DRAPER — Just one day after President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the Nairobi siege over, three brothers — Reid, Brian and Bradford Anderson — left the comforts of home in Utah and flew to Kenya.
They spent about three weeks serving the Kenyan people, focusing their time in the coastal area of Mombasa.
“It really just helped me recognize the opportunities and blessings we’ve been given here and then to use those to help others,” said Brian Anderson, 24. “We’ve been given so much.”
Reid Anderson, 27, was the impetus behind the service trip from Sept. 25 to Oct. 15. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kenya and Tanzania in 2005 to 2007 and said he gained a sincere love for the African people.
He has since returned to East Africa twice — once with his wife and the most recent trip with two of his brothers.
Most of the money for the trip was raised through a smoothie business that Reid and Bradford Anderson, 17, ran out of a trailer at carnivals and community events.
Reid Anderson said he got the idea for More Than Mangos from an experience on his mission when he gave mango juice to children at a party.
“One of the kids ended up spilling his," he said, "and before I could even make it over there to refill his, the other three boys had each reached over and poured a little bit of their cup into his. The idea is that if we all give a little, then none of us have to go without and ultimately we can focus on the sweet things in life.”
The Anderson brothers stayed with former LDS branch president Robert Nyabola and three of his children in Utange, a large village of mud homes.
Reid Anderson said Nyabola is the real hero because he’s turned part of his house into a school for about 100 elementary-age students — whether then can pay or not — and an orphanage for a dozen or so children.
“They had very little," Brian Anderson said, "but everything that they had they were willing to give away to us and to people they were just trying to help around the village."
A big rainstorm flooded a section of the school when the Anderson brothers arrived, so they rebuilt a classroom with help from locals they hired and created a drainage system to prevent future flooding.
“It amazes me that you can be sitting in class, having rain pelt on top of a tin roof so you can’t even hear anything that the teacher is even saying, and you’re ankle-deep in water,” Reid Anderson said.
The brothers from Draper worked sunup to sundown, they said, “roasting” in the heat and humidity. They painted the school and cleaned the courtyard so the kids could play there.
Nyabola teaches the schoolchildren a computer class, but all they have is a couple of unplugged keyboards. The Anderson brothers donated a laptop to the school and taught the teachers basic computer skills.
The brothers also brought toys, clothes and school supplies to give the children, with whom they read, sang, danced and played soccer.
Brian Anderson said it was a sweet experience to hand out the wooden toy cars and see how thrilled the kids were to play with the cars in the dirt.
“That toy drive was where I didn’t know what to write (in my journal), because all we did was hand out toys, but it was so overwhelming to me,” Bradford Anderson said. “That was the part that really stuck out. The pictures don’t show it as much as if you were really there, but they were full of happiness and so much gratitude.”
Reid Anderson said life is simple in East Africa. The people there care about their cattle, their family and their god. They don’t have much, but for them “maisha ni tamu” — Swahili for “life is sweet.”
Each brother said he came away from the experience with a greater appreciation for what he has and an increased desire to serve.
“These kids, for lunch, they would all share the same cup out of the same bucket of water,” Brian Anderson said. “I really wish I was capable of helping on a larger scale and having more funding so that we can do bigger projects, maybe a water project to get fresh, clean water into their village so they don’t have to truck it in.”
Brian Anderson said he’s set new goals with his adjusted perspective. He wants to take advantage of his education and be successful enough in a career so he can do similar projects in his community and around the world.
“There’s always going to be heartache out there, but we can choose to focus on the positive stories,” Reid Anderson said. “They really have very little, and they’re more happy and more content than any of us are. It’s very inspiring, and it’s very humbling to be over there.”
Bradford Anderson, a senior in high school, said he also was humbled and had his eyes opened during the trip.
“In the future, I want to do something like what Reid’s doing and keep going back to help people,” he said. “I can’t wait until we go again.”