To Market, To Market

The JOIs of international travel. Up and wide a wake until 4am. Of course the neighborhood music, and barking dogs during the night didn’t help. Or the visiting cats that came in through the window who were being chased by the barking dogs. Of course, finally fell asleep until the goats and roosters helped me welcome the sunrise a few hours later. Thank goodness for the fresh coffee and chai tea waiting for me.

Today is a shopping day. We need to get provisions for our meals and we always get a list of the needs for the home. We started out going down to the local market to buy some fresh vegetables. This year we had some of the children come with us for an outing. Instead of just being the two of us we have 3 extra adults which mean 3 extra hands to hold. The Burkura market is only down the road and a short walking distance.

The market is on Tuesday and Saturday and you can purchase anything from clothes to vegetables to cloths and cookwear. To give you an idea of the pricing, we bought a dozen each of carrots, onions, and tomatoes, 2 cabbage heads and fresh ginger for under $5.00

Yes, here come the baby pics……you knew they were.

We returned home and had a chance to spend time with the younger kids and babies until our Matatu came to take us into Kakamega for a MEGA shopping adventure. And thank you to Rachel Dewey once again who sent over toys for the little ones and they loved them.

Kakamega is the nearest town and only about 1/2 hour ride. We hired a 14 seat Matatu to take the 5 of us and 5 kids into town. In addition to the needs of the home and ourselves we came away with treats for the kids and what would be a trip to town without a stop at the hardware shop.

5 filled carts later — we all fit into the Matatu to head home for dinner, prayers and of course a movie with the kids.


We made it back without a hitch – well, almost.

It was a long trip and so far successful. It feels so good to be back at Rehema with the kids and the Aunties. Feels like we were just here except the kids are INCHES taller and the puppies bigger.

We left Rochester a little late and got to our JFK flight for last call. After an hour on the run way we set off for our 14 hour flight to Nairobi. Yes, 14 hours, but it is the only direct flight from New York. We were met by George and Wesley from Rehema and a very large van. Thanks to the very generous friends and family we had 6 50lb bags filled with clothes, toys, shoes and necessities for the kids and Aunties.

We went to the Rehema guest house to unload and immediately got back in to two cars to head into Nairobi to purchase a sewing machine. As you can see Mary Stevens – Mr. Tom’s wife came this year. She is great seamstress and will be helping to mend clothes, and many other items as needed to continue to make this homey. She is also in the nursing field and will be helping to see how to improve medical help for the kids.

Rehema Home, Nairobi

We were able to stop at the Rehema Home in Nairobi to take a tour and drop off some donations. We were able to see where George and Wesley grew up and the home for 60 children.

Georges Office

I was able to see George’s office and take a pic so he can see what I see when we zoom. A quick stop to the cellular store, supermarket for snacks and back to the guest house to repack for the next days journey to Bukura.

The Journey to Bukura

The journey to Kisumu Airport is not horrible if you are 1 or 2 people going for a short visit. There were 5 of us, plus backpacks, carry on luggage and don’t forget those 6 50lbs bags. Jack the ever faithful Rehema driver and a friend came in two vans to collect us for the 1 1/2 hour journey to Bukura. The hitch? Well if you remember last year the van broke down on our way. This year the van did great. It was the other van that ran out of gas – the van with the luggage. We had a little 1/2 hour delay to get up and running again and on our way to Rehema.

We got to Rehema and greeted with hugs and kisses, got settled in and started to make plans for our mission.


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