The local woman, who served as a state legislator for many years and is currently a member of the King County Council and King County Board of Health, traveled to Kenya last June with representatives from WorldCOMP.
She went at the request of her friends, Richard and Valerie Vicknair, founders of the international relief organization.
Since 1979, the couple has made over 25 trips to Kenya.
In the early days, their work was typical missionary evangelism.
This changed over the years, as they realized that the problems in the region were very complex and called for multi-dimensional and transformational thinkers who would be able to help the people find solutions to the deeply rooted social problems, health issues and economic challenges of the nation.
The couple began enlisting the support of Kenyan nationals to work with them in a collaborative process. Today, WorldCOMP acts as a catalyst to inspire, equip and train Kenyans to solve their own problems.
“It’s an amazing organization,” says Lambert. “The Vicknairs had been talking to me about it for several years and they had encouraged me to visit with them when they went over there because they wanted to get to know more people in the government. With my experience and involvement in government, they thought it would be an ideal way to make some of these important connections.”
Lambert explains that WorldCOMP works in a number of cities and rural areas in Kenya.
Its primary focus is in Nairobi, Kisumu and Kakamega, cities that are surrounded by slums where tens of thousands of people live in deplorable poverty and violence.
The organization’s projects are varied and include teaching literacy, feeding children, helping HIV/AIDS infected families, assisting widows through microfinance programs and working with juvenile offenders in rehabilitation efforts.
During her trip, Lambert was able to see firsthand the appalling conditions that are considered “normal” for so much of the population in these areas.
“It broke my heart to see the children and how they live,” she comments. “The poverty is horrible – more extreme than you can imagine. These people live so close to the edge every day. Kids die, disappear, get sick and starve because they don’t have enough food or medical care, or they become victims of violence.”
She adds, “Their living situations are so harsh. Most don’t have indoor plumbing and they are forced to share a bathroom facility that they must walk to from their homes and stand in line to use. And basically the sewers are open trenches in the middle of the slums. There are no building codes, so you know that the structures are unsafe.”
Despite the difficult conditions, Lambert was surprised to find the people to be warm, kind and caring, and always impeccably clean. She was constantly taken aback at their compassion and their generosity, and the manner in which they treated her during her stay.
She says, “They have nothing, yet they will give you everything, and they were always inquiring about my health and how I was doing.”
One of the sites Lambert visited was the Shikusa Boys Detention Center, where several hundred teens live in a work farm environment that until WorldCOMP’s involvement was more of a forced labor camp. The organization came in and helped to set up vocational training and recreational programs, as well as a school on site. The changes in the boys have been remarkable, according to Lambert, and the whole place has undergone an enormous transformation.
“These boys now have hope,” says Lambert. “They are learning skills they can use when they are released. They see that they can have a real future.”
Also on the itinerary was a trip to the village of Kimbo to officially dedicate the new Kimbo well, a joint project between WorldCOMP, the Kimbo Church and the Kimbo community. In a village without water, this well is a welcome addition and now thousands of people will have a fresh and clean water source to use on a daily basis.
A definite highlight for Lambert was a visit to one of the schools that WorldCOMP has helped to establish - the Lenana Primary School, located in the Dagoretti slums.
Education is of particular interest to the local woman, as she used to be an elementary teacher in the Monroe School District.
At the school, she spent her time reading to the children and helped to organize the library, as well as worked with some of the teachers, sharing a few teaching tricks they could use with their students.
“I donated over 300 hundred of my own books that I had used when I taught school,” says Lambert. “I had kept them in my garage all these years, knowing that someday I would find the perfect place for them. When I delivered them to Lenana, everyone was overjoyed and it brought me to tears. They viewed the books like they were gold.”
Lambert developed a connection with the school and plans to return there next summer to continue teaching the teachers instructional techniques.
In the meantime, she wants to raise money to help give the 350 children at Lenana two meals a day.
Currently, they receive only one meal, lunch, which consists of beans and a banana.
“These kids are so hungry,” explains Lambert. “They go to the school on Saturdays just to get fed. I’d like to be able to raise enough money, at least $12,600, which would be enough for all of them for one year to get breakfast plus some other staple, like rice, added to their lunches.”
In this vein, Lambert, along with Woodinville resident Lucy DeYoung, is holding a fundraiser to bring awareness of the plight of these children to the public.
“I’m going to show slides of my trip,” comments Lambert, “so people can see what the situation is like over there and if they want to get involved on an international level, WorldCOMP is a great organization to support. The money donated goes directly to the people in need and not to the government. She adds, “I know we have needs in our own country, but I think it’s important to note that here in the U.S. every kid gets the opportunity to go to school. Over there, that’s not the case. What it really comes down to is the fact that people can’t move forward without food and education. I take heart in knowing that what I am doing to help this organization is having a real impact and working to make a difference in people’s lives.”
What: Fundraiser to help feed children at the Lenana Primary School in Kenya
When: October 14, 5-8 p.m. and October 15, 3-5 p.m.
Where: Woodinville Heritage Museum (14121 NE 171st Street)
For more information: (425) 861-7725 or (425) 408-1820
Contributions can be mailed to: P.O. Box 1138, Woodinville, WA 98072-1138.