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One Hundred Hand-sewn Hearts

By Tamu Bakery, Nov 26 2017 06:19PM

Airport in Nairobi. I was supposed to be met two hours ago by a colleague from an NGO.

After many phone calls and no explanation a guy with no English and tribal marks on his face shows the way to his car - with tinted windows and no readable number plates. I only had a chance to call my friend- a police officer back home to ask her to track my phone down. Ten minutes later I am brought to someone's house, full of kids. The lady takes my luggage to a room with no windows, shows me a bed and locks the door. "Calm yourself down" - says my friend on the phone - "If the tracking system is to be believed, you are in the nicest part of Nairobi, and besides, you have the biggest police station just around the corner. Don't think if you were to be human trafficked, you would have been brought to this area".

I breathe slowly, concentrating on each breath. Opening my suitcase to find a letter from my husband and son. "Remember, if at times it is hard being away from home, just concentrate on why you flew across the globe - to empower those 200 girls - survivors of Female Genital Mutilation. We are always here for you". My tears rolling out of control, I fall asleep crying.

A few hours later, I have a cup of tea with my host family. By the irony of fate, my colleagues couldn't meet me, so had asked their friends - leading human rights lawyers, to pick me up. They had been at work, but neither the maid nor the driver could speak any English. I am calm, thinking from now on my trip will go as planned. But it didn't...

Three families and two days later, sofa-surfing, and given loads of reasons why I can't reach my destination. Soldiers with guns on the streets, unfamiliar slums areas - not the place and time to try and figure out my own way to a Masai village, given the fact that it is my first African trip (my first solo trip in fact). Rusty buses and long journeys, my "residency" with a broken lock and no indoor toilet, long monsoon rains as your shower, carrying drinking water on your head, angry fathers and suspicious locals, heart-breaking stories and outcry in your soul that you can't help every 9 year old married to 54 year old, and those hungry lonely eyes of kids searching for parental love... Kajiado, Kenya, you took me out of my comfort zone, but it was totally worth it! Two hundred sewn and stuffed hearts later, I was leaving a piece of my heart there.

I now travel the world voraciously, country by country, helping abused women and girls. And at the most challenging moments, I remember a Kenyan airport and a guy with tribal marks on his face.