Back in 2013, I found myself in a bit of a quarter life crisis. I had turned 24, and I wasn’t anywhere near where I thought I’d be at that age. I started thinking about my long-term goals. Something that kept coming to my mind was that someday when I look back on my life, I want to be proud of the work I’ve done on this earth. I had always wanted to travel to Africa. I realized, maybe it was time to pursue that dream. 

I found a program where I could work with orphans in Kenya, and I signed up for three months. Fast forward to my first day at El Shadai Grace Children’s Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. There I was: in Kenya, meeting orphans who sleep 3-4 to a bed and were dressed in ragged, smelly, dirty clothes ... all of the images we often see in the media. As they started singing, dancing, and playing I saw such immense joy. The kids certainly didn’t seem to mind that they didn’t have nice things; they were still so happy and beautiful. 

It’s difficult to explain what the experience is like living amongst so much poverty. The streets are bumpy dirt roads that are quite literally filled with trash. As you walk around you can smell the smoke from charcoal stoves, from gizzards frying on the side of the road, or from burning trash in the street because people can’t afford trash pick-up. You see street kids who are homeless, digging through trash piles hoping to find food. When they see you and come running up to you asking for sweets you wish you could give them the world. When you need to use a restroom, sometimes the only facility is a latrine that smells unlike anything you’ve ever smelled, and is likely swarming with flies on a hot African day. I’m not going to lie; it’s a difficult adjustment for any westerner. 

The longer I stayed with the kids, the more I grew accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells, and I started to fall in love. I learned the stories of how each of the 25 children came to live there. Some of the things those children have experienced are absolutely horrifying. It was AMAZING to me how children could be so resilient and have so much joy in their hearts. They laugh, they sing, they love bubbles, they love practical jokes. They are CHILDREN. It blew my mind how, regardless of their horrible pasts, children are children everywhere. The only difference between them and me is where we happened to be born. It seemed incredibly unfair that they had been dealt such tough cards. During my first trip, other volunteers and I completed several renovation projects. 

Friends and family members contributed over $5000 towards basic needs: more beds, blankets, school uniforms, rent for the orphanage, etc. We were able to make a big difference, but I knew that all we were doing was putting band-aids on the problems the kids faced. I wanted to make a lasting difference for these kids and many more. Our ultimate goal is to build a new home and start supporting businesses to ensure the care and protection of these kids for years to come. El Shadai rents a property right now that is dilapidated, unsafe, and has no electricity or running water. When we finish building, we can finally provide a safe home for our children and others. We will have far more space overall, which will allow us to bring in more children off the streets of Nairobi and into a safe home. Eventually, our supporting businesses will provide the orphanage with a source of income. 

It has become increasingly clear to me over the last two years how much of a difference one girl from Aurora, Colorado can make in the lives of so many children. By just making a commitment to help, I have been able to make a lasting difference in the lives of 24 children. And that is pretty cool. 

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the support of friends and family – financially and otherwise. I am so grateful to everyone who has contributed even $1 to this cause. Thank you for taking the time to read about my kids, and thank you for having an interest in Someone A World Away.
Cara Lawler