Wednesday, July 21, 2010

KATER-BUG!

This post is all about Kate, because she is fabulous :)

I love Kate. I love her chubby cheeks, nose-scrunching smile, beautiful curly hair, destructive intentions, and stubborn personality. She makes me laugh more than any of the other babies. I love that I was able to take care of her when she first came to Haven of Hope, and I get to spend time with her now, before she leaves. Kate's mom has contacted us in order to reclaim custody. As it turns out, she was not completely abandoned, as we first thought. Her mom left her with the father because she was not able to care for her at the time. Currently, we believe Kate's father is paying off the courts in order to slow down the process and escape his consequences. Please keep this situation in your prayers. I am confident that the best scenario is for Kate to go back with her mom and brother- where she will be loved and cared for by her family who desperately want her back.


(photo credit: Sara Crabtree)

While I was in the village, Kate started walking! I came back after two weeks to find my baby had turned into a toddler! During the day, she can usually be found waddling around chasing after her red ball while falling on the younger, less mobile babies. The girls call her "sho sho" when she walks because she looks like a grandma- wobbly and slow. I pretty sure that she literally walks around looking for things to destroy, and it's so funny to watch her. If she's tired enough, she'll let you cuddle with her but only until something more desirable catches her attention (which is usually a toy one of the other babies is playing with).

video

We celebrated Kate's first birthday last Friday, July 16th, and we did it up right. She had a homemade cake, we sang to her, she blew out her candle (kind of... she used more spit than air), and she opened her presents. It was great to see her so happy with everyone's attention on her! Happy Birthday Kater-Bug, I love you so much baby girl.






(I love this picture. Stuff your face, girlfriend- it's your birthday!)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

this happened...

Yes, I got my hair braided with extensions. I had it done in the village for 600 shillings (approximately $7), and it took four hours. It was awesome because I didn't have to wash it or do anything with it!



However, after a little over a week, it itched so badly that I had to have my Kenyan friends take it out.



And this was the result:



Go ahead and laugh it up... I regret nothing ;)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Haven on the Hill

Haven on the Hill is the first working orphanage I worked at in Kenya. After nine years in the making, it is still only in its beginning stages, but it is beautiful to both the eye and the soul. Janice and Phil Wagner, who live in Texas, started and operate their Kenyan children’s home from State side, which is why the process has taken so long. They have their own U.S. non-profit NGO called Through the Storm. At the home, there is Mama Beatrice, Auntie Naomi, the property manager Njeroge, a night guard Timothy, and six awesome boys Kelvin, Hezeiel, Joshua, Godfrey, Tyson, and James.

Last year, Janice came for a two-week visit, during which we traveled into Nairobi and brought the two new boys, Tyson and Hezikiel, back with us to the home. It was an emotionally overwhelming and extremely rewarding experience. Seeing them, a year later, settled in and comfortable in their new home was so gratifying. Here is a picture of us last year:



At eight years old, Kelvin is the oldest boy at Haven on the Hill. He and his older brother John came to the home after the police removed them from their house in the slums. Their mother would leave them in charge of their younger siblings without food for extended periods of time while she worked as a prostitute to feed her drug addiction. John passed away last year from Malaria complications. Kelvin loves being the oldest brother. He is always willing to help, and he is constantly making sure the other boys are taken care of.

Hezekiel is about seven years old and was abandoned at his aunt’s house by his mentally unstable mother. After living there for years, he was taken to Nairobi Children’s home where he was for over two years; when we took him, he was the longest residing child there. The transition into Haven on the Hill was a bit overwhelming for him, especially after living in NCH for so long, but Hezekiel absolutely loves his simultaneous role as younger brother to Kelvin and older brother to the others. He follows Kelvin around mirroring everything he does, and when he’s not around, Hezekiel will take on his responsibilities.

Joshua, who will be six soon, has a beautiful smile, was found wandering the streets during the post-election war in 2008. He suffers from a stutter and an obvious learning disability, which are both most likely direct results of extended abuse and trauma. He's quiet, but he's so full of love. We have no idea what he experienced during his first years of life, but we can promise him a home full of love from now on.

Godfrey’s neighbors in the slums found him after his mother and her boyfriend picked up and left without him. He has deep scars covering his back and a slightly disfigured ear because it is believed that he was severely beaten by his mother’s boyfriend who apparently did not like him. He is now five years old with a larger than life personality. Though he is small in stature, he is the confident, bold, and charming boy.

Tyson, who is four now (he shares his birthday with me!), was dropped off as a toddler at a bus station with a small backpack full of his belongings. He was taken to a nearby children’s home that recently shut down. Because of this, he was apprehensive to come with us, but we were eager to show him a permanent home where he will be nurtured and covered with love. Though Tyson likes to play by himself or watch the other boys play, he loves to be held and snuggled. He can often be found wandering around growling like a lion.

The youngest boy, James, graduated into a “big boy bed” in the older boys’ room while I was staying there last year. He was born with water on his brain, a serious condition called Hydrocephalus. His parents left him in the hospital one day and never returned. James lived in a crib in the hospital for the first eighteen months of his life, so when he came to Haven on the Hill, he was very developmentally delayed. As a typical toddler, he loves to eat everything, especially handfuls of dirt, sand, and rocks since he never experienced these things as a baby. James has the funniest personality; He’s very spunky and loves to sport his comedic pout in order to get what he wants.

It was so good to be back at Haven on the Hill with the boys and staff. They have such a special place in my heart, and I loved sharing them with the team.

Kibera

Kibera is the largest slum in Kenya, and the second largest slum in East Africa. It is the size of Central Park in New York, and it's home to well over 1 million people.



Whole families share 9x9 shacks that serve as kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms. Living conditions are far below what I would deem acceptable for human beings.



There is no waste management, so garbage is everywhere. The paths are lined with trash, and semi-liquid sewage literally runs through the "streets", in between houses and down to a river. People grow their crops down at the river because the land is irrigated there- by the sewage water. Even the houses are made out of trash.



The team and I were able to tour the slum and visit a feeding center run by Mama Oscar. She lives in the Kibera and decided to start a feeding program for the starving children in her neighborhood. She has over 100 children come daily for food and nursery classes. Before we left, the team donated enough money to feed the kids for over four months!

Monday, July 12, 2010

the new dorm!

While the team was here, their main project was to begin construction on a new building for Haven of Hope. As of now, there is only room for the six boys, so a new dorm will allow 10 more children to be welcomed home! It was very exciting to be able to be a part of the actual construction.

But don't be fooled, it was hard work. We moved block, mixed mortar, hauled sand, scrubbed, sifted, and more. Most of us ended up with scrapes across our forearms, blisters all over our hands, and very sore muscles.

My new friend Nicole's dad drew up the blueprints from America but researched and followed Kenyan regulations. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the site, we found that the foundation was laid in the wrong direction. For example, the front door was placed at the back of the building, up against the dirt wall. Thankfully, God was faithful and we were able to slightly reconfigure the layout and make it work.

During the first week, half of us went to VBS while the other half of us worked at the site. Then, after VBS was over, we all got to work together on the new building. We even made an assembly line in order to move hundreds of concrete block. Before we loaded the vans to leave, we were able to pray over the house and children that will soon live there.

Here is the foundation when we arrived:





And here is the building when we left:





I can't wait to meet the 10 beautiful children that will live here and become family. Welcome home, Beloveds.

VBS

The day after the team arrived, while they were still half asleep from jet-lag, we began a vacation Bible school for all of the village kids. Because of our great relationship with the headmaster (after Janice and Phil bought new uniforms for all of the students), classes were canceled for the week so that we could use the compound.

Each day we had 250 to 300 little, non-English speaking children show up to play with the wazungus (white people). We split them into groups of 50 and had a leader take them around to the multiple stations- drama, games, story time, crafts, and snacks. Each day they memorized a theme verse and won prizes at the end of the day for remembering what they had learned. It was awesome to see a group of Americans, who didn't even know each other, come together and teach kids about Jesus. Kenyan children are taught to be quiet and reserved, but we had them running, laughing, and screaming from classroom to classroom. Even the teachers wanted in on the fun as they each requested to be a part of a group. The children loved petting our white skin and playing with our hair while we enjoyed their never-ending parade of singing. Here is a video of their singing and dancing:

video

Sunday, July 11, 2010

11 July 2010

I'M BAAACK!
Yes, I know it has been a long time since I updated anyone, and I'm sorry. I was in the village, and my internet modem didn't work out there (plus, I didn't even have time to even think about it!).

Last year, I spent six weeks living at the orphanage Haven On The Hill. They are in the beginning stages, so the home only has six boys including Tyson, the boy my mom and I sponsor. A team of 32 people came from Pennsylvania and I was asked to come and serve with them. During their two weeks here, we built a new dorm, put on a Vacation Bible School for the village kids, went on a Safari, visited the slums, made home visits to minister to the community, build awesome relationships among ourselves, had a movie night for the entire village, and worked on many other projects. Space was tight- some of us slept in bunk beds, others on the floor. Plus, we had 24 women sharing a single shower and toilet. It was certainly interesting, but I was blessed to be a part of it.

There were 36 wazungus (white people) living in the Middle of Nowhere, Africa, and it was amazing.



I'm going to post more about the team and our adventures later, but I wanted to give a quick update. Also, here is a picture of Tyson and I to prove that I'm still alive. Isn't he so beautiful??