A message from the Chair

One might say that 2018 was a year of change for Our Kenyan Kids, and I’m very excited to say that each and every change that occurred has made us stronger.  We saw a need to change, to move forward in a different direction and we took it. In doing so, we have enabled ourselves to establish better communication and understanding with each of our projects. We have established new relationships, grown as an organization and been able to help even more than we have in the past. Each day is a learning experience, and we welcome each and every one.

One of our biggest changes, was the dissolution of a project administrator position in Kenya.  Without “eyes on the ground” some worried that we would lose touch with the reality of the situation but I’m happy to say this is not the case. Instead it is just the opposite. Without a third party on the ground in Kenyan, the projects now report directly to us, here in Canada. It has opened doors of communication that we never dreamt would be possible before. I’m thrilled to report that I speak with our partners in Kenya on a weekly basis – some even daily.  Often the communication is via email, however, many prefer to communicate via Facebook messenger or skype and a few touch base via Whatsapp – which allows us to actually speak, face to face, which is an amazing step for us.  The new communication outlets have strengthened our relationships with each of our projects.  It allows us to share in both their triumphs AND tribulations, in real time.

Our spring newsletter will be out soon, and in it you will see just how brilliant the most recent changes have been. You will also read of the upcoming Project Experience Trip, planned for late January of 2020.  There will be an open meeting in the living room of Wall Street United Church on June 18th.  Please mark it on your calendars. Come out and hear of all the great work Our Kenyan Kids has been doing and learn how you can be a part of it all in 2020.

God Bless,

Jan

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Coming soon: The 2019 Yard Sale


From last year’s sale:

Long time board member, Carolyn Matheson works the Kenyan Store at our Annual Yard Sale held at Wall Street United Church

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An eye-opening experience awaits you

Ever sit back in your lazy-boy chair and reminisce about days gone by? Smile as you recall memories from years ago, or even just a trip to the Caribbean last winter? I know I do – ALL the time! I love looking at the pictures of carefree days, sailing on a catamaran or kayaking on the clearest of clear blue/green waters, watching the fish beneath me. The memories we make today will be what we tell our grandchildren about 20 years from now. Though, I have to be honest; telling my grandchildren that I took a weeks’ vacation to sit on my butt, sip beverages and gallivanting around some island isn’t going to be the highlight of the memories I will be able to share. My highlight will be sharing my memories of Kenya and all the children that I helped to build a better life.

That feeling; that unimaginable feeling of pride, of having given of my time, to help another human, is a feeling that no vacation memory in the world can even come close to touching. To be able to say that I took two weeks’ vacation time to travel to Kenya with Our Kenyan Kids, to visit the people – the children, the grandmothers, the teachers, the volunteers; that’s the memories that I am most proud of.

When I took my first trip over in January of 2013, I had no idea that I would be as touched as I was.  At the time, it was a simple placement for a photojournalism course I was taking in college. The opportunity quite literally fell into my lap. I had no “skills” to contribute to what I then considered a “mission trip” but none the less, it seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime, and I was not about to let it pass through my fingers. As a photojournalism student, my job was to take photos and write blogs to keep those at home informed on what was going on and all that the group was doing.  What actually happened was life changing.

From our very first stop, I was completely immersed in the Kenyan lifestyle.  I wanted to know everything there was to know and see as much as I could possibly see. I took over 4000 pictures and wrote almost a novels worth of blogs, trying my best to bring the story of what was unfolding before my eyes to life for those still at home, relying on my posts to live the story for themselves. For some, it worked.  According to Our Kenya Kids and their Starfish philosophy, I really only needed to reach one. I’m happy to say I achieved that.  I was able to show the supporters of Our Kenyan Kids a first-hand view of what was happening in each of the projects that they so faithfully support. Not only did I keep everyone in Canada abreast of our activities during our journey, but it ended up being the beginning of my actively participating not only in the yearly trip over to Kenya, but in the opportunity of producing the ongoing newsletters for our dedicated supporters.

Six years later and I am now just beginning the process of planning my 7th trip to Kenya, the end of January 2020.  I would love to take of team of 10!  (I like to dream big)  Realistically, the team usually consists of 4 – 6 people, but everyone is welcome.  It’s not a vacation. It’s not a tropical destination. It is however, a trip you will never forget; and opportunity to give of yourself and your time; a chance to offer hope to someone who perhaps couldn’t see any yesterday.

Consider joining us in January of 2020. An information session will be coming up soon. Follow us at www.ourkenyankids.com or on our FB page at: https://www.facebook.com/ourkenyankids/?ref=settings

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Message from the Chair

 

From my heart to yours,
Do you ever pay attention to your daily routine in the morning? I mean really pay attention? Or do you just “do it” out of habit? Do you ever look around your room when you wake, and think “Wow… am I ever grateful for having a roof over my head, (that doesn’t leak), clean, fresh water to brush my teeth and wash my face and body,(that I
didn’t have to walk 10 miles to fetch and then carry home on my back), food in my cupboards and fridge to prepare my breakfast and lunch and feed my family? Do you ever actually notice when you are getting dressed, that your clothes are clean and smell fresh, that there are plenty more clean clothes filling your dresser and your closet? There
are so many wonderful “things” that we all have, that we don’t give it even a second thought.

How many times a day do you zip through Tim Horton’s for coffee/tea or a muffin? How many times a week do you go out for dinner? These are all actual privileges. But they are privileges that we have all had for so long that we have come to feel “entitled” to them. Can you imagine living without all of them? Can you imagine living without even one?

Every human being on this planet deserves to have those privileges. However, in Kenya, that is not the reality.

These are just a few of the reasons that Our Kenyan Kids is so important to me. I want you to know that no donations are too small when supporting the children and youth of Kenya. Our Kenyan Kids is structured in such a way that each donation is added together to support one child at a time. This starfish principle is the foundation of the organization and has continued to develop ripples in the lives of many.

It’s difficult at best, to truly understand the lives of those we help, until you, yourself have been there, have seen first-hand, how these people live. They are a very proud people, very humble, very giving and extraordinarily happy.

The people of Kenya are always singing and dancing, sharing their love and passing their smiles on to everyone around them. Not to say, they do not face challenges, but it seems that no matter how challenging life is, they always have time for one another; time to stop and chat, to show their concern for one another, to pass on peace, love and hope to
one another.

We travel to Kenya each year, each at our own expense, to bring hope, joy and love to our friends in each of the projects. Everyone is always welcome to join us, to venture to Nairobi, to visit each and everyone we help, to create joy and happiness not only for the children and youth facing poverty and the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS in Kenyan but also for you, me and our peers. We all face challenges in our lives. We all need a little more happiness in our lives and the best way to achieve that inner happiness is to HELP OTHERS and even better HELP OTHERS HELP THEMSELVES.
Kindest Regards,

Jan Murray
Chair,
Our Kenyan Kids
Click here to Donate NOW

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The Wrap Up

When the team arrived back in Nairobi after visiting Amazing Grace, we all felt a small weight melt from our shoulders. The biggest, most emotional part of the trip had concluded; all of the projects had been visited. Some, we knew we would have to return to, even if just briefly, to wrap things up, but the bulk of our business had been concluded.  We had taken ample time to sit and visit with each project leader, discuss challenges as well as accomplishments, tour the facility, have an opportunity to see the changes that have been made (or envision those that are to come), visit/play with the children, and most importantly, just – talk.

Often we will share tea or a small meal while we are at their homes/businesses. They generously open up their world to us, they let us in – all the way in – to see exactly how they live, work and play. It is our privilege to experience this, to see it through their own eyes. It is a world beyond that which most of our fellow Canadians can even fathom.  The sights, sounds, smells, are all abundantly different from that to which we are accustomed. For better or for worse, it is the world they are accustomed to; what they have grown to believe is the norm and although we are there to help, it is imperative that we remember we are visiting – in THEIR world. Just because we have something they do not, does not make it better, it simply makes it different. Both worlds have many positives. Both worlds have good people and bad. Together, I believe we can bring change, good change, change that will benefit the children and ensure a healthy and happy tomorrow for everyone.

One of those changes comes with education. In Canada we have come to take for granted that education from nursery school through to the completion of high school is free. Unfortunately, that is not the case for our friends in Kenya. Only primary school is free, but even then, free still means that parents must have funds for school uniforms, supplies and sometimes even extra’s such as mattresses for children that must go away to school. That measly little amount (well under $100) is nothing – or at least that is how most of our (Canadian) friends would see it – but to our Kenyan families, one hundred dollars to them is often the same as one hundred thousand to us. It simply is NOT attainable. If you cannot pay for your child’s uniform and supplies, then they simply cannot go to school.  It’s not up for debate. Once the children reach high school, the stress becomes even more daunting as there are now school fees involved – tuition, exam fees, and more. How many of us could afford to send our children to primary school if there was an astronomical fee attached to it? What would you do if you had to choose between sending your child to school or feeding your family this week? These are decisions that we do not even consider, have never had to consider, and yet our Kenyan friends face them every day.

Another primary need is water. There simply isn’t any. Kenyans can go quite literally months and months without rain. The drought is unimaginable. The dust, the damaged and distraught crops, the food shortage – all things that we, here in Canada, do not even consider as it isn’t something we have had to deal with. If we want water, we simply turn on the tap. If we want fresh fruit or vegetables, we run to the store. These are not options for many of our Kenyan friends. Though thankfully we did not encounter an issue on this trip, we have in previous trips, listened to stories of great hardship, where women have walked for miles and miles to purchase water for their families, strapped it to their backs and walked 10, 15 or even 20 miles home with it, only for their families to become ill from (what they didn’t know was) contaminated water.

After two weeks of visiting all of our projects, and a couple meetings with individuals who have asked us to step in and help their organizations, the team needed a couple of days of rest and relaxation. The safari part of our trip, is not always a given, but when we do have the time, it is a brilliant way to unwind and an opportunity to see much of the hidden beauty of Africa.

All of this and much more will be shared with all who want to hear, at Wall Street United Church, on Monday evening, March 19th. Please come and hear the stories of our most recent trip to Kenya.

We look forward to seeing as many of our readers as can possibly make it!

One more blog to come… stay tuned.

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Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace was our last project to visit, on our list. We left our hotel at 9am and spent the day there, not returning back until almost 10pm at night. Unfortunately, a huge chunk of the day was spent stuck in traffic as the project was moved to a Saturday – when traffic is at its worst.  Lesson learned.

All (but one – who is new) of the children remembered us and greeted us gleefully upon our arrival. Margaret was tucked away in her office with her brand new baby girl, but soon appeared in the doorway, welcoming us in. Her little one is only one month old and she herself is not supposed to be back at work just yet, but would not allow her Canadian friends to drop by without being there to greet us.

After a brief “catch-up” session, Margaret walked us through the events of the last 9 months, since our last visit. She gave us a rundown on the good and the bad and unfortunately the biggest issue at Amazing Grace remains lack of water.

She was lucky enough to have received a generous donation from a company in California who not only drilled her a bore hole, but also erected a generous sized greenhouse. However, that said, the bore hole is no good with a  water pump and part of the deal was that they would do the bore hole and she was responsible for finding funding for the water pump to complete the well. The cost of this pump is astronomical.  ($9,768.00 – $12,210.00 CANADIAN dollars). I emphasize CANADIAN dollars in capital letters as that seems to be one of the most frustrating parts of our visit this year – making everyone understand that one U.S. dollar is NOT equivalent to one Canadian dollar.

Our organization is not big enough, strong enough or certainly not wealthy enough to fund this project. However we are hoping that with the help of some new donors, and possible one or two other organizations chipping in – together we can make this happen.

Once the well is in place, they have been given approval to open a water kiosk, enabling them to sell water and hence make some income off out of the surplus water.

The water issue is really just one end of a double edged sword. You see, with the severe lack of water, there is also a serious lack of food. If the pump could be installed, not only would it allow them enough water for their own consumption, but would allow them a way to earn income as well as solve their food shortage problem as they would be able to grow their own and not have to purchase it.

We won’t even touch on the fact that with the political upheaval of this past 6 months, food costs have tripled.

There is a new addition to the Amazing Grace family and I’m happy to report that this young lady has not come to the home out of an abusive relationship, but rather was in the care of an elderly grandfather who could not adequately care for her. She is not only now in the loving hands of Margaret and the others at Amazing Grace, but a relationship with her grandfather will remain as he has been granted visitation rights, allowing this young lady to grow up in a stable environment and still remain close to what family she has left.

All twenty-two children have successfully passed their exams and moved on to the next level. They are all happy and healthy and the one child who is HIV positive is under doctor’s care, and doing magnificently. Three of the children are moving forward after completing high school and Margaret is in search of sponsorships so that these children can remain in school and receive an even higher education, allowing them to excel.  Two would be going to Polytechnic school which runs approximately $400 USD for the first term, $250 USD for term two and $150 USD for term three (and this would be for a two year course).  The third child is looking at college, where the cost would be a wee bit lower.

One of her girls will be going into high school this year, and Margaret is also searching for sponsorship for her as well. Cost of high school is 4500kes ($55 Canadian dollars) as well as some funds for back to school shopping.

The top three needs at Amazing Grace Children’s Home remains:

1. Water pump – this is the most important issue.

2. School fees – three for secondary education and one for high school

3. She continues to search for a car, to enable her to get children back and forth to hospital, court and other errands.

Amazing Grace Children’s Home opened in 2009 and has been making great strides ever since. Thirty-six children have moved on, having benefited greatly from their experience there. It is because of her astounding efforts and donations from some very generous donors, that these children have had the opportunity to make better lives for themselves.

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Nairobi Children’s Rescue Centre

(In order to ensure the safety of the children, we do not post pictures of the children currently living at the facility.)

It was a quiet day at Nairobi Children’s Rescue Centre when we visited. Perhaps because they currently have only 23 children, or, more likely because when we arrived it was just past 1pm and a number of the younger children were sound asleep in their beds. Ahhhh… how peaceful (and deceiving) the sight of a sleeping child can be.

The down time allowed us to meet with the facility manager, Nancy, who gratefully welcomed us into her office where we shared a delicious lunch together.  NCRC is currently home to only 23 children ranging in age from 7 months to 8 years old. As a rule, children who are taken to NCRC are to be there only for a period of 6 months. NCRC is a government run facility that provides temporary care for lost, orphaned and vulnerable children during an assessment time and will then move on, either to another home, or, in a perfect scenario, back with their parents.

While housed at this facility, the children often go on day trips. Most recently they enjoyed a trip to Wilson’s Airfield and another day to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Some of the children are there because their parents are currently incarcerated. In such cases, Nancy makes sure that the children are taken, from time to time, to the prisons to visit with their parents and maintain a parent/child bond.  They also take the children for home visits to help prepare them to eventually move back home, hence helping with the integration period for the child.

The home also employs two teachers who help to educate the children on a daily basis.  Their most important job however, is to ensure the children receive the most basic human needs, i.e. Food, shelter, medication, skin and health care and of course a sense of belonging and feeling loved.

The home is open and welcoming; clean and nurturing.

Currently Our Kenyan Kids provides the home with an ample supply of detol to ensure they can keep the facility clean. We also supply the salaries for 8 volunteers, and have for many years. The volunteer duties are as such: gatekeeper, groundskeeper, kitchen help, bathroom cleaner, dining room help – washing and cleaning the windows and floors as well as a couple that care for the babies during the night, taking care of their needs and sleeping in the same room with them throughout the night.

Despite a huge drop in the number of children over the past couple of years, Nancy assured us that all of the volunteers are still very much needed at the home to ensure that the children receive the utmost care and attention.  This has been a topic of discussion of late and it was evident that the volunteers feared for their jobs. When the home was caring for 100+ children, OKKids could justify the need for all the volunteers on top of the government paid workers. (At present there are 18 government paid workers at the facility.) However, with such a significant drop in the past few years, we have had to consider cutting back here. We have no doubt that each of these volunteers work diligently each and every day and that they care deeply for the children, and yet during financial crisis, such as we have experienced over the past couple years,  we must sometimes re-evaluate where our pennies go. This is just one of the many reasons we often seek donations from not only our regular supporters, but are always seeking new donors as well.

When you are placed in a room, staring into the distraught faces of 8, extremely poor individuals, who work harder on a day to day basis than most of us do – ever – its heart wrenching at best to try to explain to them that you are doing the best you can, but cannot make promises regarding their job security or give them the raise you know they all deeply deserve. Especially when you know that terminating that position would cause total devastation to them and their families.

This is just one of the gut wrenching moments that we have to endure when we, as an organization are feeling a pinch from lack of donors. There is no doubt that the workers are deserving, not only of the job but of a significant raise as well, or that the children are deserving for the level of care they are receiving to continue. Yet as our economy continues to spiral downward, it is a dilemma we must work harder, and work together at, to reach our goals.

We ventured outside to spend time with the children and Nancy showed us some upgrades they have recently made to their clothes drying facility. New poles, wires, outside as well as a new covered structure with clothes lines on a fresh new cement pad, used to dry clothes when the weather is not optimal for drying.

The upkeep of the playground equipment is something they are diligent in maintaining for the children and would like to see a second cement pad go in alongside the playground for the children to play basketball and such on. The pad that is currently in place is deplorable to say the least and not one you or I would even consider tossing hoops on.

We left them with all brand new toothbrushes and toothpaste thanks to a local dentist, to which they were absolutely thrilled.  We also provided them with colouring books, crayons, some “Brockville Railway Tunnel” t-shirts as well as a few red, “Canada 150” sun hats.

Going forward, they hope to begin raising rabbits. This will be therapeutic for the children, something for them to feed and feel responsibility for. They would also like to begin raising chickens and are well on their way with repairs to their current chicken house and fencing near completion. They hope to implement this as soon as possible, with help from donors, with approximately 40 chickens.

Another need, that is imperative it be repaired soon, is for lighting at the entrance gate. This needs to be repaired as soon as possible for safety reasons.

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