Welcome to Maisha International's Blog
Millicent the Orphan Advocate
Today is the first International Day of the Girl – to their health, education and equality, and to their success and fulfillment, as mothers, earners and leaders. At Maisha, we work hard every day to ensure their rights, uplift them and give them a brighter future. Today, we celebrate them! Pictured here is Millicent, one of the first girls at Maisha. She was taken in out of an abusive situation after her parents died of HIV/AIDS. Through our support she was given a chance to attend school and not have to work for a living or be forced into an early marriage. She is now doing well as a senior at St. Sylvester Girl’s Secondary School and has high hopes of going on to university to become a lawyer and advocate for women’s and children’s rights. Thank you for making it possible for Millicent to succeed and for your continued support of Maisha’s work!
Excerpt from Susan M. Blaustein’s post “Let It Be a Lesson”: The Yearning for Learning, as a Force of Nature today on The Blog at huffingtonpost.com:
…And behind the noisy demonstrators, debaters and letter-writers stand many quieter heroes: girls who walk miles to reach their school each day, village girls who’ve traded their childhoods just to be able to live in the cities where the high schools are, often risking their health servicing the men who keep them, or girls who work nights selling or shouldering market goods just to cover school costs or to pull their weight at home, who come home late and study by flickering kerosene lamp, willing to give up their sight, their health, their buoyant radiance for an education, a lifeline, a future.
It was demonstrated long ago that girls’ and women’s education can lead to the reduction in maternal mortality, infant mortality, fertility rates and infection with HIV and AIDS. A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past five, with each additional year of schooling beyond primary on the part of the mother yielding even greater benefits in improved opportunities, options and outcomes.
High School Girls Bible Distribution
Excerpt from Camfed:
Today marks the first ever International Day of the Girl – a day to recognize girls’ rights around the world. This UN-designated day highlights the growing momentum behind girls’ education and young women’s empowerment. The first International Day of the Girl turns the spotlight on child marriage – a problem that is depriving so many girls around the world of their own childhoods. The White Ribbon Alliance estimates that 10 million girls under the age of 18 are married every year. Some are as young as 12 and 13. And many of these girls give birth when they are still just children themselves. Girls’ education is recognized as one of the most effective ways to prevent this.
According to Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, “Preventing drop-out before the tipping point age of 13-14 and ensuring that girls make progression from primary school to secondary school is the most promising approach for curtailing child marriage.”
There is a direct link between education levels, birth rates, early marriage and maternal mortality. Getting more girls into school is key. Here are some of the challenges:
An acute lack of secondary schools – each child must receive a call letter to attend secondary school based on their performance on standardized exams. With a shortage of schools, many children do not receive call letters or cannot afford to pay school fees at the school where they are admitted.
Distance – Schools are often a long distance from children’s homes, leaving girls in particular vulnerable to abuse during travel to and from school or in often unsupervised accommodation
Lack of teachers - In rural areas, there were only 1,156 female teachers in 2009/10, compared to 6,522 male teachers. Young girls need role models to encourage them to stay in and complete school.
Diana Leads a Group of Maisha Girls in Singing & Dancing
What is Maisha doing?
Maisha ensures our girls the opportunity to attend school and complete their education through the Legacy of Hope program. Individual sponsors meet all of their school-going costs, from school fees to uniforms to room and board, as well as spiritual and psychosocial support to address problems that threaten to disrupt their education. This is key to tackling child marriage. Maisha’s interventions have measurably improved girls’ school enrollment, retention and academic achievements.
The widows in the Maisha community provide a network of strong female role models. Maisha Mentoring Group meets on Saturdays and holds a special talent show and girls talk once a month to share/brainstorm solutions to their unique challenges. Our local Chief Jenipher Atieno Kosome is one of our strongest supporters and works in conjunction with us to uphold and fight for the rights of women and children.
We are also endeavoring to provide bicycles for all of our girls to have a safe commute to and from school. Solar lamps are being distributed to Maisha Homes to improve eyesight and health repercussions of kerosene lamps.
Mercy & Her Friends Having Fun at the Maisha Center
Child Marriage: The Facts (Sources: Unicef, White Ribbon Alliance, Girls Not Brides, World Vision)
- An estimated 10 million girls aged under 18 are married worldwide each year.
- In the developing world, one in seven girls is married before her 15th birthday and some child brides are as young as eight or nine.
- An estimated 3,500 girls under 15 become child brides every day. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death among them.
- Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die.
- Girls under 18 are at much higher risk of pregnancy-related injuries such as fistulas.
- Child brides are at greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases than unmarried, sexually active girls of the same age.
- The children of child brides are 60% more likely to die before their first birthday than the children of mothers who are over 19.
- Even if the child survives, he or she is more likely to suffer from low birth weight, under nutrition and late physical and cognitive development.
- Child brides are almost always forced to leave school when, or before, they get married.
- To be a pregnant child is to be terrified. Girls between 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth as women in their 20s and 25,000 children marry every day, 19 every minute.
As we began our descent over the immense Lake Victoria we could see grasslands stretch to the horizon stopped suddenly by a towering mountain range. While the city of Kisumu was boasted to be one of the larger cities of Kenya, its meager single room airport with the words Kisumu International scrawled on the side seemed to tell a different tale. Although the airport is dwarfed by the ones we’ve flown through such as Chicago’s O’Hare and London’s Heathrow, we can see several school groups flock around the airport and marvel at the sight of lumbering metal planes gliding gracefully to the ground. As we gather our luggage and step forth onto Kenyan soil for the first time we are greeted enthusiastically by the orphanage staff who help us pack our luggage into a large safari van. After we are loaded we travel down a dirt road from the airport into the heart of downtown Kisumu.
The city itself is a burgeoning metropolis of poorly constructed buildings that host many businesses from banks to construction agencies; although it is apparent that modern technology such as motor vehicles and electricity is starting to seep into the area, the growing pains are glaringly apparent. The area lacks any form of traffic signs or signals even though the streets are packed full of traffic, ranging from lumbering trucks, smaller vans, even smaller trikes called Tuk-Tuks, motorcycles, bikes, and even pedestrian pulling carts. The only way to keep the faster vehicles from traveling at dangerous speeds is the installation of speed bumps periodically down the central “highway” along with the many pot holes that dot the side roads. The highway if it could be called that is a poorly laid slab of asphalt that cuts through an endless shanty town constructed primarily of tin. After a short while of traveling on this highway we exit onto one of the side roads that runs through a small more modern neighborhood; at least modern compared to what we have seen previously. Although the area is more modern, the roads still remain dirt and the concrete fences are topped with electrified wire and broken glass to deter any would be thieves.
Finally we arrive at St. Anna’s Guest House, a quaint little compound where we are staying. The reason I use the word compound is because although buildings themselves were quite inviting, like a little villa you would find in the French countryside; it was surrounded by garish barbed wire and an iron gate which kept you in constant reminder the poverty that lay just outside these walls. We stepped inside to unload our luggage, although the rooms were very minimalistic, it was still rather comfortable. After working a full day at the orphanage the beds felt more welcoming than any hotel back in the US, and the showers like a brief trip to heaven even though the water was heated by a makeshift appliance strapped to the end of the shower head. Once finished packing we marched into the dining hall where we were served a delicious lunch. Originally we anticipated that our palate cultivated by lavish western living would keep us from enjoying our meals so we packed many snacks, the very opposite was true. The tilapia caught freshly from Lake Victoria was a great treat, along with the rice complimented by a delicious rich sauce that the kitchen prepared. Although the food was consistently fresher and more wholesome than what we were used to back home, it didn’t prevent us from pouring seasoned salt on just about everything.
After a delicious lunch we loaded up inside the van once again to finally visit the orphanage, the reason we found ourselves halfway across the world. Going back the same way we came we once again traveled along the highway and exited on the opposite side after a short while. The dirt road we got onto cut between a couple of makeshift shops set up on the side of the highway and back into the wilderness. Although the dirt road was clear, it was often obstructed by various holes, dirt mounds, and large ponds of water; luckily the van we were in was large enough to overcome any obstacle we found on the road. While traveling to the orphanage Maisha we came across many small houses and huts constructed of mud and brick surrounded by fields of maize; the main food of the people here. When passing these dwellings the children would run towards the van screaming and laughing; often asking how we were in English or chattering in their native Luo language. We came across a rather large river where many of the people would walk many miles to wash and gather water to drink and cook with. Finally we could see the orphanage down the road but the path was obstructed by a large crowd singing with glee. We exited the van and were hugged and greeted excitedly by all the children and widows. Although weary from all the traveling and lack of sleep you couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear as the children held onto each of your hands as you walked to the orphanage. After attempting to join in the many joyous songs we finally reached the orphanage where they set up a small tent with many chairs set up under it. Our family took our seats at the front while the widows and children sat behind and all around us. The staff then introduced themselves to us and subsequently us to the children. We then enjoyed ourselves as the children performed several songs, dances, and even a few plays and dramas they created themselves. You couldn’t help but be in awe of the harmonious sounds of their voices or their synchronized movements to their song, nor the creativity and brilliance in their story telling and poetry. One small girl recited a poem about both of her parents succumbing to AID’s and yet was still joyful of her life and her chance at a future; a surreal experience that would drive any person to tears and to question their perception of life.
After the fun and festivities we set off to begin our work. The compound was divided into two main sections, one where the widows tend to the chores of running the orphanage and where the orphans sleep and the other main section where the food is served and the younger children are taught. In the smaller section lies Momma Grace’s house, the mother of Beatrice and the woman who maintains Maisha. In front of the house lies a single metal pump where everyone draws water for washing clothes, cooking, or drinking. The process is tedious, having to pump a handle up and down for a couple of minutes before a water of gallon is drawn, but the only other manner of gathering water is walking several miles to the river and walking back . To the side of the house lies several chicken coups and a kitchen directly behind it. The kitchen itself is a mud shack with a tin roof with some mesh wiring at the top to allow the smoke to ventilate, albeit not very well. Inside the kitchen are three open stoves molded from hardened clay and a single counter to prepare the food. The widows prepare the food while having to weather both the elements as well as the immense heat that emanates from the open fires and the smoke that tends to clog the air inside. Even though the women have to work in unbearably uncomfortable conditions, they always carry themselves in a jovial way, either singing while hunched over their cooking or humming cheerfully while preparing the meals. Whenever I would come to the kitchen to help in whatever way I could to prepare the ingredients they would always greet me with a cheer and long hugs along with trying to teach me the ways they cook; which took an obstinate amount of patience on their part. Even with the few amount of ingredients and amount of mouths they had to feed, they would always prepare a mouth watering meal that never had any left overs.
The main area holds the school where the children of the community are served lunch and where the younger orphans are taught basic things like mathematics and English. The reason English is so focused on is due to the tests that allow children to attend high school are partly written in English, if any child in Kenya does not have a basic grasp of English they will not be able to achieve a higher education than that of 8th grade. Even then all of the schools in Kenya require a large amount of money for tuition, if a child does not have a sponsor, more often than not the family cannot afford to send their child to school. The school at Maisha has one smaller room and one large room on the bottom floor. The smaller room serves as a classroom for the younger orphans who cannot attend any of the schools yet, while the larger room serves as a cafeteria. While it holds about 6 tables that can hold about sixty kids in total, the room often holds a little over a hundred while they eat lunch. The floor above that holds four rooms total, two more that serve as classrooms, the third serves as a sewing room where a few widows work old fashioned Singer sower machines where uniforms are made for the orphans that are schooled here, the fourth serves as a computer lab where laptops are used to teach the children computer literacy; many have never seen one or even heard of what one is. Next to the main building lies a couple of small huts made of reeds that serve as extra space for teaching. The central area in front of the building is often used as a play area for the children where they can be seen running about and playing with soccer balls or hula hoops or whatever toys are donated.
As for what our group did to help out at Maisha, several women in our group were career teachers and sought to find ways to improve the experience in the classroom for the kids as well as the teachers. For the most part the teachers at Maisha lacked the supplies and knowledge on the most efficient way to teach the younger children mathematics nor English. With their help they established effective teaching methods to teach the kids the English alphabet along with essential spelling and grammar rules. Rodney Huffty, the father of the other family, was a Young Life leader and used his expertise in working with teenagers to help mentor teens here with insights about life as well as instruct the men of the staff on how to handle them as well. The kids from both families that were working at Maisha helped by reading books to the children individually to help foster English skills. They also helped with the food preparation for when lunch time rolled around literally hundreds of children would line up outside of Maisha’s gate to be served some meager helping of beans and rice. A couple that is currently volunteering for a year here named Ian and Amy would draw water from a water pump have the children form a line in front of the tub of water. From there they would take a cup full of water and pour it over each kid’s hands as they scrubbed with soap passed to each one. After they have washed their hands they would then form a line in front of one giant room that served as a mess hall. Each would then take plate of rice and beans that was tediously served by the missionary families. The food would first be put into smaller buckets and than carried from the kitchen another 100 yards to the cafeteria; overall the process takes about twenty or so trips. Once the food is set up in the cafeteria it is then served to each of the three hundred or so kids. Even though the children that came here for meals had no chair or table to sit at nor any silverware they were happy as could be for having a filling meal. Even as we would walk by the younger children they would offer handfuls of their meal to us even though most of them if not all were starving; such is the generous cheerful nature of the children of the orphanage. After serving out about 200 lbs. of both rice and beans, everyone assists the widows in cleaning the plates and pots. The way this is accomplished is by drawing water out of the pump into plastic buckets and carried about 50 yards behind the house. Soap is then added to a couple of the buckets and the dishes are sanitized by briefly washing them in the soapy water and then rinsing them and letting them dry in the air. Normally the few widows that take on this chore daily spend around two to three hours hand washing hundreds of dishes, with the assistance of about five people from our families, the entire process still takes around an hour. Once this is all accomplished, the day is just about over and the sun is just about to set; we load up in the van and head back to St. Anna’s for dinner and a good nights sleep.
The following day instead of going to Maisha Orphanage first, we went to the slums instead to visit a health clinic that is being operated by the orphanage. There people in the slums visit the clinic to test and get treatment for the HIV virus that runs rampant and untreated in the area. Currently about two million people reside in the slums as squatters that live in mud shacks and tin shanties in even more disrepair than those found in the countryside. Garbage litters the streets as the only way to dispose of it is to toss it in several heaps scattered around the area. The clinic itself is nothing more but a small single room hut that holds a bed and some supplies that is run by widows who are also infected with the virus and other women who are just doing it out of the grace of their heart. After grabbing several bags of supplies for the afflicted families we set out on foot to deliver the supplies as well as offer any other assistance whether through prayer or other means. While most of the adults are weathered from years of disease and poverty, there are still children that run through the streets giggling and laughing. Seeing their joy gives a bit of happiness, but that happiness is quickly squelched when we meet the first man afflicted with the virus. He sat outside of his house in a wooden chair, looking more dead than alive. Even though he lacked the energy to move, much less speak, he and his family were very gracious for the supplies we brought. Because he was sick, the only other male in his family, his thirteen year old son, was forced to work and provide for the rest of his family which included several sisters and his mother; a feat which was very well impossible. After several minutes of talking with their family the man accepted Christ and the group prayed for his healing around him; the whole experience was surreal and difficult to explain in words, other worldly is perhaps the best way to describe it. After walking through the rest of the slums and visiting the other two families it was much of the same. Extreme poverty forced on a people with no escape, families devastated by a virus often garnered just through birth, a place although dominated by surrender and despair often showed sparks of hope.
For the next few days although the chores remained the same, there was always a new experience with the children that could only make you smile. From them finding an otherworldly excitement and glee from a puppet show, to two older boys who turned in a roll of money that was lost that could of provided for them for years. I find difficulty in trying to describe these children, whenever I try to think of a way to describe them I find myself at a loss of words. The only thing that comes close is that in my eyes, these people were what God intended us to be, selfless loving pure spirits. Entering this country I was overwhelmed with a sense of despair and hopelessness from the widespread poverty, disease, and corruption that strikes down these people; but now as I leave, I only feel a sense of hope both in these amazing people, and the human race as a whole.
July 15th & 16th, 2012
Helloooo from Maisha!!! My name is Alecia…I’m with the group from Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. We arrived safely in Kisumu on Sunday. During our drive in we were greeted by HUNDREDS of children running toward us. It was the best greeting anyone could ever dream of!
Welcome To Maisha
We had a beautiful time touring the facilities and seeing just how much God has done in the last five years. I know the Lord will continue to do more. The women and children prepared for weeks for our arrival and they performed songs, dance and poetry for us. They are very smart and talented. They made us feel so welcome by including us in their performances. It was so much fun…they would sing and call out one of our names and pull us up to sing and dance with them.
One of the wonderful performers
Some of the young ladies performing a song & dance
Blake, Meg & Eric getting’ their dance on
The next day a group of us visited three different people in the slums that are living with HIV/AIDS. It was a great time to reach out and love on these people who have been shunned by friends and family due to their illness. It was important to share with them the love of Christ and to let them know that they have not been rejected by Him. I was so humbled to be invited into their home and listen to their stories. To lay hands on them and pray for them, to hug them and let them know there are people that care for them and will continue to lift them up in prayer. They have NOT been forgotten. There was one gentleman in particular that wasn’t doing very well at all. He didn’t have the strength to sit up, couldn’t eat and had lost a great deal of weight. It was a privilege to pray with him and share God’s truth. Praise God, he received Christ last week as his savior.
Please keep the ones I’ve mentioned in your prayers, and the many more we didn’t even meet, that are facing such hardships. It’s incredibly hard to live with this disease anywhere, especially here. They are neglected by family and it’s hard for them to keep work due to their illness, in turn, making it near impossible for them to afford their medications and even their rent.
July 17, 2012
Today had to be the most amazing day ever. Tricia, Callie & I got to spend our morning and afternoon in the kitchen with this beautiful woman, Suleiman. She has the most beautiful spirit. She is funny, sweet, VERY smart and a new believer as of five days ago. We had the privilege of cooking lunch for the rest of our team with her. She’s an incredible cook. What I enjoyed most about our time together was getting to talk and hear her story.
She recently received Christ five days ago. She has never read a Bible and Tricia started telling her the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. She was amazed by the story…Callie then told her the story of Zacchaeus. She started putting two and two together. She said one time she saw a movie out in the field and there was a man carrying a heavy cross, she asked if that was the same man. We said yes then Tricia, who is an incredible story teller by the way, told the story of Jesus’ birth and how he died on the cross for us. It was quite the emotional moment and she just couldn’t believe Jesus would do that for us. There were lots of tears…she ran over and hugged Tricia and we all just cried. We then sang some worship songs together while we cooked. It was incredible. What an honor to serve with her.
July 18, 2012
Today was a packed day….but GREAT! As you know, Maisha not only ministers to Orphans, but widows and widowers as well. I worked with a couple of women gathering information from the men and women that want to start their own businesses. It was a nice time but very busy as we had over 100 people show up. My part of the job was to take each person’s photo. I used that as an opportunity to speak truth into their lives. To tell them they are loved by God and to offer words of encouragement. I didn’t have a lot of time but it was sweet.
Today was day two of soccer camp…the kids run through drills with the coaches and scrimmages.
Each day a different coach shares their testimony. Bea shared that Meg’s testimony was really simple and something the kids could relate to. Bea was prompted by the Lord to translate the testimony in their language to make sure they really understood what was shared. Every night after our team dinner we go around the table and share our highs & lows from the day. Today, Austin shared that his high for the day was when the kids from soccer camp raised their hands to receive Christ! As if that wasn’t amazing enough…Bea shared that it was 59 of them!!! Praise the LAMB!!!
Another team went out into the village for home visits again today. As hard as the home visits are, they are also a huge blessing…God really uses those moments to reach out to those who are sick & hurting. During our high-low’s tonight we found out that two people received Christ during the home visits as well!! God is doing amazing things here at Maisha…please keep the prayers going up…it’s working!
Every day at Maisha is special and God’s grace abounds. But today was one of those rare days where God’s glory shined so brightly, it soaked us all until we overflowed and danced in a river of delight. Even the 3 and 4 year olds from the Academy picked up on the atmosphere – one of them grabbed a drum and the rest of them formed a straight line behind, singing and dancing in unity!
New Shoes For All
Team Maisha discusses “highs and lows” (thanks Kally Huffty) at dinner each night, and we were all hard pressed to find a low tonight…but the highs were never ending. All 85 Maisha Academy students (ages 3-9) got new shoes, toothbrushes and toothpaste. What an absolute joy to put on their new socks and shoes and spend a few moments wiggling their toes and loving on each of them! Their smiles of pure delight were so sweet.
Mary Awaits Her New Shoes
Class time in the Academy was extra special as Kristen modeled teaching techniques and our teachers eagerly grabbed hold of the new ideas and made them their own. I heard Kristen comment how it was one of the best moments she’s ever experienced.
Our cooks, the hardest working ladies I know, have been relieved of dish duty this week as our team takes on the challenge. If you ever wonder if we really feed 450 every day, just come join us in doing dishes. Thanks to Kristen, they have new tubs and real dish soap. Anastasia was happily crying and just kept saying she had no idea how to express how happy she was.
The Maisha building contractor and site planner met with Beatrice and I today to unveil the long awaited plans, giving us a view of the future completed Maisha property. It was a realization of years of dreaming God’s dreams and finally getting an ordered layout as well as seeing how far He’s already brought us. We will post the final plans on the website soon which include a primary school, chapel, flush toilets, sports grounds, expanded farming area plus more!
Sunset Over Lake Victoria
In over a month, we’ve yet to see one of the famous Kenyan sunsets as clouds blanket the skies in the late afternoon. But today’s Glory was crowned with a stunning sunset as we cruised Lake Victoria in an old dhow fishing boat, gliding among the hippos. Thank you Jesus for such a peaceful, awesome display of your majesty!
I’ve saved the best for last. We’ve all been inspired by Bea’s story and moved to action by the hope and future each of us can give one child at a time. Most of you know when Beatrice was a child, she picked up and returned a visiting missionaries wallet; through which God opened a door of opportunity and blessing to her future. Her heart’s desire is to give that same opportunity to other children. Well today Bea’s story came full circle. Two young boys that have been coming to the Maisha Feeding Program for the last several months were faced with a momentous decision. A considerable sum of Kenyan Shillings fell unbeknownst from Joy’s pocket – funding for a basketball goal. Wycliff and Stephen found it on the ground and came to Ian, one of our local leaders. They told him they’d found something special and called him outside to show him in private. He was stunned by the size of money Steven pulled from his pocket and even more so that they were returning it. Their clothes were tattered, they had on no shoes and had just taken a small portion for lunch that would be their last meal most likely until Monday; yet they still chose to return what would easily be the equivalent to support them for a couple of years.
Beatrice and the New Maisha Champions
Ian marched the boys over to where Beatrice, Joy and I were standing and told us the story. We listened and looked at each other in amazement. I finally shouted in excitement “Bea, it’s your story! They’ve just done the exact same thing that started this all!” Afterwards, we agreed it was like God was shining an extra bright spotlight to point these boys out to us today and ensure we partner with Him to get them on the right path. Bea was ecstatic as her childhood flashed before her eyes. God blessed her today by giving her an instant replay now that she has the wisdom to understand the significance of what happened when she was a child.
Talking with the boys, we learned they were total orphans which makes this tale even more extraordinary. The integrity and character they showed today is tremendous. Beatrice promised Wycliff and Stephen they would be given the best education and opportunity to attend high school in the U.S. through our new exchange program Maisha Scholars.
I don’t know how a day could get better than this. We have truly tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord!
Kristen Teacher In-Classroom Training
In Kenya there is a definite hierarchy on the roadways. The Kings of the Road are the large vehicles – the vans and pickups and cars. All of them are old, with the occasional glaring exception, and the bigger the vehicle the higher up on the food chain they rank. Next are the piki-pikis, the motorbikes that ferry around single and sometimes double passengers on a vinyl-encased cushion of foam. These extra seats are often emblazoned with slogans such as “Ride in Comfort” on the very back of them, which seems like a bit of an exaggeration to me! After the piki-pikis are the bicycles, again ridden by 1-3 people. Although somewhat lowly, the bicycles command respect from those at the very bottom of the pecking order – those on foot. At least 1/3 of the traffic on any given street is on foot, and the farther out from the city you go, the higher that percentage grows.
Kally Talking About School With the Kids
There are no signs indicating this particular hierarchy to people. No one gets a ticket for challenging the established order. But you’d better beware if you do challenge it because you’re in for a rude awakening! Cars and other large vehicles push through the streets with what appears to be little regard for anyone or anything in their way. Pausing only to avoid the frequent potholes, they brush by walkers, squeeze through lines of bikes and piki-pikis and frequently honk at herds of cows or a clucking brood of hens who happen to be in their way. Too bad for the unwatchful pedestrian who is next to one of the massive puddles in the roadway when a car comes driving by, even a slow moving one. Most people jump back off the roadway or stop in their tracks so as not be get murky road water splashed all over them. They must wait till the driver has passed them by so that they can continue their journey once again. We’ve been told that if someone gets run over by a vehicle, the driver probably won’t even stop (mostly out of fear that those who have seen the accident will take the law into their own hands, and the offending driver could lose his own life!) No one messes with these vehicles!
Kelsy Hanging With the Kids
Sitting inside of a Toyota Safari Van, being driven safely by Beatrice’s brother Frank, I can’t help but think of how I as a Westerner am very much like a 10 passenger van on the highway of life. Because of my very make up I am afforded privileges, given respect, and am deferred to, even if it costs someone else something. I have the freedom to go barreling through life with little regard as to how it impacts others. If I’m not careful I can roughly brush by the people outside, even injuring them, and never stop. Some view me with distrust, for they have had run-ins with others like me. Some envy me for the ease with which I maneuver through life. Some ignore me, for I am not part of the world which they inhabit. There will be those who try to pass me or maneuver around me, but because of my size and importance I may never see them… unless I choose to. Being in Kenya is one reminder after another that I cannot ever take my life for granted. Being born into comfortable circumstances doesn’t give me a free pass in life, nor does it make me a better, more worthy person. It simply is what it is.
My job, as I travel down life’s highway, is to keep my eyes and ears open. To maneuver carefully and with deliberate thoughtfulness. To show kindness and respect for my fellow travelers. To stop, get out and help those who have been injured or are weary or cannot carry their burdens alone. And ultimately, it is to show others that there is a God who knows every traveler by name, who loves them dearly (dents and all) and who wants to give them a life that is rich and full. There may be flat tires on the journey; detours, potholes and long, dry, dusty stretches of road. But the God who carefully and thoughtfully created them will be with them till they reach their destination. Just as He is with me on this journey I am on.
Freaya & Nissy with Heleda
Finally took time to stay in the kitchen for a bit today and soak in the all the wonderful character. Freaya, Nissy and I had the privilege of private African cooking lessons from Sulemein, ever patient and all knowing when it comes to the kitchen. We ducked into the mud structure with billowing smoke pouring out the door around 10am, at least 3-4 full hours after Sulemein began her day by walking 2 hours just to reach Maisha and prepare our lunch. A plethora of garden fresh ingredients were ready for us to start chopping including beautiful red vine ripened tomatoes, massive bunches of earthy cilantro, tangawezi (ginger), garlic, green bell peppers, shallots, carrots, giant avocados and limes (which they call lemons). Dough was rising ready to be made into chapati. The tools are limited and technique is not what I’d call safe, but learned a few new things. The heart of the story was the interaction of the people.
Nothing Comes On A Silver Plate
As Nissy began cutting the shallots, the ladies in the kitchen all started commenting we were about to see her “tears of joy.” Surely enough they began soon after. Freaya began rolling out the chapati (like tortillas) which takes a little practice and Sulemein requested a story to pass the time. What came out brought tears to my eyes. Freaya related how after their great-grandfather converted to Christianity, he fasted for 40 days and had a dream that he was supposed to go to Africa. He obediently bought the airline tickets but passed away before the date arrived to travel. Now, almost 60 years later, Freaya, Nissy and a whole group of their cousins are here in Kenya at Maisha living out his dream!
Living the Dream
All the while, we were chasing away chickens that were bound and determined to eat the beans and maize for the feeding program directly out of the boiling pots over a roaring open fire. This whole time I thought they had some disease because the state of their feathers, but they are just singed by the flames. Sulemein called them fireproof chickens. Mama Grace’s calico cat wondered in and was doing her best to win a piece of chapati. It was a perpetual game of shooing flies, chickens and the smoke in your eyes. The end product was green grahams (like lentils), rice, chapati, and one of the most extraordinary guacamole’s I’ve ever tasted. What an absolutely beautiful experience!
DAY 1 at the MAISHA orphanage was amazing!
Lake Victoria Down By the Fish Shacks
We drove from St. Anna’s guesthouse in Kano, Kenya for about 20mins and came to a place where there were a bunch of shacks on the street side that were “restaurants”. People bought food from these places but they were clearly not what we would think of as restaurants in the USA. We got off the main street, drove between these shacks and started taking the dirt roads into the interior village. The minute our vans started off on the dirt roads, I remember saying to myself “Hello Kenya.” It was humble, yet very beautiful =) I loved seeing this part of the world we live in, in all of her authentic beauty. As we drove, children would run right up to the edge of the dirt road and greet us in their native language, their beautiful smiles and wave at us. The team was divided into two and took two small vans to get to MAISHA. After 20mins of driving on the dirt roads that were bumpy, we reached a place where the dirt roads took us right to the entrance of the MAISHA orphanage. About a 100 feet from the MAISHA orphanage, we could see the widows walking towards us, singing and dancing. A feeling of awe washed all over me. If I were to close my eyes and just listen, I would say, “These are the sounds of Africa.” A few seconds later the van came to a halt, we stepped out of the van and were greeted with hugs by all the widows. They sang and took us to the orphanage where the crescendo of my happiness was about to meet me; the little babies.
Smiling Faces and Eager Greetings
Till now we were just walking towards the orphanage. At the sight of the babies we all, meaning the widows and the team, came to a stop. We were now audience to a group of about 20 little babies that maybe averaged 7 years of age. They started singing for us. Enough said. Yeah sure these widows and children live in poverty in a third world country, but when I stood by them sharing the same earth, listening to them talk to my team, watching them smile and laugh, I saw God in them, I really did. I saw the image and likeness of our Creator in them. I didn’t feel distant from them anymore. They weren’t just a face on a postcard asking for donations, they were brothers, sisters and mothers; they were now family. After a few songs, we all clapped for them and then they took us into the MAISHA building.
Beatrice Williamson, the founder of MAISHA gave us a quick tour of the double storied building that housed a computer center, two classrooms (one on the top floor and one on the bottom), a women’s career development room and a dining room.
Future of A Child Classroom
I want to especially thank the Future Of A Child donors who helped with the building of the classroom on the first floor, helped with funding the furniture that’s in one of the classrooms and also Mustang Public Schools for allowing a book drive that brought in over 1500 books for these babies. A few more of these books still need to be brought over to Kenya.
Get Down, Get Down
After a tour of the building, we came to the room where the widows and the children were waiting for us. They sang and danced for us. At one point our whole team got up to dance with the widows. It was beautiful! Oh people, we got down! lol I also want to take a moment to say, that I personally feel the people of Kenya speak beautiful english. Later in the day this thought was reinforced when the students who attend the higher grades in schools in the surrounding areas came home to their orphanage and interacted with me, asking about America, where I was from etc. I was also told that after MAISHA started, the children that were housed in the orphanage were very positively responding to the teaching of the English language. These children are very smart. They quickly pick up on how to use the English language. When I got to hang out with a few of them, I asked them what they wanted to be later in life. Doctor, teacher, meteorologist, so on and so forth was the list. Isn’t it awesome to see how MAISHA has raised the bar for these children? They are trying to break the cycle of poverty by the breaking the way these children think.
Books From Mustang Book Drive
After the opening ceremonies and some time interacting with the little ones, meeting them and getting to know them, we had a satisfying lunch =) As lunch was wrapping up we could hear and see the signs of incoming rain. The sun was now hidden in the clouds, thunder was rumbling in the distance, and I could see the rain far off by the distant mountain ranges that were a backdrop to the green fields being cultivated for agriculture by MAISHA. Mother nature struts her stuff in all her beauty here I tell you. Sometimes you have to pause, to take it all in. A few minutes later, we decided to call it day 1 and head back to the guesthouse…
On the way back we stopped at what they call a “Masai Market”, a group of small shacks where small to large authentic Kenyan things were sold. They had hand made jewelry, to paintings, to music instruments etc etc., where we got to do some window shopping, buying, and bargaining. After about 45mins there, we drove back to the St. Anna’s guesthouse.
Oh and it’s just the beginning…Stay tuned!
I met an amazing boy who inspired me the other day and forever. Jennifer asked me if I had time to go with her to write some information about a boy, which I replied “Yes.” When I met this boy, I knew then that this child was the one I heard about the day before. He came to Maisha Orphanage from the slums, which took him five days to arrive by foot.( In Kisumu they don’t have street signs, stop signs or signal lights.) When I met the young boy he was very shy and soft spoken. He told us his story about his parents who died when he was too young and was taken by his uncle and lived with him for a year and a half, and then the uncle died. So he stayed with his uncle’s wife. The wife gave chores for the boy to do while he was sick. One time he was very sick and his aunt took him to grandmother, who was very old and couldn’t take care of him, so the sister of the father took him to the town of Busia and admitted him there and stayed three days, then he left still feeling sick. From there he went to Kisumu to stay with another aunt. The aunt’s husband was a drunkard, so every evening the man would abuse the boy. One day it was difficult for the boy, because he decided to tell his teacher and the teacher took him away from the compound to go live with him, then the teacher brought him to Maisha. The boy has been stigmatized with his condition, being HIV positive (mother to child.) Also, he was a burden to his family and couldn’t take his ARV’s because of the stress in the situation and emotional issues. This young boy is a very bright student, whom he is 15 years old, but looks much younger. Yet he wants to go to high school and become a lawyer someday. After hearing his story, I thought how determined and brave he was to leave the situation that he was in.
When I went to supper the other night a lady named Melva was sitting next to me and mentioned that I was bold and brave to come on this mission trip by myself not knowing anyone from this group. This child reminds me of my own situation, such as being a quiet person and still being bold and brave. I have decided to accept the privilege to sponsor his education and know God put me in the right place at the right time. “Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.” Deut. 31:6
Laura: We made it to Africa!!! People have done a good job the past few posts explaining what it is like here. David and I have been spending most of our time in the medical clinic. In the pharmacy, we repackage medicine from the large stock bottles into small brown envelops. We write the name of the medication and 1 X 3 if they are to take one tablet three times daily, 2 X 3 for two tablets three times daily, etc. We dispense liquid medication for the children. The mothers bring bottles from home (usually old medicine bottles, occasionally larger, water bottles) that we use to fill. Gaudencia and Jackie, healthcare workers with Maisha, explain to the patients how to take the medicine. They have been a joy to work with.
Laura Dispensing Meds
In addition to the children and widows at Maisha, we have met a lot of other great people. Frank, B’s brother, is always willing to help with any special task that needs to be done. Antony drives our bus to and from Maisha each day. He also drops us off at Nakumatt (Kisumu’s Walmart) when we have shopping to do in the evening. The roads are always busy, we have encountered motorcycles (piky piky), bicycles, TukTuks (3-wheeled vehicles), other cars and trucks, cattle, chickens, sheep, people walking, a green snake, deep-standing water and ruts. There seems to be a special honking language that the locals understand. Antony is a pro and always manages to turn the corners and keep us one the road when I am quite certain we are headed straight for the ditch.
David Sorts Medical Supplies
David: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” –Isaiah 55:12. This was the word to start the day and it definitely ended up being the way the day went. Breakfast was great as usual. The fruit is amazing here. I started out at the medical clinic again today. Supplies were dwindling quickly, especially the medications. Interpreters have been the heart and soul of the medical clinic and can quickly give information that is needed and connect with the needs of those being treated. They have also become friends of ours over the past few days. I could not blog without mentioning Brandon. He has done more than this asked of him, and has picked up on medical techniques in a matter of minutes that would normally take weeks to learn. He has made life much easier and enjoyable.
Brandon Helps In Clinic
I am horrible at remembering names. Which is funny because a lot of children at Maisha will come up to you and ask you if you remember their name if they have met you previously. I find this to be amusing because they must know they are better at remembering names than I am. The children are always laughing, playing and eager to learn. Our teenage and younger team members have almost a sixth sense of being able to relate and communicate with the Maisha children. This is amazing to watch when the opportunity arises.
This evening after dinner we all talked about how the day went and the plans for the next day. During this time I realized this group has really started to care and show love for each other that wouldn’t have had an opportunity to happen elsewhere. This is the true meaning of “the church”; God’s people working together doing His work.
Maisha Medical Mission
From Chuck: From the medical unit today we saw Brandon put in his first i.v., David opening boils without any numbing medicine and teaching new i.v. methods to the local medical workers, Laura trying to organize the pharmacy so we Americans can identify what medicines are available, and Joanne diving in with patient care, prescribing meds and treating diseases we have read about but rarely seen. Siera and Carrie checked in most of the 160 patients we saw the first day (not that easy with Kenyan names) and today Kim hit the ground running in the lab with her VBS friend Chadder the chipmunk.
We have all been through the concern of “Are we doing things right?” and come to realize that we are doing the best we can with what we have and what we know, trusting in God to guide us. It amazes me that people walk for hours to be first in line for the clinic. We have seen malaria, typhoid fever, malnutrition, amoebic dysentery, parasites, yeast infections, and terrible wounds. There is a plethora of pathology.
Patients have no money for medications and would have to walk even further to the city hospitals. Maisha provides free meds and local care. The patients sit under a tent waiting to see us in our tent clinics, as we hear the workers hammering the tin roof onto the medical clinic that is under construction next door. It is still far from finished and still needs much support, but offers the potential for better and expanded care for the future.
The Kitchen is the Heart of a Home
From Bev: While the medical team is being overwhelmed with patients and the academy team is being overwhelmed with children, Melva and I are peacefully working at the back of the complex in the kitchen. “Kitchen” is a very loose term for a low concrete hut with dirt floors roughly the size and shape of a chicken coop. Inside there is a low ledge that serves as a four burner stove – four holes on top of the clay ledge where the pots rest and four holes below that the cooking ladies feed with long strips of wood. They pull the log out into the room to lower the heat; they add kindling for a quick flame to bring water to a boil. The kitchen has two pieces of furniture – a counter height table that is given over to Melva and me for chopping, and a low old coffee table where Suleiman stoops to knead, roll, and shape dough that she cooks one by one into tortilla like bread as she stoops over the fire. By the time we arrived for duty at about 10 am, the cooks, Suleiman, Lucia, Caroline, and Anastasia, had already made the bread dough (only for the mission team; the children do not get bread), picked vegetables from their garden (Pastor Mark from Burneyville, Ok brought seeds last March), and finished cooking rice and a mixture of beans and hominy for the children’s lunch. Melva and I joined in to chop onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, and parsley. We chop them the way my father-in-law, who grew up during the Depression, likes things done – carefully peeling off just the skin and cutting off just a sliver of the stem, and slicing paper thin – nothing wasted. We have a little pan of water, maybe a pint that we use to wash all the vegetables, and rinse our hands. A soda bottle serves to mash the beans for a stew and to crush the garlic. Pieces of cardboard serve as pot holders, although the ladies seem hardly to notice the heat as they move pots on and off the open fire. Chickens, a dog, a kitten, and an assortment of toddlers wander through and are good-naturedly shooed away. With fire pits, a few large kettles and pans, two knives, 1 spoon, and one large paddle to stir, we prepared a delicious meal for the mission team and a hearty basic meal for over 400 children. It feels almost like we’re witnessing the loaves and fishes every day.
From Carrie: Today I began the day sorting supplies for the rest of the week. As complicated as VBS preparation is at home, it’s easy to imagine how hectic it is here having brought all supplies from halfway across the world. We sorted the different piles for bible story, imagination station, games, and Chadder videos then decorated the room where the opening would be, helped with posters and swirls that hung from the ceiling. Then Siera and I added crayons to all the envelopes sponsors had sent from home. The envelopes were stapled to coloring books, but the children didn’t have anything to color them with. Soon it was time for lunch. The huge pot full of hominy and beans for the children was already in the room where they eat. Jenny, Kelsie, and I scooped out beans (only enough to fill the bottom of the bowl for the younger children, a little more for the older ones) and stacked up the bowls to prepare for the influx of children that was coming. They had formed a line outside the door, and as they came in one by one I handed them their bowl while Jenny and Kelsie kept scooping. They then went to sit on the floor and eat their lunch with their hands. Some I had to hand two bowls: one for them and one for the little child they were carrying on their hip or back. I was concerned some of the wobbling toddlers would spill their bowls, but there was no food dropped or wasted. It went very quickly because there was always another child waiting patiently. I had some free time after our delicious lunch (it was much more elaborate than the childrens’) so I sat outside with some kids. They are so eager to be near you and are more than happy just holding your hand. There is a language barrier, especially with the little ones, but most know to respond with their name when asked and say “I’m fine,” when you ask how they are. They are always smiling and attentive. They played with my hair and watch for as long as I would let them, but then I went upstairs to set up bible story.
Carrie at Maisha
VBS began around 2 or 3 with singing, dancing, and videos. They divided into 4 groups based on which school they attend, not including the preschoolers who did their own thing. I mainly helped in bible story and with returning any lost kids to their groups. All the kids were so enthusiastic. VBS was mostly older kids, so they could understand most of the English. Games got a little out of control considering the largest group was about 50 kids, but everyone had fun. They learned the daily chant of “trust God” instantly and chanted it with us throughout the afternoon. It was another incredible day seeing the light of God shine through all the people here. I’ve been learning so much – can’t wait to spend another day here tomorrow.
After a hearty breakfast of toast, mini bananas, other fresh fruit, and various other delicious options, our team took off to Maisha. We drive through the outskirts of Kisumu, our bus being chased by eager young kids yelling “Mazoongoo! Mazoongoo! (which means “White person! White person!”) When we arrived to Maisha, I was immediately pulled in all directions by eager young kids longing to hold my hand or arm, touch my long hair, or repeatedly point at my braces trying to decide what they were. Hensley, Evan, Kelsie, and I entertained the kids (or maybe the kids entertained us) until it was time to serve them lunch. One of the cooks, Anastasia, came and gathered us 4 and took us to the kitchen to help carry big buckets of hominy to the room where we pass out food. The kids were directed one by one into the large room while we loaded and passed out 83 plates for the younger kids at Maisha. I was able to head to the sewing room next which is full of about 10 hard working women. Yesterday we passed out the sewing supplies that had been collected and it was so fascinating seeing how the women were so amazed by the tools we see as common. The scissor sharpeners were a huge hit and when we showed how to work the needle threaders the ladies exclaimed “do it again!” until Velta and my fingers hurt. The things the ladies appreciated most were the glasses that we brought up from medical; Velta says one lady even grabbed her and said “Thank you. I have been praying for glasses and this is such a blessing” and all the ladies clearly were speechless with joy.
Marching In the Light of God
Our team took a lunch break around 1 and afterwards my mom and I began blowing up balloons and stuffing them in paper sacks for VBS props. Within minutes, our entire team was helping us build 100 blocks and carry them to the room we needed them in without my mom or me needing to ask for help. My mom, a few volunteers and I built a house and fence out of our props and made final preparations for VBS before a storm of kids tumbled into our room. We did many fun activities with the kids like following Jesus across the room (my sister, Carrie, turns out to be a wonderful Jesus), acting like a Roman soldier, and my personal favorite, marching while chanting. My mom had a VBS rhyme to say while we marched around, but when that became repetitive, I asked the kids if they had any songs to sing. Almost immediately, every single child began singing “We are Marching in the Light of God” (one of the many songs they are taught). The sound of their singing was filled with so much joy and laughter and could have brought anyone to tears with its pure, simple, beauty and happiness. I’m sure the kids at the orphanage are having a wonderful time and I KNOW every single volunteer is having too much fun to even express. I’m so excited for all of the experiences I am having and can’t wait till tomorrow!