Sunday, December 16, 2012

It is almost Christmas! I finally feel more in the Christmas spirit because everywhere is decorated now and I watched Elf.  There are many more movies that I would kill to watch- A Christmas Story, Muppet Christmas Carol, Christmas name a few.

 Birthday decorations and boys peeling potatoes for the stew.
Anyways last Wednesday was a Jamhuri Day, which is a national holiday similar to our independence day.  It was also my dear friend Gibson's birthday and 12.12.12, which is cool. Gibson is one of the boys that lives at Tumaini.  He is a remarkable young man and he does so much to take care of his younger brothers at the home so we all wanted to do something special for him.  The boys planned a party for him and I just helped facilitate it.  He had no idea.  The boys invited all of their friends and the decorated.  We cooked all morning.  We had rice, chapati, and beef stew.  Tony (one of the young adults from BTCKE) brought his computer over so there would be music.  Gibson was shocked when he got there.  I think there were over 30 people at the home and everyone had a great day.  Unfortunately my camera died half way through the day so I do not have pictures of the fun traditions that happened at night.  I will tell you about them though.  After we ate and hung out we all went into the sitting room where the music was and people gave speeches about Gibson.  It was sweet. Then they played a game where he had to stand in the middle and people could ask him ANYTHING and he had to answer. Then he had to dance ALONE for everyone.  Then when it was time to cut the cake he had to pick a girl to help him blow out the candles and then another one to help him cut it.  I had bought him trick candles so I was glad when he did not pick me for that part, but he did pick me to help him cut the cake.  After we cut the cake he had to feed me a piece. It was a little like a wedding. The final tradition was that they had to "wash" him, meaning throw water on him when he least expects it.  It was like a coach getting the cooler dumped on him after he wins a football game.  Now that I know about all of these traditions I think I will keep my birthday a secret :)
The birthday boy (middle) with Jacob and Tony (2 of the young adults that work with Tumaini).

On Friday night I took all of the older boys that once lived on the street to see a free screening of Nairobi Half Life.  The movie is really good. It is Kenya's entry into the Oscar nominations.  The boys had a great time. I have been wanting them to see it because it is about the street life of Nairobi.  On the way home we stopped at a local reataurant/pub type place in Rongai and got some nyama choma (meat) and ugali.  We did not reach home until about 1AM.  Due to Africa time the movie started at least 2 hours late, but that was ok because the boys were an hour late getting to my house so naturally it all worked out fine.
Me with all of the boys at the movie screening.

Today Mike and Leslie invited me to Pangani Lutheran Children's Center (PLCC), which is a home for girls in Rongai.  Mike gave the sermon at the confirmation and baptismal service that was held there today.  It was a really sweet service.  Five girls were baptized and 3 were confirmed.  The home is beautiful and it was a fun celebration. 
Confirmation service at PLCC.

Some of the girls dancing and singing at the service.

The PLCC home.

In other news since  have last blogged. Sarah and Natalie have been back in the states.  I had some people over for dinner one night.  We made ugali and fish.  The fish we bought at an unmarked fish place which they fried for us in the street right outside.  It was delicious.  I have had a car which has been great because the day I got to start using it all matatus went on strike because of the new traffic laws.  They are back working now, but it was a hard 4 days for people because no one could get anywhere.

Mike and Leslie's daughter comes to visit next week so I will get to spend some time with her before I leave for South Africa on Friday! I am guessing it will be 2013 before I blog again so everyone have a great holiday season! Thanks again for your love and support.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Asante Sana

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. It was my first time away from my family for the holiday. I can't lie it started out pretty rough. Traditions are really important to me and there is just a feeling that comes with watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, smelling the pecan pie baking in the oven, and getting ready to go running with my mom each year that I love and it is just not the same here.  I had a couple of meetings in the morning which were both great. I met with one of the young adults, Lydiah, to get feedback about our programs as we prepare for next year and then I met with Isaya, director of Nyumba Ya Tumaini.  Both meetings made me realize how lucky I am to be here in Kenya doing what I am doing.  When I woke up I was sad, which I am not discrediting because I think it is normal to miss my family, but by 10:15 AM (fifteen minutes into meeting number one) I realized there was much more to be happy about and thankful for this year than I even had last year.  Not only do I still have loving family and friends living back in the US, but now I have an incredible group of people here in Kenya and all over the world through YASC that love and support me as I get to be a part of what God is doing in Kenya.  I had to take a moment and say, "asante sana Mungu." That means "thank you very much God."  

Some high lights from last week were going to a water park, taking some of the kids to church, eating Korean food, and I got my hair cut.

Entering Splash. That red slide was fast!
For our end of the year celebration we went to Splash Water Park.  Splash donated all of the entrance fees for our team, the young adults, and the directors.  We spent the afternoon swimming, going down water slides, watching football, and playing pool.  I think everyone had a great time.  For those of you from the US and have ever been to a water park there, Splash was a kids dream and a parents nightmare.  Think of your experience and then remove all of the rules.  We could run and go down the slides 6 people at a time and no one said anything.  I am not advocating for no rules, but admittedly I loved the freedom.
Some of the young adults watching the football match

This is Adrian, the son of one of the local professionals we work with.

Water slides.

Some of the young adults playing pool.

On Sunday I was able to take 4 boys from Nyumba Ya Tumaini to church with me. We had fun, they helped me figure out public transportation all the way there. It requires three matatus so it is quite a journey.  Then on Monday night Natalie went back to the US for about 6 weeks so we went to a Korean restaurant called Big Mama's for her goodbye dinner.  The food was delicious. I call my mom big mama so I will have to take her there when she comes to visit.  In the coming weeks I will be visiting new organizations to learn more about child poverty in the community.  We want to meet more people passionate about it and learn what is being done about it.

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving where ever you are in the world.  Christmas music is officially all I will be listening to.  Once again I am thankful for all of you and for this adventure I am on right now.  Asante sana!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Langata Women's Prison

Me with Vickie, Maya, and Purity outside the prison.
On Monday I went to visit Langata Women's Prison with my friend Vickie and some of her colleagues.  In one of my earlier posts I talked about Nafisika Trust, which is the organization that Vickie started.  She spoke at one of our Tatua Talks about her work in the prisons in Nairobi.  Langata Women's Prison (LWP) is the only all women's prison in Nairobi.  Currently they have over 800 inmates! It is a big compound, but that is a lot of people to house.  LWP is comprised of a reprimand center for short sentences and those awaiting trial or sentencing, a medium security section for slightly longer sentences, and then maximum security for what we would consider federal offenses and long term sentences.  In my course of study at university I took a forensic social work class which deals with social work within the legal system and ever since then I have been interested in working in prisons.  I am a firm believer in rehabilitation programs to prevent recidivism.  Unfortunately there are not always programs because of lack of funding and other resources.
The entrance to the reprimand center.

The main reason we went to visit LWP, though, was to talk to the welfare officer about the effect living there has on the children of the inmates.  Children are allowed to stay there with their mothers until they are 4 years old.  If the mother is still in prison once the child turns 4 then the child is sent to a children's home until the mother is discharged.  Right now they are only working with one home.  Right now there are over 80 children living in the prison with their mothers.  More common that you would think, children are born there! Can you imagine? There are many children that are born in a prison and that is what they know as home.  Children are too often the innocent victims of circumstances.  I have seen that so much here in Kenya, but I know it is true world wide as well.

Nursery school.
 Some good things that I learned from talking to the welfare officer are that the children get to go to nursery school with the children of the prison staff in the compound, they are building a beautiful new day care facility, and the older children are in a home with kids from all different backgrounds.  They also said they work with the mothers to prepare them for reintegration with their children when they are discharged and they have visitation days 3 times a year.

                                                                             New day care center.

There are still things that can be done to improve life for these children.  Vickie has not really worked with this aspect of prison life before so I am excited about getting involved.  We want to start working on a program for the children that would get them outside the prison walls.  It breaks my heart that because of bad choices their mothers made they are living locked up.  Our goal is to start small and have some sort of field trip planned for them early next year.  We will start looking for resources to make this a reality so if you are interested in helping with any kind of donation please send me an email and let me know. The children also do not have access to a completely nutritious diet.  Right now they are basically surviving on porridge.  If you would like to donate to getting them fruits and vegetables you can let me know that too.

Some of the children in the nursery school.

I am hoping to visit the other prisons that Nafisika Trust works with soon.  As I have mentioned before they are doing some incredible work and I am so encouraged by Vickie's patience and love. The visit was a great way to start my week.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Maji Sana!

As I have mentioned numerous times in past posts everyday is different and offers a new challenge or surprise.  This lovely Saturday morning Natalie and I woke up to standing water coming from the bathroom, down the hall way, and even under the wall into my room! It was a shock when I tried to get out of bed and my comforter that I had kicked part way off made a sloshing sound when I moved it.  That was at approximately 6:15AM.  Natalie and I spent the next hour or so using every towel in the house to soak up and ring water out into buckets.  You know you are in Kenya when instead of worrying about what may be ruined by the water you are worrying about how much water is being wasted.  I think Natalie and I were both more upset by the incredible amount of water that wasted.  There are so many days when we do not have water and of course, on the night that our toilet is leaking water comes pouring into the house.

Water has been a common theme in my past couple of weeks.  The short rainy season has definitely started.  It literally rains everyday at least for a little while.  Maji sana, the title of this post, means a lot of water in Swahili.  It makes life very very muddy.  It also makes everything greener so I am really ok with it right now.  Ask me next year when the long rains come and I may have a different attitude.

Last week was fairly quiet in terms of work.  The election was a pretty big deal here, not just for Americans, but even Kenyans.  I went over the Mike and Leslie's to watch the election coverage.  It was "Terrific Tuesday" at Pizza Inn so we brought in pizza and just sat in front of the TV.  It was something I had not done in a good while, but was a very simple, much needed taste of home.  Kenya is probably be the second best place to the US to celebrate the Obama victory.  In fact our staff meeting was cancelled on Wednesday and we all rested a little bit.  In the office we even had some "Pure Heaven Celebration Juice" to celebrate.  A.k.a- sparkling grape juice.  I got to play some football this week which I think was good for my soul.  I never realized how much I missed it. Unfortunately I am no where near as fast as the boys at Tumaini.  I will do some sprint work outs and I should probably so something about my footwork as well.

This coming week is the last week Natalie is here before she heads home for about a month.  I will miss her for sure, but I am excited for her to get to go back and spend time with family and friends.  This week is full of meetings with people to get feedback about the program so we can make the necessary changes before we start everything up again.  Next Saturday we are having an end of the year celebration at this place called Splash, which is like a water park.  I will be sure to take pictures and tell you all about the experience.  Since this is just a brief update, there may be another post to come this week if I am feeling ambitious.

I will take one moment to be excited about UGA going to the SEC Championship!!! Go DAWGS!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chameleons, Double Bananas, and Rainbows

Isaya, me, and mr. chameleon. He was cool but I did not want him.
First I will share some highlights from the past week then I will share about a specific I went to all day yesterday.  There was the time I went running with one of the young adults, don't worry he was only 4 minutes faster than me and he never runs.  Then there was the Bollywood movie I saw with Mike and Leslie, talk about something that makes you want to get up and dance.  We had a visitor here from Canada for a few days too and that was fun. Her name is Mary and she was here to see one of her best friends get married.  I took her around to see some of the homes we work with and we went out for pizza one night.  During one visit at Nyumba Ya Tumaini some nice ladies brought a chameleon over and explained that it has medicinal values and wanted us to buy it from them.  Now, I am not saying that it is not possible for it to have medicinal value, but I am pretty sure they found it in the bush then wanted to sell it to us.  I only say that because the next day I found out they released it back into the bush.  Also there was the time we took turns pushing each other on  broken wheelbarrow.  Mary and I went and visited Dreams Children's Home one day too.  If you remember earlier this year I wrote about a little boy named Ryan who has stomach cancer.  He was improving for awhile, but currently he is not doing well. His body is not responding to chemo.  He was in the hospital when we were there, but was supposed to be back today so when I find out how he is I will let y'all know, but please please be praying for him.  I also went to Ngong Town this week to see the District Children's Office and on the way back stopped at a fun little restaurant to get my first fish and ugali since I have been here.  It was delicious and we ate it all with our hands.  My mom would be so proud. I will make sure she gets to experience that when she comes.  Isaya, the director at Tumaini, eats two boiled eggs with kachumbari(onions, tomatoes, and chilies)  and salt everyday and it is the same man that brings and prepares them everyday.  This week I got to try that delicacy as well.  One last food thing- I saw a double banana this week!
Mary pushing Charles on the broken wheelbarrow.
Ngong Town where the District Office is.
The egg man who comes every evening to Tumaini.
Double banana!
George, Edwin, Gibson, Dominic when we finally arrived.
Now about yesterday I went on an all day excursion out to a town called Kibwezi.  It really is almost to Mombasa. It is a far distance.  Two of the boys from Nyumba Ya Tumaini go to Darajani Secondary School out there.  One of them, Dominic, is a candidate this year for the Kenyan Certificate of Secondary Education and their exams begin this week.  It is a really big deal and each school hosts prayer services and parent visitation days for the candidates.  Yesterday was the one at Darajani.  They invited me to come and support and pray with them.  It was an honor.  Two of the other boys at Tumaini started our journey out there really early and we did not get back until close to 11PM.  It was a great day.  First there was the service and true to African form it was incredibly long.  We did not get there until about 12:30PM and it started at 10AM and did not finish until about 3PM.  During the service the teachers spoke, some of the students performed dramas, and then a student from each class stood up to say words of encouragement to the candidates.  It ended with a time of prayer from the candidates and their parents which I got to be a part of and it was really special.  After the service the boys showed us around the school, introduced me to their classmates, and I got to speak with some of the teachers about the challenges they face out there.  It is a dry place and there is a lot of poverty.  Imagine we drove 4 hours down Mombasa Road and then another hour on a dirt road heading to interior Kenya.  The drive was absolutely gorgeous.  Kenya is a beautiful country.  While we were there I found out that Dominic is a captain of the school basketball team, which won their county, and that Kariss (other boy from Tumaini) is the assistant captain of the school football team.  I loved getting to meet their friends and see them in their element.  I was exhausted by the time we left, though.

Me with some of the students outside the dining hall.

Those buildings are where the classes are.

One of the Form 3 classrooms.

The Darajani basketball team and their coach.

We saw a rainbow on our drive home.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Who Knew a Triangle Could be so Profound?

Last Sunday we had our monthly training for the young adults.  It was the first time I got to really be a part of it and I had a great time.  The young adults we get to work with are absolutely amazing individuals.  They are just so much fun to be around.  The goal of the afternoon was to re energize them and just get them excited about the incredible work they are doing.  A guy named Dennis came to do team building games, but first we had a speaker named Martin come and talk about ethical leadership.  The young adults loved him because he was funny and engaging.  One thing he talked about was integrity.  He drew a triangle on the board and at the three points he wrote "what we say," "what we do," and "what we believe."  Then he wrote integrity in the middle.  Basically what he was saying was that we live a life of integrity when we live in a place where those three ideas all meet.  I loved that visual and I found there to be a lot of truth in it.

Yesterday we had our weekly staff meeting and we always open with some sort of thought provoking quote or activity as I have mentioned before.  This month we are discussing a passage in a book called The Ragamuffin Gospel.

"We each have a dream, a vision of life that corresponds to our convictions, embodies our uniqueness, and expresses what is life-giving within us.  Whether altruistic or ignoble, the dream gives definition to our lives, influences the decisions we make, the steps we take, and the words we speak. Daily we make choices that are either consistent with or contrary to our vision.  A life of integrity is born of fidelity to the dream."

There is a whole lot in this passage and we will be discussing it all month, which is great.  It really makes me think about what my dream and vision in life is and how I am living in it each day.  I believe it is something worth thinking about and defining for myself.  I guess I have always defined integrity as living your life in a way as to not do anything you would not want your mom to see. I still believe that, but now it goes so much deeper.  I want to live my life true to who God created me to be and embrace the vision and dreams I believe He has given me.  At the risk of becoming vulnerable with y'all I will admit it is easy to think who will really know if I do this or that, but the truth is God does know.  In Luke chapter 8, verse 17 it says, "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open."  Living here in Kenya has helped me see how important it is to live honestly even when it is so hard because so much dishonesty is surrounding you.  This month I plan to take time to define the dream and vision God has called me to and focus on living my life in the middle of the triangle where "what I say," "what I do," and "what I believe" all meet.

Sorry no pictures this time just my thoughts, but don't worry there will be some soon!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tatua Kenya

Last weekend we officially launched Tatua Kenya.  Be The Change- Kenya is an initiative of an umbrella organization of Tatua Kenya, which is the actual NGO.  We hosted a Nyama Choma at the home/office.  The turn out was great.  There were people here from the community and the organizations we work with.  It was fun just to gather and fellowship without the agenda of fundraising.
Rose (one of the young adults) and I manned the registration table. 
I have been working hard on my Swahili.  The boys at Tumaini have been helping me so I have spent  a lot of time over there.
Tete, he is a neighbor of Tumaini and comes over for lunch each day.

Peter, the boys decided they want to have a car making competition.
Also Sam McDonald from the church office in New York was here a couple of weeks ago and Natalie and I got to spend a day with him and show him around Rongai and Nairobi. We got to take him to see 3 of our projects.  We had a great time! He is on his way back to the US now.
Sam with one of the children at Dream's Children's Home
More updates to come later this week. Happy weekend!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -Harold R. McAlindon

We discussed this quote a week ago at our staff meeting and I have been thinking about it all week in what I have been doing.  This quote describes BTCKE's work well right now.  Community development and ground up change are new and each time we do something we enter uncharted territory, but I believe as we go we are learning and leaving marks to reveal how we have arrived where we are.  It is exciting and there is solidarity found here, knowing we are not the only ones creating a new path, but other people are out there experiencing challenges and overcoming them together at the same time.

Gibson and Chariss getting ice cream after our flower search.
This past week was spent in preparation for a retreat we had on Saturday for the directors of our partner organizations and the young adult team coordinators and even some of the local advisory network members.  It was a long, full, and productive day.  One of my jobs through out the week was some of the logistics around getting the house ready and the materials ready.  I had the lovely idea of getting fresh flowers to just pretty up the house, so on Friday I took two of the boys from Tumaini into Rongai with me so they could help me buy them and I kid you not, we walked around for at least 3 hours and did not find ANY fresh flowers.  If I had wanted fake flowers we would have been golden, but fresh flowers just did not exist.  Hakuna maua Rongai. (There are no flowers in Rongai.) So after 3 hours of walking I bought them some ice cream and we called it a day.  Overall it was great time that I got to spend with them and meet some of their friends that live in Rongai.

The retreat started Saturday morning at 9AM so naturally everyone arrived at about 10AM.  The goal was to strengthen the relationship between the young adults and the directors of the organizations.  There has been some disconnect between the 2 program areas over the past few months.  I would say it was successful and communication was improved and action plans to finish out the year were created.  It is so fun to have so many incredible people in the same room working towards something together.

Mike and Leslie at the installation, yes that is tinsel around their necks.
After the long day Saturday I got to take Sunday and Monday off which was nice.  Sunday was Mike's installation at church.  It was quite the service, a little long, but it was fun.  Monday I spent time with my friend Vickie who started a prison ministry here called Nafisika Trust.  She is seriously one of the most courageous people I have ever met and I would encourage you all to read more about her work.  I am so thankful for her passion and the conversation we got to have because working here is hard.  Just like I mentioned earlier new challenges arise everyday and sometimes they seem much too big.  Honestly, they are too big.  At least they are too big for me or Vickie or anyone else by themselves, but we are not by ourselves, and I say "phew!" to that.  Kuwa na wiki njema, asante kwa kusoma! (Have a good week, thanks for reading!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Amazing Grace

George outside their home.
Today I finally got to go and experience another organization we are working with called Amazing Grace Ministries.  It was founded by a husband and wife, George and Beatrice.  They truly have a heart for serving their community.  Amazing Grace works with families in their local community that are struggling to provide for their children or need counseling and parenting skills.  I have had the opportunity to meet with George and Beatrice a few times since I have been here, but today was the first time I got to see what they are doing on the ground and meet the people they are working with.  They live in a place called Santack Estates and it is right next door to a village/slum area called Ngando.  The families they work with all live in Ngando.

Clifford. His hand and knee are bandaged from the burns.
When I arrived at their house George greeted me and told me they actually had a boy there who was an emergency rescue case.  His name is Clifford and he is 6 years old.  George and Beatrice were called by the District Children's Office a few nights before because neighbors had reported Clifford being abused.  When something like that happens the police will take the abuser into custody and remove the child from the home until they can go to court.  George and Beatrice provide a temporary place for the child until they can be moved to a children's home and then with time and counseling for the parents hopefully the child can return home.  George and Beatrice provide the counseling for the mother and father.  Clifford was badly burned with a spoon by his mother and was about to leave for the hospital to get new dressings applied to his wounds when I arrived.  He did not speak much English, but we were able to communicate a little and spend some time together.  There are many cases like Clifford and the social worker that was there to take Clifford to the hospital also told me there are many rape cases of young girls in the community too.  Those are the main issues they deal with at the rescue center she works for.  Please pray for Clifford and his family.  As I get more information I will include updates.

Frederick and me in Ngando.

After Clifford left we headed into Ngando and
met up with Frederick, one of the mentors who works with some of the families.  He took us into the village and showed us an informal school and introduced me to 3 of the 20 families Amazing Grace is currently working with.  (Informal schools are schools that are not recognized by the government, but exist to get children who can't afford to be in school off of the streets and learning. Even though they are not recognized, the government will not shut them down because they do not want to deal with the children when they do not have a place to go.)  The first family was a grandmother named Pauline who is taking care of her 7 grandchildren.  They lived in a small rental room that is next door to an informal school called Brosis Integrated School, where brothers and sisters can learn together, hence the name.  Next we went to see a family with 6 children living right next to the railroad tracks.  Unfortunately the mother was not there because she was out looking for some work for the day.  The last family we met was a sweet family that was displaced from their home during the post election, tribalism violence.  Mama Lucy, her husband, and their 7 kids live in a tiny room.  Their oldest child is in class 7 and they have one little girl who is deaf.  Beatrice told me the first time she went to visit them,  they hadn't eaten in 2 days so all of the kids were just laying on the bed.  She said those are things you just cannot sleep on so she immediately went to get them food from her house.  They seemed to be cheerful today.  Only four of the kids were around, but they welcomed us warmly.

Beatrice(middle) and me with Mama Lucy(left) and her family.
Anita is another mama that Amazing Grace works with.  She was not at home today because she was at the hospital.  Anita has 6 children and is HIV positive and suffering from breast cancer.  She wants to move back out to her home in the country because she has a plot of land there and if she just had the money she could build a small house for her family.  She worries every night that she will go to sleep and not wake up and then her children will have no where to go.  George and Beatrice are working with her to make that move happen as soon as possible because right now she is stable enough to make the journey.  Once they are moved out there her children will be taken care of by other family members if anything were to happen to Anita.  Please pray for Anita and her children.
Looking out over Ngando.

This is long and it is not even all that happened in the short time I visited Ngando today.  Amazing Grace has great mentors in the community that are advocating for all of these families and more.  They are working on getting all of the children in school and coming up with income generating projects to stabilize each family economically.  Frederick discussed many of the challenges they face, but he continued to stress that they will not give up and do whatever they can to encourage and give each family hope. I am amazed by people I meet everyday here.  Their strength and love for their communities is incredible.  Thank you for reading, I will try not to be so long next time.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Kitengela Visit

Last week went by so fast. Tuesday I went out to visit a well run children's home in Kitengela, which in theory is not that far from Rongai, but there are no roads to connect them so I had to go into town (when I say town, I am referring to Nairobi) and back out to get there.  I actually drove into town, which was not as terrifying as I thought it would be.  Natalie was really patient with me and calm which helped me a good deal.  She just kept telling me there are just more variables here and that is true, but it is the extra variables combined with keeping left that make it hard.  The traffic circles are the craziest part because I am pretty certain there are no rules once you enter, it is every car for themselves!  We survived and I am not traumatized so I call it a success.

Reuben with the sign outside the home in Kitengela.
The home I went and visited was called Kenya's Kids.  I went with my friend Reuben.  He grew up in the home and is now in University in Nairobi.  Before I tell you more about him, I will give you a snap shot of this home.  Currently 58 kids live there, 28 boys and 30 girls.  The dorms were in perfect order and very clean.  The home is run by the Assemblies of God church in Kenya.  They have a big dining hall where all of the kids eat together and assemble.  They run on a bell system and all of the kids know what each bell means and they all know to obey them.  The home sits on 5 acres of land.  It has a huge garden, cows for milk, a bio gas system so they never have to buy gas, many pigs that they eat and sell, and staff housing for all 10 full time staff members.  Also they have a chicken farm down the road and a rental flat in Kitengela that provides them with income.  Of course, there is always a need for more funding, not because they cannot sustain themselves, but because they want to be able to take in more kids.  Now Reuben is one of their success stories because he came from living on the streets and in and out of homes all over and is now in University studying business.

The main building of the home where the dining hall and offices are located.
      The boys dorm.  It was very clean and organized.
Unfortunately there are some challenges that I am learning about through Reuben that I do not think people are usually aware of when they think about how children's homes help.  After touring the home, we walked back into Kitengela and met some of the boys Reuben grew up with on the streets and then at Kenya's Kids.  These boys are educated through secondary school, but do not have money now to go to university and because the unemployment rate is so high in Kenya (about 40% according to CIA World Factbook) these boys cannot find sustainable work.  They are living the "hustler's" life.  When they said that my mind immediately went to something negative, but I have learned that here that means they are just living day to day doing odd jobs here and there.  In other words the poverty they were facing as children has just been moved from to their adult lives.  Reuben is working to start some sort of cooperative or organization designed to help people like his friends that are in this situation.
Me with Reuben's friends Jack, John and Samuel.
I learn about new challenges and the lack of infrastructure here everyday, but I am also meeting so many people ready and willing to change their communities.  The children were all supposed to go back to school last Monday, but the teachers are all on strike so that has not happened yet.  This is the last term before the national exams so it is an important time for the children so pray that the government and the teachers can come to an agreement quickly.

The rest of the week I just worked and had meetings.  Friday I went back to Tumaini to make more chapati and hang out with the boys.  One of the boys had to have a tooth extracted on Wednesday and it got infected so I went with Isaya and Mwende (the boy) back to the dental clinic.  It was nothing like a dental clinic in the US so that was an interesting experience.  We waited for a long time just so he could walk in the room for about a minute to get a prescription for some antibiotics.  We picked them up from the chemist (pharmacy) and they just placed the pills in a little envelope and sent us on our way.  As far as I know he is feeling better and the swelling has gone down.  I ended the week with Mike and Leslie again.  We went to a fun local restaurant called The Tankard where I tried choma (roasted) goat for the first time! I enjoyed it.
Our chef at The Tankard preparing our choma goat.
Again the Bulldogs won this past weekend.  I do miss watching college football, but I am happy to know my team is doing well.  I hope everyone has a good rest of the week. Kwaheri! (goodbye)

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Really Live and Work in Kenya

A month.  I have been here for a month.  As I enter September and think back over August I am astounded by everything that has happened.  My comfort level here in Kenya is growing daily and that became apparent to me this past week.  I spent a lot of time this past week in the office working.  Sitting at a computer for a long time during the day is a challenge for me, but I felt my time in front of a screen this week was exceptionally productive.  Then I got a break on Wednesday because there was a group from  the US here.  Natalie and I got to take them to visit Nyumba Ya Tumaini and Kware Christian Women Works of Charity so they could learn more about the work we do.  It was a crazy realization for me that I really live here and for the first time I am not a tourist and being led around the country.  At the same time it was really nice to be in a group that I could really relate to for a day.
Boys at Tumaini eating breakfast before they played games with the group for the US.

Team from the US learning from the young adults at Tumaini about what BTCKE is doing.
Friday I went to a football match at Nyumba Ya Tumaini.  And by football I mean soccer.  The young adult team organized the match between a youth group from the church that some of the boys attend and the team from the home.  The youth group also came with a music system for a dance party post match.  They brought donations of food and clothing as well.  Unfortunately it rained that night, but that did not stop the fun.  In fact everyone crammed into the space where the boys usually cook and we played games and danced for hours.  Funny thing- there is no electrical outlet in the space, which you may think would have been an issue, but not in Kenya.  You see there is wiring for a light, so I watched as one of the boys climbed up on a table and took apart the light fixture and strip the wires while another boy got the surge protector and removed the plug to expose the wires and then attach the wires from the surge protector directly to the fixture.  Then with the flip of the switch that was intended to turn on a light, music started!  It was incredible.  My camera decided that it was not going to work onFriday so I do not have it documented, but it was a great day.  I tried to wait out the rain, but it never slowed and by the time I had waited it was dark and two of the kind young adults walked me home in the mud.  I owe them big time.

Friday night was just the start of a fantastic weekend.  Saturday was the first of a series of talks that are a part of the Tatua Kenya Campaign we are running.  The campaign is working to expose the power of "ground-up" solutions here in Kenya.  I could do a whole blog on that itself, but I wont.  I will just encourage you to look at the Be The Change- Kenya blog for more information.  We filled our space to capacity for the event and two of the attendees were my good friends Mike and Leslie.  Mike and Leslie are missionaries with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and I met them while I was in Toronto for orientation.  They arrived exactly 2 weeks after me and I anxiously anticipated their coming.  After the event they brought me back to their apartment and we spent time catching up over Tuskers.  Then we headed to dinner and I stayed with them that night.  The next morning I went to their church where Mike is now the pastor.  The English service was fabulous and so was the Swahili service, but the sermon was a bit long for me since I did not know what was being said, but people were laughing so I am guessing it was funny.  After church they brought me home and I showed them Rongai.  It was really great to reunite with them and I am looking forward to spending more time with them over my year here.
Me with Mike and Leslie after church.
Today I went by Dream Children's Home.  I had a great meeting with Rachel, the director, and I got to check up on sweet Ryan.  He is the little 10 year old boy with stomach cancer.  He seemed to be doing pretty well today.  He was a little tired, but he sat with me and drew pictures for awhile.  He goes to the hospital on Wednesday for his next treatment so please continue praying for his recovery and safe travels for him.
Me and Ryan at Dreams.

Ryan drew me a giraffe.
I hope you all had a great week as well.  I know college football (not soccer) started this past weekend and my Georgia Bulldogs won so I am happy! More updates to come.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fun Days

 I have now met all the directors of the organizations I will be working with this year.  There is one more children's home called Dream.  Rachel and her husband started the home when children just continued showing up on their doorstep.  Now 49 children live there and Rachel is mom to all of them. It reminds me of the WinShape Home I worked at in the U.S. which is a nice little comfort for me.  Rachel is one of the warmest people I have ever met and she has an infectious smile.  Dream Children's Home is in Ngong and the surroundings are beautiful.
The home is a hike up the hill from this sign.

Dream Children's Home
Last Saturday the young adult team working with Dream coordinated a "Fun" Day for the kids.  People from the community were invited and it was just a day for everyone to be together and have fun, imagine that.  It is funny because a lot of the young adult teams have organized "Fun" Days.  I love the concept, so simple.  The afternoon was spent at a field down from the home where there were football matches, jump rope, and a game that resembled a combination of dodge ball and monkey in the middle.

"Fun" Day with all of the kids from Dream and people from the community.
There is one little boy living at Dream called Ryan.  He is suffering from stomach cancer and the first time I went out there he was laying on the couch just crying.  He looked like he was in so much pain, but it was clear that Rachel was doing everything in her power to care for him.  All I could do was just sit with him.  He had a toy car and we just spun the wheels round and round until he was giggling.  It was the sweetest sound.  He had just started his treatment which is being paid for by an organization from the states called Least of These.  Two weeks later, Ryan was outside playing with all of the other children.  He is gaining in strength each day and there is not doubt in my mind that it is due to the prayer and love from Rachel and her team.  He has a long way to go, but I will keep you all posted on his status.  Pray that his strength continues to grow and that Rachel can get him to eat more.  Another child that I met at Dream is called Ann.  She is a little firecracker, full of life and energy.  I hope to share more of her story soon.

Me with Ann and her little brother.
The other 2 organizations are centers that work with families in their communities who are struggling in various ways.  One is called Amazing Grace and they do emergency rescues for children in unsafe situations and work with their families to prevent the breaking up of a home.  They provide counseling services and work with a local church to provide food and other basic needs.  

Christian Women Works of Charity is in Kware slums, which is an area in Rongai not far from where I stay.  Mary is one of the original women who began CWWC and is well known in the community.  Her health is not great right now, so her daughter-in-law Maureen has stepped in to help run everything.

I have now been here for 2 weeks and I have started doing some Rosetta Stone to pick up on more swahili, but the things I am learning are pretty random so we will see how useful it is.  Each day I see something I wish I could capture for you all. Today was 6 goats in the backseat of a small sedan just driving down the road. Try to picture it- pretty funny.  I have a better idea now of what my job is so I am settling into real work.  I plan on taking some breaks from real work, though, and having sleepovers at some of the homes.  More updates to come. Thank you all for reading and keeping up with me.