Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Week 3 in Kenya

I am in the middle of my third week at Beacon and I have been keeping busy! I spent a lot of time last week visiting several schools in the area. We have six orphans right now that we need to get placed into schools by the beginning of February. I also went to a private Christian primary school in the middle of the slum where BOH is sponsoring several children. I interviewed them in Swahili to practice my limited Swahili skills and get information about them for the sponsorship program. We visited some more school today but it rained last night and our van got stuck in the mud! We were stuck there for 20 minutes until three of us were finally able to push the van out of the mud.
On Tuesday of last week Jane and I went to Grace Children’s Center (GCC), which is the children’s home I went to when I came to Kenya for the first time in 2002. The home is run by David and Jennifer Hatley. They have 17 HIV positive kids, 35 HIV negative kids, a preschool, primary school, and child sponsorship program. So Jane and I talked to them for several hours about the programs they have and some practical ideas for implementing programs for orphaned and vulnerable children.
On Saturday, I wanted to go back to GCC to play with the children there but both Jane and Ken were out. I could have driven the BOH van, but considering it is a stick shift and about 2x bigger than anything I have driven before, I decided to set out on foot. (although I did drive the van today and I actually did quite well thanks to Jana and all of the stick shift lessons she gave me!) GCC is about 10 km away from where I stay, so I walked part of the way and took matatus the other part (matatus are vans used for public transportation in Kenya.) It took me one hour to get just 10 km! But it was worth it – I had a great time running around with the kids at GCC.
On Sunday, I was invited to a goat barbecue after church. Will, one of the American interns at Nairobi Chapel, had gone with his roommate Mark to select the (live) goat on Saturday. It was slaughtered and skinned on Saturday and they grilled it on Sunday. There were about 30 young people from the church there and when I walked into their back yard the first thing I saw on the grill was a black, charred goat head and mounds of squiggly intestines! I am not much of meat eater – I used to be a vegetarian – but the goat meat was actually pretty good, although I wasn’t brave enough to try any organs or intestines. I am sure that I will have other opportunities for that!
I had a frustrating day yesterday – I was quite overwhelmed with the magnitude of the orphan crisis here. Right before I left work on Monday a lady named Elizabeth came in. Her sister in law was in the BOH support group and died last year, leaving four orphans. These kids were staying with their grandmother in the country but the schools are not good there. So Elizabeth wanted to bring the kids here to Ongata Rangai but she cannot pay their school fees and the children do not have a place to stay. So I have been assigned to find schools and a place to stay for these children.
There is also a small baby in the slum whose mother is mentally handicapped because of HIV. The grandmother is caring for the 4 month old, but the baby is also HIV positive and was hospitalized for a short time last week. The grandmother had a mild stroke a while ago and didn’t think she could care for the baby anymore. So we have been trying to find a place for this baby but all of the children’s homes are full. I am also trying to find a home for a 13 year old orphaned girl who ran from her guardians when she found out they were planning to sell her into prostitution. We finally found a children’s home for her and also an 11 year old boy who has been orphaned and is beginning to hang with a bad crowd on the streets. So this home was supposed to pick up the children yesterday but something came up and now they don’t know when they’ll be able to get these two kids.
Yesterday we also stopped at a children’s home for HIV positive children. We asked if they could take this baby but they said they were full. There have been a few young children involved with BOH who have died in the past couple months so Jane begged this woman to consider taking the boy. The woman said she would consider it but when we told the grandmother this she said she had changed her mind! This home would even allow the grandmother to have the baby back after a few months when the baby has become strong but the grandmother refused.
Jane and I are planning to visit a few other programs for orphans in the next couple of months so please pray that we will get some ideas for what else we can do for these children. BOH is also planning to relocate soon – Jane has found an 8 acre property in the middle of the slum for a very low price (the whole thing is only about $250,000 for 8 acres and a huge house!) Jane has raised some of the money but needs the rest by February. Please pray that we will be able to get the money for this land – Jane has a lot of ideas for expansion when we move and I think that the new land will offer a lot of potential for programs for orphans and vulnerable children, because there is really no room right now for these programs at our current facility.
I have continued to have problems sending emails (I have been receiving emails without a problem) so I apologize if I have not responded to your emails. I am working from an internet café today and hopefully I will have this problem fixed soon.
Overall, I am doing well and have been enjoying my time in Nairobi. Thank you very much for all of your prayers.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

First week in Nairobi

Hello everyone! I arrived safely in Nairobi last Friday (the 7th) and have had
a very busy first week here! I have been struggling all week with my email because American email servers don't work very well here. So I will only be using the email address valerie@beaconafrica.org.
I am staying with Jane Wathome and her family in Karen, a suburn of Nairobi.
Jane is the founder and director of Beacon of Hope, her husband Ken owns his own
real estate business, and they have three children, Kevin, who is 15, Brian, 13,
and Debbie, 10. They have a very nice house and I have been enjoying getting to
know them all,
I spent Tuesday of last week at Nairobi Chapel getting to know the interns
who will be working at the church, and then I spent Thursday typing reports for
the Beacon of Hope store in downtown Nairobi, where they sell the things that
are made in the center.
I spent Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of last week at the Beacon of Hope
Center in Ongata Rangai. The Center is where they all of their income
generating activities (weaving, spinning and dying wool, making kikoys, and
tailoring) as well as a daycare, HIV testing and counseling center, support
group, home based care classes, and offices. On Monday and Wednesday I spent
the day getting to know the staff, the women, and the children and learning
about the ministry.
I spent a lot of time this week walking around the Kware slum area with one
of the staff from Beacon. We visited some people in their homes (most of which
were only one room homes smaller than a typical bedroom), visited a Christian
primary school where we are supporting some children, and chatted with some
people we ran into on the streets.
The children in the slums are not used to seeing white people so everywhere
I went children would yell "Mzungu!" (which means white person) and run up to
me, shake my hand, and say "how are you?" which is probably the only English
phrase many of them know.
I also had my first driving experience in Kenya. I won't be getting my own
car but I will be driving Jane's car occasionally. Thankfully, it is an
automatic! The roads in Kenya are crazy - there are potholes everywhere, lots
of pedestrians, bicycles, and carts led by donkeys. I even got pulled over by a
policeman my first time behind the wheel! I wasn't doing anything wrong - they
just do random checks and he thought I was going a little slow.
On Friday, I began working on a sponsorship program for orphans that BOH
supports. My focus while I'm here will be an orphans and vulnerable children.
They are supporting several orphans at local schools, but they have not had a
staff person available to focus on this task. So that will be my first
responsibility.
On Friday, I also had my first interview with one of the orphans we will be
supporting. Her name is Maureen, and she has been living with HIV for 15 years!
She was born with HIV and has not been taking any antiretroviral drugs but has
an incredible spirit and is still relatively healthy.
I hope you all are doing well, and I am looking forward to hearing from you
now that I think I have finally figured out the email here. But please be
patient with me to respond to your emails!