Kakuma Refugee Camp

Salvation Army Story – Before I Leave for Kenya

by Joyce Carol Thomas, illus. by Nneka Bennett

by Joyce Carol Thomas, illus. by Nneka Bennett

The Salvation Army Store looked like it was open on January 1st, the day before I leave for Kenya.  I stopped and sure enough, it was. It was a vast store with an entire room  of books and old record albums. Among the books were ones I was looking for, paperback picture books to add to my stock of books to take to the school at Kakuma. Yes, they were in English. But since I am going to teach English and am uncertain of the multitude of languages of children in the school,  I began to select books from the shelves.  I am loading my allowed checked suitcase with books.  I have read a great deal about Kakuma.  The accounts frighten me. I have read that it is hard for children to make their way safely to school. Also I read that people don’t leave Kakuma.  They have no place to go. Their lives are there where they cannot hold jobs or have land to grow food. So  this is where I’m going on this short-term volunteer project. I’ve written a book about a boy who lived in Kakuma but left because he had family in Maine. I need to see where he lived.  At the Salvation Army, I selected a lot of paperback books. I took everything with a black protagonist.  I found Patricia McKissack’s, A Million Fish, More or Less.  Cherish Me. I found books about animals and the stars and the moon.  I found song books. I found an entire  Heinemann series – two dozen leveled literacy versions of  tales. One is The Wind and the Sun, a story I took as a great lesson as a child. In the back of the book is a play version.  I can assign the wind, the sun, the man, a narrator, and we can act it out.  In Kakuma.  What will anyone there make of  The Great Big Enormous Turnip?  I took the books to pay the man at the check out and told him I was taking them to Kenya.  He said, “Then they are free.”   I began to cry. This man at the Salvation Army did not doubt  that taking these stories to a refugee camp was important to do.  I don’t know anything. I know there are children there.  My suitcase is enormously heavy. I’m glad it has rollers.  Depending on connectivity,  I will write here at goodbraider.com about my work at Kakuma.

Categories: Kakuma Refugee Camp

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