Brad Voss, Executive Director
When I was much younger I loved sleeping outside. It was so much fun. I slept in the backyard, on porches, in treehouses, on trampolines, in state parks, on football fields, in tents, in hammocks – even on the side of a mountain (or two). Anytime I got the chance, I was so happy to sleep outside. On balmy summer nights growing up in Texas I was thrilled to sleep outside with little more than a blanket of stars across the sky as cover. As I grew a little older I was lucky enough to travel to places like Colorado and New Mexico and Alaska where warm nights were replaced by much cooler nighttime temperatures and thin quilts were replaced by down sleeping bags and four-season tents. Waking up on those crisp mornings and crawling out of a toasty sleeping cocoon was the stuff of dreams. For most of my life sleeping outside was incredible. It was romantic and exciting and fueled some of my happiest memories.
When I made my first trip to Kenya in 2016, sleeping outside took on a whole new perspective and meaning. It was during this trip that I first came face-to-face with children and teenagers who sleep outside every single night. And not because it was fun or adventurous. And not inside a nice tent or wrapped in a down sleeping bag. It was on this trip that I learned and understood for the first time that thousands of kids go to sleep - no, try to sleep - outside on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya (and in many other cities around the world). It’s not romantic. It’s not filled with happy memories. It’s cold. It’s dangerous. And it’s real.
Each night tens of thousands of kids in Kenya and millions of kids around the world will lay their heads down on cold ground – not because it’s fun to sleep outside, but because there is no inside. They didn’t plan to be there, but because of abuse or neglect or lack of resources or a myriad of other reasons, they are there. The nights are cold and scary and very dark. They will hopefully find friends with whom they can share the night. They will huddle close together to increase warmth, and they will take turns staying awake to fend off the dangers that often appear in the darkness. And they will pray. They will pray that the night passes quickly and that the sun shows itself sooner rather than later. These precious kids love the mornings. They love seeing the sun come up and feeling the heat that it brings. And they love seeing people (like the team at MADE IN THE STREETS) who love and care for them.
I still really like sleeping outside. I like camping under the stars and the moon with friends and family. But now, on every night I sleep outside (and on most nights that I sleep inside) I’m mindful of the many incredible kids that are also out there. I pray that they find warmth. I pray that they find friends for protection. I pray that they find a softer, more comfortable spot than the one they found last night. And I pray that somehow, someway, with God’s help and all of us working together, more of those kids can find their way off of the streets and into the exciting, fun, romantic, and adventurous life of sleeping inside.
For more information about how you can help street kids move from outside to inside check out the Plan A Fundraiser or Serve In Kenya pages on the MITS website.
Lauren Meandro, Filmmaker Intern
R - RAIN
The rainy season came late this year and the roads around here get pretty muddy. The mud sticks to your shoes and if you don’t have “gumboots” (rain boots), clean feet will be a thing of the past. While the rain has been an inconvenience, it has helped the farms and we are thankful.
S - SICK
If you don’t get sick here at least once, then I feel like you really haven’t been to Kenya (it’s pretty much unavoidable, since you’re exposed to so many unfamiliar bacteria). I might as well have been here four times then, since that’s how many times I’ve been unwell! Being sick away from home is never fun, especially in a foreign country, but I have been well taken care of here. I even got to experience a Kenyan hospital - which I can happily say was not a traumatic experience.
God also sent a little blessing my way after all my suffering. While bedridden, I craved chicken noodle soup. When I showed up on Monday to work, the visiting group had made Chicken Pho for lunch! I could have cried I was so happy.
T - TIME
Kenyan time and American time are different things. As I’m typically late to everything and patient with those who are like me, I figured I would fit right in. However, turns out it’s harder to escape my American roots than I thought.
U - UNIVERSAL
Another one of my favorite parts about traveling is just discovering how small the world is. Some things that I’ve found to be universal are a baby’s love for silly noises, the love of a good beat, and sharing good food together. Oh, and all small children love the Baby Shark song. You can’t convince me otherwise.
V - VACATION
While on the outside it may look like a vacation, living and volunteering in a foreign country for the summer is definitely hard work. That’s why a break every now and then is so important. Our intern team was able to get away a couple of times to not only rest and be restored, but also to experience other parts of the Kenyan culture! Here are a few pictures from our visit to the coast and our safari in Maasai Mara.
W - WORSHIP/THE WORD
Listening to people praise and learn about the same God in another language. There’s nothing quite like it. I think I really developed this love when I attended a German church when I lived in Leipzig. Seeing others praise His name in their native tongue, praising Him alongside them, though I don’t know the meaning of the words, learning the countless names for Him (Yesu, Bwana, Mungu, Baba)… It never gets old.
X - EXTRA
Sometimes you think you're going to need a lot more of something than you actually end up using. I for one brought so much sunscreen it’s not even funny. Guess how much I’ve used of it?
Y - YUM
Kenyan food is heavy, but it’s good. Chapati (which is kind of like a thicker tortilla) is a favorite. Also, like, all of the fruit.
Z - ZERO POWER
The power will go out a couple times a month. Sometimes for a couple hours, sometimes a couple days. It’s been an adventure cooking in the dark or coming home to charge a device only to realize you can’t. It’s just all part of living here so you just gotta be flexible.
Lauren Meandro, Filmmaker Intern
I - INTERNS
What a blessing it is to serve with this wonderful team!! Each of us is so different from the other, yet we are bonded by our common goal to love others well. I could write a whole blog about each one of them and the amazing gifts God has given them.
J - JOY
Whether you’re missing home, in a place you’re completely unfamiliar with, or just overwhelmed by your work and circumstances, it can be hard to have joy. I’m not gonna lie, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for me so far. I’ve felt lonely, overwhelmed, and anxious. There have been days that I come home feeling like it would have been easier to just stay in the States.
Through these seemingly joyless moments though, I know God is still faithful. Along my daily path, He reminds me in little ways (like a new student walking home with me from Chapel or the sun shining just right through the flowering trees) that He is there and He is with me. I just have to look up from my trudging feet to see Him and to see how I can have joy in those moments.
K - KARIBU
“Karibu” is Swahili for “Welcome”. While I have felt homesick, God has also provided warmth and welcome through Kenyan hospitality! The other interns and I have been loved and welcomed into this community so well.
L - LANGUAGE
The language barrier (or often, the accent barrier) has been rough on me for sure. I’ve never experienced a language quite like Swahili before. Since I have really no other language to compare it to, I have found it much harder to pick up on and understand. Being in a Christian setting has definitely helped, though. Seeing Bible passages I’m familiar with or singing songs I know in English has helped me recognize and translate certain words on my own.
On the flip side though, mispronunciation can sometimes be quite unforgiving (like the time I was practicing numbers with some students and was tricked into saying the word for an uncircumcised man). As with all language barriers and learning though, patience and grace are key.
M - MATATU
Oh, matatus. Matatus (buses) are the main mode of transportation here, if you don’t have a car. They can be big or small, colorful or just plain, but either way, the entire experience feels like organized chaos (but mostly chaos).
N - NEW, NORMAL, AND THE "NEW NORMAL"
O - OVERWHELMED
P - PRAYER
Q - QUICKMART
The first grocery store we went to. It’s honestly more than a grocery store though, as it has three floors and sells washing machines. It’s in the next town over, Ruai, and takes about 20 minutes to get there. It doesn’t have many American products like some of the larger grocery stores do, but it has Nutella and Oreos, so I’m not complaining.
When you do this for 20 years, you're bound to pick up a few stories and lessons along the way. Thoughts, impressions, news, and highlights from our staff, visitors, donors, students and alumni.