THE BLOG
01/07/2013 10:36 am ET Updated Mar 09, 2013

Peanut Butter and Jelly and a Whole Bunch of Smiles

I only hope that after you read this, you will think twice then next time you eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and appreciate the fact that you can enjoy this more often than many others...

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While on my trip to the Light of Hope School in Naivasha, Kenya, all of the volunteers were sitting in the family room at Bellevue (our home for the week) relaxing in front of the fire talking after dinner one night. The conversation turned into a discussion about the food that the girls eat at the school on a daily basis -- and to be quite honest, how unappetizing the meals are as well given the fact that we were eating with them while at the school. Days at the school are on a schedule -- upon waking at 5 a.m. the girls shower, do their chores, and head to have breakfast.

Mid-morning the girls enjoy a type of pourrage -- think farina mixed with water -- very bland -- lacking any taste. Lunch usually includes potatoes mixed with rice/beans and pureed vegetables from their very own garden. Afternoon includes tea then followed by dinner which is something similar to that of lunch. We all sat around talking about the food that they should be eating... isn't mac and cheese a simple meal? What about a hotdog? How about a bowl of cereal? And finally where are the sandwiches? From what we learned is that the girls don't miss anything that they have never experienced and they have never had a sandwich in their life. Boggled my mind to think about being a child and go through my life with never having a PB&J sandwich -- so Joe and I took this concern into our own hands and decided to make sure these 68 girls experienced this all American meal...

Joe and I decided to pass on the morning activities at the school, get a car and head into the "downtown" of Naivasha. I have to admit that I was a bit uneasy about getting into a cab as well as shopping at the store for the ingredients needed for this sandwich. I mean can you imagine walking into a supermarket and getting frisked by armed security? Would never happen in my small NJ hometown or any place in the states for that matter, but this is a formality in Kenya. The goal was to buy enough peanut butter, jelly, bananas and bread to make 80 or so sandwiches. This was probably the best $40 I spent in my life...

Joe and I headed back to Bellevue and quickly worked like clockwork to get these sandwiches made in time for the girls mid-morning snack. Why stop with just PB&J? so we decided that half the sandwich will be reserved for peanut butter and bananas.

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Once created, we packages up in brown paper bags -- just like the way kids eat their school lunch on a typical day, then off we went to carry them back up to the school. Little did we know, but this was truly going to be a big day, in addition to the sandwiches, Sandy and Boni also bought "pop" (aka soda) for the girls as their treat.

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The girls were organized into their hall, waiting patiently for the reveal of the surprise... I kicked it off with a brief explanation of what PB&J means to kids in the states, closing with the surprise that we have a sandwich of each of them.

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Timid, as expected, it took a bit of time for the girls to get up and pick up their bag but soon enough the room went silent as the girls devoured their sandwiches -- flushing it down with pop...

What I didn't expect was that little Ruth (pictured below) came to me tugging on my shirt to get my attention, with tears in her eyes thanking me for making such "tasty sandwich" and that it was the best thing she has ever eaten in her life... pulls at the heart strings right?

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So next time you head to the kitchen only to find the ingredients for a sandwich or your kids complain about eating another PB&J sandwich, I only hope that you will share/think about this story and never complain again. Just like how these girls don't miss what they never experienced, they will never forget the day Joe and I introduced this sandwich to them...

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