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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!
Meeting Old Friends For the First Time
What a day filled with God’s hope and love today at Maisha! A visit to the slums ended on a positive note with the baptism of George and his wife Eunice. George, weakened by the ravages of AIDS, sat before us and asked Jesus into his heart. We all stood around him in his small mud home as Pastor Mark poured water over his head. What a moving moment for us to experience together. We also visited Alice, a widow suffering from AIDS and Jared, and 16 year old that is extremely ill, both of whom started the visit in a great deal of pain but were lifted spiritually and emotionally after our prayers. In a moment of quiet while visiting Alice, Hensley spontaneously offered to ready a Bible verse from a Bible lying in a corner. Philippians 4:13-14, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles”. Alice responded, “I already feel strength”.
At the Medical clinic Maisha team members treated over 160 people from the very old to the very young. Supplies already began to run low on our first day after treating cases of Malaria, Typhoid and various other diseases .Eighty percent of people tested for Malaria and Typhoid were positive. We are so blessed to have team members come up with creative ways to meet the needs of those who came so far and were so desperate for help. We will continue the clinic tomorrow and will need to purchase more supplies as more people show up for help. It was a joy for our team members to jump right in to start healing the sick.
160 Treated Day 1
The Maisha Academy students welcomed our team with a wonderful display of traditional song and dance that got our hearts pumping to the beat of their voices and drums! After watching the baby class with teacher Millicent in charge of 35 two to five year olds we were so impressed with her energy, enthusiasm and creativity. It is extremely encouraging to see all of the children eagerly learning in their new classrooms and singings songs of excellence and education! The feeding program was a joyous success until realizing we were out of food with at least 50 more children to feed. Maybe they can be first in line tomorrow. The VBS that we have been planning and re-planning for launches tomorrow. Everyone is excited and we cannot wait to see how our activities touch the hearts of the children. The day ended in a very special way for me personally when Billy Atieno, a pen pal of ours for the past 3 years walked up to Hensley (after walking an hour from her school) and looked directly into her eyes. This meeting has been anticipated for months. The photo below says a thousand words.
It's So Good To Finally Meet!
April Youth Rally
Youth form an integral part of every society, ensuring growth and continuity. They are pillars and leaders, not only of tomorrow, but also of today. Maisha is on the front lines balancing the spiritual, social, physical and academic development of the young people of our region of Kenya. It is going to take a well-rounded person to face the challenges in Western Kenya today.
The youth at Maisha are trained about purity and abstinence to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. They are counseled on positive skills for living, career choices and how everything they do should be done with excellence and integrity. They are also enlightened on the opportunities that are available in the job market and how to make the most of them.
Most of the youth are between the ages of 9 and 25 and attend school with the help of their Legacy of Hope sponsors. We have several mentoring classes to keep them engaged after school and during school holidays in April, August and December. Computer lessons, debate, drama, agriculture and other subjects are taught. As leaders emerge, they are put in charge of smaller groups and they function as a team. Stephen Odhiambo, now in the 12th grade, is one of those boys who has transformed into a very responsible leader and organizer. He enthusiastically rallies the youth together for functions.
During the first school break of the year in April, we had many activities which culminated in a youth rally. They came together to share ideas and devise solutions to overcome challenges that stand in the way of achieving their dreams.
Professional counselors came to talk to our boys and girls about the emotional and physical changes they are experiencing. The girls were advised on a wide range of issues including abstinence to avoid teen pregnancy which jeopardizes their academic dreams. It was well received and they resolved to stay focused throughout their school years. The boy’s eyes were opened to the realities of life and their responsibility to provide and nurture. They learned tips on how to be responsible and productive while being admonished to take seriously their opportunity for education. Then, they will be equipped with the knowledge and know how demanded to flourish in today and tomorrow’s world.
Girls Listening Intently