Kristine Manino

Kristine Manino

NoChild Sponsorship Program

It’s not comfortable. It’s both heartbreaking and earth-shattering. I have more mosquito bites than freckles. I am dirty…so dirty. It’s hot…can ear lobes sweat?

I’m sleeping on two church pews pushed together made out of 2x4s, every time my mosquito net touches me my anxiety goes into overdrive assuming it’s a spider.

The roads are rocks. And not like gravel just popping into the windows when it’s kicked up by the tires, but like eight hours straight of enduring that weird part on the Mean Streak rollercoaster that breaks suddenly and throws your whole body forward at Cedar Point. Eight hours.

First world problems looping in my brain, and this isn’t my first trip.

We find contentment when we learn to see everything in life as a gift or opportunity. Perspective is everything. Happiness is a choice. But those things of daily comfort I now lack would be unimaginable luxuries to the people I call my brothers and sisters here – the students, the people from the villages, my friends. The world is filled with people doing the best they can, and unfortunately, I have had to witness my friends experiencing the personal toll of staggering poverty here.

When you meet the people of the Pokot and you become friends with them and work with them and love them you can’t just stand by and watch. You have to get uncomfortable and find contentment in the midst of wanting – wanting a shower, wanting a real bed, wanting to be back on Van Dyke, because even that road is nice in comparison.

My lack of comfort doesn’t even calculate here – a mattress, silverware, hot water aren’t even considerations.

I met a principal a few days ago who had the beds and space to support the education of 60 new high school students at her school, but chose to accept 170 students because only an education would give them a chance at a future. Hearing this makes me uncomfortable.

Another principal told us how they have no access to wells for clean water and during the current hot season the river is dried up. She said “it’s better that there to be no water in the river” because when there is the girls are getting sick with malaria and typhoid. This makes me uncomfortable.

Girls from the remote areas are given four sanitary pads a year from the government due to lack of funds. This makes me uncomfortable. Learn more  about how you can help.

I met a teen whose father married her off to an older man and when she tried to run away, the father chased her down and stabbed her to get her back to her husband. That makes me uncomfortable.

I’ve attended a rally to stand against FGM (female genital mutilation) with both elder women and young girls who had been subjected to circumcision. That makes me uncomfortable.

In every photo you see of me in Kenya, I have a smile on my face.

The people of the Pokot and Kenyans in general are some of the kindest humans I have met in my life. When I am with them, I am laughing and I am smiling and I am truly loving with everything inside of me, because it is impossible not to enjoy their company. But underneath all of that my heart is truly broken by the stories and the hardships that they face. I am forced to come face-to-face with the reality that I am just one person from the other side of the world, doing the best I can to help them do the best they can.

Soon I will return home, back to my bed, back to clean water, and access to food delivered to my doorstep at the push of a button on my phone. And on the other side of the world, my friends, my Kenyan brothers and sisters, will be waking up to a life that by mere chance they were born into. I struggle to process all of this every time I return home. There’s a part of me that lets the guilt of having luxuries eat me alive….and that makes me uncomfortable.

It’s not comfortable…but every single second here is worth it.

I have returned to Kenya twice since writing these thoughts. I always come home with a sense of worth deeper than the trip prior. When I say it’s worth being on the ground in Kenya and loving on the people it’s because by being forced to slow down and see life through someone else’s routine and culture, I am able to take the epic and heavy things weighing down my heart here and realize that I am privileged to face some of my scariest burdens, as they suddenly can feel like blessings to others. It’s kind of like that famous quote “if we all tossed our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.” Maybe if we just took the time to focus on others, sat down with those that were different than us, and took a minute to see how they view life, we could see one another as Christ sees us and love others simply because.

– Kristine Manino, NoChild Sponsorship Program

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