an American woman in Kenya

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One Week Ago in Kenya

I had the privilege of talking to a group of men, women and children who were sitting in a classroom-turned-church service in Lanet Umoja, a village just outside of Nakuru, Kenya.  I was telling them about Heidi Keyworth Albanese, or Sr. Eurosia (Roro) as she is lovingly remembered by her brothers and sisters in the small Franciscan community she was a part of in Moretown, Vermont.

Heidi had always wanted to travel to Kenya, mostly so she could hang out with the children whose pictures adorned the walls of the restaurant where she spent many hours cooking delicious meals made from ingredients she had foraged either from the woods or from the discard pile on the restaurant kitchen counter.  She told me this more than once, most recently after I had finished a presentation about Kenya to the congregation in my church in Vermont.

Heidi (Sr. Eurosia) - chef extraordinaire!
Heidi (Sr. Eurosia) – chef extraordinaire!

This woman

was a wonder.  She was creative, funny, and constantly in motion.  As I addressed the men, women and children sitting in front of me in that classroom turned church for the day, it occurred to me that they all would have loved meeting her.  I imagined her running around the school playground, engaging children in hand-clapping games, and even attempting to teach them French, the language she taught in the small primary school I directed in Vermont.  She would have called them all “lovey”, and they would have wanted to braid her hair, which was usually done up Pippi Longstocking style anyway.  Young boys and girls would have brought her mendazzi to eat, snuggling on her lap while she told them stories about her home in America.  She would have loved them, and they would have known that she did.

Dedicating one of the new classrooms to the memory of Heidi Keyworth Albanese
Remembering Heidi Albanese at a dedication ceremony

At the end of my brief presentation Fr. Thomas Mugi asked everyone to observe a moment of silence, reminding us that their tradition tells them to honor those who have passed.  The room was quiet, with the exception a few shifting feet and a babbling child at the back of the room.  Then he and I held Heidi’s picture and the plaque we had made specially for her, standing for photos in a room surrounded by homemade posters designed to teach Kenyan preschoolers how to read and understand the English language.  I couldn’t help but think about how happy Heidi would have been had she been there that day, but that she most likely would have been outside on the playground, surrounded instead by children, dancing to the music that she heard coming from the homemade instruments and voices of those who attend that church.  Unfettered joy would have filled the air.

I want to thank

all of the people who made it possible for me to travel to Kenya and dedicate this new preschool classroom to the memory of Heidi Keyworth Albanese.  The list is too long to print here, but I am grateful to each one of you for your contributions to Everyone’s Child in honor of Heidi Albanese.  As I say in the video below, the completion of these classrooms is a result of your gifts.  More importantly though, Heidi’s memory now lives in a place she always longed to visit, happily among the children she wanted to meet.

Video of Heidi’s Classroom Dedication:

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