Board Member Profile – Jan Murray

Over the years I have had the incredible opportunity to travel to many great places. I have seen both wealth and indulgence as well as poverty and harshness.

pic 1_ppAs the years went by, I discovered the works of a man named Tim Hetherington. Tim believed, as do I, that the only way for someone to truly experience another culture (short of personally visiting) was to have that story brought home, (to life say to speak,) for them, through photographs, videos and personal stories. Tim’s work inspired me to do the same; to bring the world that is outside of your reach, into your homes, into your living rooms, through video, through photographs and through stories.

As I traveled, I found that those who had less, were more generous, more compassionate, more trusting and more faithful. Upon my visit to Kenya in January of 2013, I was awakened to the fact that many Canadians, myself included, are simply blind to that which is not visually presented to us. I took literally thousands of pictures during my time there. Pictures of children who faced great challenges, beyond the comprehension of North American children, pictures of adults who have endured hardships beyond that to which you or I could ever possibly imagine. Through it all, the most amazing thing happened. I experienced love and kindness like I had never felt before.

I met children, who rather than spend hours making excuses why they couldn’t go to school, would walk miles and miles and miles, often in treacherous conditions, just to get there. Children who genuinely wanted to learn. I met adults who had virtually nothing, but were willing to give all that they had, if you so desired it. This is a place I want everyone to experience, if not personally, then through photographs, videos and stories. Our Kenyan Kids is an organization that needs your help, to help those who so desperately need us.

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A letter from Sammy

We recently received this letter from Sammy – Samuel Kiragu Ndungu – one of the first recipients of an Our Kenyan Kids’ scholarship, one time Nairobi Children’s Rescue Centre worker and all around wonderful human being. Read on to hear how lives are changed by Our Kenyan Kids, in more ways than one.

 Sammy Hi,

It is a bit funny, (not haha funny though) that I have decided to sit and write this article now. Let me explain. Firstly, this has taken me an unbelievably long time to write. For some reason, I just couldn’t find the words. As I sit down to write, my very own 5 month old princess, Mirriam Bahati, is sleeping soundly, her brother is playing his Energizer bunny-like energy at his Kindergarten, and mum is in her office securing everybody’s future. In a little while I will get down to some film-cutting homework I haven’t finished yet. The first snow is falling which makes me both extremely sad and happy at the same time. I can’t explain that either. 

 
 Listening to all this, my life sounds very smooth and in a way it is. However, for some time now my head has been working 24.7.365 – which, on one side is a good thing for human development, but on the other, tiring. Questions race in my mind about the choices I have made as an adult, about who I should blame for a few occurrences I humanly deem unfair – like my parents not seeing their granddaughter, or my first beard, or how far I have come or whether leaving my life and moving to Germany was a smart move, … or if I had just sacrificed my queen….or…. 

 Just like everybody else, my life has had its ups and downs. Recently, everything has become a bit trickier and I find myself having to make more complicated and at times difficult decisions, most of which I am encountering for the first time. I feel helpless and weak and almost about to give up and sometimes I cant stop tears streaming down my face. This is the state I am in as I write this.

 In the middle of all the pain and helplessness, I look back to see where I have come from. Its quite far and I know I may not be there yet, but I am on my way and I couldn’t have done it without help. That is where Doug Warren comes in. The man who took me under his wing when my dad passed away.He makes me (along with disciplinary measures as a dad) believe anything is possible. One of the greatest gifts I got from him, though, was the Our Kenyan Kids family, including some members of Wall Street United Church – the people whose love has been felt and is still felt by my family from thousands of miles away. The Project Exposure Team meetings when I was in Kenya, the dinners with partners, fun talks, among lots of other fun things. Top of the list was the dedication they had in what they were doing.

 At first I didn’t understand people flying thousands of miles to help other people in need. By working at the Nairobi Children´s home, and being the only male working in direct contact with the kids, my place in the spotlight made me almost ignorant as to why these ´rich folks´ were there. In my head, they were just lucky people with overflowing cups who were nice, which even though completely undigestible to my Kenyan-conditioned mind, I fell deeply in love with.One of the outcomes however is that since I met them, I can hardly be called to judge a fight between a Canadian and almost anybody else. I am biased.

 Over the years, I saw God´s work through Our Kenyan Kids’ members and friends.I remember one that has, up to now, still proven God’s power.At one time I was working with a wonderful HIV single mother of four (We will call her Joan) in a supplements program. The supplement, Selenium was supplied through OKKIDS to HIV positive mothers and children from the then chairman’s brother, Dr Don Warren. One day Joan asked if I can see her friend who had been discharged from a Nairobi hospital to ‘die at home’, as the doctors said when they gave her 6weeks to live. When I met her, she had almost no energy to open her eyes. After a short visit, I left her some food and a bottle of supplements and I remember getting a call 3 weeks later from ´Joan´ telling me that her friend had just walked about 10kms after visiting the doctor who gave her more weeks to live. I know you smiled at the end of the story. However, an wider smile will most probably come when you know that these two women are still alive by the grace of God today. Joan finally moved out of the slums of Nairobi and settled back in her home village.

 It’s these kinds of happenings that I saw that gives me hope today that no matter how low life’s graph point drops, there is hope because we all are indeed equal in God’s eyes. Whenever my family had a chance, we would sing our family anthem, (God will make a way), and God really did make a way for us. He gave us an extended family to walk with us and be our supporting beams – and not only for us but for ń. Nairobi Children´s Rescue Centre, Hope House Babies home, Kawangware tailoring project, the boys at Thika Rehabilitation Centre, where one (Bernard) who joined the organization as a kid is now about to complete his High School education – and many, many more.  

 That is how I see Our Kenyan Kids – as part of my family. A family welcomes you with open arms when you join them.They watch you crawl,walk and later run. They clap for you when you are walking tall and pick you up and hold your hand when you stagger or fall. They forgive your mistakes and hope you learn through them. They are patient and always there. You feel stronger because you know you are not alone. You know they are watching over you every step of the way. In them you see all the security features you need to go through life.You feel satisfied, blessed and hopeful that even though the journey from today on the way to a better day tomorrow is not easy, as you are walking through life´s dangerous fields you are surrounded by a bubble of people who love and care for you.

 This is what Our Kenyan Kids means to me. My name is Samuel Kiragu Ndungu, proud husband and father of two and one of the first alumni, former employee, and a grateful benefactor of Our Almighty´s goody bag through Our Kenyan Kids. I have seen the Lord work for others through the family of which I am and always will be proud to be a part of. To God be the Glory.

 Be blessed.     

 

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Gwen’s Perspective

Gwen Laforty-Willis  was a “Flight Crew” member on the inaugural 2007 Project Experience Trip.  Here is her perspective on the experience:

“It has been several years since I traveled, along with six others, to Africa. We were the first group to travel to Kenya to see firsthand the wonderful projects and the valuable work performed by Our Kenyan Kids. I could probably write a book, but here I’ll highlight some of my unforgettable experiences.

Gwen (far right) with some of her fellow travelers.

Gwen (far right) with some of her fellow travelers.

What stands out most in my mind was Nairobi Children’s Home [now called the Nairobi Children’s Rescue Centre]. Of course, there were far too many children for the spaces allotted. So many of the children had lost their parents to AIDS. We spent a whole day there, in that place where love flowed from my heart as I mingled with the orphaned children. And yes, I fell in love with them. One little fellow managed somehow to get on our van while we were leaving. With those irresistible big brown eyes he begged us to take him with us. Talk about heart break!

Sammy worked at the Children’s Home. We met him and all his family. The children loved Sammy, and he loved them. Our Kenyan Kids was responsible for helping to pay the expenses for Sammy’s post-secondary education – along with his three siblings. They are now all employed and successful. While we were there, we were privileged to be invited to a wonderful gathering at Sammy’s family home.

The next highlight, if that tern could be used, was a visit to the Deep Sea Slum. It was an eye opener! No water, no plumbing, no electricity. Children carrying children on their backs. On a positive note, there was a school there, on the edge of the slum. But the children need uniforms in order to attend, and few can afford these ‘luxuries’. There was a small clinic there also.229127_8568470172_3330_n

We stayed at the Methodist Guest House. It was very clean and provided us with all the amenities. They staff were extraordinary and lovely to get to know.

We did, on one occasion, treat ourselves. We went on a short safari. And I got to dance with a Maasai Warrior!

I admire the continuing efforts and achievements of Our Kenyan Kids. It is hard work to plan and raise the money needed to provide the many programs sponsored. We hear about poverty in the world, but few of us see it firsthand. Hearing and seeing are two totally different things! The trip to Kenya was a life changing experience; one I would definitely recommend to anyone. I can never forget the love in the people we met. God’s love is in their hearts.”gwen signoff

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“Soup”er Lunch – November 1st!

"Soup"er Lunch. Sunday, November 1st. Wall Street United Church - 11:15 - 1:30. Menu: Choice of soup, rolls, cheese, dessert, coffee/tea. Free Will Offering at the door. Everyone Welcome. Kenyan Store will be open.

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Project Experience Trip Meeting

Our Kenyan Kids is planning a Project Experience Trip to visit our projects in Kenya in January 2016. 
The trip will be led by Beth Kent.  Beth will be hosting an information meeting on Thursday October 22nd at 7 pm at Wall Street United Church in Brockville.  If you are at all interested in this experience, come to the meeting or contact Beth at:
 beth email
From personal experience, I can recommend this as an amazing opportunity to experience Kenya.
Eileen Doner, Secretary
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Helen’s Perspective

Helen McDonald  was a “Flight Crew” member on the  2011 Project Experience Trip.  Here is her perspective on the experience:

“I was privileged to attend the Project Experience Trip to Kenya in 2011. My reason for going on this trip was that it was an organized trip to Africa and a chance to go on a safari.  This trip made me aware first hand of the very poor conditions in Africa.  I had no previous experience of such common things as slums, guarded residences, barbed wire on the tops of walls along the streets, the mayhem of driving where stop signs and traffic lights are non-existent,  very basic construction techniques and “stand and deliver” toilets.Our Kenyan Kids project experience trip

I was very pleased to see how Canadian funds, books, clothes and supplies are making such a difference in the lives of the children connected to the schools and how gratefully they are accepted.  I was amazed at the church services and was shamed when I compared their faith to that exhibited in my own country.

One of the most memorable parts of our trip was our visit to Solio to visit a classroom partly funded and built by local students in Brockville.  We were invited to visit a student’s home where she lived in a 3 room shack with her parents, nine siblings and some chickens.

The days on the Safari were certainly a highlight provoking wonderful memories when I watch nature shows at home.

Our experiences in Nairobi have made me often feel embarrassed by the amount the Western world takes for granted – such as our school systems.  We watched the African people working up fields with hoes, often hoping for food in exchange and we often have trouble finding employees to pick our apples.

I make an annual donation to Our Kenyan Kids and attend a few of the special events. I would not go on another Mission Trip simply because I want to visit more countries.  However, the trip to Kenya was certainly one of my favourite and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to go.”

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Board Member Profile – Vicki Lynch Grier

We asked our board members, “Why do you give to Our Kenyan Kids?”  The first to answer was Vicki Lynch Grier.

Vicki at Our Kenyan Kids fundraiser.  (Photo credit to: https://www.facebook.com/snapd1000Islands)

Vicki at Our Kenyan Kids fundraiser. (Photo credit to: https://www.facebook.com/snapd1000Islands)

Years ago, as a 12 year old girl, waiting tables at a summer resort, I served a wonderful couple. She was white and he was black. I had a hard time when I had to serve them in a private dining room away from the whites.  That hurt me more that I can say. At that time, I knew I had to try to make changes where I could.

Then I heard Kevin Smith speak at St Johns United Church one Sunday about his work in Africa. I, with healthy children and grandchildren, felt my heart strings pulling again. Then, with my work, I met Audrey Butterill whose family was very involved with Our Kenyan Kids.

God was working.

I went on my first trip to Kenya and I fell in love. My heart broke for the children. With what I saw felt and learned, well, you would have to be cold-hearted or dead not to want to help.  I made a second trip and felt the same way. I hope one day to go again but in the mean time I will fund raise to help as I can.

The children and adults in Kenya I met know only poverty and hunger. They were shy, not bold, and thankful – with smiles that light up the world.

I found out that the commercials on TV are real. They do live in dumps, eat in dumps, and play in dumps. This is why I collect liquor, beer, and wine bottles where ever I can. I cash them in and the money goes to Our Kenyan Kids.

I challenge you – What can you do to help?

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