Journey to Island of Hope and visiting my adoptive son Cindy

It's been a year and a half since I decided to go through with my long-time dream to adopt an African child. I started to search for organizations which offer long-distance adoptions and find out what are their overall goals. That's when I discovered Center Narovinu and I had no doubt it was the right choice.

Adoption itself can change the life of an individual, but it's also important for that individual to be a part of a wellfunctioning community consisting of people who will provide the right environment and means for a person's self- realization as well as confidence in that school education is only the first step towards an adult life with all the opportunities one can hope for. The community center Island of Hope, built by Center Narovinu on Rusinga Island in Kenya, provides exactly that. The passion and skills of the members of the organization gained my trust and I started to look for an orphaned child that I could help. My adoptive son 's name is Cindy Tonny Omondy, he is now 15 years old, lives close to Kisum city, and attends the 8th grade in Ogada Primary school.

Supporting Cindy as well as my growing interest in Center Narovinu motivated me to become an
active part of the organization. Ever since childhood, I have been fascinated by the power of photography and so I decided to take photos of authentic Kenyan products and update the organization's e-shop. But soon, long-distance participation didn't satisfy me anymore. I longed to feel and experience the atmosphere of the Island and to meet people doing the amazing work there. My wish was to use the photos from my trip to organize exhibitions in selected cities of the Czech Republic and potentially raise more money in support of the organization.

I arrived at Island of Hope together with Dana Feminová on January 12th and spent 3,5 days there. The day after our arrival, a festive graduation for kindergarten children, who were about to start their first year of elementary school, took place along with some  accompanying program. It was a fast “jump” into the local culture – traditional dancing, festive clothes, pure joy and excitement.

Teaching takes place from Monday to Friday and children have single or double desks which open in order to provide space for the student's notebooks and other teaching aids. Weekends are calm, the students study, clean their rooms, wash their clothes, do crafts. On Sundays, they usually attend masses in churches located in near villages, where a lot of dancing and singing take place. The Island becomes home to the students for 3 months, then they have short holidays before the next semester starts. They use their free days to visit their relatives.

On Monday, January 16th, I left Rusinga Island and set out to visit Cindy and his family. They were really hospitable despite their poverty, and every minute of my visit, I was aware of the privilege of being born in Europe and to be able to radically influence not just one life, but the life of the whole family, which can have a chance for a better future thanks to the money I send them. Cindy also showed me his school and so I had a chance to see the place, which he writes about in his letters.

The Island of Hope is a unique project creating a well-functioning fully-fledged environment for children that need it the most. It is truly an island of hope, improving harsh living conditions of many. During my journey, I also visited a slum in Nairobi, seeing the lives of people who have not been given a better opportunity.

I am grateful to both the Czech and Kenyan office of Center Narovinu for their efforts and wonderful work, and to Dana Feminová, for keeping me company during my journey. It is beautiful to be a part of such a spectacular project. Also thank you for being interested in it.

Evelína Milfortová