Day 1 from the 2017 ‘Flight Crew’

The day’s seemed endless waiting for March 30th to finally arrive, but then as it drew near, to within a few days, everything seemed to happen at once and before I knew it, it was time to go. But wait! My bags weren’t packed, my donations were not separated, I hadn’t checked off even half of my checklist, but no matter, it was time to leave. For the next 13 days, I would be on Kenyan time. Pole, Pole.

Bill Hoftyzer was kind enough to take the four of us to the airport (and even after having endured all of our craziness for the entire 2 hours, ) he promised to return again , late in the evening on the 10th to pick us all up again and ensure we all made it home safely. 

A slow start to our journey could have been negatively construed but alas my travel companions would have no part in this. Despite our plane being almost 2 hours late (just arriving at the gate!), it was conveniently referred to as a blessing that our wait in Casablanca would now only be 4 hours long, rather than 6. 

When you consider that we left Brockville quite promptly at 4pm on Thursday and didn’t actually arrive at our hotel until 4am Saturday, and nobody was complaining or whining or making much of a fuss (well, other than me, because I was sick when I left, and still sick, and a wee bit of a princess – but they weren’t beating me yet), I took this as a good sign. Now, it really was 4am (in Nairobi) and when you’ve been awake that long – it felt like 4am; the reality is, if we did the conversion, our internal clocks should have only felt it to be 9pm on Friday night.

With a roll of the eyes and a sheepish grin, we all filed into our rooms and set our alarms for three hours later when our first day of visiting the projects would begin. Winnie arrived at our hotel early (yes Bill… EARLY).  Although Winnie and I have chatted numerous time on skype, this was our actual first time to meet in person and for JoAnne, Rita and Donna, it was a first opportunity for them to become acquainted. John arrived at the scheduled time and we were off to Kambui.

The drive was much shorter than I remembered it, less than two hours in fact and that included our regularly scheduled stop at the local Nakumat first to ensure we had the required supplies for snacks and drinks back at the room at the end of the day.

April is a holiday month at Kambui and so our arrival was timed so as to catch as many as we could before they had all left to go home and visit their families. The principal was involved in a meeting regarding having the asbestos leaking roof replaced while the children were off site and so our time with her was extremely limited. She was able to peek her head in for a slight second and grab a photo shortly after our arrival and then we saw her again briefly as we were leaving. None the less, the school secretary —- was kind enough to sit with us and share what has been happening at the school. She reviewed the report cards and achievements of the four children that we support there and elaborated on the three others who were in our program but have just recently graduated class 8 and moved on.

During the month of April the school is able to play host to a wide variety of visiting students who are participating in “tournament games.” And so these students ran about as we were visiting as well. 

Some of the children gathered behind the classrooms so that we could interact with them for a time, share the new balls and other playground equipment that we brought for them (thanks to a grant from the RTO) and then escort us to the playground where we witnessed the joy that they are getting from the new playground equipment that OKKids has recently had installed (again thanks to a grant from the RTO); the merry-go-round and teeter tauter being the two most popular. There is still some work to be done, some swings to be installed and  a sandpit at the bottom of the slide – but it is so refreshing to see even as much as we have, in comparison to what that very playground looked like just one year ago when we visited.

We were given a tour of a couple of the classrooms as well as the dormitories, (where we were able to see the mattresses and mattress covers we recently purchased – thanks to the RTO) and had some moments of reflection and brainstorming power moments before we headed off.  

It’s easy enough to walk in, look around; share a laugh with the kids, play some ball and then head off – but take a moment to actually look around, let the reality of what you are witnessing sink in, and you leave with a far different perspective than that to which you arrived.

To explain. Imagine walking into your child’s bedroom. What do you see? Really think about it and take a second to write it down. Let me help you to begin.There are nice warm blankets on the bed, probably a teddy or two or maybe some dolls. There is likely a carpet or an area rug on the floor. You probably see a dresser, if like my children’s rooms – you can’t see the top of it because it is completely covered in toys, books, video games, clothes, etc. If you look around a wee bit more, you might see posters on the walls, pictures of their friends, napsacks and shoes strewn about on the floor – the list goes on and on. As we stood there in the silence, looking to our right, we could see a dorm room – usually consisting of 4-6 bunk beds (sleeps 8-12 children) and a bed in the centre of the room for the “dorm mother.” That’s it. No carpet, no fuzzy blankets, no toys, no teddy’s. No pictures on the wall or hand made cards from their friends. To the left were cubbies, where the children could store their shoes or something of that sort. Above the cubbies was a collection of tin trunks. Each trunk no bigger than my suitcase really. Each child has a trunk – inside their individual trunks is everything they own; everything they hold dear or precious to themselves – basically – their entire lives. If you rest here a moment, and let that truly understand why OKKids supports Kambui School for the Deaf.

The ride home is always far quieter than the ride there, or to any of the schools and orphanages that we support. The day was long, the team was exhausted; but the day was most definitely worth the trip.

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Exciting News

We are pleased to announce a new partnership with The Retired Teachers of Ontario (RTO/ERO), an organization of retired teachers and others who worked in the education field. RTO/ERO provides its members with comprehensive health and travel insurance plans, a travel program, and acts as an advocate for retirees, seniors, children and active educators. Each year this organization provides financial assistance to a number of education related and/or community projects at the local, provincial or world level. Last spring the local RTO/ERO Leeds and Grenville District 48 selected an application from Our Kenyan Kids to submit at the provincial level. We are excited to announce that the Provincial Project Service to Others committee has chosen our submission on behalf of Kambui School for the Hearing Impaired. We have received a cheque for $4000!

 

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2016 Provincial Service to Others District 48 Grant Recipient – Representing the Kambui School for the Hearing Impaired in Kenya: Carolyn Matheson and Donna McMillan (Board Members of Our Kenyan Kids); with Martin Higgs (Past Pres. RTO), Dave Heuther (Pres. District 48), Lisa Leroux (Secretary District 48)

 Project funds from The Retired Teachers of Ontario will address three areas of need at Kambui School. 

  • Library: Funds will be used to enrich the education of students by providing books and other learning materials for students and teachers.
  • Playground: Funds will be used to replace unsafe playground equipment with repaired and/or different equipment which will enable not only younger students to play with friends at recess or after school, but older students to benefit from physical activity and social interactions with peers as well.
  • Dormitories are crowded. Mattresses are thin, and mattress covers are stained, soiled or threadbare. Funds will be used to begin to improve the health, well-being and comfort of students residing in the dormitories. Fifty new mattresses and mattress covers will be purchased with funds from this project.

Watch for updates about this 2017 project at Kambui School for the Hearing Impaired. Thank you again to The Retired Teachers of Ontario.

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“Soup”er Lunch – 19th February

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Christmas is coming!

Christmas Shopping? Two ideas to consider:

Crafts from Kenya will be for sale at Yuletide Fare, Wall Street United Church Brockville on November 25 (10am-5pm) and 26 (10am-2pm) . All proceeds support the work of Our Kenyan Kids.

 

Meaningful Christmas Gifts: Make a donation to Our Kenyan Kids in honour of a friend or relative and a special card will be sent to announce your gift. Donations may be made by cheque sent to Our Kenyan Kids, P.O. Box 164, Brockville ON K6V 5V2 OR online at Canada Helps.org.  Include the name and address of the person being honoured.

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In the news

Board member, Jan Murray, has been in Kenya the last two weeks.  She has published the first of two articles on InsideBrockville.com about her journey.

You can read it here.

 

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Supporter Survey

Thank you so much for your support of Our Kenyan Kids – whether by financial contribution, by volunteering your time, or by liking and sharing our posts on social media.  We value your opinion, because without your support, Our Kenyan Kids could not fulfill its mission.

Our Kenyan Kids supports children and youth affected by poverty and or HIV/AIDS, in Kenya or elsewhere, by providing education, training, humanitarian aid, and nurturing relationships, one child at a time.

We want to ensure that we are providing you with an experience that fulfills your needs as a supporter. This entire organization started because Douglas Warren (at the time a Minister at Wall Street United Church in Brockville, Ontario) was given $200 by a member of the Wall Street congregation, to be taken with him on his vacation to Kenya in January of 2004. The donor asked that it be used for helping children as he saw fit.  This donated seed money and inspiration resulted in the first sponsored volunteer at Nairobi Children’s Rescue Centre (then Nairobi Children’s Home). As the organization has grown, and as time has gone by, other influences have come into the picture. As a registered Canadian charity, Our Kenyan Kids must adhere to strict rules and we want to ensure that while following those rules, our donors’ and supporters’ voices are still being heard.

Please take a few moments to tell us what you think by filling out this survey.

We thank you sincerely for your consideration of this request,

Our Kenyan Kids’ volunteer board members

 

 

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An artist in the family. 

When the first ‘flight crew’ went to Kenya in 2007, they spent a lot of time with Sammy Ndungu and his family – sisters Rachel and Eunice, brother Simon and extended friends who count as family.

Members of that crew keep in touch, to this day, with the Ndungu family. It has grown with in-laws and many children.

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Top – The Ndungu siblings in 2007 | Bottom – The family in 2012

 

Most recently, we have received an update on Eunice and her family.

Left – Eunice’s husband Lewis & their two boys | Right – Eunice & Lewis

 

Eunice’s husband, Lewis, is  not only a dedicated father to their two boys but also a gifted artist. Below are just a few of his works:

 


  

 

If anyone would like more information about Lewis’ work, please contact us at our.kenyan.kids@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jan, Rita & Bill’s Kenyan adventures

12548932_1678671535722087_1401477726984365654_nThe latest ‘flight crew’ to travel to Nairobi is on the ground in Kenya.  They left Brockville on January 14th and have already had a tour of Nairobi, visited the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage and, today, the Gathaithi Orphan’s & Vulnerable Children’s Centre.

You can follow along with their adventure on Jan’s blog or on our Facebook page.

 

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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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