I liked her right away. From the moment she threw her arms around me at the airport in a firm, energetic hug, I knew we would be friends.
“Me, I remember when you first came to Kenya, you gave me a hug, too!” Irene recalled after we dropped Faith off at Shalom Guest House in Nairobi.
“I felt like we were old friends by the time I got here,” I smiled, defending my actions, “I was so happy to finally meet you. I’m sure Faith felt the same way.”
“She will be a good volunteer.” Irene stated firmly. “You know when you just know something? Like, when I first met Faith, I know right away that she will be a good volunteer.”
“Well, she certainly will be busy this week.”
“She has no idea!” Irene chuckled, almost deviously, and shook her head. “She is going to fall in love with Kenya! You watch!”
I don’t think that Faith Beltz had any expectations for her week in the Rift Valley, thus avoiding one of the biggest challenges that face new volunteers. As Irene always warns GVN volunteers at orientation, “Whatever expectations you have, forget them. Look around you, you are in Kenya.”
Armed with her huge red backpack full of prenatal vitamins, medical references and portable midwifery equipment, Faith was ready for whatever Kenya threw at her. “I am prepared to carry water for expectant mothers,” she explained, “I’m also prepared to deliver a baby, if need be.” Faith smiled as she heaved her backpack into the backseat of the van.
During our week in the Rift Valley, working primarily at Giwa Farm but also stopping by Pipeline and Kikopey, Faith was immediately accepted by the women at the camps. Faith is the kind of woman whom one immediately trusts. She is soft spoken and pensive, a good listener and reassuring. And, most importantly, she is genuinely able to connect with people, despite language barriers and cultural differences. Faith wasted no time and got right to work, examining women and young babies, listening to complaints and giving wise, motherly advice. She gave out prenatal vitamins, went to the chemist in Nakuru to purchase antibiotics and reassured her patients that their babies were doing well. She even had equipment with her which allowed the mothers to hear the heartbeats of their unborn babies. For women who often only go to the clinic once before having their child, this was truly an amazing moment.
One thing I am constantly hearing from IDP’s is how encouraging and important it is to have volunteers come and work within their communities. “You volunteers, you really motivate us,” Millie explained in between translation duties, “you keep us going and you give us hope. It means so much to us that people like you would leave your country and come all the way to Kenya to help us. We are really, very grateful to you.”
The irony of Faith’s name seemed so obvious to me throughout our visit. Faith was bringing faith and hope and security to these women. By journeying to Kenya and bringing her supplies and equipment, Faith was more of a blessing than she could ever know. And the fact that she plans to return in a few short months with her daughter, Grace, and stay half a year at the camp – well, that’s just the icing on top.
“IDP’s are very vulnerable people,” Irene always explains, “they’ve been through so much and visitors, they come to the camps and promise things, and not everything that they are promised happens. That is why when volunteers come and stay at the camp and work within the community, it really helps them and shows them that people haven’t given up on them.” To have a volunteer like Faith not only stay with the IDP’s, but return to them is more meaningful than we could ever truly understand.
By working closely with the residents and temporarily relocating to the camp, Faith showed that she has faith in the community, their future and their success. And by having Faith these amazing, beautiful and strong women will have hope, health and a brighter future.
Thank you for capturing these moments Jenn. I cried reading this. I miss these mamas so much already. I can’t wait to return. And I miss you too! You were the most wonderful guide and facilitator. My work would not have started with the IDPs so quickly and smoothly without your assistance. Stay warm in chilly Chicago.
Beautiful story and pictures!