Usually on Saturday morning I get up early, crash and bump my way the hour or so to the outskirts of Nairobi to the Indu Farms processing plant to pick up the vegetables for Mary’s place and for the several hundred orphans in Machakos. Then I crash and bump my way for another hour and a half or so with a bed piled high with blue crates full of produce, mostly French beans, sugar snaps, and snow peas, to Machakos.
I drop some off at Springs of Hope, Mary’s place, then take the bulk to a Presbyterian church across town, pick up the empty crates from last time, and take them back to Mary’s. If the kids are outside, I get crawled over, tugged at, hugged on, Gulliver-style, visit with Mary and Laura, maybe have some lunch, and then crash and bump my way back home to Lukenya.
But last Saturday I was very late with the delivery, and got to Mary’s about 4:30 pm. As odd as it might seem, I had never really seen the distribution of the vegetables. I was always long gone by the time it happened. But this Saturday afternoon, everyone had gathered and the routine, anonymous vegetable drop became a face-to-face encounter with the beneficiaries.
Every child here is either a double orphan (both parents gone), a single orphan, in a child-headed household, or has been identified as being seriously at risk [absent, abusive or extremely neglectful parent(s)], each has been registered and his/her situation documented.
Each adult present is the guardian (often the grandmother) of one or more of the orphans, and is given the vegetables only if the child is present. These measures are necessary, of course, to insure that the neediest get the food.
Everyone brings a bag or a basket and gets about 2 kilos, about 4.5 pounds, of beans and peas. Sometimes there are passion fruits and avocados as well.
When I got to the church there were two or three hundred people waiting, and when I drove slowly in, everyone started cheering and clapping. It was a little embarrassing and a lot overwhelming. They had been waiting for a while and let loose when the goods arrived.
My usual in-and-out-no-one-there vegetable drop off had become something quite different for me. Children, faces, bags, excitement… a clearer picture. I didn’t get any photos of the real good commotion, but did manage these after things settled a little.
Some of the guardians of the miniature hordes
Some things to think about the next time you see a French bean.
Yours for clearer perspectives,