|the shed aka Abila: during construction|
|Pupils having lunch at Akili Prep school|
|Kids playing at Akii Prep school|
|The Boys Dorm: before construction|
|The Boys Dorm: After construction|
|Ndoto family at a past retreat/ family reunion|
|Caleb Ochieng who was homeless but now lives at the church/ndoto premises with wilfred and lawi.|
THE PATH LESS TRAVELLED
As a child, Allison had a dream. Her dream was to go to the world and create families where there were none. Oddly prescient, this dream was a harbinger of Allison’s future task through Ndoto. At merely 22 years, she came to Kenya oblivious of the innumerable challenges the country posed to a single white girl, but resolute that the path she was taking would make all the difference. She had graduated from college and had a lucrative job offer awaiting her. Bizarre as it may seem, she chose the path less travelled. She has followed it for 8 years. Yes, 8 years of struggling to make things right. It hasn’t been easy. She has endured so many challenges; people have told her she is crazy to have taken this path. One of Allison’s beliefs and prayer is to raise and mentor young Kenyans who will run cum manage Ndoto in the foreseeable future. She believes that the communities here can better be changed from the inside, by Kenyans themselves. She has immense faith that this will one day come to pass. Her faith was greatly put to test two weeks ago when she travelled to Italy for a holiday.
Since July 2011, she has been working in Kenya with the Team Ndoto. Her trip to Italy came at a time when Ndoto’s main task of paying school fees for its 110 students was at apogee. Usually, this is an arduous task and involves a turn of money as Allison would put it. Ndoto had also received a donation for the construction of a room at the Ndoto premises in Obunga, equally involving a turn of money. Two major projects, I would say. During the same period, some of the students were transferring schools. This called for the purchase of school supplies, new uniforms, shoes, books and setting up interviews for the students. Allison was in a dilemma. Students had to go to school and construction work had to start too. All this was to take place in her absence. She had two options. One, to leave the Ndoto: For Africa’s Future bank/credit card with team Ndoto, and two, to leave us with a turn of money in cash. For the entire time she has been in Kenya, people have told her that Kenyans are very corrupt and can never be trusted with money. This is made worse when a mzungu is involved for sad as it is, people see mzungus as a big dollar sign. We have always joked about it. Given the large sum of money that would be needed to carryout the aforementioned activities, giving us the cash was an absolute impossibility. That left Allison with the almost unthinkable option of handing us the Ndoto credit card and the code! Any sane man, notwithstanding their relationship with God would call you crazy if you did that. Allison has worked so hard, fundraising and recruiting sponsors to bring Ndoto where it is today. She has sacrificed her entire life working for Ndoto and seeing students through school. You can imagine what a big deal it is to even contemplate giving someone people have told you is corrupt the card and the code to your entire life’s work. We talked about it at our weekly Team Ndoto meetings and as you would expect, Allison was very nervous. We could all tell it despite the assurances we gave her that we would do the right thing if given the opportunity. To us, it was a chance to prove that we are different and our integrity was at test. It wasn’t easy for her and she spent days praying about it. She believed that God would tell her what to do. She talked to a couple of friends about it and they all warned her against it. “Don’t you realize they could withdraw all the money and run away with it if you left them the card?” they would say. Words have power, goes the old adage. If you hear something enough and loud enough you will actually begin to believe it’s the truth even though at the beginning you immediately regarded it as a lie. This is exactly what was happening. Tell a lie often enough & loud enough eventually some people will begin to believe you. So Allison was at it again; crossroads. It wasn’t Robert Frost’s two paths that diverged in a yellow wood this time. As the Executive Director of Ndoto: For Africa’s Future, she had to make a crucial decision and be ready to shoulder the full responsibility that comes with it. When she was finally ready to leave, the decision that she made surprised me. I knew she would do the right thing, yes. But it didn’t occur to me that she would give me the bankcard and the code! Not after so many people had advised her otherwise. She told us that she knows when the lord tells her to do something, and that she has always obeyed the silent voice within. She did it at 22 years when God first called her to come to Kenya. She did it in 2009 when God told her to start Ndoto: For Africa’s Future. And she was doing it now because she believed it was the right thing to do. “I trust you to do the right thing. I don’t care what other people say,’ she said. In no uncertain terms, she said there was no way she was going to tell us and Ndoto students that, ‘you can dream big, work hard and be what you want to be .’ and then look us in the face and say, “No, I don’t trust you with money.” She wants and believes that we can be different. This reminded me of Jeremiah 6:16. This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Most people know this verse or at least have heard about it. But Allison is among the few who can actually walk the talk.
As soon as she left for Italy, we started working on the projects. We got students to school, we paid fees and purchased school supplies for so many students. We supervised the masons working on the boys’ dorm. We registered students at Akili prep school, we interviewed and hired teachers. For two weeks, we worked so hard, hardly having enough sleep. We were always on the road either heading to the bank in Joshua’s tuk tuk or in a matatu taking students for interviews in different schools. It was so difficult being in the boss’ shoes. Taking care of all the 110 students and the masons is no mean task. To add salt to injury, we had to account for all the money we were using daily. We would arrive home late and begin recollecting how we had used the money in case we forgot to put it down. The good news is that when you are doing what you love, you don’t even realize how difficult it sometimes is. We believed that we could be different. Things went on smoothly until one morning we went to the bank to withdraw as was routine. I went about the regular stuff, inserted the card and punched in the right code and stood there waiting for the cash. I was utterly bewildered when I couldn’t withdraw the money and got the message that my card had been denied access. I didn’t believe it and I had to pinch myself to ensure that I was not in a dream. For split second I thought that Allison had cancelled the card. That she had finally yielded to the power of words that people have been telling her. I tried a few more times in vain. Dejected, I walked down the stairs of Barclays bank and went up to my colleagues waiting in the tuk tuk. I told them that the card was denied so we couldn’t do a thing that day. An eerie silence ensued; they looked puzzled and didn’t utter a word. My mind was in a whirl. I had a little cash on me so I took 3 girls for an interview away from town and asked my workmates to go home as figured what could have happened. I later emailed Allison and I was relieved to know that we were denied access because of time difference. We went to withdraw before 24 hours had elapsed. That would mean two withdrawals in a day, which wasn’t feasible.
Having worked for two weeks that seemed a decade, we finally went to meet Allison at the airport. We had all missed her so much. She was undoubtedly elated as we majestically walked to meet her in our “Ndoto In da house” t-shirts. She was so eager to know how the team Ndoto had done when she was away. As soon as we dropped her stuff at the house, we all drove to Obunga so that she could have a look at what we had done. Two days later, we worked on the receipts and accounted for all the money we had used. To God be the Glory, we didn’t steal any!!!
As a team, we learnt a lot during this time. We gained a lot of first hand experience on working with students too. Above all, It was an amazing thing, for a moment in a hundred years, to all feel the same way. And to feel that we were trusted and that we had done the right thing. By choosing the path less travelled, Allison gave us the chance to do what was right. Nearly two rooms were finished in the construction exercise. Construction of the building had stalled for nearly 6 years. So abandoned was it that no one believed it would ever be completed. So filthy were the rooms that the people were shocked to see the nice rooms at the end of the exercise.
By taking the path less travelled, Allison has showed us that life is all about daring to be different, choosing your own path in life, and seeking adventure rather than safety and conformity. Taking a different path by believing in us and trusting us when others thought otherwise made all the difference…. she took the less traveled path and that has made everything better and like she said, she wouldn’t change it.
I also got to learn that our God is a God that gives us the power to change! It came at a high price-the price of His son Jesus on a cross. God promised in the Old Testament to His people that He would do a “new thing” in Isa.43:18-21. Satan wants us to believe that we can never really change. But now in Christ – God actually carries out this “new thing”. God has brought about new spiritual changes in us – and it is now up to us to practically & spiritually implement those changes in our everyday lives. God wants us to know that within us – in the power of the Holy Spirit – we have received the power to change to be different. It doesn’t matter what others think or say.
James Allen once said. He who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realize it. Columbus cherished a vision of another world and he discovered it. If we cherish our visions and our ideals and remain true to them, our world will at last be built.
THANK YOU ALLISON for taking the road less travelled, IT HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE!!!