Meetings, smiles and crushes

Our first day in Kenya is dedicated to meeting the team from UNICEF Kenya, followed by a security briefing at the United Nations Office in Nairobi.

We then start our journey northwards to reach our first destination: Isiolo County, where we will meet beneficiary children for the first time.

The IWitness French team. Photo by Yoann Regent.

A county is similar to what we call regions in France. They have a local government who has decision-making power on certain topics.

On the road I discover a great variety of landscapes. I’m pleasantly surprised by how green the scenery is. Alternating between big trees, savannah, arid lands. Like in a real postcard! We cross the equator line where we make a stop to celebrate this symbolic passage.

After meeting with officials on Tuesday morning, the moment to meet children has finally arrived. We arrive at Waso Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre, together with county officials and UNICEF’s local partner Life Skills Promoters (LISP).

ECD centres play many roles in a child’s life: a safe place, a place to learn and a place to play. In some cases, ECD centres can also provide services such as immunisation and helping obtain birth certificates.

The children are just there, very impatient to share with us the welcoming show that they have prepared for us. Facing all these curious eyes and bright smiles I just can’t contain my emotion. Struck at heart, I finally realise the honour and the opportunity that was given to me to live this unique experience. I start crying…but these are tears of joy!

Donia, me and the children from Waso ECD centre. Photo by Isabelle Levacher.

Once the kids are done it’s our turn to share with them some typical French children’s songs. And immediately a bond between us is created.

After sharing activities and games with the children we are off to visit a second ECD centre. At Marire ECD centre we start playing with kids in a big circle. We dance, we sing. Such magical moments.

Despite the fact that these children are particularly vulnerable (some are orphans, some are HIV positive), they have such energy and so much life in them! It’s so admirable! In these moments the notion of resilience takes on another meaning for me and it really teaches all of us a lesson in life.

For the staff working in these two ECD centres, a daily struggle is that children often arrive at school without having had any food, while they sometimes walk up to eight kilometres to reach the facilities. That’s a challenge they try to overcome by any means necessary.

They also have grasped the importance of play in the development of young children, a theme we can see as a red thread throughout our journey.

    Adiara Ly