Reflections on Our Gatato Visit in July of 2018

Dear Friends of Gatato,

I would love to share my family’s story about our visit to Gatato this past July. My husband
Ken and I met Betty Nyagoha when she came to California in 2016 on a fundraising trip. We
were inspired by her talk about the Gatato school. I spoke with Betty afterward and told her
that our family had our hearts set on a trip to Africa. She warmly invited us to visit her at her
school and two years later we made this trip a reality. I reached out to Betty to see if there was
any way we could visit Gatato on our one free morning in Nairobi. Little did we know what a
transformational day it would become.

The word that comes to mind when thinking about that visit is joy. There was a joy in the
children that was palpable. It was as if when they smiled, the smile came pulsing from every
cell in their bodies. They spent the morning smiling, dancing and singing for us that day. The
joyous moods that we witnessed were contagious.

We were thoroughly overwhelmed by a massive allee of singers when we arrived. As we walked
through this sea of singing children, we could see clear to the end where Betty and her staff
awaited us. I struggled to keep the tears at bay as we walked through the hundreds of
children. I have never been treated like a rock star before but I’m pretty sure this is what it
feels like.

We were treated like royalty once again when we sat in the front row of their assembly room
and were regaled by the children practicing their songs that they soon would be performing at
the Nairobi singing competition. They were all so proud. Their eyes held sparkle and promise
and their spirits were so alive. What I believe we were witnessing was pure happiness. I can
not emphasize that this happiness was not seen in just a few of the children but in all of the

We toured their village and ran amok with them at lunch and recess in the play yard until it was
time for our departure. My teenage boys (ages 18,16 &14) were mesmerized by the excitement
of it all. Their hands were red from the hundreds of high fives they had received. Their faces
were beaming like I have not seen in quite some time. I heard my husband’s voice crack with
emotion as he addressed the children and explained a little about our family and why we had
come for a visit that day. It was obvious that it was not only I that was emotionally moved that
day. We had all been affected and were deeply moved by the joy that we were surrounded

As the vehicle that we traveled in was departing for the day, I saw the backs of my sons and
their hands pressed to the windows in a forever wave. The Gatato children ran after the bus,
still smiling, shouting their goodbyes and waving to us. The gates closed behind our vehicle
and the sound of the voices dissipated and silence overtook the car. We were all very quiet as
the events of the morning saturated our brains. We were trying to process all that we had

The burning question that I kept asking myself is how can those who are so disadvantaged and
are facing such adversity on a daily basis be so happy. I think back to Betty’s life story and
how she has overcome so much strife and yet she continues to inspire. She has given these
children an opportunity to be educated and think and reach beyond what they see every day in
their village. She inspires the children intellectually as well as provides the essential necessities
for them to be safe and for their bodies to be nourished. Perhaps being allowed to reach for
something beyond those everyday challenges is the secret sauce. Is it as simple as that? I’m
not sure. But I do know that those beautiful memories of a few shared hours spent at Gatato
will surely last a lifetime for my family. It will keep us wondering how the children with so little
were seemingly filled with so much happiness and were able to pass that feeling along to us –
perfect strangers.

So thank you, Betty. Thank you Gatato teachers. And mostly thank you, children, for filling our
hearts with joy that day. It’s hard to describe in words how we felt but our hearts were full and
we are forever grateful to have experienced the love of that fine day back in July. It’s of no
surprise to me when friends ask my the boys what their favorite part about our Africa travels
was, they all say their visit to Gatato. It’s a very special place. If you are thinking about a visit
to Nairobi, I would suggest that Gatato make the top of the list for places of interest. I can’t
promise that it will change your life, but it will definitely change your outlook.

Nancy Scanlon