From Their Hands to Yours… Part 3: Toto for Toto

One particular moment from being in Kenya last May especially shimmers in my memories.

On our last day with the Sanctuary of Hope family, after falling in love with them over the previous week, our Hope’s Promise team of twenty-seven members meets the children and caregivers at a retreat center near Nairobi. All over the emerald grounds, team member Jenny Lau prepares an elaborate series of activities for us to enjoy in small groups.

Esther consults with “game master” Jenny Lau, while Pastor Karau watches. 

My little team of three adults and one SoH child, Esther, follow clues to a playground area. Instructions label the activity: “I am not a burden,” and instruct us to choose one member whose feet will not be allowed to touch the ground as we make our way through an obstacle course. Giggling together, Esther climbs on my back. We come upon a slack line, suspended between a jungle gym and a tree. I sling Esther around so her feet can touch the line as the other two women support her. Esther laughs impishly, pretending to be afraid as we hold her tightly.

And it is then I feel I am soaring out of my own body on wings of gratitude and awe, and hovering over the scene, absorbing every detail so I will never forget. Perhaps it is her shoes that trigger the transcendence: brightly hand-painted on crisp clean white and adorned with sparkles. Or maybe it is her arms around me as I clutch this healthy, clean, and normal kid, playing at a park like she’s never known anything different. Or maybe it is her laughter ringing out, as she knows she is safe to enjoy the moment for all it is worth.

My little team
MWC daycare

Another memory scars my heart from just a few days before. I am in the daycare at Mathare Worship Centre (MWC), established by the church to provide an alternative for mothers who otherwise would be forced to lock even babies in their shacks while they go in search of work, the only way to feed their children. One baby after another cries. They lie on mats on the floor, asleep or rubbing eyes, just waking up. There are too many whimpers for the one daycare worker to attend to, so our little group of three picks up one after the other. They are dressed in a mish-mash of worn clothing, with bare little feet poking out; and many are soaked through. We hold them anyway. There is one little one who will not be comforted. We all try. After awhile a woman ducks through the door, and immediately the child reaches for her. At long last, he is comforted, in her arms, with his mother where he belongs.

My son with a daycare child

I wonder, in that shimmering moment, if Esther was ever cared for in the daycare after her mother died and before she came home to her Sanctuary of Hope family.

But now, in this moment, Esther’s shoes are sparkling, the green grass is shining, and there is no burden to be found. There is love, joy, a beautiful child to hold and treasure.

DSC_0815 lo res
Esther, second from left in front row, with her SoH family


At Pamba Toto, we love guiding the kids to create products we can sell. We pay SoH caregivers for each child’s work, and the caregiver saves/spends it for that specific child. The Hope’s Promise team helped them make bracelets last May; and while many have already been sold, some still remain available on our website: SoH bracelets.  When we sell the bracelets, we send the profits to Hope’s Promise for Sanctuary of Hope, completing a circle that makes us very happy.

Bracelet project, May 2017, photo by Diane Elliott

We also have a few amazing paintings on our website, created by the SoH kids, available here: wall decor.

We call the “line” of products made by SoH kids, “Toto for Toto” – Kids for Kids. Maybe we should look up the Swahili for “makes us very happy” and change the name…. 

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