Imara Family Life
By Emily Berg
This past August, I traveled to the Imara House in Kenya, and it was truly life-changing. Meeting the girls, kids, staff and experiencing Kenya left a permanent mark on my heart. I had heard so much about Imara and Kenya from my grandparents, Carol, and many others who had traveled there before me and was excited to finally experience it for myself. I was able to take this leap of faith because of my faith in God, and a supportive and loving family that I knew would be praying for me and waiting for me when I returned home. Throughout my entire life, I have been fortunate to have a stable, loving, and compassionate not only immediate family, but extended family, as well.
When I was at the Imara house, I was reminded of how blessed I am to have the family that I do and that maybe I need to define family differently. Our mission team was lucky enough to be a part of family day, where around 140 people came to support the moms and kids. There were parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors and friends present, and where there was no family, our mission team and local Imara supporters filled in, stepping in right beside the moms. As a mission team, we discussed our feelings about meeting these family members, and about how we all had our own opinions on them – some of whom have emotionally or physically hurt the girls in the past. But, we also needed to keep in mind that these same family members had to make the hard decision to allow their daughters to go to Imara in the first place. It was a really great experience to see the family and friends of the moms and kids and gave me a better understanding of families in Kenya.
After family day, we got to work at Imara where one of my jobs was to help fit the girls for their new school uniforms. It was fun to help them and see how excited they were to try on all of the items and for school this fall. During the whole time I was there, I felt like a big sister to all of these girls and it meant so much to get to know and spend time with them.
Sue Badeau was one of the women on our mission team. She is an expert on trauma and during the staff retreat, she and I helped educate the moms on what trauma is and how to heal. As a social worker, I know the effects of trauma and the importance of the girls having tools to cope with this. This is vital so that they can form healthy bonds with their children and begin to heal, and we even taught the staff how to be a part of that healing.
The Imara staff truly act like the girls’ family. They all care so much for the moms and kids, and the organization is so lucky to have them. Our mission team was also able to act like family while we were there. As we worked alongside the staff, we were able to get a glimpse of what it is like to be a part of the daily life of the Imara family. We were able to hold babies, play with the kids, spend time with the moms, bake cinnamon rolls and cake, and love them just as we would if we were related by blood. One particular highlight that stands out in my mind is when I jumped rope with the moms one afternoon.
An extra special part of the trip for me was when Carol, the staff, the moms and kids threw me a surprise birthday party. My 23rd birthday fell on the day we were to fly home, and they surprised me by celebrating my birthday the Imara way. We had cake, they sang, threw me a dance party, and celebrated me just like my own family would have if I had been at home.