Last week I had the chance to visit the children at Rescue Dada. Rescue Dada is the organization Arielle and Sandy, the volunteers in Nairobi, will be working with this year. If you know your Swahili, "Dada" means "Sister", it literally translates, "Rescue Sister." Rescue Dada works with street children in Nairobi, specifically girls that are runaways, AIDS orphans, abandoned, or neglected by their families. The girls range in from 3 to 23 years old and are put into a class by age and level of learning. It is the goal of the center to educate the girls so that they can get jobs and be able to support themselves financially. Along with the school the center also provides a class in cosmetology so girls can recieve training in cutting and styling hair, manicures, cosmetics, and massage. There are numerous salons in Nairobi were they can be employed with these skills.The day I spent at Rescue Dada I was invited to sit in on the Level 4 Class. The class was only about 12 students and they sat quietly as one of the teachers led me into the room. It was a very simple classroom. The blackboard at the front was made of wood and contained science notes that the children were copying into their notebooks. The lesson on the blackboard was all in english and I could clearly see that they were learning about the different types of teeth. The girls looked up at me in shy amazement. It was as though they had never seen a white person before, or at least not one up close. It was slightly awkward to be in this position. I was there to observe the class, but it seemed as though the class was busy observing me. I seemed to be quite a distraction. I went to the back of the classroom and tried not to cause any disruptions.At 1:00 o'clock a bell rang and the children left their books and pencils and headed outside and to another building where lunch was served. I was invited to eat with them. Together we ate maize (corn), beans, and potatoes and for dessert we had passion fruit. Passion fruit is a green fruit about the size of a lime that contains a gooey center with many seeds that, to me, tastes a lot like a kiwi.
After lunch there was time for play and this was when I really got to meet all of them. I spent a lot of time with Purity, Consolata, Brenda, and many more. They all get so excited and have so much energy and wanted to sing and laugh and jump rope and ask questions about America. They helped me with my Swahili and taught me how to count and say, "I am 29 years old." It was a pretty good time. They all wanted to shake my hand and touch my skin and hair. They were so amazed that somebody could have white skin and straight hair. Some of them touched my hair and then felt for what was left of their own. All of the school girls have their hair cut incredibly short to prevent lice. After this the bell rang again and they all went back to class.
In the Level 4 Class they took out story books and began reading. This was when I realized how smart these girls are. They could read and write fluently in both English and Swahili. I sat and listened to some of the books they were reading quietly. Once in while a girl would motion for me to come over to her desk to pronounce a difficult word. After reading I helped with their math homework. The day was done and so I said, "Kwaherini" (Goodbye everybody) and then I had to catch the matatu for home.
It was an incredible day. I've never been looked up to so much and felt so important.