Hekima Place is a home for orphaned and vulnerable girls in the suburbs of Nairobi in Kiserian, Kenya, nestled in the serene Ngong Hills. Walking through the gate bring you to the lush interior of the shamba (farm) and bushes that line the walking paths leading to the four houses: Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow, and dining hall.
Hekima place is one of many homes in Kajado County, where the need for quality homes is high. It operates on the principle that it may just be bringing one girl from the world into safety, but that means the world to the girl. As such, our main job as volunteer was to love the girls, giving them individual attention that the staff (or “mums” and “uncles” as the girls call them) may not be able to provide. We were not coming to “save” these girls in just three short weeks, but put a smile on their face and in their hearts. We played games with them, read books with them, helped them with homework, listened to those who shared their stories, and made crafts with them. They lovingly called us their big sisters, and our aim was to help empower them to dream big and aspire to make their mark.
The girls had long school days, leaving at 6:30am and then coming back at 4:30pm if under 5th grade, or 6pm if older. During the daytime, we helped out with several duties around the home, including in the kitchen, farm, and taking care of the babies while the house mums had to do other things. Once the girls came home, we would each pick a house to eat dinner with them and then go to their home to help with homework or read to the little ones. One of the girls’ favorite things to do was play hand games. Once we taught them how to play the likes of “double double this this” or “lemonade” we must have played them at least 50 times a day.
Something I learned during my time there is that there is more similarity between Kenyans and Americans than differences. No matter where you go around the world, people all essentially want the same things and live by the same basic cultural values. Though the girls at Hekima may have had rough pasts, they are all still intelligent, passionate, free-spirited children who act the same whether in Kenya or America. Though we weren’t there for long, I’m so grateful to have met these girls and touch their lives, no matter how brief. I know that they have big dreams and I also know that they have the means to achieve them!