My trip to Embu was a wonderful experience. I left with the backpack and the suitcase full of expectations and enthusiasm: I knew that I had a unique adventure ahead of me that would take me to discover a new world. What I could not even remotely imagine was how much I would learn in three weeks of life in Kenya.

First I learned the meaning of the word “home”. As soon as I arrived at the orphanage, I understood why this word is clearly indicated in the name of the institute, “Embu Children’s Home”. The garden was full of children playing chasing, hiding, laughing; the atmosphere “breathed” was that of a peaceful family Sunday. During many days I was lucky to spend here, I could understand why this place is really home for many children; the rooms full of beds and bunk beds, the garden with the rides and the swings, the playroom for the little ones, the canteen with large tables and chairs around: all smells of home.

At each hour of the day and night there is always someone who watches over these little ones and takes care of them: I met extraordinary people who, with different roles and tasks, do their utmost every day, with the awareness of the great responsibility and importance of their duties. Living with them for so many days I have had the opportunity to understand that children really have an opportunity here: they have the chance to live in peace, to grow in a safe place and with those who take care of them with experience and, above all, love. Some have families waiting for them outside the orphanage, the day they will be able to provide for their needs; others do not have a family outside, but they have the opportunity to grow and learn and learn to cope with life. These little ones are not just sad stories, on the contrary: they are joyful, enthusiastic, curious, and earn a little more of serenity, every day.

The most amazing thing is how all this is carried out with what appears to our eyes very “little”: every help is precious and is put to use to cope with a thousand (really a thousand) needs, taking into account the community but also the needs of each one. From medicines, to baby formulas, to food, to shoes, to school uniforms, to soap: everything comes thanks to the gift of people who in their own little dimension can really change the lives of these children every day.
In Embu I also learned the meaning of the word “welcoming”: thanks to the gestures of the people who welcomed me, to the serene and joyful atmosphere, to the attentions and affection of the children, I really felt at home. This is even truer for the little ones who find shelter in the orphanage: in my early days I was able to witness the arrival of a child of only 7 months, found abandoned in a nearby village. When she arrived, it was a little bundle, so light that one could forget to have it in her arms; I had never seen a creature so undernourished and worn out. The opportunity to accompany this girl at the beginning of her “new” life at Embu was truly a gift to me: I could see how quickly she started eating, smiling, and getting better every day. The orphanage is also home of some children with more or less important disabilities; for them the challenge with life is even more difficult and even greater is the effort that is made to take care of their health, with love and dedication.
My trip was also a unique opportunity to get to know a world that in common with our country has very little: colors, flavors, smells, everything is completely new and intense. The red of the sky at dawn, the Jacaranda trees full of purple flowers, the thousand colors of the fruit and vegetable market of Embu: these are the shades of my memories of these wonderful places.

To conclude, I learned how lucky I really am: lucky to have known this reality, to have been able to give some of my time and energy to these children, to have lived with extraordinary people, to have so many wonderful memories that stay with me in every day life.

I learned how much you can do just by lending your ear and your hands: this is the great lesson I learned at Embu, and it’s the great lesson that reminds me of the work of all the extraordinary people who are part of Maisha every day.
Asante, Maisha!


Luciano Zapponi

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