Monthly Archives: March 2020
Our last day
It was a typical day for us. Walked the kids to school. Worked on the last tiling and grouting and helped with babies and toddlers
I was able to meet Peggy today.
She is the lady that has been carrying $1000’s of unpaid debt for the milk that she supply’s every day. Through the fundraising from the most generous and amazing friends I was able to tell her that her debt is paid and there is money set aside to pay her to continue the delivery. It was a really special moment for both is us.
This is Natalya Bondar the administrator o Rehema. She has been here for 9 years taking care of this place and children.
This is Lauren Ouwenga. She also lives here and partners with Nat to manage this place.
And of course you know my shadow, Grace.
We had so much fun last night having movie night you can see by the shoes at our door we decided to host another night for the kids.
I start my journey home tomorrow to Nairobi and then to the states on Sunday. Please send prayers that I get home and that Mr Tom has a safe journey to Tanzania and home too.
The world I am going home to has changed and so have I. Will need some time to let these two weeks sink in. It won’t be a goodbye tomorrow-that I know-only until next time.
Life is still normal here
For the last two days we have been trying to stay in touch with the news of what is going on around the world. Tom bought a local SIM card and we turn it on a couple times a day to read email, txts and check the news. It is very bizarre watching the panic spread from a remote part of Kenya. It is like watching a movie that can be turned off when you get to the bad parts. It has not hit Kenya yet so I am confident that I will not have trouble getting back in the country. We fly to Nairobi on Saturday, stay over night and then I depart to home via Doha, Qatar. Tom is still planning on heading to Tanzania on Sunday. So back to here —- things are quite normal and I have two days to catch you up.
Yesterday, we had to go into town to buy more grout and sand for the tile project and the basics for the kids: sugar, flour, rice, oil and of course diapers. There is a little village of Bukura walking distance but for larger purchases we go to Kakamega. It is about a 40 minute drive away. We hire Jack the driver to take us to town, shop with us to help interpret. The cost – 1000ksh – or $10. This is a little bit of the town.
We also decided to treat ourselves for the first time this trip to an adult beverage. Mr. Tom comes through with to open up the bottle without a cork screw. Where there is a will……..
One of the sweetest times of the day is around 3pm. The babies are getting up from their naps – all 7 need to be changed and cleaned up, the toddlers march themselves to the potty and then all 10 of them are brought out to the blanket for afternoon air and sun. The younger boys are just getting back from school and join the younger ones on the blanket.
The older kids are always ready to help with the younger ones and they are so sweet and gentle. Tom and I are always commenting on how many kids you can get on a blanket
It is at this time that my phone is usually “borrowed” and this is the result .
Oh – this is Ronnie the pet dog. There is also Bob, but I don’t have a good picture of him yet. Ronnie is a lovable mutt and you frequently here in English and Swahili – Go Ronnie, Get out. He meets everyone at the gate and barks if he doesn’t think something is right as he overlooks the yard from above.
The other thing we decided to do is to treat the kids to a movie night. We bought each of them a soda and some cookies. This is all of them crammed into our room to watch Lion King on a small laptop.
And now the Mr. Tom report:
When we last left he was trying to figure out a way to cut the tile without a wet saw. He found a grinder with an all purpose blade and works like a charm.
Here’s is where we are as of tonight. Almost there – Mr. Tom has a few more pieces to cut, I have some grouting left to do and then we both will fill in the rim around the edge.
Tonight we had special guests visit and share a meal with us. Another friend of Mr. Tom’s from Tanzania came to see him. We had a lovely meal and conversation and they made us promise to return next year and visit their home. I said yes – so did Tom.
I will blog more in the morning. Today was a long day and heading to bed. It started at six and ended now and here was the end of my evening- that made it all worth it. Love.
Are we making a difference?
We have been here a week and I continue to ask myself that question. Today was a hit of reality in the heart. There are three more babies that have been abandoned and the Rehema home is one of the two that take babies. The decision would be “of course”, but here it is not that simple. There are already 7 babies and three toddlers in addition to the other 15+ children. One more baby means formula, diapers, a crib, medical attention and more importantly constant care by an Auntie who is already running a mile a minute with the other babies. Where will the money come? Where will the help come from? Lauren and Natalie, the administrators of the home are truly super women. They have to run this entire place and make these types of decisions all the time. I see the difference they are making in these children’s lives. For without them they would not have one. But there is so much need here as there is all over the world. Tom and I are called short-term missionaries. We are only here for two weeks and can only do what we can within that short time. We see all that needs to be done and wish we had the time and resources to do more. We know the babies and toddlers floor will be tiled instead of an uneven cement floor. I know that the generosity of the money raised for the milk fund will continue to bring sustenance to the children. Is it enough? Will that make a difference in these lives? I can pray that it does and continue to bring the plight of these children and the needs of this home back with me. There story needs to be told and that might be the best way to make a difference. One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…”I made a difference for that one.”On the Mr. Tom front and the progress we are making on the room. This picture sums up our day between tiling, grouting, babies and children.
Sunrise over the Kakamega Rain Forest
Alarms went off at 5am to get ready and meet our guide Patrick. We signed up for a guided hike up Lirhanda Hill the highest elevation overlooking the Kakamega Rain Forest to watch the sunrise. Kakamega Forest is a tropical rain forest situated northwest of the capital Nairobi, and near to the border with Uganda. It is Kenya’s only tropical rain forest and is said to be Kenya’s last remnant of an ancient rain forest that once spanned the continent.
It was spectacular. When we got to the top there was another guide and two other hikers from Germany and Italy. Of course the Covid-19 seems to be the conversation of the day for everyone.
As the sun rose above the rain forest below seemed to come alive. Different sounds of animals slowly started to get louder and multiply. It was one of those moments when just sitting in silence and watching, listening and just being was completely joyful. Of course we couldn’t sit there too long before we had some fun with Patrick and the panorama setting on the phone.
We taught the other two hikers and their guide the same trick of standing in one place and when you are out of the camera’s lens you run to the other side so it looks like you are in two places in once.
On the way down Patrick pointed out plants in the forest that are both poisonous and medicinal. Like the one plant that cures prostate cancer. Another one that is deadly when eaten but placed on an open wound helps it heal. And still another one that when you crush and inhale it clears your bronchial pathways when you are congested. We also so some monkeys and a baboon carrying her baby.
We were so impressed with the rainforest and the conservation efforts they were making to save the forest we planted a JOI tree.
Patrick will be taking care of it and sending us pictures as it grows. The type of tree we planted will help the canopy of the rain forest and provide much needed food for various insects that help the forest. It will take about 20 years for the tree to reach full size and we were invited back at any time to visit it. (hmmmmmmmmmm – interesting thought!)
Upon returning from our respite we got back to work. We had our usual audience of 7 babies and 8 children sitting and watching us tile and grout. Of course Auntie Karen – or as the kids say it Aunti Karo – downloaded Frozen 2 soundtrack for additional entertainment.
At one point I had to stop on account of crying babies that wanted changing and love and will start again first thing in the morning-starting at 6 as usual.
We can’t believe it is Monday already and we still have a lot to do. You can see the progress made above. Mr. Tom’s challenge today was trying to figure out how to cut tile without a tile cutter. Stay tuned……
And on the 7th day….
We rested – well sort of kind of. Even on Sunday it starts early around here. Everyone up by 6-630 to get breakfast and ready for church. The church clothes are kept with Natalie and Lauren in their quarters so they are kept neat and clean. Every child has to go up and ask for their clothes and then return them after church.
This is wearing her new dress that Bryn from my office bought for her.
I walked with the bigger kids and the smaller ones were taken by car.
It was about a 20 minute walk on a beautiful sunny morning and you could hear songs of worship coming from various buildings along the way.
This is the PEFA church of Bukura (double green doors). The organization that sponsors the home. The service started with a wonderful song (in Swahili) with everyone singing and clapping hands and then going around and saying hello. Everyone said Karibu to me with a smile and a handshake.
The sermon was given by a parishioner in English with an interpreter in Swahili. It was about the power of forgiveness and why it is necessary to let go to let God take you forward.
We walked back and I joined Mr. Tiling Tom to continue my grout work before our day of rest began. We first went to the home of Mr. Paul for lunch. He is a friend of Tom’s from the time he spent in Tanzania at the Tumaini School. The picture below is his home, his parents and siblings.
We were welcomed into his home and honored with a meal of ugali, kuku, greens and rice (eaten by hands).
This is a typical road trip!
We then ventured to our final destination the Rondo House at the edge of the Kakamega Forest.
They served us tea and cake on the porch when we arrived and we reveled in the silence-something we haven’t had since arriving at Bukura
After tea and before dinner we toured the beautiful grounds and made arrangements for a hike up to see the sunrise over the forest. We start out at 530am.
Life is Precious
I am sitting here in the dark with my headlamp on and listening to the rain fall. It’s 730 the kids are in bed and all you can here are the voices of the Aunties in the kitchen and Ronnie the dog occasionally barking. The lights went out around 7 which is very appropriate for today at that time. I found out my Aunt was killed this week while on vacation and her funeral started exactly at the time the lights went out. It is hard for me to be here and not with my family sharing in the shock and sorrow of this tragedy. Instead, I will dedicate my trip to her and celebrate her life by helping these children. For without Rehema Home, they would not be here today.
Today, we got a lot of work done on the floor. Mr. Tom continued to lay tile as I grouted the parts that were complete. Since this is the room that 7 babies, 3 toddlers spend most of their time we are strategically trying to figure out how to work on what sections so the Aunties and babies can get back and forth to the cribs and bathrooms. There might be some nighttime tiling in our future. The best part of the day was when the kids came into the room to check out the new floor – so full of life.
It’s a boys life where ever you go……..
The life the children have is so very different. There are no electronic gadgets to be entertained with, tv, or after school activities. There are no choices in what you can eat or what you want to wear. There are no movies or stories before you go to bed and no mother to comfort you when you wake up in the middle of the night. But despite the differences there are also similarities and boys will be boys.
There are 7 boys here all around 7-8. They get up at the same time, get dressed in their school uniforms and wait upstairs in their rooms until called down for breakfast
Breakfast may be a bit different then what your children eat for breakfast. Here they have chai tea and a root vegtable. They get some crakers as a snack but most of them are eating it on their way to school.
The children wear uniforms to school. Standard is a button down shirt, sweater and pants for the boys. It is the same for the girls but they wear a skirt. There is only one uniform for children so it is kept as clean as possible.
I was asked to walk them to school giving the Aunties a little head start on the day chores. The school is only up the street and as you can see running in the gutter is fun anywhere it is.
They get home for lunch and as many young boys need to do is nap before the afternoon play time. Even laying on a blanket on the floor they were fast asleep.
The nap gave Tom and I the chance to continue working on tiling without interruption from the kids but that did not last too long as one by one they came and found us and wanted to be part of the action. They just wanted to play with that mud!
As the crowd grew it signaled to me to take the boys upstairs to the play room and out of Mr. Tom’s hair. Books, coloring and making a car out of an old suitcase was the activity of the afternoon. I downloaded some music and had a sing-a-long to the Lion King.
Even here the boys have their chores. This little guy made sure the steps were cleared before dinner.
After dinner of rice and chipati for everyone there is more time for cheza and what little boy doesn’t use his imagination to make a rocket out of an old box.
The night ends with all the children gathering in one room to sing praises to the Lord and thank him for the blessing of all the wonderful things they have in their life and the people that love and care for them.
I will be doing the same tonight.
And now an update on Mr. Tom — or should I say my hero. For he worked on the shower head and we have warm water for the first time since getting here. In addition to tiling the floor he also serves as great entertainment to the children. Once a papa always a papa.
It takes a village — and more importantly a schedule.
Every morning at 6 am when you open the door to the babies room this is what you will find – and one is being changed and one is still asleep. These are the little ones and are so so precious. It is hard to understand why these children were abandon but I am not here to judge but to provide a hug when they are crying and a tickle to make them laugh.
The Aunties from the village are amazing. There are two women and a cook at all times helping to keep the child care machine running. They have it down to a precise schedule – one that is written out and hanging in our quarters.
600am – Babies up and start changing and dressing for the day and fed
630am – toddlers up, put on the potty, change for day, breakfast.
7am – last of school kids leave
9-11am – Babies nap
11am – Babies changed and bottle fed
12pm – Babies fed lunch
1245pm – younger kids arrive from school and eat lunch
2-3pm – Babies and toddlers nap. After their lunch they are typically brought out one by one to sit outside – of course after they are changed again (I did 7 diaper changes in record time)
430pm – Babies eat dinner
500pm – last of the kids arrive home and eat dinner
700pm – Bible and prayer
7-730 – Babies fed and all to bed. Karen included LOL.
I am in awe of the care that is given and the dedication of these women for so little in return. More on their story later.
And now a report on Mr. Tom:
Tom and I went into town to buy some items needed to start the tiling project. No, there is not a Home Depot but many little shops that may carry one or two or none of the items you need – grout and sand and a water heater. Water heater you say? Why would they need that – because the water heater to the shower does not work. How it works here is that there is a heater in the shower head. I still have hope in Mr. Tom to fix it.
He also started the tiling project – and yes “I helped” mostly by keeping the kids out of his way.
Still a long way to go and we will keep you up to date on the progress.
Good night all heading to bed – got them babies to get up soon.