for what I do have and that sounds so cliche but it's so true," Chelsea said. "In American we have what I like to now call distractions, just left and right. Here, it's being in Kenya it's what it's really all about, it's just about love."
Click here for information about ABC Children's Aid in Nairobi, Kenya. Click here for information about Go Near Ministry. Click here to see the first part of the "Spirit of Arkansas in Africa" series. Click here to see the second part of the "Spirit of Arkansas in Africa" series.