Life isn’t about getting and having, it’s about giving and being.
– Kevin Kruse
Written by Laura Beck, pictured above in Kibera.
All of the following images were taken by LottoLove during their most recent trip to Kibera.
With the creation of LottoLove, I saw an opportunity that used my experience, passion, and talents to build something with the sole mission of doing good. LottoLove has been working with LitWorld for several years, and in May I was able to visit one of the sites of their LitCamps at the Red Rose School. The school is tucked away in Kibera.
The morning began at the Kenya Education Fund, a partner of LitWorld, and there I met Geoffrey. Geoffrey was our guide in Kibera and he explained where Kenya’s educational system stands today. High school is not free. Books and literacy tools are virtually nonexistent. Teachers are scarce. Classrooms are overcrowded. 50% of kids are not in school. Desks are rarely available. The dropout rate is extremely high. The list went on. We loaded into the car and made our way to Kibera. In an instant the landscape around me changed from municipal buildings and shopping malls to an overcrowded landmass that is home to over 2 million people.
Our first stop was to visit the Power Women’s Group, a collective of entrepreneurs who have created lives free of dependency. It is the workplace of about 15 HIV positive women. The women hold a variety of jobs: tailors, jewelry makers, babysitters, and hairdressers. Everyone in Kenya knows about 3 languages. Growing up, they learn their local language and typically speak Swahili at home. In school, they learn English and only speak and write in English.
Next we visited the Red Rose School, home to one of LitWorld’s thriving LitClubs. One of the many reasons LottoLove supports LitWorld is their holistic approach to literacy. LitWorld gives people the resources to learn how to read and write, but they are also creating a space for joyful learning, creative expression, community building, and social-emotional skills development. I entered the classroom which was empty of desks and chairs. Pillows rested on the ground in a circle. Everyone took their seat. True to LitClub fashion, the class began with a song that continued until each person introduced themselves. As the song ended the teacher spread out her arms addressing each person in the circle and together everyone sang ‘hello friends, we’re glad to see you here.’
The class continued with a group activity. The activity was one I actually love to do with my family and friends. All 15 girls took turns explaining if their week was a rose, a bud, or a thorn. A rose being something beautiful, positive, or happy. The bud being something exciting coming up or something highly anticipated. The thorn being a tough experience or sad moment. Fourteen out of 15 girls chose to talk about their rose of the week. Roses like...
‘I’m about to become a sister.’
‘I had a good dinner.’
‘I played with my friends.’
‘I’m happy to be in this class.’
After reading and discussing the book Black Beauty, we moved onto the main activity of the day, the heart map. Each girl grabbed their school folders from a pile. We all sat on the floor as we drew our heart. Inside each heart we were told to draw images and words that represent what we love and who we are. The room was quiet. The result was beautiful. Their hearts were colorful and bright. Each filled from edge to edge. No empty spaces. But, I already knew this to be true.
As we all shared our hearts it was clear that we shared a lot of the same joys and roles in life. There was a lot of love for food, dancing, reading, nature, singing, drawing, and sleeping. There were many sisters, daughters, students, and friends. I remember one girl said her favorite activity was smiling. LitWorld created a gesture called ‘shooting stars’. Typically after someone speaks everyone brings their hands to their mouths and moves their hands down as they twinkle their fingers, like shooting stars. After the last shooting star, the class came to an end. We were all hugging goodbye when two girls came over and asked me if they could have my heart map.
These are the lessons I’ve learned from the people I met:
Be grateful for what you have.
Find the beauty in life.
Focus on the positive.
Smiling is a universal language.
The trip was truly magical. LitWorld is doing amazing things for people all around the world. I am excited for the day I return to Kenya and for the future visits to the sites of our wonderful partners.
LottoLove has donated over 16,000 sets of literacy tools to LitWorld. To learn more about their work visit givelottolove.com.