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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.  img_0482Tom 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. Blue_Starfish_PNG_Clip_Art-1718One 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. img_0510

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We were so impressed with the rainforest and the conservation efforts they were making to save the forest we planted a JOI tree.

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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!)

Tiling Report:

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……

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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.

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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. 

 

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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.

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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.

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Karibu To Bukura

We flew to Kisumo and after an hour flight on a small prop plane and an 1 1/2 hour drive we made it to Bukura Rehema house.

It is small gated compound with a building that houses volunteer and administrators living quarters. A small Kitchen building, another building for the mess hall and boys bedrooms. There is a 3rd building for the babies, toddlers and girls. There is also a shed, chicken coop and soon-to-be green house.

Here is my living area for the next two weeks.

Our hosts for the two weeks are Lauren and Natalya. They are the administrators of the home and manage the entire property with 7 Aunti’s from the village to help take care of the 25 children – 24 x 7. It did not take long for some of the kids to immediately approach the Wegani’s – white person.

This is Grace and she is a bold and beautiful little girl. She took to me right away and I now have a little shadow.

It will take me some time to adjust to the way of life for these little souls. I am going to remain open to better understand how to best help now and in the future. Heading to bed – there are 7 babies to help get up changed and fed and 7 little boys that need to go to school. There for the Grace of God go I.

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Made it to Nairobi –

It has been a long trip so far but sooooooooo far so great. We left the house at 4am in Rochester and caught our first flight to JFK a quick 2 hour layover and a 9 hour flight to Doha, Qatar. Another 2 hour layover and a 6 hour flight to Nairobi. We landed around 3pm here (we are 8 hours ahead) and with all of our luggage – well almost. Our personal items for the two weeks are in our backpacks. The other suitcases are filled with the many donations of clothes and other items needed for both the children and the staff. One of the items that the staff asked for was over the counter painkiller drugs, Downey unstoppables washer freshener and coffee creamer. Tom also has packed computers that are going to Tanzania, an assortment of tools for handyman work and even a WiFi booster. The only item that did not make it was two bottles of French Vanilla Coffee Mate and that was kept by security in Rochester. They said it tested for traces of chemicals – well isn’t that what it is? We say a lot of folks wearing masks and the smell of Purel. They did check our temperature as we debarked off the plane other then that it was fairly normal.

In Nairobi we were met by two of the missionaries that work at Rehema Home Nairobi – Mark and Michelle. Mark is from Lima, NY and Michelle is from the Bronx. They are married and have lived here working as full time missionaries for 9 years. They took us to a place to exchange our money (101 shillings to $1US) get a SIM card and a bite to eat. They were so helpful in giving us some interesting facts about Nairobi (English is a native language) guidance about cultural differences, and eating dos and don’ts.

We finally got to the Guest House at 7pm where we need to get some sleep and back up at 4am for our flight over Lake Victoria to Bukura where our mission begins.

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August 5: A Tour of Lima and Home

A last day was a relaxing day starting with a walk to the ocean to dip our toes in the south pacific.

In the afternoon we had a tour of Lima. Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. I was stunned by the beauty of the architecture of the city.

In a museum there was this kitty sleeping in the midst of all the tours going on around him.  It reminded me of the two I had waiting at home for me and knew it was time to return home

Adiós y gracias Perú por un viaje de tu vida.

Amor y gracias por mi nueva familia.