As Christmas approaches and I ensure all my gifts are wrapped and stockings are stuffed (even though there is a good possibility that no one will be allowed to visit and open them!!)… I think of my friends in Kenya. I think of all the children that willingly (without parents making them) engage in their education, live in orphanages without parents, or siblings, some without housing at all; children who deserve (at the very least) the basic education that our children, here in Canada, take for granted. An education that most of these children would do absolutely anything to have, but the reality is, it will not be achievable for many. For Tracy, a young student that the Our Kenyan Kids team has not only met, but has helped and encouraged throughout her secondary school years, the dream (and in her country – a necessity in order to prosper) to continue her education at a post secondary level. She is very smart, works very hard and with just a little financial help, she WILL achieve her goals. I know most of us have already stretched out budgets to their utmost and we’ve donated repeatedly this year in order to help our friends, neighbours and families stay afloat. I’m not asking you each to break the bank. I know this has been an exceptionally tough year. Every child deserves an education. I ask only that you donate what you can spare – every single penny counts.
When the pandemic began, Kawangware Tailoring School was forced to close just like all other schools and businesses. Even as time passed and some restrictions were lifted, the school was left struggling. At the end of May it was decided that it was safe to reopen the school with the necessary precautions in place. To date, however, only 8 students have returned. Monica’s own tailoring shop is struggling as well. Without income from either the tailoring shop or the tailoring school, the situation has become quite troublesome. They are hopeful that more students will return to school in the days ahead, though realistically returning students will not be in a position to pay the fees required and hence, the financial difficulties of the school itself will remain.
Our Kenyan Kids supports this project a minimum of three times per year, enabling them to buy food and medical supplies. In the past 7 months, we provided additional support on 3 occasions. In a normal year, the school would usually have enough stocked food for one month but in March when the gates were locked, churches and organizations that usually offer food and financial support were not able to support Gathaithi. We received an urgent request for assistance in April for food and medical supplies (hand sanitizer, dispensers, masks, gloves, therm-o-gun to take temperatures). Throughout the pandemic 29 children and 2 staff have remained locked in the compound. They have continued to provide food for over 50 children in the Outreach program every Sunday by placing food outside the gates of the school for the guardians to pick up. They have continued to grow kale, spinach and onions in the greenhouse and other vegetables in the small gardens tended by the children. In August, we were able to provide additional support for medical supplies and enable the purchase of seeds to support planting of crops for consumption and for income. The Kenyan government mandated that school reopen on October 12. The children have their temperatures taken each day, wear masks, continuously wash their hands and are diligent in maintaining all Covid-19 precautions.
Life remains largely unchanged, in terms of daily responsibilities, at Hope House. However NO adoptions have been allowed since the pandemic began, and with the admission of 3 new babies in June (following negative tests for Covid) staff at Hope House are now caring for 22 babies. No visitors or student work placements are allowed, but recently the staff have been able to receive in-kind donations (food, diapers, baby clothing, laundry soap) at the front gates once again. In the past five months OK Kids has been able to provide financial support to Hope House on 4 occasions (in addition to the regular support from Adopt-a-cot supporters). Since no visitors or local in-kind donations were allowed from May to July, OK Kids provided financial assistance to purchase regular milk, a special formula for a baby with a milk allergy, fruits, vegetables and other necessities. In August we provided funds to purchase a new electric kettle and a microwave, which are used many times each day when preparing food for the children. With no adoptions taking place in the last 8 months, many babies have now reached the toddler stage and we are pleased to report that OK Kids has provided support to purchase supplies for a Stimulation Program to assist in the development of social and learning skills based on Montessori techniques and activities. The instructor works with the children each day, and has purchased crayons, paper, paint and paint brushes, baby scissors, wall charts, alphabet blocks, an educational floor mat, a wading pool and sand and sand toys to use with the children. We consider this money an investment in the future of these children.
Currently they have 42 children at NCRC and are just beginning to resume taking in/releasing children. The government has frozen employment so when someone retires they are not currently being replaced, which has unfortunately been the case here (with 3 workers gone) which means that the centre must rely on the 8 workers we support at least for the time being
All students at Kambui were sent home March 19, 2020 and the school remained closed until just recently. On October 12 students finally began to return to the school, a few at a time. The principal has reported that they have room to maintain the social distance required by the Ministry of Health, but their two greatest challenges are the provision of face masks and hand sanitizer. Parents are supposed to provide these BUT most students are arriving at the school, without. At the OK Kids October board meeting it was decided that we would provide some financial support for the purchase of hand sanitizer and masks. Although some disposable masks could be purchased, it was suggested that fabric be purchased and reusable masks be created in the sewing centre at Kambui. Masks with a transparent window in the front would be optimal for lip reading and so the board suggested that they utilize their sewing centre and teach the children to create masks– hence fulfilling a need and learning a skill at the same time. This particular type of masks are more difficult to locate, and the making of masks could possibly even provide a way to generate and income for the school.
Throughout most of the pandemic Nelson was home, remotely checking on the members of the Itabua, Rwika and Kagumori Joy groups. The groups were not meeting, as many members are immune compromised, and everyone was required to remain at home. In August Nelson returned to work, with limited activities at the Centre, and he has been very busy on behalf of OK Kids. The final three water tanks (plus one home requiring piping only) have been installed for members of the Rwika group. These tanks were all paid for by individual sponsors or groups of sponsors through special fundraising efforts. Thank you to all who have provided access to clean water for these families – you have changed lives! We have also supported a new farming project for members of the three groups, with training to prepare the land, provision of fertilizer and seeds, and an opportunity to provide sustainable activities, growing crops to provide food to feed a family plus extras to sell at the market. The first crops were planted in September and we are looking forward to positive reports. During our February visit two groups expressed a need for smaller water storage tanks (230 L) and with the farming project underway 20 tanks were purchased for members of the Itabua and Kagumori Joy groups to ensure water could be transported and crops could be properly cared for. We have also been able to provide financial support to purchase furniture and computer equipment for the Youth Centre, the recent addition to the Doris Coons Resource Centre. This will provide access to training for many in the Embu area, and enhance the life of youth there. With so many regular activities that we support being restricted due to Covid, and with the financial support of our many donors we feel fortunate to have been able to direct these funds to the projects facilitated by Nelson.
The children at Amazing Grace Children’s home have faced very difficult times as well. On top of dealing with the distress of Covid-19, they have recently lost their matriarch. Margaret’s mother, Ann passed away just over one month ago from blood pressure related issues. Ann has been a part of their lives (like a grandmother) since each of them first came to Amazing Grace. This, on top of the pandemic struggles, have made for extremely difficult times. Our Kenyan Kids has provided extra support on two occasions (May and July) , primarily to replenish food supplies and to help with basic needs. During the pandemic, food prices have skyrocketed, making the purchase of necessities very stressful and there have been some difficult decisions to be made. OK Kids provided additional funds to buy maize, cereals, chapatti flour, beans, cooking oil, soap plus 5 mattresses and bedding (a need noted during our visit in February). With our help, they are getting by, but the challenges remain.
It has not been an easy time for the villages in the Turkana District. Food and water are scarce at the best of times, but during Covid-19, it has been completely devastating. Even Pastor Dan and his small team of ministers were unable to visit, unable to deliver grains, or even to make uji. The people were at the mercy of the land– which as you know, is barren. As the months went by, some of the restrictions began to lift and Pastor Dan was able to get the hand washing stations that he was distributing, sent up to the people in Turkana. A wee bit more time, and then the local ministers were able to visit, and then in the most recent months, Pastor Dan himself has been allowed to return. This however is not without restrictions. It is still forbidden for outsiders to cook or feed the children in the uji program. He is however, allowed to deliver the grains and enable the families to cook for themselves. Our Kenyan Kids was able to provide support for Pastor Dan to purchase water backpacks to enable hand washing PLUS food (maize flour) distributed to people in the villages.
Join us September 21 between 1pm and 4 pm at The Barn at the Boneyard, north of Cardinal. The music will be our gift to you. There is no charge for admission or refreshments. If you wish to “give back” however, a donation to Our Kenyan Kids will be accepted with gratitude. The venue has been donated by the Martelle family, and all musicians are performing free-of-charge.