Asante Sana for Your Support

Thank You

This is an overdo thank you for your contribution to the 2022 Karen and Tom Mission to Bukura. We were there to witness the impact your donation made — it immediately improved the lives of the children and their care-takers. Your generosity started before we even got on the plane. The call went out for clothes and toys and friends and family did not disappoint. Thank you Kathleen, Lisa and daughters, Jim, Dad, Marc and Tracy, Arelis, Tracy V, Dan and Jill, Rachel, and Mary – they loved each and every item and it brought joy and smiles to all of them.

The Goal Grew

Our main goal was to raise enough money to tile the dining room floor. If you followed this blog you saw the additional needs for the home presented itself the minute we left the airport when the only vehicle the home has broke down. The car was going to be in the shop until it was repaired and paid. This meant there was no transportation for the children to get to school, doctors, store and us to get where we needed to go. We added this to the list of funds we knew we needed to raise.

We purchased the tile for the dining room and made the decision to also purchase the tile needed for the nursery and girls rooms. We anticipated the donations would come in to cover the additional cost and take advantage of current prices. Your donations covered it all – I knew it. Tom and I would only have the time to tile the dining room so we put aside money to hire a local mason. We are not sure if they will be able to do it or Tom and I will be back to do it next year. Anyone want to come and help?

The Difference a Dollar Makes

We can’t believe how generous you were. A special thank you to Paul and Linda, Tom H., Bonnie and Jim, Kevin M., Casey, Chris M., Donna D., Solid Foundation, Flo and Carroll, Ken and Karen, Esther and Jeff, Jen W., Jim F., Ray M., Gretchen, Katherine G., Antoinette P., Michael B., and Joel P. We raised $3,000. This is an amazing amount when the average hourly wage in under $2.00. Together with your love for children around the world, faith in Tom and I to honor your donation, and be your hands we were we able to put 100% of your donation to where it is needed most. Joy and Mama Jacinta would allocate the donations to where they felt it was most needed:

Fresh Milk: – $180/month to pay the local farmer to bring the children milk.

Auntie Salaries– $1,000/month for these amazing women who take care of the children 24/7.

Medical – $100/month to make sure they have medical care.

School – $100/month for school supplies and an education.

Driver/Car – $100/month for upkeep and get the children to school and doctors every day.

Dogs – $5/month to help feed the guard dogs on property.

Race for Rehema

I could not let you go without sharing the next fundraiser: Race for Rehema. I hope you can join.

Again, asante sana.

Karen and Tom

When endings are only the beginning

Our Mama Jacinta

Today we got up and out to Kakamega around 8 to do some last minute errands. We had to get our PCR test, exchange the last of our money and make returns of the many cutting apparatuses we tried along the way. And, we went in the Rehema car that was fixed. We should get our PCR test results by tomorrow at 6pm. We do need some prayers that everything happens according to plan tomorrow. We will leave Bukura at 4pm and head to Kisumu a little early for our flight to hit the Masai Craft Market. Our flight leaves at 730 and gets us into Nairobi at 830. The gives us 3 hours before our 15 hour flight back to JFK.

On our way back we stopped for some “street-treats” which was roasted corn.

The afternoon was continuing the final touches on the floor with still a bit more to do tomorrow morning. As I told you the rain falls everyday at 3pm. Well, today we had a full out hail storm – yes, hail. It was quite the storm. Rena, the cook, ran from the kitchen into the dining room because the tin roof started to shutter and the rain came in. Even the dogs came into the dining room with us to wait out the storm.

We had tea with Auntie Lauren and Mama Jacinta to better understand the needs of the home which are vast. I will be posting tomorrow where your donations went and will go and show where we still need to provide help. It will be tough to say goodbye tomorrow especially to the children. Tom walked down to the Bukura market and brought back some sugar cane for everyone. It was a special treat for all of us on our last night together.

Even though tomorrow is our last day and the end of our time here in Bukura, we will continue to pray, remember and think of ways to continue to help this amazing home, caretakers and children. More tomorrow on how we can move forward together. Asante Sana.

Happy Mother’s and Caregiver’s Day

First, Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers and caregivers of all types. Spending time at a children’s home where the children do not have mothers was something pretty amazing. Day in and day out these Aunties take care of these children when they also have children at home. We also found out that they have not been paid since the beginning of the year which makes it even more amazing. Some of the money that you all have donated will be going to help them and we can’t thank you enough.

It was also Sunday and wanted to share with you what 7am looks and sounds like at the home. There is a girls boarding high school across the street and their beautiful voices are heard very

So, what are you eating over there?

Well, glad you asked. Today seemed to be all about food for some reason. Let’s start with the children. Every child from the age of 3ish and over eat the same meal. What ever is served for meals is served for everyone. Here is a menu that shows the meals. Meals are served in tin bowls and eaten with hands and sometimes a spoon.

The babies also eat solid foods out of tin bowls and fed by the Aunties and the children. They also have milk after lunch and water after dinner. Feeding 10 babies at once does take all hands of deck.

The older children also help feed the babies. Today was chopped up spaghetti .
No bottles, everyone drinks out of a cup.

Auntie Rena is the cook for the home and is here every day from 6am to 6pm. We were introduced to Omeno today. It is a tiny fish that is readily caught in Lake Victoria. You can buy it on the streets where you see it drying in piles. They use it for protein for the children since they don’t get much of that. It is boiled and makes a soup file the babies and stirred into rice for the older ones.

As far as Tom and I, we have Auntie Lois cooking for us. She cooks us 3 meals a day from the food that we buy in town or at the market. Breakfast is always scrambled eggs with vegetables. Lunch ranges from cold vegetable salad and rice or left overs from the night before. Dinner can be rice and beans, chapati and vegetables or ugali and greens, Tonight was chapati, bean stew and yes, omeno.

For Mother’s Day we had a cake made to celebrate the Aunties, Mama Jacinta and Auntie Lauren (missionary) for their amazing dedication.

It is now after 9pm and as I write this blog I wanted to share with you what every night sounds like. Each night the night-shift Aunties say sing their evening prayers to watch over all of their children as they sleep-just like mothers do.

Talk about the rains in Africa

Every day like clock-work the heavens just open up, lightening and thunder roll in and the electricity turns off and moments later the generator turns on. Last time when we were here it was not hooked up so having consistent power has been great especially when you have an electric heating unit to heat the water for your shower.

The grounds get a bit muddy after each rain as you can see the red soil on the grounds – making it impossible to keep a floor clean – but that is where the tile is a god-send for these precious little ones. During today’s rain we had Auntie Lauren, Mama Jucinta, Auntie Lois and Jack (driver) over for tea and some cookies. It was a great time as they would tell us all the funny stories of the kids and their antics.

The puppies love the new tile too

We are almost done tiling and grouting the main area and have two days to finish. Between the children, dogs and puppies it does get a bit hectic but this is their home and we enjoy the commotion. Big moment for me today – fed three babies at the same time. Sat all three in front of me and kept a steady pace feeding them rice and vegetables. Of course, there was more rice on me that may have gone into them.

Movie night at Auntie Karen and Uncle Tom’s. The children eat at 5 and at 530 we allow them to come into our room and watch a movie until 7pm devotion. It gets them out of the dining room for awhile so that Tom and I can finish up for the day. I know they are being spoiled seeing movies while we are here but it is so wonderful to be able to give them this special treat.

Making Progress

Another day without the majority of the kids. They are up and out to school by 7am. Belinda, who is in 6th, has to be at school by 615 and does not return until 5pm. The 4th and 5th get back around 4 and the younger ones all get back around 3. It is a very long day for these kids.

We also said goodbye to Brian and Calvin who headed off to high school. Because of their scores on tests, they are placed in certain schools. If the school is not in their hometown they have to board. It is very common here but to send off a 15 year old when they have never been away from the home they know was hard for me to watch. Of course, they were amazing and were excited for the opportunity. They even spent the day before packing their trunk for the journey.

Having the kids at school gives us the time to really work on the floor without “helping hands”. Today was grout day for me and more cutting for Tom.

I always take a break to go out and see the babies when they are outside. Here is another great way they help the kids that are ready to walk — just marvelous.

I can’t believe we are already talking about plans to return. We need to find a place for a PCR test before we leave. It needs to be a calendar day ahead of when we leave so we are going to try and find one here in Bukura on Monday. If it is positive, we won’t be able to return————-hmmmmmmmm.

Thank You, Thank You

Thank you for your donations. We are able to purchase all the tile needed for the two nursery rooms and girls room in addition to the tile we have for the dining room. We will find out more about the car and drainage in the next few days.

The above pic shows you how far we have gone. It is about 1/2 the room. What you see is also almost grouted. The kids were all in school today so we had the place to ourselves —- well, not really.

Did I mention there was also 4 puppies at the home? This is in addition to Mom and Dan Shepard and Bob. They were anxious to be part of it all, especially curious on what Mr. Tom was doing.

And, of course the 10 babies and 3 toddlers were home with us. It was an absolutely beautiful sun shine day high in the 70’s. Even the children were able to get outside and enjoy the weather. Yes, all of them with 1-2 Aunties. Yup:

The pic above is kind of like a search and find game. Can you find all 10 babies?

Here is 5
Here is the other 5

Thank you all for the notes, and again for the kind donations. We will continue to show you the difference you are making for these precious little ones.

How many tiles can Tom cut if Tom could cut tiles?

Another trip into town and we were able to fine a store that could help us – sort of. Longer story, but the end result is that we are back on track. We took a matatu in to town and another great experience meeting the nicest people.

A matatu is mini-bus/hop-on-hop-off/taxi that you can wave down. You can also hire them to take you where you need to go and back for a set price. Some times they will pick up other passengers along the way. Today we hired one to take us to Kakamega which is about a 40 minute drive. The driver will take you all your stops and even come into the store with you if you need help translating and help load and unload your purchases. It cost 3000 shillings – which is a little under $30+ tip.

The rest of the day was working and playing with the kids. Some cutest overload for you from Rehema Home:

This is Bob

Many Hands Make Light Work — Really?

So, the quest for cutting tile continues with two runs into town…more on that tomorrow. In the mean time just wanted to bring you a few videos from the day.

The kids wanted so desperately to help it was hard to say no.

We spent the day tiling and only being interrupted for baby feeding, hugs and an occasional dance party. We brought portable speakers so the sounds of Disney were ringing through the grounds. Every once in a while I had to locate my phone. There are no electronics so the kids are always curious when they see a phone. I am also curious to see what is on my phone when I get it back. Here are a few samples:

You will hear Polycarp call me Auntie Karen

Just a little bit about the weather. It is glorious. Sunshine during the day and maybe in the high 70’s low 80’s with a torrential rain storm everyday around 4pm and then a big thunderstorm during the night. In the middle of the night last night the wind and rain was so strong it blew my window open and the rain on my head woke me up. With the electricity out and me without my glasses it was quite the site of me trying to shut and lock the window with my headband.

We said goodbye to George this morning who had to head back to Nairobi to help Uncle Irv (founder) prepare for his trip back to New York to present at organizations that support Rehema. What an amazing young man. He has a bright future ahead of him – if I have anything to do with it.

Usiku Mwema

Necessity is the Mama of Invention

The kids did not have school today because yesterday was Labour Day and not tomorrow because of Eid al-Fitr today. This means we had plenty of companionship while we started out project.

Tom, George and the two oldest boys, Brian and Calvin got a matato around 8 am and headed back into town for the tile (that is why I said shop twice in my previous post.

Soon after they left I was greeted with these faces and their beanie babies asking if they could continue to color their pictures from the day before.

Good morning Auntie Karen, want to color?

Tom and the gang came back with 50 boxes of tile and I was told it was quite the adventure to get everything needed for us to start. Just a few things we would need, bucket, notched trowel, spacers, adhesive, and grout. Can you think of anything else we may need……..anything?

How much tile can Tom cut if he could cut tile?

To our credit, there was a manual tile cutter that we found in the tool shed. Bam, beats last year when Tom had to hand saw each piece to cut it. Wellllllll, that would work if the blade was sharp. We have no idea where we would find another blade and going into town AGAIN would be painful. However, Mr. Ingenuity a.k.a. Mr. Tom is in his thinking chair trying to figure out a solution. One being how can we tile a room without cutting or at least keep going so we don’t waste anytime waiting for another trip into town (a morning lost). Have no fear – Tom was already able to figure out how to fix the non-working toilet and shower, so what is a little tile cutting compared to that.

Movie Night

It was one more night of a treat to a movie on the big screen since there is no school tomorrow. Babies are asleep, toddlers in bed, nightly devotion done and time for a cup a tea and relax with the kids — until Mr. Tom comes up with a solution of course.

Sunday Funday

Today is Sunday and it is a very honored day in Kenya and at Rehema home. Every child from 4 on up – or who can walk – puts on the one outfit saved for this day and goes to church. For those that donated clothes you might recognize some of the outfits.

Yes, that is me with the 12 children I will be walking about 1.5 miles down the road – and yes back. The two little ones in the front row will be taken by motorcycle. I continue to be amazed at these children, how they behave and treat each others and elders.

It was a hot long walk for all of them – especially the 5 and 6 year olds, but not a complaint or cry. The children go to their classes out in the field next door and the adults go into the church for service (for the first hour) until the children join us (for the second hour).

When the pastor asked if there was anyone visiting, I had a feeling that the color of my skin was going to give me away. The pastor asked Lauren to bring me up on to the front and introduce me so I could tell who I was, where I came from and why I was there. There was someone to interpret for me and with a big round of applause I felt welcomed and blessed.

After church each child takes their outfits off, changes and gives those outfits to Lauren for safe keeping until next week. THEN, each of the kids and me grabbed one of the 9 babies, plopped down on the floor and fed them. Rice and vegetables with a spoon and milk from a cup — infants remember. After lunch and while the babies slept, me and the other kids decided to break out some of the coloring pages and books that you all gave me to bring. It was nice to be still and quiet and see them enjoy the time.

The fun continued — can you guess what Mr. Tom brought?

Well, I won’t drone on about it….(that one was for Paul A) – but I am sure you can tell. Will share some of the footage tomorrow if they don’t crash. When the rains came, we headed in for a movie. I decided to bring a projector and treat the kids to a movie they can see on a wall instead of all 20 of them crowded around a monitor. The children see movies on special occasions and I was given permission to show them one today. Of course the power went out but have no fear, we had alternate entertainment. My Mom and Dan gave me a whole box of beanie babies to bring. We played a “name that animal” game with the kids and when they pronounced the name of the animal in english they received that baby. It was a big hit and brought such joy to each of them.

Donations needed

Now that we are at Rehema Home Bukura, we fully understand what is needed to make the home more comfortable for the kids. The first project we will be working on is tiling the dining room floor, it is currently fully cement and gets very hard to clean, the hard cement floor is also not safe for the kids. We would also like to tile the two nursery rooms and girls rooms. We will not be able to get to those and would like to buy the tile and supplies for them before we leave. We have measured the rooms and figured out the cost of the tiles and materials. We need to raise $1500 to completely tile the dining room floor, plus the nursery and girls rooms. We are asking for support to pay for the costs of materials to complete our mission. 100% of your donation goes to this project and the betterment of the children’s and caretakers’ lives.

Please visit https://www.rehemahome.org/maziwa to help if you can.