Monday, March 2, 2009

Day 5: ABC Center Visit

We started the day by eating breakfast at the hotel and then traveling roughly 45 minutes to the Abandoned Baby and Children’s Center in Dagoretti, Kenya. This is the place that Feed the Children has established for kids who have been abandoned or orphaned. Since the poverty is so devastating here, there are many children who need a safe place to live and go to school. The center is located just outside of a slum and therefore, there is a great need for a safe place for the children who live there.

Once we arrived at the ABC Center, Mr. Nazareno Ngare, the FTC Kenya program manager, welcomed us. They were anxious to give us a tour of the entire compound. It was wonderful to see the many buildings that existed there and learn of their purpose. I wish we could remember the exact statistics regarding the number of children that are helped at the center but nonetheless; the effect that FTC has had on this area is nothing short of astounding. We soon learned how proud the children are to have the privilege of living there but every child here deserves that chance at life and the ABC Center is responsible for giving them that opportunity.

During the tour, we had the chance to love on some kids while we were traveling from cottage to cottage. The compound is divided up and there are cottages for children of specific ages and abilities. There is also a dining hall, guest house, and plans to build a chapel are in the works.

We then were able to go and visit the babies, toddlers, small children and teenagers. The moments everyone had with these children were priceless and it’s safe to say that we are so thankful these children have a safe place to live. The majority of the children are unable to be adopted since most are HIV positive. Therefore, many live at the center for most of their lives and we even got to meet some of the staff who were brought as children and now work for FTC. Some were full time nurses and others community outreach employees and hearing their stories about how FTC saved their lives was heartwarming.

Today was a special day in that it was the grand opening of the new boys dorm. We were so lucky to be there today when they had the ribbon cutting and then we saw the children all perform a beautiful program. They said the most profound things and were so incredibly thankful for what they’ve received. Atlanta Flacons running back, Jerious Norwood, gave his support to the children as he displayed his admiration of their strength through these difficult times in their lives. Many of the children had physical and mental disabilities and seeing their smiles and watching them shine as they sang and dance was nothing short of amazing. They worked so hard to welcome us with this program and it was an honor to be there.

After spending time visiting, everyone had the chance to go back to the individual cottages and love on the kids some more. We got to learn names and stories. The children are so polite, smart, gracious, and driven to succeed in all they do. The staff was friendly and inviting. They are so compassionate and dedicated to their job.

We spent as much time as possible at the center and then had to say our goodbyes. I think many people are anxious to come back again and be touched by these children. The drive back through the slums was tough as the true poverty was evident even on the outskirts. We will be visiting homes and helping with the feeding program.

We then drove to see the new property of the ABC center and were wowed by the size and location. Feed the Children was very lucky to find this property and looks forward to renovating the building there and expanding so a school can be built and they can begin to store food in the warehouse on the property. There is so much ahead for Kenya and it’s wonderful to look forward to the future and be a part of the help that’s taking place here.

I think most of us would agree that it doesn’t take much to help another person. Imagine what could be done here if everyone was a part of eradicating the poverty. With the help of people around the world, relief can be brought to the people here and by educating them about healthcare, nutrition, money management, job coaching, etc. a positive change will surely take place. FTC has a vision that starts with providing food to hungry children so that their medicines will work and they will be healthy to learn. We look forward expectantly to what is to come for Kenya and remain hopeful that people will be willing to serve here to help the people in need. FTC is committed to bringing relief to people in need. If you know anyone willing to donate food, medical or school supplies, clothing, money, etc then please let us know and we will contact the right people for you.

Thank you! 

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 4: Safari in the Masai Mara and a visit to the Masai Tribe

Today we had the opportunity to go out to the private reserve of the Masai Mara for a safari.  In just a hop, skip, and 45-minute plane ride later we were in a whole new world.

Upon landing, we immediately hopped into our Land Rovers to set out in search of animals.  Because it is summertime here in Kenya, many animals only stay “out” in the sun for a few hours each morning before heading towards shaded areas.  So, it was important for us to get out there quickly in search of lions, cheetahs, hippos, zebras, and the rest of the animal kingdom.

Almost immediately, we came upon giraffes and elephants gathered together.  We actually got to see the elephants make their way over to a pond of water and drink.  After this amazing sight, we wasted no time spotting wart hogs, antelope, and gazelles on one side of the truck, and a large group of baboons on the other.  When the baboons scurried away, the adults carried their babies under their stomachs.

The highlight of the day was when we came upon a cheetah and her three cubs, they were absolutely beautiful!  The guide said that it is extremely rare to see cheetahs, especially with their young.  A cheetah can reach a speed of 120 Km (which is roughly 80 mph) in a very short distance.

Our guides also spotted a pride of lions walking through the brush.  The female lions and their cubs slowly and gracefully made their way towards the shade of the trees next to our trucks.  What may have been most amazing was how close we were to the lions, but yet how safe and comfortable we felt.  Because we were on protected land, the animals have had no reason not to trust the daily groups of humans out on safari.  They understood that we were not there to harm them.

We then traveled to the Masai Tribe.  The women of the tribe greeted us with welcoming chants and the men of the tribe performed a traditional competition of “jumping” for us.  They lined up and chant while taking turns to see who can jump the highest.

Two of the Masai elders (one was 30 and the other was 24) taught us about daily life and the customs of the village. We learned that the women of the tribe build their own huts for their 

children and for their husband.  The 10 ft. square huts are made of wood, mud, and cow dung.  Inside the homes, they have an area for the kitchen/dining, a space for the children to sleep, a space for the parents to sleep, and an area for the calf or young sheep.  As there is no electricity in the Masai Village, the huts’ only source of light inside is through the entryway or by small fire inside.  They explained that the smoke from the fire serves a useful purpose during the summers of keeping the flies and mosquitoes out of the huts.  After learning about life in the Masai village we were able to buy handmade jewelry and crafts to take home.

We ended our day by seeing a group of elephants and a 

school of hippos. There were two baby elephants that were estimated at just two weeks old.  They had just come away from the water where they had wet their backs to stay cool and keep the ticks off of their bodies.  The hippos spend their days in the water where they can do anything from sleeping to giving birth.  Then, at night, they roam around and eat on land.  If our guide had not pointed out the hippos to us, we would not have seen

them because they were  submerged up to their eyes in the river.  Overall, we had an amazing day despite the strong summer sun!  We saw alot of animals and had had a truly “Out of Africa” experience. 

Tomorrow is our last day here and we will be heading to the Frances Jones Abandoned Baby Center. Our group will have the privilege of meeting the children and tour the facility to learn about the amazing work that Feed The Children is doing as a result of Frances Jones’ dream to help children throughout KenyaWe fly out tomorrow night at 11:30 Kenyan time. Thanks so much for checking in on our journey here. We have learned so much and cannot wait to share more stories and pictures once we get home.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Day 3 – Noven Community School and Dandora Home Visits

We started our day with a visit to the Noven Community School in the Mathare slum.  The school has approximately 280 children that attend regularly and benefit from the school feeding program sponsored by Feed The Children.  

Everyone in our group had a wonderful time and walked away with many memories (and perhaps shed a few tears)! Our main reason for visiting Noven today was to provide each child with a new pair of shoes and socks through the Sole to Soul Program.  While we were setting up for the shoe distribution, members of our group had the privilege of serving all the children their morning pourage, supplied daily by Feed The Children.  We had the opportunity to talk with the children and they were happy to show off their English skills! 
They all asked us how we were doing and wanted to shake all of our hands!  They counted and sang songs for us.  Since they were all standing around me, I asked them if they knew how to count to 20 in English.  One young man asked me if I “knew Obama”, to which I responded “yes”  (No, I don't actually know him, but I know OF him!I figured it might be too difficult to explain this to him, so I just said "yes"!). The children all cheered when I said I did and told us, “He is the President of the United States, but his father lived here in Kenya!”  I could tell they were very proud of this, so I started asking them questions about Obama:
“What is Obama’s first name?" …..”What is his wife’s name?”…………”What are his daughters’ names?”……….and “What does the President of the United States do?”……….ALL of the children knew the answers to the questions!

Starting with the little ones, we worked our way through all 280 of the children placing new shoes and socks on them.  During our visit to St. John’s Primary Academy yesterday, we noticed that many of the children still had

their shoes on that we gave them when we hosted the Sole to Soul Program at their school last July, this was neat to see!

Next we traveled to the Dandora Slum to take part in community home visits.  Feed The Children Community Health Education and Outreach (CHEO) is a community based prevention, care and support program for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and TB in Kawangware, Danodra, and Huruma, three underserved slums area around Nairobi.

The program addresses both short and long-term needs utilizing three social avenues: the school, the community and religious institutions.  Within Dandora CHEO helps support 177 households for a total of 929 beneficiaries.  The CHEO volunteers broke us into three groups and took us to visit families that are served by their various programs. 

One of the programs beneficiaries, Wilson, who’s wife died in 2006, has 9 children that he takes care of after both of his past wives passed away.  Wilson is HIV positive along with two of his children, Vincent and Benson.  Wilson was given encouragement by Atlanta Falcons player Jerrius Norwood, who thanked Wilson for his hard work to keep his family together through these difficult times.  Wilson, who suffers from a chronic running nose because of exposure to the cold, not only takes care of his 9 kids but also works as a night guard to earn money to keep his 1 bedroom house. 

Before coming on this trip, someone said to me, “You think you may be going there to bless their lives, but it is you who will really be blessed.”  I think that pretty much sums up our day. Feed The Children is a blessing to the people in Nairobi that we visited today, but they were a blessing to us!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Day 2: Kibera and Kawangware School Visits

-Feed The Children Feeding Program at St. John’s Primary Academy in Kibera

-Candy distribution at Bible Baptist School in Kawangware

Today we visited two of Kenya’s  slums:  Kibera and Kawangware.  We started our day off with a scenic drive into the Kibera Slums.  Our drive into Kibera is difficult to put into words.  The homes are made of mud, wood framing, and tin for the roof. There are an estimated 1.2 million people that live throughout the 3 square mile radius of Kibera.

Along the main “roads” residents set up shops of all kind……….butcher shops, fruit stands, hotels, scrap metal, clothes and shoes, kerosene stands, wood shops, lots of live chickens, 

bars, cinemas, churches, medical clinics, you name it – and they have it!  The Kibera version might just be slightly different than what we are used to in America!  But, the streets were filled with people buying and selling their products.  The primary form of travel throughout Kibera is by foot.  So, when a large red 18 passenger bus today, we definitely became the center of attention.  The children we passed along the way were definitely excited to see us.  As we drove by we were greeted by the sound of the children asking, “How are you?...How are you?”Children learn English if they attend school.  The further along they are in school, the more English they learn.  So, the younger kids often only know two phrases, which they will repeat over and over again…..”How are you?” and “I am fine.”  Everywhere we went, the children greeted us with a very cheerful, “How are you?”

After about fifteen minutes of driving through 

Kibera, our bus stopped, and we all got out to walk down the

 hill towards St. John’s Primary Academy.  The school is tucked away at the edge of Kibera.  It is one of over 200 schools supported by Feed The Children.  During our last visit in July, the school’s enrollment was at 800.  Just seven months later, their enrollment is up to approximately 1200. The children attending the school range from Pre-Kindergarten all the way to the equivalent of 8th Grade in the United States.  

Enrollment at this school is higher than many others throughout Kibera because of the Feeding Program supported by Feed The Children.  Children are given breakfast (pourage) and lunch (a mix of corn, pint of beans, some type of meat) when they attend school. 

The children were expecting our group today so they were all very excited to see us!  We arrived about fifteen minutes before they were to begin serving lunch so we broke up into small groups and visited each classroom to say hello and give them “sweets”.  Everyone in the group brought lollipops to pass out at our various school visits this week.  The children don’t know the word for lollipop, but they call them “sweets”!  Kenyan children already have beautiful smiles, but give them “sweets” and their smiles shine through even bigger!  In each classroom, we asked the children to sing us a song.  Some songs were the same, but they

changed a bit as the kids got older.  There was one common trend throughout many of the songs...they often sang about Jesus and His Love!  One class sang a song that everyone knows, ’If You’re Happy and You Know It”!  We were able to join in and sing along and the kids loved it!

After passing out lollipops, it was time for lunch!  Each day, the children come to school with a mug for their breakfast porage and a bowl for lunch.  The HUGE pots of food are brought outside of the kitchen to a bench.  Our group took turns scooping food into each child’s plate as they lined up to receive lunch.  The youngest children came first and we worked our way up to the oldest.

Our second visit was Bible Baptist School in Kawangware.  We stopped by to meet more children that benefit from the outreach of Feed The Children.  We passed out “sweets” to the 250 students and they treated us to a beautiful program.  The principal and his wife expressed their thanks and we enjoyed songs from the children.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 1: Travel……….Travel………and MORE TRAVEL!

Nobody said it would be a quick trip to get from the United States to Nairobi, Kenya!...........Our group left Dulles Airport in Washington DC on Tuesday, February 24th at 6:50 p.m.  We had a 6 ½ hour flight to London Heathrow.  After a three hour layover we flew another 8 ½ hours to get to Nairobi.  Morgan (with FTC Sports Partnerships) and Ben (with FTC Kenya) were waiting to greet us upon arrival.  We are happy to announce that NOBODY had any luggage lost along the way!

There was a bus waiting to load our luggage and take us to our hotel for check in.  It was about 10:00 p.m. here in Nairobi, so our drive to the hotel was uneventful.  The only thing to really be said about the drive is that we were able to enjoy having the bus windows open as the temperature was perfect……..much nicer than Flint, Michigan where some of our group members came in from!

After checking in, everyone crashed for the night because we knew we had a packed day ahead.