Kari Atler & Huruma Children's Home Orphanage - Kenya

Kari Atler contacted me a year ago asking about information on the Huruma Children's Home in Kenya because of a posting about the orphanage I made while I was in Africa. Kari was planning a volunteer trip there last fall and wanted advice on art projects/materials for children there. Here is her first hand account of her experiences there:

When I came across Mama Zipporah and the Huruma Children's Home I knew that I had to go. Something just clicked and it seemed like an obvious choice for me to go and serve the children at Huruma. To be able to hug the children and laugh and play seemed right up my alley.

I also wanted to use my artistic abilities to somehow serve the children and allow them an opportunity to explore artistically. I had also been feeling really selfish, so I wanted to learn to think and act outside of myself and grow in my ability to love. I really didn't know what that was going to look like, and I must say that I was scared of that endeavor (which led me to contact you and others for direction and insight in relation to art). It had been a very long time since I had dabbled in art, so the whole prospect was a challenge for me.

I decided to bring all the art supplies with me. I purchased some primary acrylic colors and a few extras from Utrecht, and the manager there was kind to provide me with a discount when he learned I was going to an orphanage. Other people donated brushes, and additional paints. I went to Africa thinking I was going to paint a large mural on one of the walls. But, it seemed the timing in Africa had a different plan.

Mama had given me free range to choose a wall in the cafeteria/chapel to paint on. I really wanted to paint a particular mural in a corridor of the orphanage, but when I started to think about the cafeteria/chapel I realized a great need for color in the space was necessary for the children to eat, dance, learn and play in.

Mama's daughter, Caroline, nominated one of the teachers at Huruma to assist me, then we got to work. We gathered together the children who were said to be gifted in art and we put them to work. :) I became their assistant. I mixed color, I cleaned brushes and I helped clean up messes. The children were the true artists in that they painted the two main columns in the room. It was incredibly fantastic to see them get focused and imaginative with their creations. It turned out better than I could have planned or imagined. It took us two days to finish and once they were done, the smiles that beamed across their faces said it all. In addition, all the other peers and siblings praised the work they had accomplished. They were famous among their peers. And the room was brightened with their paintings.

On a separate day I had the children create little paintings in a classroom setting. It was my goal to have those paintings create a mosaic on the wall, but with all the other activities I was helping out with while I was there, that project never got completed. I hope to get back, so that I can complete the project. Or if someone else wants to find them, then that can be done.

The children are great. They are much fun to play with and I was able to get to know a little girl named Faith who I now sponsor. I miss her greatly and I hope to see her in person again.

I thought I was going to have a hard time getting my backpack on and off airplanes with all that I had packed in it, but that wasn't an issue at all. :)

I had the opportunity to go to Safari, which was absolutely incredible with all the animals I was blessed to see. in addition, I ran into some doctors who had just gotten back from the Congo, and the stories they shared will stay with me forever. They seemed to have a lot to digest based upon what they saw and experienced.

My eyes were open to a lot of humanitarian work that is going on in Africa. It seemed every white person, or non-native, was there seeking to help out some orphanage, or some people group. It was amazing. And the willingness that everyone shared in wanting to help each other out and network was incredible.

Coming back I didn't get struck with culture shock until about a month later. I was angry that we get the freedom to drive safely along the freeways and highways. I was angry that our food is soo readily plentiful. I was angry that children as beautiful as the Huruma children had been hurt and abandoned. I gained a better understanding of evil, since learning about corrupt governments, rebel leaders, and brainwashed children. I gained a better understanding of my desire in wanting to help out others.

Since then I've been trying to do more volunteer work. There is a great refugee organization called Welcome to America Project that helps transition refugees to Phoenix. And another non-profit called Live Love that works with the hispanic population in one of the downtown cities here in Arizona that I've sought to get involved with.

I want to make a difference, and I don't know how to do it yet. I'm trying to brainstorm about my own artwork and how it can benefit children like Mama's and other children that are out there. I'm working on a website, and still not sure how it is all going to pan out. At some point I want to create works that helps bring fundage to these places that need it.

Great work Kari! I'm so happy you have been making a difference with the children's lives at Huruma Orphanage.

Currently, Kari is planning a trip to Malawi this summer to volunteer.