"You cannot meet the needs of people you've never met."

It started with a pen pal project between my primary school class from Bonstetten ZH (Switzerland) and the orphans of "House of Hope" in Lodwar, Kenya, and it led to a personal visit to one of the poorest and most remote areas of Kenya.

My husband and me followed our hearts when we decided to travel to Kenya because we have seen and heard enough through TV, radio, newspapers and social media about life in Kenya and other African countries. Now we wanted to see with our own eyes, according to the motto "You cannot meet the needs of people you have never met".

So we travelled to Kenya with a team from SERV International consisting of ten Americans and us two Swiss. In our luggage we carried, of course, our instruments alphorn and panflute, but also gifts and letters from the Swiss school children.

After visiting the baby orphanage "His Cherished Ones" in Nakuru, we visited the headquarters of SERV International in Nairobi, where tons of rice and lentils, enriched with dried vegetables, salt and vitamins are packed by hand every day in a small room and then transported on large trucks to the poorest regions of East Africa and the slums of Nairobi.
We accompanied such a food transport to the Kawangare slum of Nairobi and helped distribute the food tot he poorest. In a stuffy church room made of corrugated iron and wood and smelling of sweat and urine, countless children with a plastic bowl in their hands stood patiently in a long queue to get a spoonful of rice. The queue was too long, the pot of rice not big enough ....... many children were left with hope to be luckier the next day.

Music connects people
After two incredibly emotional and impressive days full of contrasts in Nakuru and Nairobi, the journey continued to the desert region of Turkana in northwestern Kenya.
At the villages of Kaakiring, Nabuskaal and Namornyang we, the "Mzungus", as strangers or whites are called there, were welcomed with joyful music, dances and prayers. We provided the people with clean water and food packages. Some families walked for hours to be present at the food distribution!
Meeting these people, feeling their gratitude and cordiality impressed us deeply. With "Amazing Grace" played with alphorn and panflute we thanked them for the insight they gave us into their life marked by the daily struggle of survival.

Visit at "House of Hope" in Lodwar
One main part of our mission trip was visiting the orphanage "House of Hope" in Lodwar. We spent a lot of valuable time with the 67 orphans, who all come from the surrounding villages and have found a new home there. They get clean water, enough food, education, medical care and - as the most important thing - lots of love!

It was an unforgettable moment when the orphans read the letters we carried all the way from Switzerland, written by their friends from primary school Bonstetten! The orphan kids were especially happy about the colorful pencils, which were decorated with flowers by the Bonstetten school children beforehand. They gathered in their classroom even though school was off in these days. You could see how much they loved to write letters back to their Swiss friends with the new pencils.

For the last day of our visit we had prepared a surprise for the children and the staff at "House of Hope": We unpacked our instruments in front of the sparkling eyes of the children. It was very quiet in the classroom as we played the well-known "Hallelujah" with alphorn and panflute. Afterwards, the children were allowed to try themselves producing sounds on the long Swiss style horn and play melodies on the bamboo tubes of the panflute. As a highlight, we finally gave the director Moses Lorukudi two panpipes, sponsored by the Swiss panpipe maker Jörg Frei. With great joy and gratitude the children accepted the gift and some promised to practice diligently in order that they can present us their skills on these two instruments on our next visit!

This incredibly impressive journey opened our eyes and made us different people. We have learned to be grateful for the small and seemingly self-evident things in life, for the life we can live in our wonderful country of Switzerland, for the great opportunity to share love with others and to help those people who need it most!

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