Published: April 9th 2008December 30th 2006
Lake Victoria's finest.
Visions of excited children, surprised relatives, and the Kenyan countryside stayed in my mind since the last journey with our kids. These trips are the kind of experiences that impress memories not only in your mind, but also in your heart. From the time we returned we started making plans for two more of our children to make visits to their extended families. I also put out a request for funds of “Thanksgiving” so that we could take money and supplies to families that are raising orphans out of the goodness of their hearts. Thank you to all that responded!
Dec. 15th was the departure date. We flipped on the generator at 5 a.m., made some tea and got on the road. Our two girls, Caren (11) and Sheila (9) were so excited as it has been over three years since they left their village on the other side of the country. Ten minutes into our trip as the sun was just started to come up we could see something lying in the road. It looked rather large and we thought maybe it was donkey roadkill. And let me just say, donkey roadkill is not a pretty sight. Many people
Hope Given Children's Home
Some more children we try to help.
here use donkeys for various labor. Last year one of my American friends got to see donkey roadkill and she stated, “Now that’s a new way of looking at getting your ass kicked”.
As we got closer we came to the horrifying realization that it was a man lying in the middle of the road. He was on his side, there was some blood, and all was peaceful around him. Talk about bizarre…driving down a country road, seeing a man (presumably dead), no one around, and knowing that people have driven by him. Where were the police??? Where was the ambulance??? Nothing and no one…him and a dead dog about 20 feet beyond him. Sometimes it seems as if life here has as much significance of that of a dog. When police chase a thief, they don’t chase to apprehend, they chase to kill. If someone commits a crime in the village and is caught by the local villagers they will be lynched. The police do nothing about it because it saves the whole system time and money.
I asked Geofrey, our friend that travels with us (women don’t travel alone), what he thinks happened. He said he
was probably drunk, got hit and the driver went on (maybe also drunk?). If the driver had stopped he would have been lynched. We drove to the local police station to report it and the police said they would send someone out to get him.
On we went for a few hours through the beautiful countryside. We arrived in Nyahururu to surprise Grace’s family. (This is one of the families that we visited last time that was sleeping on wooden planks). The auntie was very surprised to see us. She was at her workplace working in the fields where she makes about $1 a day. We took her with us up the hill a couple miles (that she walks every morning and night to get to/from work) to her home so that we could also see her daughter Edith and Grace’s sister, Margaret. The day was sunny, the girls were smiling as they were surprised to see us. When we started to unload presents they were even happier. We were able to give them mattresses, blankets, shoes, clothes, a storage trunk, backpack and money for food, detergent and whatever else they needed. We also enquired about Margaret’s school fees.
She thought she was not going to be able to attend high school and have to start working at age 14. ITHM will pay her school fees so that she can continue her education and have hope to rise out of such despairing poverty.
Part of the cross country journey is so amazingly beautiful and refreshing and part of it is hard and tiring…kind of like life. We looked at the beauty of the African hillsides with fields of tea as we bounced over deplorable African roads that make you feel your car or your body will fall apart before the trip is over.
As we passed through the country we also passed through different tribes. On the Western side, near Lake Victoria (2nd largest freshwater lake in the world) the Luo and Luyha tribes are predominant. The soil is sandier and you see most women and children carrying their water containers, clay pots, and baskets of food on their heads. It was amazing to be driving up a dusty, bumpy, steep road and see a woman walk with such grace while balancing a 3 ft. tall container on her head…sometimes with a baby tied with brightly colored material to her back.
We passed rivers (where some people were bathing), lots and lots of children, some dressed, some not, people, bicycles, and the animal market. On the market days the men will walk down the hillsides with their cattle, goats, and sheep to bring them to sell.
After 11 hours on the road, we branched off the main road and started on country roads. This is when I am so thankful for a 4-wheel drive. We trailed up and up, passing large stones which are part of the landscape, then started driving through the bushes. One has to really know where they are going because to me it seemed we were in the middle of nowhere, driving down random paths, getting only deeper into an abyss of brush, bush and dust and mud. However, we saw a small clearing, entered in and there we were at the homestead of the girls’ uncle. The uncle and his family were so anxious to see their girls. They welcomed us all warmly into their mud house. It is a small, two room house built from mud and straw. They had pretty wooden benches and a wooden coffee table on which they served us sodas and sweet potatoes. The flies enjoyed the food just as much as we did… Drinking soda is usually just for special occasions in the village so we knew we were being honored with glass bottles of orange Fanta and sprite. Their kitchen is really simple and was cheap to furnish…it consisted of a pot over an open fire outside. They cook outside over a campfire and get their water from a local small river.
The girls and one of our staff stayed for 3 nights at their uncle’s house. The elders of the village came by with many of the villagers. In the Luo village your child belongs to the whole community. The elders had been giving the uncle a hard time for sending the girls “so far away” and had often argued with him that it was not best for them. Even though they were a little upset because the girls do not remember their tribal language, they saw that the girls are healthy and heard about their good grades in school. They lightened up and the girls were invited to many homes for a meal of chicken and rice. They are hoping the girls will return to the village to live when they are grown.
Caren had wanted to see her mother’s grave sight (family members are buried on the plot of their homestead). The uncle said that the grandmother would probably not want to show her, as their culture does not like to talk of death. He said things are changing with time but traditionally they thought if you spoke of the dead person that their spirit wouldn’t be at rest and it would come back to haunt the one who spoke of him/her. He said that sometimes after the death of parents a child will be raised by a relative and the child will believe these are their real parents. Later in life someone might sneak and tell them that their real parents are dead and the people raising them are relatives. Also, they don’t have uncles or grandfathers, they are referred to as their “baba” or their “baba kubwa”…or as their “dad” or their “big dad”. It is that way with mothers and grandmothers too. There is such a respect for elders in their culture and for community. I always found it a little confusing when someone told me of their father, then referred to someone else as their father…I now understand.
I had the opportunity to attend a 5-hour wedding ceremony. It was very interesting and painfully long. Some of the greatest parts were where the 8 flower girls danced down the isle to loud music with a rhythmic beat. They were all in step with their lace gloves, frilly dresses and their baskets with candies and confetti that they would throw in the air after every 16th beat. It took them about 20 minutes to jig their way down the isle. After that some of the 8 bridesmaids held plastic flower in the air which the bride walked under to enter the small church building. There was a full choir singing and the bride walked extremely slowly down the isle………….I mean as an American where we are all about time and getting things done. Here it is about enjoying yourself and time is not a factor. The bride wore white, a white veil and a crown that had flashing lights. After the ceremony (that had a lot of similarities to ours) the parents and friends came up and placed the fuzzy tinsel strands (I don’t know what they are called) that we place on Christmas trees, around the bride and groom’s necks. It was colorful, long, loud, and a great experience. At one time a man that was making a speech looked at me, said something about a Mzungu (white person…there were 2 of us there), and the whole church laughed…thanks. Times like that are when I wish I knew the language!!
We went down to Lake Victoria to have the car washed and eat fish (for those who liked fish). The guys just pull your car into the shallow part of the lake and wash it with the brown water (but it actually comes out looking really good). We were amazed to see the lake looking like green land. It is infested with a hyacinth weed that grows rapidly and has covered a major part of the lake. It has hurt the fishing and boating industry and nothing is being done about it because the government is too busy playing politics to remember that their people are in need.
I also visited another orphanage that has 60 children. The home is called “Hope Given Children’s Home”. It sets on a green plateau, out in the country, high above Lake Victoria. They have almost no outside support and run by faith. It was started by a Kenyan pastor and his wife who have raised 6 of their own kids and helped with 6 of their deceased sibling’s children. They live in an area with so many orphans and felt they had to do something for their community and the orphans. One reason why there are so many orphans is that the Luo tribes practice something that was in the Bible: “wife inheritance”. If you are married and your husband dies, his brother must take you and your children and provide for your family (you can refuse but most women need the support). The problem is some of these men die of AIDS, their wives are infected, do not know it and pass it to their new husband. The chain goes unbroken.
ITHM made a donation from the Thanksgiving fund to help these children get school supplies for the new year. If you would like more information on this home please let me know. The kids would greatly benefit from anyone wanting to make a donation. They still need another $200 for shoes, supplies and food.
The great thing about private run orphanages is that the children are being educated and taught that some practices are not practical. They are being given education and a chance to break out of the norms that are killing their societies.
Our trip home was uneventful, minus the very expensive incident of hitting a rather large pothole, the kind that could swallow half your car, and blowing a tire.
The next few days were a whirlwind of preparing for Christmas. Christmas day was lovely and while our children are still on vacation they have been delivering Christmas packages provided by ITHM to the needy and elderly of our community.
We prepared the packages consisting of a new blanket, laundry and dish soap, a toy, candies, toothbrushes and a few other things. We asked each of our children to pick a friend from the village that they knew needed a present. They were so excited to tell us about a grandma the surely needed a new blanket, the man that has a handicapped child down the road, the man that helps in our garden that has many children, etc. etc. It has been raining for 2 months now so they had to pick up their package and traipse through the mud to get to our neighbors. When the people saw a group of children coming in with a package for them they were astonished. One grandma exclaimed, “I never expected such a gift!”. They were always greeted with thanks and I believe it was a good lesson for our children to see that it is better to give than to receive.
We thank all of you who have given over the last year! We do pray God’s abundant blessings for you and your families.
International Treasure House Ministries, Into Abba’s Arms, our staff, volunteers and children all wish you an Extremely Happy New Year!
With much Love, Jennifer
If you would like to help with our ministry please make tax-deductible checks to:
23223 S. Warmstone Way