Karen shares her thoughts on Bombolulu.
|A building in the community of Bombolulu|
After spending our first night in Africa in a hotel in Mombasa, it was time to head out to the village. Just prior to doing so, however, we were taken to a place called Bombolulu. Bombolulu is a community within a community where people with disabilities live and have been trained in various skills which help them “…overcome their physical limitations and empower them economically and socially to become fully integrated members of their communities…” (You can learn more by Googling “Bombolulu.”)
|Jewelry maker at Bombolulu|
|Finished items ready to sell in the shop|
This was an amazing facility. The buildings were by far the nicest we saw in Kenya and the people were so well organized, skilled, and productive. We took a tour of the center and saw each area of production which included jewelry making, wood and leather working, textiles, agriculture, and wheelchair production, to name a few. People were placed in jobs that best suited them according to their various disabilities. Those who were deaf worked in the shop with power equipment that was too loud for others to work in. Those who were immobile made jewelry from their wheelchairs or sat at sewing machines and made beautiful clothing. There was also a section where they had recreated the homes of the various tribes of Kenya. Little did we know that these “ancient dwellings” of mud and sticks were still all the rage in the villages we were about to spend 2 weeks in!
|People waiting to receive the gift of a wheelchair|
|Tara and her wheelchair recipient|
The thing that left the greatest impression on me was the wheelchair production shop. The workers here were deaf so they flicked the lights when we entered and everyone stopped working so we could hear. As they were explaining how the wheelchairs made here cost about $190 for someone to purchase, they turned our attention to a bulletin board covered with photos of people who were hoping to get one. It was explained that these people were unable to afford a wheelchair so they sent in their pictures to be placed here in hopes that someone with the means would buy one for them thus enabling them to get around and vastly improve the quality of their lives. Some of the pictures, they said, had been there for years. It was so touching to see the light dawn on the faces of the members of our group as individuals and small clusters of people silently perused the board and one by one, took a picture down and handed it to the man along with $190. How little it took to make such a difference that day.
|Morgan and the man who received a wheelchair from her father|
Just as we were leaving the shop, a young man came into the room and it was impossible not to notice him. He was only a couple of feet tall because while his upper body was in perfect condition, his lower legs were undeveloped and useless and he walked in on his knees, lower legs swishing behind him. Trying to be polite and not stare, we nodded a greeting and left the shop. My thoughts were that this community was such a blessing to people with disabilities who could find meaningful ways to make a living and raise their families. (We had been by a little school-ground filled with children playing on a swing set in the yard. It was the only swing set I would see, except at the Sean Michels School for Special Needs Children built by Koins for Kenya in the village of Miyani.) I later learned however, that this man was not a member of the community after all. He had taken a bus to Mombasa and “walked” some distance to Bombolulu hoping to find some way to get a wheelchair so that he would no longer have to navigate the streets on his huge, calloused knees. Our friend, Burt, was not so shy and asked about the man and his circumstances. When he learned the man’s story, Burt took another $190 out of his pocket and bought him a wheelchair then and there. I can only imagine how grateful that man is that he made the difficult trip to Bombolulu that day and found such kindness and compassion at the hands of this giant stranger. I couldn’t help but think of the phrase, “When ye have done it unto one of the least of these……”