Castlegar’s Nikole Opiyo has lived in Kenya for the past three years. She and her husband started the Rehma Boys Foundation to help young men in the slums of Mombasa, Kenya. She wrote to the Castlegar News about her experience.
“Our class is supposed to do a secret Santa. We are not supposed to spend more than $15 on a gift. But really, what gift of any value, use, or sentiment can we get someone worth $15? I would rather give that money to your boys instead of buying something that someone doesn’t really need” my friend, Danika emailed me.
Thanks to Selkirk’s 4th year Nursing class, Dale Donaldson at Mallards Source for Sports, the Evening Rotary Club, and countless other individuals in the community, we were able to raise enough money to shower 25 deserving young men with Christmas dinner, a new t-shirt, and food for a month.
They are the Rehma Boys, a soccer team in the slums of Mombasa, Kenya. They practice daily and are enrolled in various leagues in the city. They are more than just a soccer team. They are a brotherhood, a family. For my husband and I, they are our sons. Young men who we are determined to shower with love and offer hope for their futures. As we pondered about what we could do for them for Christmas, we decided to give them what they really need: food.
Kenyans have struggled hugely this year. Most of their staple foods doubled in price to due a large drought, high fuel prices, and a weakening currency. Meanwhile, minimum wage and unemployment rates have remained the same. Not a week goes by when our boys don’t ask us for a few dollars just so they can eat for the next couple days. Our organization’s focus is to look for more sustainable solutions but when a hungry tummy is looking at you and asking for food, it’s hard not to reach into your pocket.
My family was in Mombasa this Christmas to help with the distribution. In the morning, my dad, my brother, my husband, and I went to the local supermarket to stock up. As we meticulously counted 25 of each food item, heads began to turn wondering how much could one family possibly eat. A few people got the gist and commended us for our charity work. We loaded up the car and headed to the pitch where the boys anxiously awaited our arrival.
They were not told why they had all been summoned to the pitch the day before Christmas. My husband, their coach, explained to them that this was a gesture of love. He wanted them to know that someone gave up their hard earned money, so that they could all eat for the next few weeks. He kept reiterating to them that someone cares for them. Not always do they get the love and attention they need at home. Now that someone has given to them, they ought to pay it forward when they are in a position to do so.
Many Canadians donate money to very worthy causes, but not often do they get to see the impact that money has first hand. Our family was truly proud and inspired by the generosity of the Castlegar and area community as we were able to distribute bags of essential staples for the boys and their families. We were stunned at how far a grocery bag of corn meal, flour, cooking oil, pasta, beans and juice could go. Many of the boys said it would feed their entire families throughout the Christmas holiday. While the donations won’t fix the issue of poverty in Kenya, it does teach some valuable lessons of generosity, compassion, love and hope. We wish that all those who donated could have felt the same satisfaction as we watched the boys walk home, weighed down by a large bag of groceries.
In the end, a community thousands of kilometers away made Christmas just that much better for a group of boys learning to become responsible men.