BREAD CRUMBS FOR LUNCH

It was midday and we were visiting the Heritage of Hope Children’s Home. The 100 children had gathered for their main meal of the day. I could see that they were anxious to be fed. As I watched each child line up for their portion my heart sunk as they approached the table and were each given a handful of bread morsels. That was it.  That was the meal. Yet there was no complaining as each child took his food and sat down to eat.

We have been helping them for two years now and things have improved.

On one occasion we brought new clothing and shoes for all the children.  As each child was fitted with new pants they excitedly scurried downstairs to try them on. One little boy returned back upstairs in pants that were obviously too big for him. He was beaming as he held up his new trousers with one hand. At that point we had started handing out candy and he realized he had a great dilemma. If he held up his pants his hands would not be free to pick up the candy. He had a choice to make. It was quick and simple, down went his pants and he delightedly reached for his candy.

NO WATER NO LIGHT

Restoration Orphanage is led by a very humble man named Pastor Robert. In our initial meeting I tried to assess their present situation. As we sat in a rather dark room I asked him to turn on the light so we could see each other better. He explained that they had no money and therefore no electricity. He went on to explain that they also had no water for the same reason. When I asked if he had a car to get around he only laughed and stated that he doesn’t even have a bicycle!

As we went around the home we could see the very humble circumstances they found themselves in. As I found the clothing in a rather messy state I inquired why things were not put away. When I received blank stares in reply I realized it had never dawned on them that piles of clothing were a problem. I proceeded to hold a clothing folding workshop on the spot. We started with the biggest pile and I started folding. After a while they all joined in and soon thereafter everything was neatly put away. I explained that this was the new standard for the home and the expressed  that they were eager to maintain it in that state. I took a picture of the clothes and explained that on my next visit I wanted to see the clothing in the same shape. They were happy to agree.

An inspection of the playground found the same state of disarray. Immediately a work party was begun and before long the area looked much better. Another standard had been set. We have been supporting them for about a year and things have been getting steadily better as they have applied themselves. This is gratifying to see.

THE SMELL OF THE SLUM

Many of the sights and sounds of Africa are wonderful however in the slums we find a much different, pungent smell and appearance which is often difficult for some to bear.

Wamo Children’s Home resides in the middle of the slum of Kawangware. Aside the tin shacks which constitutes their home, runs a river of raw sewage. Garbage covers the ground in every direction and there is no greenery to be seen in the district. As we walked through the narrow path toward the sleeping rooms we would jump over this sewage stream, hopping from rock to rock to avoid stepping in the slime.

As dismal as this appears and sounds, it is the effect it has on the small children that is most worrisome. They live among garbage and must smell it every waking hour. I cannot imagine how they can feel uplifted and of great individual worth as they awaken to that environment every day. We need to empty the slums. Often we encourage our homes to seek higher ground and find a spot where the air is clean and the ground is clear. Several of the homes we support are in places that cannot possibly provide a wholesome environment we desire for the children. There is much work to do.

CAN YOU SPARE A TOMATO

As we render assistance to the children’s homes of Africa we find that they often use our funding in order to buy food for the children. The most expensive food includes meat, fruits and vegetables. With the objective of helping them become self sustaining we have started teaching them methods whereby they can obtain these essential foods without expending their precious money.

As all homes buy their vegetables at the local outdoor market we have given them a method that will provide them with all the vegetables they need at no cost. On market day the house mother goes to each vendor and asks for a single item. It could be one tomato, one banana or one carrot. Merchants see almost no value in a single item of this kind and willingly accommodate the simple request. If reluctant the mother asks for only a blemished product that would otherwise not be sold. In return for the item the mother expresses genuine gratitude for the precious gift. She then proceeds to the next vendor and makes a similar request. By the end of the morning the mother has more food than she can carry and each merchant is happy that they could help the children without suffering themselves.

Several of the mothers have now employed the process and now have cut their vegetable cost to zero and are welcomed by the merchants in the market who look forward to the expression of gratitude each time they give “one tomato”.

In Africa they have a phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” This method to obtaining food is the direct application of that principle. Most people want to help but those with little don’t know how they can contribute without causing hardship to themselves. This request is simple, clear and within the limits of those approached. It is working!

WE ARE STARVING

Recently we found ourselves in Mozambique. We were being housed in a catholic mission and we were there to determine the needs of the children in the area. One morning we determined to take a walk out of the village. As we proceeded up the trail we encountered many people going in the opposite direction carrying rakes and hoes over their shoulders. Most of the people were women, some with babies on their backs. After a while we determined to turn around and follow the crowd. After walking for a while we saw that the people were all gathering in a clearing. In Mozambique they speak Portuguese so it was hard to communicate with them. I finally found a person who understood English and I asked him why all the people had gathered together. He responded that they were all starving and would come to find work in the fields. They had walked from their villages in the hope of finding work for the day.

As we watched this scene a pick-up truck would come into the clearing and as many people as is possible would climb into the back. They would then head for the fields. At the end of the day, the truck would bring them back and as they got out of the truck each would receive one cob of corn as their day’s wage. Those not so fortunate to get in a truck would return to their village empty handed and come back the next day hoping to get work.

NO FOOD NO SCHOOL

As we worked in the slum of Kibera we came across a small children’s centre that was trying to help care for the street children giving them a basic education. Their problem was that the children were always hungry and would spend their time begging for food instead of coming to school. There were 23 children in this small program. Seeing a pressing need we determined to build them a feeding centre and supply them with the food they would need to nurture the children. I enlisted the help of friends in Canada, we loaded up all the needed materials in a container and headed for Kenya. We dismantled the tin shacks they were using for shelter and constructed a new facility. It had a dining hall, kitchen and store room. We had sufficient material so we also built a two room school building.

In two weeks we had the project complete and we invited the children for breakfast. For many of the children it was the first time they had ever sat at a table for a meal. There was such joy on their faces.

Attendance at the centre has gone from 23 to over 100 and the children are enjoying the chance they now have to go to school. So many orphans don’t get the chance to go to school. When an orphan finds a family that will let them sleep in their shack they are often obligated to go and beg for food or collect firewood throughout theday as payment for the spot on the ground they get to sleep. These are the children we seek out to help.

THE HUNT

On a recent outing to the Maasai, the villagers asked me if we wanted to go on a hunt. Of course I responded in the affirmative. I asked which animals we were allowed to hunt and they responded,

“We are Maasai, we can hunt anything!”. Then, I stated, I would like to hunt elephant. Although the Maasai are renowned for being fearless they were not too keen to go up against an elephant but since I requested, they agreed to track the elephants and show us a herd. It took the better part of a day to find their trail and as we got closer the trackers picked up their pace. We came to the top of an outcropping and saw about a dozen elephants down on the flats about 300 yards away. At that point I was ready to charge ahead and catch up with them. No, explained the Maasai, elephants are very dangerous, this is as close as we can get. I thought we could get much closer so I jumped off the ledge and gave chase.

It took about 20 minutes to close in on the herd. They started flapping their ears which is how they smell things approaching from behind. The Maasai had remained on the outcropping and were enthusiastically calling us back. We got within 50 feet and thought we had best not get any closer.

They are magnificent when you see them in the wild where they rule the landscape. As we returned to our guides I am not sure whether they thought we were brave or crazy but I think it was the latter.

We were then invited to hunt something a bit more our size to we headed off to hunt Giselle. We had 10 in our hunting party. Three warriors were armed with poison tipped arrows and these archers would shoot the animals as we herded them past their hidden locations.  Hunting gazelle takes a lot of time as you try to corral the herd and steer them to the archers. Once they sense your presence they are hard to catch, man can they move. After three hours of stalking we were exhausted and resigned ourselves to eat goat that night instead of gazelle.

NIGHT WITH THE MAASAI

We have visited the Maasai people four times now and each time we bring them relief supplies.

On our first trip once we had distributed the food and blankets the village chiefs wanted to host us for a dinner. We thought that would be nice. The sun had now set and we were led to a mud hut for the meal. With no electricity and a smoke filled room it was hard to see anything. All the village elders sat on one side of the room and we sat on the other. As we could not speak Maasai and they could not speak English our exchange was mostly hand motions and gestures. From a dark corner of the room a woman emerged with a platter of something. It was too dark to see clearly but it was glistening with grease. Apparently it didn’t smell too good. Although we were quite hungry we were more fearful of what was before us. I explained to the team that we must eat as this is given as a gift to us. Reluctantly we all partook as little as we possibly could. Another platter was brought for the elders and they devoured it in short order. Seeing a way out of the situation I offered to share our platter with them which was enthusiastically accepted.

After eating we went out into the dark evening and I explained that we would like to spend the night in their village. The chief explained that they had never had a white person stay in the village but we were certainly welcome. As we walked toward the village the chief turned to me and asked, “Aren’t you afraid of the animals?” I responded that if he wasn’t afraid then neither was I. We carried on. When we arrived at the village I saw that the huts were surrounded with bramble that was meant to keep out the lions and hyenas. The bramble was very thorny and appeared like it would do the job.  I was led to my hut which was made of sticks and mud and was 4 feet high. My bed was a pile of sticks with a cow-hide laid over them. As I entered the hut I was followed by a few of the warriors. The men then kept coming in until we had about 20 men in a space about 10 feet by 10 feet. As we sat together unable to communicate they started chanting. As the volume and intensity increased it seemed that the hut was actually pulsating. It was fantastic.  After a while I said that we would now sing to them and we gave a rousing rendition of Kumbaya. They loved it. It was now time to jump.

The Maasai are great jumpers and can jump almost 2 feet just using their ankles. They would chant as they jumped, it was amazing. After the festivities we all returned to our huts for the night. In the middle of the night, as I slept on my cow skin a small animal climbed onto me and started to burrow into my chest.  I awoke and unable to see what it was I grabbed it and threw it as hard as I could against the mud wall. It didn’t come back so I went back to sleep.

In the morning it was time for breakfast and it was my role to select the meal. I was led to the goat corral and requested to select the goat we would eat. I made the selection, it was taken from the corral and we headed up the hill-side for breakfast. The goat was slaughtered, the flesh was cut off, a fire was started and the meat was roasted. Being the guest of honour I was given the raw kidney to eat while they drank the blood. After that we all settled down to a feast of fresh roasted goat meat.

Valentine’s Day

I was recently visiting one of our orphanages in Nairobi. It happened to be Valentine’s Day and I was playing with about twenty two year olds. As we were having fun together the matron came into the courtyard carrying a cake that somebody had donated to the orphanage. You must understand that these children never have such treats and it could very well have been the first cake they had ever seen. I was no longer of any interest as they all gathered around the matron in the hopes of getting a piece of the cake. She instructed them to sit on the ground as she proceeded to cut the heart shaped cake into 25 pieces. The children watched in silence as the cake was cut into pieces about one inch square. Each child received their piece and began to savor their treat. One of the little boys standing next to me was carefully eating his cake keeping the frosting for last. As he was about to enjoy that last morsel, somebody inadvertently bumped him and his precious piece of frosting fell to the ground. He looked down in a state of panic to find his frosting and jumped down to retrieve it. Having retrieved it, he placed it in his mouth, bit it in half and turned to find another little girl without cake. He gave her half of his little treasure. Such is the pure love of a child.

JIGGERS

On a recent outing to Uganda I found myself on the back of a motorcycle visiting villagers and checking on the health of the children. One of their struggles is with jiggers. Jiggers are parasites that enter the body through the feet and crawl up the body of children. The solution to jiggers is quite simple, shoes.

I once thought that African children don’t wear shoes because they don’t want to. Such is not the case.

They would all love to wear shoes if they could afford their cost. We have shipped thousands of pairs of shoes and they are always enthusiastically received.