NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 4 – Jayden, one of the children at Thindigua Heights along Kiambu Road could not understand why they are no longer being invited at the estate Sunday school teachers’ home.
“Auntie Lilian, but corona is not in our houses,” the boy innocently told Lilian Mbeere- and this was just part of the incessant questions from the dozens of the children in the estate.
You see, it has been a norm for them to visit Mbeere’s apartment within the estate, where they would sing, learn how to crochet among other activities.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic- a disease the children know little about- there was a sudden halt of a trend they cherished most and the more she explained, the more they asked questions.
But then an idea, a perfect one, stuck Mbeere’s mind.
“Because of the disease, we have not been having our Saturday meetings. Our church has been having online services and even a class for children. I wondered, why can’t I replicate that in our estate?” she thought to herself.
After engaging the parents through their estate WhatsApp group, Mbeere agreed that all the children will gather in their respective balconies but after a small assignment.
“I told them, practice the songs and I will re-do the Bible lesson, which was done at the church, then we meet at 6 pm,” she said during an interview with Capital News. “The children were so excited.”
At 6 pm on March 29, all children went out of their balconies and soft gospel melodies enveloped the expansive compound.
Residents would capture the moment with their mobile phones in what went viral on social media.
But why did she thought it wise to have a balcony to balcony interaction?
Of the measures put in place by the World Health Organisation (WHO) include social distancing, which residents of Thindigua Heights are strictly observing.
Amid the anxiety over the menace, Mbeere said she started the initiative to bring out smiles on the faces of tens of residents in her estate, by bringing them together while observing all the precautionary measures.
Besides social distancing, Kenya is implementing a dusk to dawn curfew to minimise risks of infections, having recorded four deaths and 122 infections by April 3, 2020. Four people have recovered, including Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi, who was arrested on Friday for initially defying a government directive on self-isolation. He was arrested as he left Coast General hospital where he was forcefully quarantined after days of roaming around after a trip to Germany.
Mbere is a Sunday school teacher at All Saints Cathedral and said they will be having the initiative twice a week.
A ‘simple’ gesture, she said, but one that has brought hope and joy, not only to the kids but parents as well.
“I would encourage everyone and particularly parents, to be able to teach their children. First, it is good for the child to learn from parents and in other estates where there are opportunities, it is good to share. There are many places which have better facilities than us,” the mother of one said.
Her sentiments were echoed by one of the parents Stephen Maina who said the initiative has also been used to offer Biblical teachings to the kids as well as drive out fear of a disease that has claimed more than 53,000 lives across the world. Infections have also crossed the one million mark.
A Kenya Airways pilot and a six-year-old boy are among the four fatalities in the country.
“The impact has been great. The conversations on WhatsApp, people are happy. The first video that we shot went viral,” Maina, who is also a volunteer Sunday school teacher at Mamlaka Hill Chapel in Ruaka said.
“We are all worried of our kids, for our own livelihood and for the world. This is a break from all that it is going on,” he said.
Schools are suspended countrywide, with many now resorting to online classes and interactions with teachers.
Maina, a daytime digital media professional, urged Kenyans to see a silver lining in the current menace and interact with their family members and more so the kids.
“Our kids are watching us, to see how we behave at the time of crisis. My message to Kenyans, do not be afraid,” the father of one said.
In Italy, one of the worst-hit countries in the world, people have been opening their doors and balcony doors to sing loudly with their neighbors.