THE FLOOD

Being from Vancouver Canada I thought I knew all about rain but Kenya has just taught me a lesson I will never forget. We had shipped a container of supplies to Kenya for distribution to the orphanages we support in Nairobi. We were also going to expand one of the orphanages which was severely under-sized. We had unloaded the containers into trucks and were heading to the orphanage with the supplies. And then it started. Rain like I have never seen in my life. It was a torrential downpour that did not stop. Within an hour the city was completely flooded and traffic ground to a complete stop. We were travelling in two trucks and got separated prior to the gridlock. As night fell, conditions worsened and many abandoned their vehicles in search of shelter. Our crew of volunteers were riding in the back of the other open transport truck and by this point they were drenched, very cold and marooned within a city they did not know.

As we could not reach them by car and did not know their location I headed out on foot in the general direction they should have been travelling. Accompanied by two of our work party we searched for our comrades.  At one point in our trek as we waded through the streets, one of my companions dropped out of sight under the water. He popped back up quickly, having fallen into an uncovered manhole. After hiking for about an hour we came to a junction and we were able to raise them on a cell phone. They were huddled together under the plywood in the truck trying to stay warm. We determined a rendezvous point, met up and then started our journey back to the second vehicle through the flooded swollen streets. From that point we took a 4 hour circuitous route back to our room for the night. Truly one to remember.

FORCED OUT INTO THE NIGHT

It was a cold dark night when the children of Fountain of Life were awakened to the sounds of heavy equipment. Banging on the door was a developer who had claim to the land and wanted to evict the children’s home. He chose the middle of the night to start his work to avoid the certain refusal of authorization by government officials. The children had only minutes to quickly flee from the buildings before the bulldozers came in and flattened the buildings and everything that was inside. Orphans in Africa have no voice and are often disregarded, ignored and taken advantage in such ways.

Now placed in the street in the middle of the night the mother frantically started looking for places for all the children to sleep .  The next morning they returned to see their home in ruin, mulched up into a pile of debris. Well wishers rallied around them and found a plot of land where they could start over. They quickly started building shelters out of tin and now continue caring for the 50 children under their care. We have been helping them for over a year now. Florence is a wonderful mother and caregiver.

MAYBE WE WILL EAT TOMORROW

On one of our visits to the slums of Mombasa we visited a rather meager looking orphanage. The matron had the sweetest heart and it was clear that she gave everything she had to the children. As she showed us around the home it was evident  that they had only the barest of necessities. She explained that she had no supporters  and that the other women helping out were doing so without payment for they seldom had money. When she found work she would bring her earnings home and purchase food for the children. I asked to see her food pantry and was shown a practically bare shelf. I asked her where she will get the food for the next day. She replied that she would go out in the evening and beg. I pressed the point by asking what she would do if she didn’t get any food that day. She explained that she would return to the home empty handed and would explain to the children that there would be no food tonight but maybe they would eat tomorrow.

PLIGHT OF A STREET CHILD

Of all the children struggling in the slums, it is the street children who fare the worst. They have no home or shelter and struggle through the night sleeping under bushes or in culverts to try and stay dry. They have no food and survive by either begging or stealing. I have been accosted several times but I understand their motives and give what I can. Their clothes are tattered and they are rejected by all. Bringing them into homes is often difficult as they are unaccustomed to confinement in any way. The longer a child struggles in the street the deeper those instincts become in their character.

Some of our homes have had success rescuing these boys. Paulo’s Home in  Kibera consists of all boys that have come from the street.  Whenever  I visit it is a wonderful reunion. They sing, dance and we tell stories. On my last visit we brought them soccer uniforms and a ball. The boys were ecstatic. A game was immediately organized and we laughed as I tried to keep up with their speedy legs. At last I realized that the only way I would get the ball was to tackle my opponent. We laughed as we all ended up in a huge pile. They now call me Father Paul.

CHILDREN NEED TO BE PROTECTED

One of our orphanage groups in Uganda asked for assistance in hiring a security guard. At first I resisted because this orphanage is located in a very remote farming area and it seemed safe due to  its isolation. The place is a very humble group of small shacks with 30 children. The man in charge explained that child sacrifice still exists in Uganda and that orphans are a target for this awful practice. We hired a guard.

Within 6 months the orphanage was attacked by thugs wanting children. The security guard defended the children as best he could but lost one of his arms to a machete in the conflict. I now understand better why so many facilities have large walls around their compound.

CHILDREN LOVE GOING TO SCHOOL

In Africa, schooling is a challenge as well as being a great blessing. Although it is supposed to be free for the primary years, with the requirement to supply their own uniforms and supplies, many orphaned children cannot attend school. Once a child misses the first few years of school they are seen as too old to be admitted in later years. On the positive side, all the children love going to school. The conditions of the schools are often very poor with bad lighting, few books or supplies and teachers who often only have a very basic education themselves. Most of the lessons are done through rote memorization and do not involve problem solving.

On day I was visiting a school and it was an arithmetic class for 14 years old. Once I determined their ability to add and subtract, I held a contest. The prize was 200 shillings ($2.50) to the person who could first solve the problem. Everyone was then sitting on the edge of their seats. I went to the chalkboard and proceeded to outline a very long series of additions and subtractions as fast as I could write. They all worked furiously to come up with the correct figure. Some started to work as teams to combine their abilities. It was fun to watch. After about 10 minutes one young boy came up with the right answer and received the prize. We all laughed and I saw that he had just found many who desired to be his new best friend.

Another day I was walking along the coast of Mombasa and decided to go into the bush to see if I could find any children in need. After a while I came across a small village tucked in the forest.  I asked if they had a school and was led to a small clearing on the hillside. There I was shown the tiny school which consisted of two small shacks. They had a crude chalk board and no supplies. There were three adults who taught the 15 children. The village was so poor that there were no uniforms and no fees.  In these humble circumstances the children were happy to just be in school. We now support this school and send them assistance every month.

ATTACK OF THE ANTS

We were in Mozambique looking at a site for a possible children’s home. It was a hot day and the local natives had kindly prepared a lunch for us. As we finished looking over the land, we were directed to a large tree under which two ladies were cooking a meal. I could not recognize what the meal consisted of and unfortunately I received a heaping plate. As I started to eat I saw that the ground all around the tree was completely covered with ants. The ants did not phase the ladies at all who were sitting on the ground but they were crawling up all of our legs. On that trip I truly learned how to eat on the run!

ALONE IN KIBERA

We help one group in Kibera that cares for a large number of children however the children had no place to play. We determined that we would provide a concrete play area for them. I soon discovered that you can’t just order concrete in Africa; you have to make your own. First I found a man sitting on a pile of sand and I bought so many shovels of sand. Next I found a small shop that sold bags of cement and I purchased several bags. Lastly I found another man with a pile of gravel. He had two small girls so I traded him the delivery of the gravel for two small bikes for his daughters. We shovelled the gravel into the truck and headed into the center of the slum. As we were going along, he turned to me and said ”Everybody in Kibera is talking about you”. I responded a bit puzzled, “why would people talk about me?“  He explained that they have never seen a white man come in here and nobody has ever done anything like this around here. I found his words quite disheartening as so many relief organizations state that they are working in Kibera and yet the people have never seen them.

LED BY CHILDREN

One of our orphanages is named Imani Children’s Home. The lady who started it was a beautiful model who abandoned her career to care for children. She started with seven street children and took them into her tiny room. Her name is Faith and her love for children is overwhelming. She has been doing it now for 15 years and now she has over 350 children. Their love for her is so evident every time I visit as they all gravitate to their “Mama” whenever they see her.

Her compound is spotless. Everything is cleaned constantly and when we visit the baby compound we must disinfect our shoes before entering. She lovingly cares for over 40 children afflicted with aids. The children are taught at a very early age that they need to learn to work for themselves. They help prepare the meals when they are about 4 years old and by 6 they do their own laundry on the scrub board.

On a recent visit I desired to discuss the budget of her center and she asked me if I wanted to meet  her business manager. I was pleased to hear that she had one and she called for him. In a few minted he showed up. He was 14 years old. He produced his books and went over the financial reports in a very professional manner. He had been taught all his skills in the orphanage. The meal we had during our visit was prepared by a girl no older than 10 years. She did a wonderful job and had learned so many skills she would use throughout her life.

Before we left, Faith had a visit from a gentleman named Morris. He was a college graduate and a successful businessman. In our brief meeting I learned that Faith had found him sniffing glue on the streets as a young boy and took him in many years ago. She cared for him and ensured he obtained all his education including college. He owes his life and future to this sweet lady.

Each of these children are so precious and given the opportunity they all blossom.

WATER MEANS LIFE

In Africa one of the greatest struggles is obtaining water. Periods of drought will destroy crops and kill livestock. Clean drinking water is very difficult to obtain in remote areas. People will often draw their water from creeks whose water is  absolutely brown with silt. The hauling of water is a daily chore for a vast part of the population.

One day we were travelling in eastern Kenya and we visited a local school. As we walked through the playground we saw dozens of pop bottles, jars and small plastic containers each filled with about a cup of water. When I enquired about the collection I was informed that the school had no water so each child had to bring a cup of water with them each morning for admittance into the school. These children would often have to walk great distances to obtain that needed water.

In Machackos we were visiting another of our orphanages and saw all the children hiking down to the river about ¼ mile from the home and bringing back a pail of water. This water they would use to clean themselves each day. Sickness and disease could be dramatically reduced in Africa if we could only obtain clean uncontaminated water for the children.