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.