Giving new purpose to youth amid desperate need

American Idol's Kris Allen, host of this year's True Spirit of Christmas tour, writes about his experiences on his first day in Nairobi, Kenya, as he travels with World Vision to see how gifts donated through our Gift Catalog help change the lives of children and families in need.

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When I go on a trip like this, I never know what to expect.

Yes, there are schedules (which usually get thrown out the window once I get there), and yes, I can always expect to be out of my comfort zone. But there are always things that will happen and people whom I will encounter who will completely blow my mind.

This trip has been no different.

Yesterday, we went to the slums of Nairobi. It was exactly what you think of when you think of a “slum.” Sandy streets. Small houses made of old tin roofing. Kids playing soccer in a sandy field with a deflated soccer ball caked in mud.

But right in the middle of all of this was a place that seemed different -- not different in its appearance, but different in the life that was emanating from the people and children there.

Zakale is the Swahili word for making new again what has been discarded. An inspiring man in the community named John wanted to use this idea to change the way teens sought purpose in their lives. He has given them options other than just being on the streets of Nairobi, including dance, art, and soccer.

We spent most of our time at the place where they make different pieces of art and jewelry from recycled materials that they have found on the street: Beautiful necklaces made of glass beads, ornaments in the shape of animals made from copper wire, earrings made of magazine covers.

They tried to teach me how to make some of the stuff, and I completely failed. The boy who was showing me kept saying that it was easy. No, it wasn’t.

Milton, 28, was the manager of this particular place, and I asked him to tell me his story.

He was a thug. His friends were thugs. They did things that were really hard for him to recount: things that brought tears to his eyes and would have to mine as well, but I was trying to keep it together.

Immediately, the tears subsided when Milton spoke of John and how he rescued him from the streets of Nairobi -- how he took him in and gave him a purpose. He has been with Zakale now for 10 years, managing and making this jewelry that people all over the world can buy.

The best part of the whole day was at the end. I wanted to get some of the jewelry as Christmas presents for my family. I picked out a particular necklace that caught my eye. I went up to Milton and asked him how much. He answered with a huge smile that I hadn’t seen from him all day.

I was wondering why he was so happy that I picked this particular one. He humbly told me that this was one that he had made himself. Out of the hundreds of necklaces that were on display, I happened to pick one that Milton had made. It seemed to make his day -- but what he probably doesn’t know is that hearing his story and getting to know him the little that I did in the couple hours we spent together made my whole trip.

And this was just the first day.

This Christmas, make a donation to World Vision's Maximum Impact Fund to help where needed most -- and receive a beautiful set of handmade Zakale wire and bead ornaments from Nairobi. It's the perfect gift for a loved one -- or you!


    And then there are still people out there wondering why Kris Allen is such an inspiration. I love how he uses his visability to help people. He has such a big heart, and gets way too little credit for it. And that's the point. He doesn't need the credit to still do it. He's a true inspiration, and I hope to become a person just like him.

    Loved your first blog Kris. Glad your first day was so inspiring! Looking forward to hearing more about the #truespiritofchristmas from you.

    Very enjoyable to read about your experiences on this trip. I also enjoyed watching John's video explaining his life and how he is using his talent and his business to help change the lives of others. Very moving.

    I love hearing your stories about your trip! They are so enlightening! This story reminds me of the bracelet that Starr gave you in LA last month, the bracelet made from recycled boxes in Haiti. You are so inspiring and I am so glad you are able to experience this and share with the world. Thank you!

    Thank you Kris, for sharing your experiences and observations to those of us who can only dream about a trip like this! Many prayers for you and your team and for all of the lives you touch.

    Hi Melissa,

    Thanks so much for your prayers and encouraging words!

    Lindsey, WV Blog Manager

    The people of Kenya, and you, are inspirations we need more of in this world. Thank you for bringing us this good news.

    so proud of you Kris, it's an eye opening experience for me, thank you for sharing this with us

    Kris, You continue to touch the hearts of everyone and give you're help. I didn't think it was possible for you to inspire me more than you have, but you just did. Reading and Keeping up with updates give me the chills, Just hearing how devastating the area is and how much it impacted you made my cry. Can't wait for the next update. You are really showing #TrueSpiritOfChristmas

    Love to read your blog about your experience there! This is an exciting adventure!

    Very powerful story. In Christ we are all new creations. He makes all things new! Keep sharing His love, mercy, and hope with these children.

    Thank you Kris for sharing your story. What a wonderful journey. The world is a better place because of people like you in it.l

    This brought tears to my eyes! Thanks Kris! I think we all should help! If we stand together we can make the World a better place! We just have to start somewhere & this is a good starting point!

    God Bless you and your trip.Praying that many will respond to your blog from there.

    Great insight, Kris. I hope you will write a book about your journeys one day!

    What a beautiful.inspiring story.I hope you continue writing about your experiences.

    @Isabeau True that.

    Now this is a blog that's worth reading! From a sweet, selfless guy going somewhere far away during the holidays to help other people. That really is the #truespiritofChristmas Love you, Kris, and I wait anxiously for more updates from Kenya!

    I've been following Kris on this journey and it's inspired me to do more to help others. I'm looking at World Visions catalog to see where I can make a small impact also. Bless you Kris and all those who give of themselves like this.

    This blog is the best thing ever! Kris, thanks for sharing your heart all the way from Kenya. ♥

    Kris, love what you do and how you share with others. Your account of the trip to Kenya is inspirational.

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