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.

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