August 16 – September 30, 2013
So much happened this past summer – and September tends to be a less busy month for our updates – so I’ve combined this into a six week update.
To start this update it’s necessary to comment on the tragedy in Kenya.
I first heard news as I was in Regina getting ready to give a keynote address. I called home and asked my wife to make telephone calls to our friends in Kenya. We were so fortunate that all of our friends and their families were safe. This did not, of course, diminish the extent of the tragedy. The background of this situation is complex and not something that I feel qualified to comment on.
It is, however, a reality of all conflicts that those who suffer the most are the children – It is in fact an African saying that “when elephants fight, the grass suffers”. This attack will cause a contraction in the tourist industry in Kenya. This industry employs so many people and there will be a decrease in incomes, employment and subsequently the ability of those parents to provide for their children. This could ripple through the entire economy resulting in inflation which will affect prices for everything including food. Our commitment is to ensure that our orphans and their extended family members will continue to receive the same level of support even if that means we are less able to expand into new projects. Our focus has to always be with the children in the program, not those who need to be in the program. Over the next six month period we will focus on stability, completion of existing projects and providing a constant level of support to the children/extended families we are serving.
In August we send out a special, rare request for additional donations to friends, family and sponsors. We were $3500.00 short of being able to purchase a van. Up to this point in the program we’ve relied on borrowing Henry and Ruth’s car or truck – both of which are around 30 years old.
This request – sent by email – was far more successful than anything we could have even imagined. In the end over $10,000 was donated! This included corporate and individual donations. All contributors will receive an individual thank you in the coming months.
This outpouring of generosity allowed us to order our vehicle. Our new/slightly/gently used vehicle is ‘at sea’ as I write this and due in port in three weeks. This vehicle is a 14 seat vehicle that is being shipped from Japan. It will be used to transport our orphans, for the daily needs of the program, and for the food distribution days. Up to this point we have often had to rent a matatu bus to deliver the items in the distribution. Instantly we save money on a monthly basis. The additional funds are being sent over to fulfill the other projects listed below.
We are just putting the finishing touches on the new Rolling Hills Residence. The children – now numbering 52 – are already in the new building. Younger boys are in a lower level, the older boys, one floor up. Above that is the kitchen/dining hall/meeting room. The kitchen and dining hall is fully in use. The floor above that has two separate dormitory areas – one for the younger girls and the other for the older girls. Again, they are now in their new, spacious dorms. As well in this area is the office space. Up until this time Ruth and Henry’s dining room has been our office. Now the entire operation, not only for the Residence, but all the children in the community and the community projects, will be located in the office area.
The top floor is divided into two areas – a library for the children and a meeting area. The meeting area – which has a separate entrance, will be rented to community groups and the funds will be used to support the ongoing needs of our orphans. As always we are looking for ways to make the program more self-sufficient and less dependent on outside funding.
Up to this point the play area for our children is Ruth and Henry’s driveway. While they love having the children near, the accidentally broken windows of their home have not been so great. There is a plot of land right beside the Residence which we hope to purchase. It is flat and would be converted to a playing field with soccer nets, a basketball and net ball hoop and even a playground with swings, climbing apparatus and a slide. While this would belong to our facility we would also welcome other local children. Children really do need to play and to have sufficient space to do so!
Purchasing land is always a tricky proposition. In some cases the land has been owned by a family since ‘forever’. We also don’t want to overpay for anything. There is a natural inclination for local people to believe that since the program receives outside funding, money is limitless. This is certainly not the case, but regardless, we need to be part of the local economy and not distort prices, wages or purchases. If we were to overpay for this property then others would expect us to start to overpay for other things – including the food supplies, tools, uniforms and livestock we both distribute and need for our residence. In the end our children would suffer. We would like this plot of land – or another nearby – but we leave these decisions and negotiations up to Henry and Ruth.
We probably have the only oven in the whole region. Our staff have been baking cookies, cakes and muffins and selling them to local schools and stores. This is a direct way to raise funds for the program and is part of our efforts to become more self-financing. One of our sponsors, Sue, was part of the visiting group this summer. She is a former home economics teacher who has worked with teachers across Africa to help develop home economics programs.
Every month we distribute approximately 2.2 metric tons of food to the orphans who reside in the community with extended families. In addition we give out uniforms, solar lamps, tool sets, livestock, beds and blankets during these distributions. While the vast majority of the funding for this is provided by sponsors we have additional costs – in part due to providing items for children who are orphans but not directly sponsored. As such we are utilizing other donated funds to supplement the costs.
Over the course of our program we have evolved a daily support donation. We calculated that $50.00 provided food for the approximately 40 children in the program, their routine medical care, school supplies, the salaries of the matron, night watchman, and tutor and the sanitation/electricity and water for the building.
Our program has subsequently grown and expanded and we have also been experiencing issues of inflation that have swept Kenya. We recalculated our new costs and realized that the daily cost was closer to $75.00. This provides food for 52 children, their routine medical care, school supplies, the salaries of the matron, caretaker, night watchman, tutor, the librarian at our community library, and the sanitation and electricity for the building. With the completion of our well the only cost for water is simply the electricity to pump it from the source to our building.
Therefore, from this point on, daily support will be $75.00 for new donations. Donors will receive a picture thanking them for the individual day they have sponsored.
Natasha Bachus-Buschkiel is a Canadian author who I had the good fortune to meet at the Prairie Horizons conference. She had mentioned that she wanted to make a donation to the program. When her donation arrived I was astonished. Her generosity will be used to supplement a food distribution and also provide for the entire Rolling Hills Residence for ten days!
Also at this conference, writer Deb Froese, contributed the sales of her books to fund one day of the Rolling Hills Residence. She will soon know the day when she was the ‘parent’ of 52 orphans!
Another emerging writer at this same conference, Miriam Korner, gave me money for a goat for an orphan. She will shortly receive a picture of her goat and the orphan who received it.Thank you Miriam.
Krista Labelle – a teacher/librarian in Regina – made a donation that will fund the Rolling Hills Residence for two days. She will soon receive the pictures telling her what days.
At the end of a presentation in a school in Regina a student came up to me and gave me all she had – 25 cents – ‘for the orphans’. This donation will plant one seedling in Kikima. Thank you Viola for caring. You may not know how much this inspires me to continue moving forward.
We were staying at the Kenya Comfort Hotel and struck up a conversation with a traveler at the next table. It turns out Angela was from Canada, grew up in Oshawa, was teaching in Waterloo and had previously taught in Tanzania. With her – donated from her parent’s church – was a big bag of crank flashlights and radios. These are amazing devices that never require batteries to work so are useful and useable for years to come. She generously offered all of these to our program. Below are a few pictures of those who received these valuable items.
Funds donated from the following schools were used to purchase materials/supplies/labor to help finish construction on the residence.
A donation from Mary Anne in honor of her friend Pam
Keaton and his parents, Cliff and Sandi, are sponsors – Jackson is their sponsored child – and supporters of the program. They spent time this summer living on the grounds of the orphanage. Keaton’s friends made donations which were used to build a wall on the stairs.
Jackson receiving two chickens.
Chickens purchased from money previously donated by Earl Beatty Library Helpers
When a sponsor sends a present to their child we try to give them a photograph that not only thanks them but gives them reassurance that it has arrived and is in that child’s hands. Over the years we have only had two parcels that didn’t arrive. Here are some of those parcels.
A present from Barb for her sponsored child Muthina. In the summer of 2012 Barb had the opportunity to meet with her sponsored child and her extended family, visiting the homestead and Muthina’s school.
Mutunga receiving a parcel from his sponsors Barb and Wendy
From April for Mbula Henry and Ingrid’s present for Emmanuel
From Mavis for Faith
Narcaster receiving a present from Diana