Meredith Rosson

Meredith Rosson

Hi! I am from Denton, Texas originally and now live in Dallas, Texas. I attended the University of Texas in Austin and after several years of trying to figure out what I was put here on Earth to do, I stumbled into the field of Kinesiology. I have never felt like I excelled in many things, but one gift I feel I have been blessed with is making connections with youth and understanding them. With this blessing and my studies in the field of Exercise Physiology, I feel very fortunate to have acquired a position as the Director of Youth Programs at the Cooper Aerobics Enterprises. In this position I get to create, plan, and coordinate fitness programs for children under the age of 18. My favorite part of my job is running our Holiday and Summer Camps for kids. This allows me to combine my passion in helping children find confidence in themselves and love for themselves along with my strong love for sports and physical activity. This sojourn began when I was about 8 years old & I saw a 20/20 or Dateline feature on the orphaned children in Africa. I remember my 8 year old heart feeling more compassion during that segment than it had ever felt for another human being at that stage of my life. Being so close in age to the children featured in the news segment, I had a profound moment in my mind and heart that showed me just how incredibly blessed I had been to be born where I was born (luck of the draw) and born to healthy parents that loved me so through and through. I believe that is when my heart first felt a strong desire to some day help those children. Through the years I have prayed and awaited the right time for me to make this desire come true. I will admit, I think there were moments where timing was right, but my mind was fearful - could I leave Pooba, I am afraid if I leave and something happened to Qtip I would be beside myself, how do I tell my job, how will I handle the living conditions, how do I walk away from them at the end... But on a trip to the Dominican Republic I was reading 2 books, "Heaven is For Real" and "The Traveler's Gift" and they both resonated so deeply and stirred up my interest again in finding my purpose during my time here on Earth. I knew kinesiology wasn't the end of my journey. On the plane back to Dallas, with the anxiety of reality coming crashing back down on my shoulders from work and every day life, I realized I am in the driver's seat and continuing to say I wanted to work with children in Africa "someday" only pushed my goal further away. When I got home, I started my research. I have always been quite private with my wish to do this, but I learned a valuable lesson - others can only help when they are asked. When I came back, I stopped fearing judgment about it and just shared with friends about my interest in helping children like I saw when I was 8 years old on TV and quickly I found support and individuals looking to help me find groups to go with. Since I found Global Volunteer Network, I have never regretted my decision to go through them. Fiona has been fantastic to work with and their experience with travelers across the globe and particularly with the Kenyan Children's Program has really helped most of my concerns fall to the waste side. Once I was accepted, I had to face my biggest fear - approaching my company about time off. I think my heart had found resolve and was at that point determined to go, but I feared the big "What if they say no..." I bit the bullet and asked. To my heart and mind's pleasure, the answer was a simple of course and added support for where my heart had settled. I am extremely grateful for this. It seemed to be another way God was showing me, the time was right. I am excited to share with all of you my experiences and am forever indebted to those that support me: my dad, Sam, my mom, Janie, my sister, Gina, my boyfriend, Matt and his mom, Kathy, my priest, Father George, my aunts/uncles/cousins (Mary, Mike, Cristina, Miguel, Dan, Becky, and many others that have said some prayers on my behalf), my friends, especially The Meux Family, The Ray Family, The Santanelli Family, Karen, Jenny, Melissa, Nicole, Natalie, Sarah C., The Edwards Family, Jaclyn, my boss, Brad, Linda Mays, Ryan Youngblood, all of my co-directors and department team, my "Cooper Kenyan adviser", Daniel, and my company, Cooper Aerobics (starting to sound like the back of a CD cover, so I will stop my list there). All of your advice & excitement has been just what I needed on days I have doubted my ability to be able to do this. Your help at home while I am gone is the only way my head would allow me to move forward and leave behind my responsibilities here in Texas. I know that not everyone can leave and go on a trip like this, but you are already helping others because I promise I will share a piece of you with each child I hold. Thank you all! If you see Pooba while I am gone, give him lots of hugs and kisses for me! Here's to Kenya (or Quinn, should I say "Kenya or Bust")!!!

Waking up before the dream ends

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 3:37 am  Kenya  Comments Off on Waking up before the dream ends
Nov 022013
 

I am feeling a little bit like I am waking up before my dream has finished.

My final few days were crammed with unplanned events and emotions and a lot of reflections.

For three days our planned trip to go home home visits were rescheduled due to carol, the social worker’s increased work load. The night shelter had sent home the housemothers while an investigation ensued. This caused carol to have to pick up their duties plus manage her normal duties. She was trying the best she could but she needed help beyond what we could provide. This meant our planned home visits that would allow us to meet the families that the night shelter children came from was postponed… Eventually to the day after my departure. Thus leaving a gap in my understanding the wholeness of their personalities.

But as the events unfolded the final few days I became convinced that I was intended all along to stay onsite.

the final convincing event was the scariest. On Monday morning the high school kids were starting their month long end of term national exams. I equate it to Stars, taks, or for old school Texans, the TAAS test. At about 10:30 that morning a saw a high school girl being held by 4 peers and a teacher following behind. No one else seemed to notice nor care. By this time it didn’t totally surprise me to be the only one rushing to them to see what had happened. I cant tell you how many injuries i was the only one to tend to during my time here. Upon reaching them I noticed the girl was completely limp and unconscious. I helped bear some of her dead weight as i continued to ask the teacher and others carrying her questions. All I got from thEm was that she had fainted. No one knew or could translate into English much else. We held the unconscious girl for at least 30 more seconds until I realized there wasn’t a plan but more teachers had surrounded us Without helping bear the weight or assist in finding a flat place we could put her. I immediately took on the directive role. I asked for a table to be brought out from a room… I got an old tattered mattress . We started to lay her on the mattress when she suddenly awoke with a shrill and began contorting her body in a way I had only seen in movies about possessions. I quickly regretted taking on the directive role for fear this was beyond my CPR and first aid training. But snapped out of my fear just as quickly when I realized the dire state she seemed to be in. She was reaching for me and grabbing my shirt tightly. I ran to grab a cold rag because of how hot she seemed. When I returned, with Mariana in my footsteps, she still seemed out of it but had calmed slightly. She was grabbing the side of her stomach dramatically. Immediately I thought of My friend Nicole when her appendix had ruptured. I began telling the teachers we needed a doctor. They seemed to be ignoring me and they listened to her cries in Swahili. They explained to me it was just menstrual cramps and quickly became less interested in helping her. We ran to get her water and ibuprofen from my bag, as the teachers had asked. When I returned there were only two of my favorite teachers remaining with her and she (Naomi) was awaiting the pills they promised her I was bringing. I questioned them with fury now that this was all it was because I have never witnessed someone having a reaction to cramps like that and grabbing the side of their body. I expressed my concern of giving her meds without a doctor diagnosing her but clearly the rules and regulations we live by in the US are not copied here. I gave her the pills and they continued to reassure me it was just cramps. She had calmed down at this point And took the pills between grasping her side and moans. I placed the cool rag on her neck and rubbed her back. the two teachers had yet to reach down and try to sooth her. They merely questioned her a good 3-4 feet away while standing above her on the dirty old mattress on the dirt ground. I could not be processing this correctly. A child under their watch could not have just had this medical episode and no one seemed to think much of it. I know the medical world is different in Africa, but I still would expect the human inclination to help one another receive medical attention would be the same. But nope. they dismissed me and my medical assistance. They said naomi was going just lie there until she could resume exams. Resume her exams-what?!?! But I left. I knew I had let them know enough of my feelings on how they were handling it and even my two favorite teachers weren’t hearing my pleas to seek outside medical assistance. So I left.

Still waiting around on carol for our planned home visits, I stepped outside about 40 minutes later only to hear the girl walking and throwing up repeatedly from her classroom (clearly they had taken her back to work on her exam) to the detached restrooms. A teacher watching from afar Yelling in Swahili at the girl. Maybe they were words of comfort, but the tone sure didn’t seem that way. I rushed in to get a bottled water for her and rushed back to her side. My mind still not processing how I could be the only one showing concern and assisting this poor girl showingphysiological symptoms     That needed a doctor’s attention- not just mine. I also kept thinking what would happen if I weren’t here. These poor kids. Who just leaves a child like this on their own to “work it out”?!? I tried not to focus on my disbelief and return my focus to Naomi and assist her in finding comfort. She made it to the restroom and spent a few minutes in there before reemerging. Her teacher only greeted us to usher her back to her exam room. Again I tried to tell this newly involved teacher my concerns and she asked me if I had given her pain killers-as if it were my job. I explained I had previously after she had fainted but now that she had thrown up I wasn’t sure if she had kept them down (this teacher didn’t even know she had Fainted previously). on naomi’s behalf I was getting quite upset at the lack of care, attention, and communication… So I took over. The teachers weren’t in charge anymore- I was. I told the teacher I needed her to boil water so we could create a make-shift heating pad to relieve her cramps. I told her while the water was boiling to get me the mattress and move it in the shade. We laid her down at the top of the stairs on the mattress. Almost immediately she fainted again. She was out for over 40 seconds this time. Her eyes were twitching- it was real and I was left alone with her once again. Those 40+ seconds seemed too long. I was not a doctor and I was getting more and more upset on her behalf and my own for being put in this situation after I had repeatedly insisted they get a doctor but was ignored. When Naomi awoke, she again was very out of it and immediately grabbed her stomach. Within another 30 seconds i saw the principal, Richard climbing the stairs. Thank goodness I thought.. . He will take notice of one of his students having fainted for the second time. But to my horror he reached out and grabbed her hand and said, “come on Naomi. It is exam time. God will give you strength-stand and trust in him.” What the heck was I witnessing?!? I believe whole heartedly in god’s ability to heal but I had never seen something so appalling. He saw my horror on my face. I explained to him that she literally JUST awakened from fainting and something was terribly wrong with her and she needed a doctor. He then said to me first, “but she has exams.” Then turning back to Naomi and grabbing her hand  again to pull her up and said, “it is exam time. Show me you believe in god and that he will give you strength. Stand Naomi! God performs  miracles for those that believe. Exams are most important right now, you will be ok.” I couldn’t take it. I held her shoulder down and said “this is not right- miracles are not performed on command and right now her health is most important, not exams. She is in no state to take exams.” Then to make him listen to me more I started speaking above his head in medical  terms about her pulse, heart rate, neurological possibilities… He started to realize I wasn’t as young as I looked and I was more knowledgable than he. He couldn’t argue with what he didn’t understand. But he tried. He told me it was all psychological due to stress from the exam. He knew from my face how stupid he sounded… But he continued. He told her she was going through what every girl deals with… Again I almost started my nervous laughter out of pity for how silly he sounded. I wasn’t letting her up, but they weren’t giving up… They brought her exam to her!!! They told her she could lie down and take her exam. This is when Mariana came out to see what was going on. I explained it to her and she too said Naomi was in no state to take an exam right now! They said “look she is doing it”, and pointed at Naomi obediently laying in pain writing in her exam book. I was clearly disgusted by their actions.

Then Priscilla walked up- she was the director of the board that ran the school. When she saw that Mariana and I were involved and we explained what had occurred and advocating on behalf of the well being of one of her students, she knew she better take our side and told the principal that Naomi was going to a doctor and she would resume testing once she was better. Priscilla knew she had to take this stance… There is a lot of back story here that I have not written about.

so Naomi was rushed to the hospital and unfortunately I haven’t heard an update. If this had been a teen movie Mariana and I would have ended with a jumping high five, but it isn’t… We merely walked past the principal and back to our room discussing what the heck they would have done to her if we weren’t here. Not that we are saints or heros, and they are bad.. . It isn’t that at all. They just have a long way to go culturally to understand the importance of taking care of ones health. They don’t even have a small first aid kit onsite. I am leaving them mine. The amount of bandaids and alcohol swabs I have used since I have been here is alarming. I firmly believe that the American culture can be over cautious and demanding of a third party to do the looking out for oneself instead of taking the responsibility on yourself but there seems to be a need for a meeting in the middle between these two cultural ways… Especially dealing with children. I hope it was just cramps. I hope I was over reacting and being overly protective, but I also hope they learn to be protective of those in their care.

we never made it to home visits.

but I got To read the case files on each of the children staying at the night shelter. Folder by folder. Child by child. Case by case I realized how important every person that comes into these kids’ lives is and the necessity of good people is to the way these kids will ever learn to trust adults and others again. I have learned long ago that children are the best undiscovered and often ignored detectives. They are masterful interpreters of the human vibe. They may not comprehend the evils grown within the ages of adults, but they easily identify the good guys from the bad guys. The kids at the shelter were no different. When I arrived I realized The poison of fear hung and sneakily lingered in the air There. But the kids knew… They had an extra protector that floated into their lives for 5 short weeks. I provided them an extra hug, an extra kiss good night, and a nourishing and foreign “I love you” before bed. these were simple acts I had taken for granted by my parents but gave easily and naturally to the children at the shelter. They knew I loved them… I hope even before I said it, but I know how reassuring the words can be So I said them religiously and spontaneously during my nights with them.

As I get to know these children better and love them more, my willingness to be a passive participant in the unveiling of their shredded innocence becomes frayed in the middle and it was only a matter of time before the whistle was blown.
As i approached my final days, I felt an ache. Not an ache of loneliness, emptiness, or returning to a life and reality that doesn’t feel meant for you, but an ache that stemmed from fear for what the future holds for someone so precious that you would lay your life out on the line for their safety and future well being. That unknown fear is shrouded in darkness and consumes the mind while your heart is overtaken with love. This might be the description of parenthood. And for 5 weeks I was privileged to be their parent.
During my time here i saw first hand that The wealthiest children wore tattered clothes and had no shoes but held the hands of a loving mother and father as they lived a life in the slum. I I held on tightly to the kids of my night shelter not just for protection, but in hopes that my loving touch would be imprinted in their palms and felt on nights along after I leave.
The innocence of a child will bring you a shield of joy to protect yourself with. I feel mighty protected myself By the joy given to me from all 19 kids in the shelter.

A day with Moses

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 12:04 am  Kenya  Comments Off on A day with Moses
Oct 222013
 

well now it is down to Mariana and me at daylove. We went out for Chris’ final night and I’m not sure why this surprised me, but nightlife in kenya wasn’t much different than in texas. perhaps this is because we were escorted by locals (friends Gemma and Chris made here.

it was a national holiday on Monday, so the kids that live I site had the day off. We had received permission from Priscilla to take the kids out in groups of 4 each Sunday ( but we started with the first group on the Monday holiday. We sat the kids down as a group and explained to them that they would all get a weekend out but since there were just two of us, Mariana and me, we could only take 4 at a time.

This first group we selected rose, Beatrice, Peter, and Brian. Brian said he wanted to wait until he could go in a group with Peter kimani (his Best friend). So we then selected Moses to take his place. My buddy! He was so excited, you could see it all over his face despite his efforts to play it cool. I told the kids that were going to go get changed and meet us in 5 minutes. Moses didn’t move. I went up to him and asked him if he was ready and he whispered ashamedly that he didn’t have clothes for town. I told him that what he had on was fine (sweats and a Tshirt) but clearly in the Kenyan culture or because he felt so special to have been selected first, he wanted to dress nicely for this rare outing. I spoke to Beatrice (she is one of the older girls and plays the big sister role perfectly to the rest of the kids) and she quickly took him upstairs and borrowed jeans from another kid and styled him for their special outing (at this point they didn’t know where we were taking them). The excitement in Moses eyes (he was the youngest of the 4 chosen this week, at age 10) was all I needed to feel the same excitement for him. The day before, he had received word that us little sister had been hit by a car and taken to a hospital. The sadness in his eyes about not being able to see her broke my heart so I was so happy to see that this adventure had replaced his worries as a young big brother, with personal happiness.

we caught a crowded matatu to junction and Moses had to ride in my lap. I loved it. He is just so small and quiet, yet so aware of everything going on around him and quickly caught on to the ways/rules of the matatu. All of the kids were excited. Beatrice and Rose had received some special one on one time with Chris before, so I was mostly happy to make Moses and Peter feel special to have been selected for the first group outing.

we caught a bus into town and realized our plan hadnt included lunch so we decided to treat them to lunch in town . we all got beef kebabs and shared large helpings of French fries (or chips). The real treat seemed to be the sodas they selected for their drinks. Then we followed it with ice cream.

After lunch we got on the final bus to our final destination and here we told them we were taking them to the giraffe sanctuary. Theory told us they had been there with other volunteers within the last year. Our sails deflated. Quickly Moses suggested to Nairobi national museum and the others excitedly joined in with his eagerness to go there. So thankfully we jumped off the bus to the giraffe sanctuary just in time before it left. We navigated our way to the museum, which wasn’t easy without our map and going against the plans we originally made (as foreigners you plan in advance so you know what buses to take), but we managed.

The kids loved it! I loved watching the run from one exhibit to the next, explaining it to me before i could catch up. I felt very honored to see their excitement for an educational outing and it just proved once again how special they are and what unique children they are- kids in the US would almost always chose a zoo over a museum, but these kids thrive on learning new things about he world.

at about 4 we made our way back home. The ride home took quite a while due to a van hitting a power line that crossed the main rode back to dagoretti. When we arrived home the other kids met us happily with excitement bc Gemma had come to say goodbye to them and gave them each pictures. They chanted “we got pictures” as we walked in. I think it was their way of making themselves feel better that they weren’t part of the first group outing. They have grown up with the rule that what is done for one must be done for all. I disagree with this rule mainly bc it ruins the opportunity to teach them how to be happy for one another if something special happens for one. The real world is not as fair or spreads joy as evenly, but  I also understand why they have it in place. Some kids make a quick impression on you as a volunteer and the shy ones could slip through the cracks with volunteers’ kindness- like I felt had happened in the past for Moses. Again I was comforted knowing he got the special outing first.

it was sad to see the kids say goodbye to Gemma. She had been with them since February and they all love her. But like kids do, they bounced back to their evening routine fairly quickly. It offered a glimpse into the lack of aftermath with my own departure rapidly approaching. But I know she left a place in their hearts and for many I hope I do the same.

That evening, we experienced the aftermath of the van’s accident with the power line. We lost power. The stars are  bright in the slums, but not enough to illuminatE the night shelter enough. Thankfully Gina had talked me into purchasing a hand cranked flashlight and the kids clung to me with it guiding us through the shelter and going through nightly rituals of bathtime and dinner. We had several moments with it off and sitting in the dark. I felt so much comfort and love and light during those dark moments. Coco crawled into my lap and Moses reached out for more affection than he ever had during that time. It was like he felt ok asking for love when no one could see him reaching out for it. He no longer had to be tough. He leaned on my back and wrapped his arms around my shoulders wrapping me in a sweet embrace. Then on each side i had 3-5 kids clinging closely. I felt in this moment the immense and overbearing joy of motherhood. I couldn’t help but think about wanting to bring them home with me.

My thoughts drifted to a mural some previous volunteers had painted of the scene from the Bible where baby Moses was found in the Nile river by the pharaoh’s daughter and how quickly his life changed. I imagined whatever background that led to my Moses ending up in the orphanage was much like the biblical Moses ending up in the river. my Moses’ life could be changed the same way if I could adopt him. I know the reality of my life is not conducive yet to this option, but the moment in the dark with his arms wrapped around me and that analogy playing in my mind will never be forgotten. I wish I could be the pharaoh’s daughter for him.

what a sweet day and hopefully the memories will be replayed and enjoyed by him and the others. They desperately need these outings and I feel honored and grateful to give them these moments.

Gina, Meux family and mom you should also feel honored as you are helping fund these memories and moments ( the special outings ) thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.

Many hugs!

New hope rising

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 11:31 pm  Kenya  Comments Off on New hope rising
Oct 182013
 

Well let me first start off by saying how much I appreciate each and every email or FB post that comes in. That little piece of “home” goes a long way here!

Most recently I received news that my baby sister is now engaged!!! Thank goodness I I feel like these kids need me and they are so darn cute bc I am HATING not being there with her to celebrate!  I would be on the next flight home if it werent for these sweet munchkins. So many hugs your way Gina!!!

I can’t believe how quickly the end is approaching. Tonight is Chris’ final night here before he heads back to chile. We are going out to celebrate… Not sure about the nightlife here, but I will report back :) (don’t worry mom, I will be safe) 😉

i have to say I am extremely thankful for all of the volunteers I have met along the way. Our allegiance to one other has taken on a familial status while we are all here for a common goal and in a place out of our comfort zone. Gemma (from Australia) and Chris ( from chile) have really been the ones that brought me a sense of ease in this new culture. They were here before us ( Gemma since February and Chris since September) and thanks to them, we were told everything we needed to know- how to catch a matatu, which matatu to catch, how much things should cost, more about the staff we hadn’t laid eyes on at daylove and more about the kids’ background. They really saved Mariana and I from several scams, I am sure. I am also so thankful for Mariana (from Mexico). We are roomies and together have taken a bumpy ride here in Kenya. We are both skeptical and like to watch our backs even when Chris tells us certain situations are safe to explore alone. We watch each other’s backs and are constantly checking on one another. She is my Kenya sister :) I hate that I am leaving her so soon (she stays until mid-December) and I hope the new volunteers that arrive at the beginning of November help look after her.

I wish I had a revolutionary post for you but this week was full of meetings and items that should not be posted publicly.

in one of our meetings we mentioned our concern that the kids don’t have anything to play with during their recess. And while I am all for kids using their imaginations, they really need new balls or other outdoor toys to help engage and add to their play time. I am impressed though, they get over 1.5hours of recess-the one thing US schools could take note of. But back to the meeting… We told them that they were just playing with dirt and old scraps from the construction site (boards with rusty nails ) and magically and thankfully the next day they had a HUGE suitcase of Legos to play with and they were delighted! This is a small change but big in their eyes!

One other item that is of great concern is that this week the preschool only had 4 days of school. They only have two teachers for 40-50 kids and at least two of those four days, one of the teachers did not show up for work. No one could tell me why, but they also didn’t seem to care. So I helped the one teacher that did show up as much as possible but found myself growing frustrated that this was a private school that parents paid hard earned money for and yet their 6 year olds were with 3 year olds and not receiving great guidance due to one teacher’s seemingly lack of commitment. I had also witnessed this at the high school on site. One of our girls that lives at the orphanage that actually goes to the private high school onsite asked me to attend class with her during my first few days there. She was so excited to introduce me to her friends and have me sit with her in class. Unfortunately her first two teachers did not show up for class. No one was sent in to sub or anything. The kids just didn’t have biology or English that day- and get this… The principal actually came in and yelled at them for being loud instead of studying, never addressing their teacher’s absence. He told them their parents paid good money for them to be acting that way would infuriate them. I was infuriated with him- where were their teachers? But I was too new to say anything at this point. These poor kids deserve committed adults in their lives but it is so few and far between that they receive commitment, guidance,  trust, and care and unfortunately they don’t think twice about their teacher must not showing up for school. I have found that they really lack systems or a way to hold adults accountable at the schools. I wish I could help in this arena, but they do not want it.

If there are any teachers reading this and you think your school is bad in the states, please come here. Daylove could really use some teachers as volunteers. Even if it is short term, two weeks could mean a great deal to their futures And I can assure you that you will fall in love with these kids :)

 

Edits

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 2:30 am  Kenya  Comments Off on Edits
Oct 162013
 

Sorry, the stupid auto correct on this site made the Moses story hard to follow at first:

 

i was trying to collect all of the kids’ birthdays. He did not know his which is why he was hiding. I told him he got to choose his own day… I hope that helps :)

Moments in my heart

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 2:14 am  Kenya  Comments Off on Moments in my heart
Oct 162013
 

I am sorry to all that I haven’t been able to update at this my often as I had hoped. I do nothave easy access to Internet and when I do, it doesn’t work long enough to type in here.

I am trying to soak in every moment here, especially with the kids that live on site. I will try to share a couple of stories that have snuggled their way into my heart:

the first is the moment I had a breakthrough with our you get child, coco. she is pint size and funny and has the brightest smile that overtakes her small stature. Until about 1 week ago, she had always ran away from other and showed such shyness around me. The moment we had a breakthrough I think I really just wore her down by trying so hard to talk to her. so often the kids are spoken to as a group, given the opportunity for individualized attention seems abnormal and they are wary of it often. I think that is what was going on with coco…. Until we discovered our mutual love of practical jokes. Once she noticed me tapping kids on the shoulder and hiding or pretending it wasn’t me, we became partners in crime quickly. :) that first night of practical jokes ended with her falling asleep in my lap. Her tiny body fit perfectly in my lap and quickly, despite the chaos around us she fell asleep. I love this moment so much.

Another way I have bonded with coco and others was with my hair. They are obsessed with my hair- touching , brushing, braiding, anything. Even the boys love it. At the bottom is a pic of my hair after I let the kids, Regina specifically, have free reign with my hair and my brush (yes she used my brush to do this do)

but back to my hair and my second moment if bonding. There is a boy named Moses, that to be honest, I thought I would never get to know during my time here because he really avoided all adults. I could not tell if it was bc he was always getting into something secretly or shy or scared. But whatever it was, he kept a far distance from me and others. I didn’t push it with him like I did with coco. But proof that kids are the same everywhere I in the world, all it ended up taking was a recipe consisting of my hair brush, my camera, and my interest with him. I wanted to find out all of the kids’ beats and Moses, like normal was avoiding me but showed interest in what I was doing from afar. When he became my last child to collect info about, I found out from him in a quiet voice that he didn’t know his birthday. I quickly told him he was lucky then, bc he got to choose his own. That was when he chose December 13. His lucky number was the same as mine and that broke the ice. Then later in the evening I was showing kids my photos from turkey and showing them the cool places they could visit when they go there one day (I am really trying to teach them that it is possible for them to get educated, work hard, and save and they too can visit other places and maybe even help other children out someday like the volunteers they have had visit them). Moses slowly made is way over to the crowd of kids listening to me. I noticed but knew not to make a fuss about it bc I might scare him off with any individual attention in a group setting. by the end of my pictures Moses was one of the only kids left still listening. He was right next to me by this point helping keep the others from putting dirty fingers on my screen ( he had listened to my rules and respected them- this was huge!) then I asked him if he wanted to brush my hair. He nodded and took my brush. In that moment trust had been built between us and it was mutual. When it came time for tv, he stayed by my side. Slowly he wrapped his tiny arm around mine and a few minutes later he slowly lowered his head onto my shoulder. I  felt his unease with this act and knew it wasn’t a natural thing for him to seek physical affection. I felt like it had been a long time since he had been held in arms he trusted. I can not explain the honor I felt with the break through that evening but I wondered if it would last. Lucky for me the next day I was playing soccer with some kids and he again was watching from afar. I passed him the ball and quickly he joined me by my side. almost every evening he has joined me during tv time and we snuggle. Not many words are exchanged… He isn’t much of a talker, but we have a bond that is communicated through trust. I hope it continues the rest of this trip. He has really honored me with his way of showing me he trusts me and loves me and I think I have shown him he can love as well.

I miss my family daily and my friends, but moments like this, winning over the broken trust of these kids one by one is so comforting in this situation. I am just trying to remember every breakthrough I am privileged to receive while I am here with them.

hugs!!!

A rare day off

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 11:43 pm  Kenya  Comments Off on A rare day off
Oct 102013
 

Well we had a rare day off today. The private school at our location is off for midterm studies and the kids that live at the orphanage had school. So in rare fashion we had a day off. I woke up and went for my first run this morning. While quite hilly, I enjoyed the challenge and time alone to reflect.

I suppose I should update you all since the last post.

Things have gotten much better and I feel quite settled now. The kids are fantastic- bright, funny, joyful, and just want/need love. There are many obstacles we seem to face as volunteers… Corruption with those the children should be able to trust, cultural values, resources, and the ability for changes you implement to continue to be carried out once we leave. At times you feel hopeless to implement long- lasting change but the most important thing I am trying to leave them with is feeling of self worth, knowledge that they deserve the right kind of love, and a sense of empowerment to instill changes themselves.

I am quite in love with the children that live at the orphanage. I only get two hours a day with them since they leave for school at 5:30am and don’t return until 6pm and go straight to tutoring. But those two hours make every single day For me. One of Kenyans’ vices is telenovelas but in English. It he kids get one hour to finish homework and once completed watch the telenovelas. While it is just tv time that I often take for granted back at home, it is one of my favorite times here. Often I am surrounded by children on my lap and on both sides, hugging and holding onto me. I love this interaction. I love the need in their touch. They just want to know they are cared for and during this time we build our friendships and trust. They have easily snuggled their way into my heart. Then at the end of their hour of tv, they sing 2-4 songs of praise and take turns praying. This is so beautiful to witness. Their sense of strength comes from one another and their faith. I have so much to learn about internal happiness from them.

During the day this week I have found myself in the pre- k and kindergarten class (they share a room and a teacher). I help with math, reading, and writing. This is the age they are just starting to learn English. The 20-25 kids in this class are the smiliest and cutest little monsters ever! :) they are mischievous and like to test their limits, but it makes the time so fun And funny! Now that I have spent a week there I think I am going to ask if I can take one of the classes myself and teach them. I am hoping the teacher will trust me and see the benefits of this.

My fellow volunteers : Mariana from Mexico, Chris from chile, and Gemma from Australia are awesome. While we are all quite different our love seems to mirror one another. I have a lot of comfort in knowing we have each other’s backs.

The slum we live in is quite a different world than I am used to or expected. It is busy constantly and the noise is comforting and enveloping. I am greatly appreciating and enjoying this adventure and the lessons that these children and this culture have taught me. I am already getting sad at the thought of leaving them behind.

I miss you all greatly and wish I could properly share all of my experiences with you.

Week one is already over

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 2:33 am  Kenya  Comments Off on Week one is already over
Oct 072013
 

I am quite sorry that my updates haven’t been coming in like I had hoped to keep you all informed. I am here in Kenya and I have completed my first week. I will give you a brief update.

My flight in was a long one, not because it was 12 hours, but because of the creep I had to sit next to. If you want details ask me later. Let’s just say I felt like I needed a shower by the end of it, and not the champagne shower he provided me with by drunkenly spilling a glass of champagne all over me.

all of my luggage made it and my driver was there to pick me up. It was about midnight when I arrived and we had quite drive before getting to my host family’s home. When we got there it was close to 1am. we waited about 30-45 minutes for them to open the gate.  a girl about my age led me to my room in the back house , past a chicken coop, through a room full of rosaries, crucifixes, and pictures of Jesus and Mary (at least they were there to greet me). I was shown to my room and told goodnight. Needless to say it was a far cry from what I expected Or mentally prepared for. I felt very alone trying to figure out how to use the mosquito net (harder than you think when it has so many holes in it) and I had a restless night.

The next morning they cooked me two pieces of toast for Breakfast. I still had not been introduced to the owner of the house or any of the many people I came across. I asked for Internet so I could let my family know I had arrived. They had a street boy take me to the cyber. The Internet was down. I went back to my room and sat alone under my mosquito net feeling more alone than I had ever felt. no one could tell me when my orientation was and I had no phone to call and ask the vicda office. Finally I asked to borrow a phone. I called vidca and they told me that it had been changed to the next day so I would have another night there. That’s when I asked to transfer to a hotel. I realized I needed to not push myself too quickly in a new country and ease into the experience. That was the best decision Yet. They told me they would set me up at hotel 180… Or was it 680.. I can’t remember. They said they would send a driver at it would be 1600 shillings for the driver . The driver ended up charging 2000. But I hadnt found my voice yet to stand up for myself so I just paid and enjoyed the perks of the hotel- free wifi and ac. I later found out the driver worked for vicda. So the price shouldn’t have changed that much. that night Went to dinner at a restaurant across the street… Enjoyed some chicken skewers and some live music. I enjoyed that.

The next morning the same driver came to “pick me up” and we carried my luggage to the vicda office about 4 blocks away. There waiting like an oasis was a tired Mariana, my new roommate. She is from Mexico and had just gotten in on a flight that morning. A few minutes later Tomoyo and Lisa arrived, the other two volunteers in our orientation (they were living at the same host family). everyone was nice and excited. then orientation started. All I kept thinking was that cooper’s onboarding was much more thorough and they were hard to hear with all of the street noise. We later all discussed that none of us volunteers could catch much of what was said.

They took us shopping for our necessities. Again later we discussed and all felt like they took us to their friends’ shops who charged us waaaaaay to much. This is a common theme I have seen here in Kenya… There is always a way to make extra money out of a new inexperienced mizungo (white person).

finally we separated and Mariana and I were taken to Daylove orphanage. There we were greeted by a girl named Gemma, from Australia And a house mom named Pauline. Thank goodness Gemma was there otherwise we would have been lost. Mariana was exhausted so she took a nap and meanwhile I went through  An eye opening orientation with Gemma. She had been here since february and she had a ton of insight. Her first trip here she went through GVN and this second long trip was on her own. She was a wealth of knowledge and a saving grace to teach me who and what to be careful of.

Later that night we met our other roommate, Chris from chile. He had Been at a futbol match and was also very sweet and helpful. He took me to meet the kids and theN I really enjoyed myself and settled in.

The next morning we discovered that there wasn’t a schedule we had to follow and met the kids that come onsite for private school there. they are high school and preschool kids. They were sugar first and had a hard time learning my name so now I go by mere here.

There is so much to still tell you but Mariana is waiting on me ( wifi is only at the mall) so I love you all and send hugs your way!

The rough road (or airways) to Brussels

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 3:46 pm  Kenya  Comments Off on The rough road (or airways) to Brussels
Sep 282013
 

First of all let my apologize for the awful autocorrect this thing does. I try to catch it but clearly from my previous post I didn’t catch it all.

Well like the title the trip to Brussels was hard- mostly emotionally. I had my airplane moment people had warned me about. I had one final conversation in DC with Matt and my family and then upon being seated in a half full huge airplane reality set in. I was leaving my family and my country. No one at this point was there to help. It was all me. I had already had to run and catch two trains to catch this plane and I think because of that stress, having not eaten since early in the morning, and being exhausted, I felt overwhelmed, mostly with sudden loneliness. I could not stop the tears… so embarrassing. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I have been wanting this for so long and here I was making it happen and all of the sudden I had regrets for the length of time I was going to be away. I suddenly realized how close I was close I was to my family and what an emotional backbone they provided for my life. I kept telling myself to get it together but I couldn’t. I had the nicest flight attendant come up and try to offer me tissues. I felt so silly, but with the hunger and exhaustion and nerves of flying I just could not pull myself together ( no big sobs, just silent tears).

The great thing looking back besides the kind flight attendant was brussels airlines rocked! The plane was very nice. The flight was only half full which meant eventually I could spread across three seats and sleep, and believe it or not, the food was great ( I grew up on cafeteria lunch food so my bar may not be too high) :) I was starving Too.

i got to Brussels just fine and everyone in the airport was so nice. The border control guard was so kind and gave me tips about getting to the holiday inn I had picked out to stay at and confirmed it was in a safe area- which my limited experience if these people often show little emotion are suspicious of all, and want to just keep the line moving. I then took a taxi ride with an extremely nice driver although i might have gotten ripped off. But oh well! Then everyone at the hotel has been so nice.

Still feeling exhausted hungry  and emotional I called my family using viber and then FaceTime. It only seemed to make me miss them more. Plus I found out Pooba had thrown up & not acting like himself which made me feel guilty for not being there.

But here is when my attitude or emotions took a turn and proved to me I was right a bout why I was so emotional. I went and bought some gross wrap from the hotel lobby (food is fuel theory came into play here) and took a three hour nap. Then I woke up and went exploring and walking through a close by neighborhood to get a taste of Belgium. That is what my soul needed- food, sleep, and fresh air. The weather is much like Colorado in the early and it took me back to my hikes with my aunt in Colorado. My spirit had been renewEd and was ready for this adventure.

I am normally someone that really enjoys their alone time so I couldn’t process why earlier I was fearing being alone. I actually seek it out in most cases but I guess just knowing others are there if needed is a comfort I didn’t know meant so much to me. Here is the self growth and understanding everyone told me I would experience.

Then I went for dinner at the hotel restaurant and the Belgium soccer team was there. They were having a merry good time :) singing and drinking. I enjoyed a Mediterranean pizza and a glass of wine. I then came back to my room, watched a little you tube and went to sleep.

I just woke up at 4am and took my final real shower before the bucket showers start- the longest shower I have taken in a while :) I am going to catch the 6:30am shuttle to the airport and then my flight aid at 10:50am. It is 12 hours! Then I am supposed to be greeted by a driver and taken to a host family’s home the fore my orientation starts the following day! I am now very settled and excited about this and have enjoyed the alone time with god and feeding my soul. Ican’t wait to meet the other volunteers and Peris who is my contact through vidca in Nairobi.

If anyone wants to be able to text or call for free, download viber app And let me know so I can add you as a contact.

Not sure about wifi in Kenya so I’m not sure when I will get to post next- hugs to all!

The dream starts… Well 10 hours ago

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 9:51 am  Kenya  Comments Off on The dream starts… Well 10 hours ago
Sep 272013
 

I wish I had something profound to starry off my journal entry with, but really I am sitting in the airport trying to make sense of all the emotions I am feeling while waiting alone.

My family knows, but I had to finish my 2014 budget before leaving for work. Well I finished at about 8pm last night. Gina and I had plans to meet at TJ MAXX so i could purchase some last minute cheap clothes. I  found out I would be washing clothes by hand, which I have a feeling might be tough on my clothes ( either too rough or never quite clean) so I decided to pick up a few things that I didn’t mind if I ruined :)  I would like say that I have the best sister ever. She was helping my sort through the madness of the discount racks To find the best deals.

By the time we got home it was well past my bedtime… if you know me, my I internal clock shuts down at 10pm. I turn into a pumpkin… My brain was not reliable enough at that point to pack, so I called it a night.

I was so happy because Matt was able to come see me too that night. I am going to miss you  so much Matt! So much love your way! Try to find a hobby or two to keep your mind off me and not shed too many tears in your pillow at night 😉

this morning I woke up at 5:30 to start preparing… Crazy to think I didn’t start packing for this trip until the day of, but with all that had to be prepared at work for my leave of absence, every day was crazy long. Thankfully I have had since march to mull over what my packing list needed to consist of.  so much also had to be done at home to prepare personally for this trip. When I look back on this past month I am in awe of the hours dedicated to this trip already And I haven’t stepped foot on a plane yet. There are so many people that are helping this trip happen by taking over my responsibilities at work- Quinn Ray has been a tremendous friend and assumed the bulk of it. No wonder she won the annual service excellence award for the cooper fitness center yesterday! 😉

Gina ran out while I was packing and purchased a few last minute things for me. So sweet. She also surprised me with my own personal pharmacy… Seriously I could open shop here at the airport and give their stores some stiff competition. It pays to have a pharmacist in the family.

3 suitcases later load went down to load her car and we saw that the old battery she just had to remove from her car, had leaked all over her trunk… Poor thing. She got battery acid all over herself. Go ahead and insert her unplanned shower here :)

then a quick stop at work for a few things I forgot and to hug some necks before heading to the airport. I couldn’t stop kissing my sweet Pooba as we rode passenger him Gina’s acid smelling car :) I feel guilty leaving him but greatly appreciative to my family for caring for him.

Security and check in went fine and I just got off the phone with my dad. I am so fortunate to have so much love and support and also people I don’t want to let down in this process.

Thank you so much for the love and support. Sorry to cut this short, but it hey are starting to board my plane. Eeeek! The dream just got real!

 

Orphanage Placement Received

 Posted by Meredith Rosson at 12:16 pm  Kenya  Comments Off on Orphanage Placement Received
Sep 172013
 

Well yesterday I found out which orphanage I would be sent to!!

The great thing about GVN is I was really able to tailor my experience to align with my interests, the dates that worked for me, the amount of time I preferred, and the type of service I wanted to provide.

In turn this meant, I got to choose something with orphaned children. I got to select my least busy month at work, October, for my service time. I got to steer clear of the medical programs since I wasn’t blessed with a steel stomach. And I got to select which country.

The one thing I did not get to select, was which orphanage I would work in. I did however, get to complete a form that allowed me to mark different areas that were important to me (i.e. working with other volunteers, staying with a family, tasks I would enjoy, skills that could be useful, ages of children, size of the orphanage, and more). Well they did a great job!The only request that wasn’t fulfilled was living with a host family, and instead will stay onsite. This will just provide more time for me to share the love I have been provided by all of you with each of them.

I was assigned to DAYLOVE CHILDREN’s HOME in Dagoretti, Kenya. This home started out feeding needy children in the community and later became a rescue center for vulnerable children, providing education, care, shelter and love. In my program description they note that my primary duties will be playing with children, meal prep (poor children :) ), counseling, teaching, carpentry, tailoring, and teaching other life skills. They serve children ages 3 – 19 years and there are almost 300 children there.

I was also told the names of the other volunteers that I will be working with during this time: Emily (from the UK) and Marianna (from Mexico). I can’t wait to meet them!

I was able to find a video (see below) of the home from former GVN volunteer- It gave me a better image of what to expect when I get there… the shower was the biggest obstacle I saw :)

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jyPoIdryI8U&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DjyPoIdryI8U

I will try to stay on top of updating you all through the process, but much of it will be dependent upon internet access.

Love you all!

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