Memoir Monday: Allison Bechill, 7Memories Ghostwriter, Remembers the Deaf Orphans of Kenya

(Excerpt written using 7 Memories: Write Your Memoir in 28 Days)

I had always dreamed of visiting Africa, so when I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya with a group of educators through the University of San Diego I jumped at the chance. We took as few supplies for ourselves as possible and filled our bags with children’s books, medical supplies, toiletries, clothing, and school supplies for the young residents of the orphanage, known as Humble Hearts, where we would spend a month.

The original site of Humble Hearts, which also served as a school and church, had recently been destroyed in an act of eminent domain by the government—forcing a relocation from one Nairobi slum to another. We were there not only to help rebuild—we built several classrooms and a library as well as planting a vegetable garden—but also to work with the children and provide professional development opportunities for the teachers.

There were about eighty children that lived there—from babies to late teens—and most were deaf. In the slums of Kenya, deafness is seen as a curse from the gods. Families view their deaf children as a sign of shame, and more often than not they are hidden away at home and not let out to play or attend school with their hearing siblings and neighbors.

The founder of Humble Hearts grew up in those slums but made it to college, where her studies included learning Kenyan sign language, and trained to become a teacher. When she returned, she knocked on the door of every home rumored to contain a deaf child and offered to take them in—to care for and educate them as her own. Soon word spread, and the numbers of children grew to include orphans of the AIDS epidemic and the siblings of the deaf children. Today, Humble Hearts continues to take in children in need, even when resources are scarce and stretched.

Despite their sad beginnings, the children of Humble Hearts were filled with laughter, curiosity, and love. Kenya was as beautiful as I’d imagined, but nothing could have prepared me for the incredible generosity of spirit exhibited by its people. It truly was the trip of a lifetime and a dream come true.

(Written by memoir ghostwriter, Allison Bechill.)