24 Jun Kenyan Traditions In Our Homes – Greeting & Welcoming Guests
Two of the greatest things about Kenya are its rich culture and its warm, inviting people. Kenya’s diverse culture is infused in its food, music, art and traditions. When it comes to its people, Kenyans are friendly, hospitable and are known to place great significance on cultivating relationships and supporting each other. This Kenyan way of life translates into how we greet and welcome guests in our homes – with songs, dances and lots of excitement. We are blessed to have our kids grow up in a culture and home where people truly love their neighbors the way Jesus has taught us.
Do not seek revenge or beat a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am the Lord.
Our homes place emphasis on local Kenyan traditions, so that our kids feel connected to their culture. We teach our kids to be friendly, open-minded and caring to each other and to any visitor that comes through our home. Whether the guests are visiting from the neighborhood or from overseas, we treat everyone equally as Jesus taught us to love one another. Having visitors year-round allows us to teach our kids traditional songs and dances to welcome newcomers. The kids take their performances seriously and will rehearse the songs along with choreography in anticipation to our guests’ arrivals.
Welcoming Guests Into Our Homes
Our visitors are always welcomed with open hearts and open arms. The kids appreciate having guests as they enjoy hearing new stories, learning new games, and making new friends. Though some of the kids may be shy at first, like Agnes and Margaret from our Kikuyu home or Edith and Oliver from our Kitalale home, they warm up with time and get comfortable around the guests.
We are blessed by visitors from around the world. This is the welcoming of this year’s Valor High School mission group.
Greeting guests is a big deal in our homes. Whenever a new international mission group or local church group arrives at our grounds, the kids will sing and dance around them as they make their way to the homes. After they’ve been serenaded, the kids introduce themselves before the Aunties and Uncles talk about their roles in the homes and what we do as an organization. Some of the most extroverted kids from each of the homes, like Francis in our Kikuyu home and Aaron from our Kitalale home, will take our visitors by their hands to show them their bedrooms and toys, before setting them on a couch to ask them a million questions about where they are from and about their life.
Memorable Gifts From Our Visitors
Every visitor that enters our home is willing to entertain our kids and spend time with them. It is needless to say that those who come bearing gifts tend to be the most memorable. Before any visits, guests are advised that if they are bringing gifts or activities, to please make sure to bring enough for all of the kids in order to avoid favoritism or hurt feelings. One church group brought enough recorders/flutes for each of the kids and taught them how to play. After the group’s departure, the kids got to keep their recorders and still practice to date. We are blessed to have charitable neighbors in the community as well, including a Kitalale church group who has donated several bags of corn to help feed our growing kids.
It’s Not a Goodbye, It’s a See You Later
Even though goodbyes are usually bittersweet, we send-off international visitors with as much excitement as they were initially welcomed into our home. This traditional Kenyan send-off practice is meant to wish visitors a safe return to their homes with a small gift to honor their stay. Women are typically given a fabric (similar to the one in the picture above) which is tied around them while the kids sing to the Lord and perform another choreographed send-off around them. Men are gifted a T-shirt or a Maasai blanket, a traditional Kenyan garment that is thick and durable.
Longer Visits Are Also Welcomed
We try to keep our local guest visits to one-day endeavours to not disrupt our kids’ habits and commitments. Occasionally, we have international visitors stay with us for longer periods of time to focus on projects that require more time. In the past, we’ve had bible camps, medical camps and event infrastructure projects like painting buildings, digging for irrigation and fence repairs. During the duration of their stay, we assign chores to our visitors to integrate them into the daily life of our homes. Our chores rotate every other day, which allows our guests to bond with Aunties, Uncles, and other staff members and learn what it takes to operate our homes. At the end of the day, all of our guests get to interact with the kids, play games and have fun.
Our kids enjoy putting on a performance for our guests. Celebrating and welcoming newcomers this way is part of the Kenyan way of life.
The More Kids the Merrier – Inviting School Friends
Outside of the Kikuyu and Kitalale walls, our kids also have developed friendships with community members and classmates. While our kids are not allowed to have friends sleep over because the homes are under strict government protection laws for their safety, we do invite their friends to visit for the day. Last month, Mercy in our Kikuyu Home had several former school friends over for the day. They spent the morning helping the Aunties and Uncles around the house and enjoyed the afternoon talking, sharing stories and catching up.
In Kenya, there is a sense of loyalty and long-term commitment to those around you. This collectivistic mindset cultivates a space for mutual care and allows ‘outsiders’ to feel welcomed and appreciated. In our homes, we honor this beautiful way of life by spreading love and celebrating our guests and each other.
We are beyond grateful for those who have had the chance to visit our homes, walked through our hallways and have created memories with us. These individuals are Children of Hope ambassadors who will carry and share our stories with their loved ones.
As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child”, we are grateful for people like you who believe in our cause and provide the resources to raise 100 kids.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to visit our homes, get to know our kids and connect with them during their school break, there are still spaces available to join our upcoming mission trip in November 2019. Space is limited so if you’d like to join this adventure, make sure to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.