“Mtoto umleavyo, ndivyo akuavyo” is a popular Swahili saying that loosely translates to “a child becomes however he was raised”. Indeed, we all become influenced, directly and indirectly, by the environment we grow up in. The people around us at our most tender ages can instill in us positive or negative characters.
Personally, I grew up an orphan having lost my parents at the age of seven. Being the last born in a big family helped to a point as I got enough cushioning from my brothers and sisters. Still, it was never an easy life. It always felt like something was missing. A motherly love or a father’s counsel maybe. But I learnt to make do with the memories I had of them plus the close interactions with older relatives and generally older people in the society formed part of my upbringing.
Why am I digging deep into this personal side of me? We all have our stories, that’s for sure. Stories of struggle and triumph. Stories of losses and gains. And mine is a story that can be voiced by just about anybody who lost their parents at a very tender age.
But this is generally a voice for all the orphans living in Children’s Homes and Orphanages across the world. This is for that child abandoned by the street corner with no one to lean on or a place to call home. I understand all too well what it feels like to feel hopeless and clueless about what tomorrow holds or why exactly you were born when your very first caregivers had to go so soon.
So when I was on my Capital to Coast cycling adventure last year, and the encouraging comments came flowing in on my Facebook page, it hit me that I had to share my story with someone. The four days I spent riding 600km from Nairobi to Mombasa were the most painful, fun and fulfilling days of my cycling life yet. And with every kilometer I covered, more and more people not only felt inspired to ride more but also courageously take on whichever challenge they may have had.
On the third day of my Capital to Coast ride (Christmas Day), I got the idea that maybe my story could give a child somewhere hope. An orphan maybe. He or she who is looking at life through a tiny crack on the window trying to figure out the bigger picture of what they can and will become. I had to tell them that if I could face my fears (of Man-eater lions, hunger, exhaustion, accidents etc) and cycle from Nairobi to Mombasa alone, then maybe, just maybe it would occur to them they can fearlessly achieve the impossible too.
On December 29th, 2014, I cycled into Child of Mercy Orphanage Center in Likoni, Mombasa alongside a friend of mine. All I had was my bicycle and a story to tell the then 43 children who called this orphanage home. They listened to my story in wonder then cycled my bike one at a time, eagerly and way more jubilantly than I did. I smiled at their very warm and sincere smiles but deep within, I felt I needed to do more.
Child of Mercy is one of the best managed orphanages you will find in Kenya where the children are genuinely cared for and their needs met. This is home for the orphaned, neglected and abandoned children referred by the state into Jessica‘s caring arms. They take in children aged between 4 to 12 years and nurture them till they exit at 18 years, either to their guardians or to a stable and independent life after school and into college.
Thanks to my friends (both on and off Facebook), the second time I visited the orphanage on January 1st, 2015, I carried with me some shopping worth Ksh. 26,000. It still is the best way I have ever started a new year to date. There were songs and dances, short scripts and narrations from the elated children. It didn’t matter how much I had brought with me, my presence there was cause enough for their happiness. I became the “famous” bike guy and they kept asking about my bike (which I didn’t have on that day).
Six months later, I paid the orphanage another visit. This time I was more keen on seeing which major projects they had that I could possibly contribute to, through my passion – cycling. Which brings us to the real story in all this rumbling.
Capital to Coast Charity Cycle is a 7-day cycling activity (December 22 to 28th, 2015): 4 days of cycling 600km from Nairobi to Mombasa (the same route I used) and 3 days of rest spent with the children at Child of Mercy Orphanage. This is a Baiskeli Adventures’ charity event aimed to raise Ksh. 2 Million to help the orphanage complete it’s one-storey dormitory for a better life for the children.
Right now, the 41 children (two have exited since last year) share only three bedrooms with the biggest room taking in up to 20 children. According to the Ministry of Health’s standards, this is not the most ideal situation hence the call for additional space. As Jessica puts it, the dormitory is currently the single most important project they are focusing their energy and finances on. Sponsorship for the children’s school fees is still needed as well, nonetheless.
In the spirit of impacting and inspiring a life through cycling, Capital to Coast Charity Cycle (C2C) is open to all and every cyclist who feels strong enough to cycle the stated distance. That is averagely 150km per day for the 4 days but fully supported with support vehicles, three meals and secure camping arrangements (3 nights). In exchange, each participating cyclist should raise an entry donation of Ksh. 30,000 to cater for the expenses (including road transport back to Nairobi) for the entire 7-day period. To participate fill the entry form.
For those unable to actively participate in the bike ride, you can still support the charity by donating and volunteering. All donations will go towards improving the lives of these children.