They say a picture is worth a thousand words...
I'll try to paint one in less.
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Orphans and elephantsRead Now
It's morning. The combination of anticipation for the day's adventures and the melodic chirping of the countless African fowl cause me to awake. I'm laying in my bed in the beautiful Southern Sun Hotel in the heart of Kenya's capital, Nairobi. As I get ready for the day I'm still amazed by the idea that I am in Africa. What is it going to be like? Is it as incredible as the movies make it out to be? What will I see? Who will I meet? As these questions go through my head I pack my camera bag and head out the door.
I am met in the front Lobby by Jim Gee, the founder and heart of Discovery Expeditions and Adventures. Jim is a soft spoken intelligent man, and looks exactly how you would picture a safari guide. As we walk out the front exit we are greeted by Edwin, Jim's right hand man who handles the business in Kenya, his home country. Edwin is the embodiment of Joy and Respect. His smile makes you feel safe, and his voice is gentle and kind. He leads us to the impressive Toyota Land Cruiser that has been modified for the ultimate safari experience and just screams "adventure"!
I ask where our first stop is for the day, and I'm told that we are heading to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where they take care of orphaned elephants. Orphaned elephants? Why do they need to be taken care of by humans? Won't they just be taken in by other elephants if their mother dies? I ask these questions to Jim, and what I learn is very interesting.
Elephants suckle for an average of 3-4 years, but will not cross suckle, meaning it will not be nursed by any elephant other than its natural birth mother. So if the mother of a nursing calf dies, either by natural causes or poaching, unfortunately, it will not be long before the calf dies as well. So what this organization does is incredible. First, with the help of park rangers, they identify the orphaned elephants. Second, they introduce them into the orphanage where they bottle feed them and teach them other skills to help them survive later. Third, after they have matured past the "nursing" stage the next step is introducing them back into the wild and helping them be accepted into a herd. It is not an easy task introducing a foreign elephant to an established herd, sometimes it takes years before they are fully accepted as one with the herd.
When we pull up to the wildlife trust we are lead to a roped off area, where several men dressed in green wait while holding these massive baby bottles. I am so excited to see these elephants up close and personal. I look to the left and spot another green shirted man followed by a small caravan of adolescent elephants. Soon, the elephants, anxious to feed, stop following the leader and make a B-line to the care takers with the baby bottles.
Now when I say these look like massive baby bottles, I'm not kidding! They are massive! Each bottle held at least a liter of milk! Nonetheless, these baby elephants put that milk down like it was nothing. They energetically drank pushing the guards around, spilling some milk and some of them even held their own bottle with their trunks! All you animal lovers out there would have been in heaven because it was one of the cutest things I have ever seen! When all was said and done I was sad to leave the elephant orphanage and hope to return someday!
From the wildlife trust we head off on a three hour car ride through the craziest traffic I've ever seen. Forget traffic laws?! I mean if they have any, they're either very very lenient or no one cares to keep them! I held on to the interior of that jeep so hard my knuckles went white as we headed for our destination. The place we were going sat on a little dirt road on the outskirts of Nairobi, the name of the place was Kanini children's home.
Let me tell you, our experience at this orphanage was much different than that of the elephant orphanage. The children were even more sweet and cute than the baby elephants, but the reality of their situation made me want to cry. Their cheery disposition astonished me; despite their hard situation they still had the ability to smile and laugh.
I pull out my camera and get some shots of them, and then as I play it back to them, I watch as their eyes become fixed to the screen in wonder. They sing to me, question me and stare at me, all the while I am just falling in love with them all.
As we are taken around the orphanage to see the different parts we stop at the boy's rooms. There we find a skinny boy no older than 9 who is soaking wet, with a towel around his waist, frantically searching for his clothes that he removed so he could wash up. In my naive mind I thought, "just go put on some other clothes in your room, and then go looking for your other pair". Then I realized, he had no other pair. None of these children had more than one pair of clothes. They weren't preoccupied with fashion and how they looked, they were just happy to have clothes in the first place.
After finishing the visit with a roaring game of soccer (mind you it was on a dirt soccer field covered in thorns and sharp objects, all while they were shoeless, plus the ball was as flat as a pancake) we left humbled, grateful for what we had and ready to make a difference in their lives the best we can.
It was an incredible first day in Africa, but little did I know that it was just about to get better.
FINAL THOUGHTS: After leaving the children's orphanage we decided we wanted to help in some way. After counseling about it we decided that providing them with clothes, shoes and underwear would be a great first step. The weeks upon my return from Africa I set out to collect donations of clothes that we could send down to those children. The response was amazing! Because of the contributions of local families we were able to collect and send down a total of 45 shirts, 61 pants, 30 pairs of shoes, 50 pairs of socks, 150 pairs of underwear and 2 new soccer balls!
9/15/2017 09:29:25 pm
Great stories. Sounds like an amazing trip I need to take really soon.
9/16/2017 09:19:08 am
You're the best, HP. I don't know the purpose of your trip but I love that you're always willing to help make the lives of others better.
9/16/2017 11:07:28 am
You did the same for me Mrs. Yee!
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