Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Children of Anidan

Almost four years have passed since my good friend, Maria Parga, shared her dreams of helping children on the small island of Lamu, Kenya. She spoke of a fledgling non-profit, Anidan, whose mission was to remove children from poverty-stricken streets of Lamu and provide them with food, shelter and education. Since 2008 she has been living here on the island. Four years later, here we are, visiting her, spending time with her children and getting to know and appreciate the extent to which Anidan has grown.

When I thought of rekindling The Malarky, I thought of trouncing down the streets of a new city while taking note of the best lodging, food stalls, shopping and sights to see on our extended pre-honeymoon. Now that I sit down to write I realize that I would be doing myself a disservice if I wrote about anything but the children and the people that I've met here at the wonderful non-profit Anidan first. Not to worry, tidbits about the island and surrounding areas in Kenya are to come in future posts!
Phil and I were greeted at the Lamu airport by smiling faces and happy children, Maria in tow. The kids immediately ran up to us, gave us kisses on either cheek, relieved us of our luggage, grabbed our hands & led the way. We were struck by how outgoing, friendly, unafraid and unabashed they were - a reflection of the culture engrained in them at Anidan.

We've spent the first week here in Lamu in and out of the orphanage. On our first day we plunged right in, distributing gifts of coloring books, rubber toys, horseshoe games and little bites of chocolate we brought to share with the children. Anidan provides shelter, clothing, three square meals a day and nursery care to 200+ children. As we get to know the children by name & learn more about their histories fraught with pain, suffering and loss, we realize the significance of the work being done here. The children are cared for, nourished and most importantly, loved.

In the past few years Anidan has extended its services by building a fully functioning pediatric center on site. The hospital is the only one to provide free health care for children in the entire Lamu district. I am proud to say that Phil was given the task of setting up a temporary pediatric ENT clinic, having seen 15 patients to date. Everyone here is grateful for his expertise and I'm glowing with pride as I watch him help those in need. Its been a fulfilling and gut wrenching experience for us, one that with stay with us for always.Aside from spending time on campus with the kids, we've had the opportunity to head out in Lamu with them. We've spent a day sailing on the Anidan Dhow (wooden sail boats that dot the Lamu coastline) and hosted 30 of the younger children at our home in Lamu for an afternoon pool party. The kids are so much fun and we feel so lucky to have spent this quality time with them.

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