Coming home

You come home, and everything you’ve brought back is covered in African dirt.You really can’t escape it.It’s just like being back in Kenya, except there’s a big chunk of your heart missing, a piece that you left there with the children of the orphanage. You’ve brought everything from African dirt to a handful of mosquito bites back, but you left a part of you behind. And every day I wish I was back with the children.

I am so thankful I was able to be a part of Theatre on a Mission, a group of high school and college students, whose mission it is to share the joy of theatre with children in developing countries.

Having the chance to live and work at the orphanage of the Foundation Stone Ministries, in Bondo, Kenya, was life-changing. And yes, people say things were “life-changing” quite a bit, but you really won’t know until you’ve met these children. The moment you arrive at the orphanage they grab your heart, and for me they haven’t let go, and I don’t think they ever will.

When we pulled up for the first time this summer, Chelsey Cain, UNF student and founder of Theatre on a Mission, and Danielle Glen, both returning for their second year, had tears in their eyes, before even seeing the children. The children were so welcoming and happy to see us it brought out sheer emotion from each of us.

Our main focus of the trip was working with the children of the orphanage on a one act play that we performed with the children for the community and also took to neighboring schools. We had so much fun with the children and we all came out of it as stronger individuals, with much more positive outlooks. Everyone thinks we go over and just help the kids. But the truth is that the kids help us just as much, if not more.

Theatre on a Mission also took donated trunks of books, school supplies, games and athletic equipment to the Foundation Stone Ministries orphanage and had enough to share with the neighboring schools. We donated funds to help a church, in the Kiandegwa village in Embu, deepen a water well. This water well serves about five hundred families with clean drinking water every day. We also donated funds to help patients receive dialysis at Kijiji Medical Center, and we had the unique opportunity to sing for and visit with some of the patients; hopefully helping lift their spirits. Finally, Theatre on a Mission was able to donate money towards a down payment for a parcel of land on which the Foundation Stone Ministries plans to build a school.

At the end of the trip we traveled south and went on a safari. We saw the beautiful land of Kenya and animals of the Masai Mara Reserve including hippopotami, elephants, lions and the migrating wildebeest.

We couldn’t have done it without the support of the Jacksonville community. We held many fundraisers throughout the year including TOM ROCKS, at Theatre Jacksonville, and we were thrilled to participate in and win the crowd favorite arts category award at One Spark. Thank you for your support and help as we continue to plan for future trips…to Coast Rica in the summer of 2015, then back to Kenya in 2016. If you would like to contribute to Theatre On A Mission you can do so by emailing Theatreonamission@gmail.com or calling 904-449-6019. You can also check us out on our Facebook page.

Article written by Jackie Jones