Kate, Helen, Jo & Esther are in Nairobi working with and serving the team from the Lunchbowl Network and the Angel Kindergarten around Kibera.
The Lunchbowl Network was set up in 2006, by former members of SWLV, Stuart & Sally and their family, in response to the plight of the orphaned and vulnerable children living in Kibera. Since then they have provided funding for a dinner programme for 450 orphaned and vulnerable children. These children endure the harsh reality of life in Kibera including lack of access to clean water, very poor sanitation compounded by an inadequate education that causes them to be severely disadvantaged. The children in the programme have been selected because of their vulnerability and high need and rely upon the nutrition that is provided daily by The Lunchbowl Network.
Since January 2015 they have provided education for 120 Kiberan children aged 3-8 years old at the Angel Kindergarten. In January 2019 the educational provision was extended to provide primary education for 330 Kiberan children ages 4-13 years old at their Good Samaritan Primary School in partnership with the Anglican Church of Kenya.
The vision is to provide an excellent learning experience, to feed minds as well as tummies and for each child to develop emotionally, physically, spiritually and academically ensuring their disadvantaged background is compensated by a solid foundation in their early and formative years, enabling them to compete within the Kenyan system for good Secondary schools and thereby impact their future lives.
Both the Kindergarten and Primary School are an oasis of safety, fun and compassion for every one of the Lunchbowl children.
Kibera is a Nairobi slum and it is impossible not to notice it as we drive around the city. It is vast and strongly contrasts the apartment buildings around it. However, it is not until we went into Kibera itself, that you become aware of quite how many people are living here. In the maze of streets, we visited several homes - such welcoming people, who have kept the room they share with 8-10 adults and children immaculately. We are humbled to hear and see a snapshot of the life in which the children at Angel Kindergarten live.
At one home (they are all single rooms, not much more than 2m sq) we met some of a family - an auntie, a mother, 3 children and a baby. None of them work and the grandmother, who also lives with them, pays the rent and buys the food for their one meal of the day. They were worried about some of those in the house, who had a bad chest.
At another house we meet a young man, about 17. He is hoping he can go back to school so that he can finish his primary education, which was cut short when the family was unable to pay for the school fees. We asked what job he might like to get when he had finished studying, but he didn’t know - he had no aspirations for the future and doesn’t know when he’ll get back to school. We were able to pray with both of the families - I felt incapable and my words felt feeble, but God…he knows and sees these individuals. He can bring hope and a future for these families and it is the team here, who partner with God in this, being his hands and feet in Kibera.
Angel Kindergarten is at the edge of Kibera and the children (some as young as 2 years old) walk across the rickety bridge, out of Kibera, in their purple uniforms. Here we join the classes and see them learning their numbers, learning about their topic - ‘Ourselves’ - and drawing self portraits. Others are in the hall, enjoying a dance class with Kate, where they will later return for dinner and for the younger children to nap. We sing songs with the children, read them stories and play in the playground, whilst the children show you the toys they are playing with, take your hand and stroke your hair. It is a place full of life, where the children are given life - a place where they can play, paint, learn, sing, dance, eat and nap.
As well as the Angel Kindergarten in Kibera, there is another Angel Kindergarten as part of a new primary school - ACK The Good Samaritan - which has been open since January. The children, mostly from Kibera, travel on a big yellow school bus, which runs three trips each morning and evening, to get them all there and home. Whilst in the main hall, they can’t take their eyes off it and as part of a dance class, Kate and the children incorporate an imaginary bus into the games.
Jo has spent the morning with the classes at the primary school, watching their lessons and talking with the children about what they are doing. The Kenyan curriculum is not as dynamic as the British curriculum (they lose out on creative subjects - music, dance, art etc), but there is a dance teacher who is running workshops with the classes and art is being incorporated into the lessons.
Esther and I spend time in the school kindergarten, playing outside with the children and joining in with the stories and songs in the classroom. We have also brought out a range of equipment, toys and clothes from the UK, which we then help to sort and put them into the classrooms, ready to be used. The tights and socks we brought with us are then given out to the children to replace the ones that have holes in them.
There is also a children’s home attached to the school, where small dormitories are lined along a corridor, crammed with beds. The children here are also able to attend the school, having been taken away from their families by social services or orphaned. Sally has such vision for this site and as she shows us around, she talks us through all of the things that they would love to do over the coming weeks, months and years - levelling the playground so that it doesn’t flood in the rainy season when it becomes un-useable, transforming the children’s home into a children’s village. It is an incredible space and amazing to see God’s provision, following a year of praying and searching for an appropriate site.
To find out more about the work of the Lunchbowl Network and how you can get involved with supporting them check out their website here: Support the Lunchbowl Network