After our July trip with about 20 of us all together it was decided by the Kupenda committee that I should come back in November which is when Leonard Mbonani will have been the director/coordinator for Kupenda Kenya for a year. It’s amazing all that has been accomplished. I have to say that hiring Leonard fulltime was one of the best decisions we could have made for the success of Kupenda and helping these children. Leonard and I worked closely for the last couple weeks to really get a lot in order; church involvement, child sponsorship, job descriptions, the new boarding facility in Marafa, budgets, developing plans for a research center, forming a medical subcommittee, lots of paperwork etc. In summary it was a very successful and productive trip with both Leonard and I working into the night many days. I realize as I’m trying to put in photos I didn’t get a photo of Leonard and me together on the last trip. I’ll include the photo of the motorbike we rode all over the Malindi district on instead along with a photo of Leonard’s two youngest girls, Sarah and Esther, with me and a photo of Leonard at the office.
Perhaps it is best to relay my trip on a day by day basis.
Friday Nov. 17th
We interviewed a few of the Kupenda sponsored children to get up to date on their progress since being in school and to get better ideas on how to keep up information sharing and communication with sponsors. We were trying to get a feel for how difficult it would be to get information sponsors want on children and how difficult it is to actually get a lot from the children. Some of the children are only just learning sign language and others will never be able to communicate, so we faced some interesting obstacles but worked to overcome them. We gave children their gifts from their sponsors. We asked them about how they felt about sponsorship, their physical progress in therapy when applicable, what their hopes were for their future, what they wanted to be when they grew up, how their life is different now from when they were in school, etc. One of the coolest things was one child who said she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. She didn’t even know that her sponsor is a nurse! God seemd to have his hand in every detail.
children with gifts from sponsors
Saturday Nov. 18th
I was privileged to be able to be a part of the first official activity of the Nafurmime (“let’s cultivate”) Farmer’s group (NAFAS). Their first official act was to donate 3 bags of corn (maize) to the Gede special needs home. This group consists of farmers from St James church (the church that the Kupenda chairman is the pastor of). Their goal is to “eradicate hunger by empowering the Community to strive for better harvest”. Some of their goals include supporting farmers with improved techniques and issuing food to the disadvantaged or needy in the community. The children were all in attendance at the ceremony and many speeches were given.
Here is the head teacher of the Gede special needs school to the far right being given one of the bags of maize from NAFAS.
Sunday Nov. 19th
After attending the new English service at St. James church there was an afternoon service especially for the children at the Gede Special needs home. Rev. Mangi has a special service for the children at the end of every semester where members of the congregation sing with the children, bring the children gifts, and share a message of hope with them. Renson Baya (church member) shared a message with the children about the love of Christ for them while the Leonard’s brother, Chengo, interpreted in sign for those who are deaf. I was also asked to give a talk to the kids as well. I’m finally getting used to the idea that I am expected to give a speech of some sort at most occasions. I talked to them about trying to use what makes them different to better love God and the world. It was really cool to see how the church really is reaching out to these children.
Chengo doing the sign interpretation for the deaf children
Renson Baya, giving the sermon
George leading the church service in song (left)
Offering for children (right)
In addition to these kind of services, the church currently is involved with the handicapped children through:
– Praying continuously for the disabled children
– Assisting the disabled children to reach the church for Sunday services
– Donating food to the small home
– Visiting the individual special needs children at home
– Leading pastor’s workshops on how other churches can assist disabled children in their area (currently a group of 13 pastor’s meet regularly to talk about how to make the church more accessible to those with special needs)
Because of all that they already do and because of the low income amongst the church members, Rev. Mangi’s ministry is now being supported by Hampton Falls First Baptist Church (the church I grew up in) through Kupenda. The primary problem that disabled people deal with in Kenya is the perception that they are somehow cursed by God. Therefore, it is essential that the church correct this misperception in the community and in the children themselves.
Monday Nov. 20th
Leonard, Rev. Mangi, Zuhura (district assessor for special needs) and I met with the District Education officer of the Malindi district to discuss the plans for an assessment center along with updating her on our progress with the funds for the boarding facility in Marafa. The office will also call a meeting of all area organizations that might assist or have assisted special needs children to try and pool resources.
We continued with child interviews for the rest of the day and again it was just so wonderful to hear from the children themselves about what a difference you are all making in their lives. Amongst the children at the special school, we’ve got future teachers, waiters, administrators, broadcasters, community developers, etc. I know these kids will make the world a better place.
In the evening, we showed “Cars” at the boarding facility, the latest Pixar movie. I figured this movie could be enjoyed even if they couldn’t understand the words. We hope to do more of this kind of thing for them in the future since they don’t have much stimulation after school is out.
Tuesday Nov. 21st
We had an all day Kupenda committee meeting. This is one of the most important things we do on these visits but to many it might seem very tedious. We went over finances and future budget needs both next year and into the future. I’ll be putting together the details of the kind of things we hope for in the future in the next newsletter (hopefully out before Christmas).
In the evening Leonard and I presented Kupenda at Turtle Bay Beach Club, a local tourist hotel. Anthony Jomomina, from the “Breaking the Curse” video (you can view it here http://www.current.tv/watch/11987522.htm ) was able to present with us and tell his story of growing up as a handicapped person in Kenya and what it is really like. We are sending him to university in April so he can be a broadcaster. We had a great response and Leonard will be continuing these kind of presentations weekly into the future. Here is Anthony with a gift he made for Kupenda
Wednesday Nov. 22nd
Leonard and I spent a lot of time in the morning meeting with Kupenda funded staff to negotiate contract renewal. During that time I was able to meet a few children that are benefiting from the work that the Kupenda funded therapist does. I was able to meet a little girl that was born with clubbed feet. The plaster casts on her legs you see here will help to correct the condition. When it is caught this early on it is possible that her legs could be corrected without surgery. She will go in repeatedly for new casts until the problem is corrected. Koffa (the therapist) sent the mother to visit us to thank us in person. I’m continuously overwhelmed by the gratefulness of the people Kupenda tries to help.
We spent the afternoon meeting with the vice chairman of a government organization called Constituents Development Fund (CDF). They heard about the guys raising money for the remodeling of a house to become a boarding facility for handicapped children in the very rural part of the district. CDF decided they want to contribute to the project and to make a brand new facility instead of remodeling the old house. The vice chairman was very positive about the possibility but we have not yet heard exactly how much they will be contributing. You can see the plans for the new boarding facility below. The architect, A.N. Nyaga, who made the plans did the job for half the normal price to do his part in contributing to the community. The sketch of the boiarding and dining facilities and his photo are below.
Thursday Nov. 23rd (Thanksgiving)
I have to say it was one of my favorite thanksgivings. I was asked to have tea with the head teacher since school was closing that week. I thought it would just be the head teacher, the deputy, Leonard and myself. However, it ended up being a very big lunch with all the Gede special needs teachers and staff. They didn’t even know it was a holiday in my country. The entire thing was set up for all of them to express thanks for what Kupenda has done and is doing. So many of them stood up and said such nice things. I believe that if I ever needed affirmation that Kupenda is in God’s plan, this was it. I told them the room needed to be much bigger to encompass all of the contributors to Kupenda. Kupenda wouldn’t exist without the supporters. We also planted trees. I was given a wonderful gift by the school and a Giriama (local tribe) name “Sidi Thoya”.
Headteacher giving gift to me…so nice (right)
The rest of the day was spent interviewing more children. Of course I wasn’t able to interview all of the 80 children we are hoping to sponsor next year, but we really were able to get a good precedent for gathering information established.
Friday Nov. 24th
This was the toughest day considering Leonard and I rode the motorbike on almost non existent roads for two hours each way to see the site for the new boarding facility for special needs children. It will be adjacent to the existing primary school. It was good to see the site but my body was hurting both from sore muscles and big time sunburn. Here you see Leonard and the headteacher of the local primary school looking at the site for the future boarding facility. It will be in the same compound as the primary school.
When we finally came back from Marafa we met with a realtor in the area about what it would take to purchase/build a place as a research/volunteer housing facility. We are in the very early stages of figuring out how to do this. It was a very productive meeting and we came away with some possibilities. It seems as though building is actually more cost effective than buying. We’ll keep you all up to date as the idea progresses. There is so much interest from people wanting to volunteer their time to Kupenda in Kenya we figured it was time to look at a permanent place where people could come for whatever length of time they were interested in to volunteer and/or do much needed research on special needs children in the area.
Saturday Nov. 25th
We had our first meeting with the medical subcommittee. The committee will consist of Leonard Mbonani (Kupenda Kenya director), Rev. Robert Mangi (Kupenda chairman), Koffa Edwin (Occupational Therapist at Gede special school), Maureen Zawadi (Gede health center nurse), and Joseph Gona (KEMRI Kilifi district researcher in community and disabilities). Here you see them in front of the Kupenda office. Here is a girl that could benefit from surgery. We discussed the roles and the next steps for the committee and they include….
– Talk to parents about the child’s info. Find out their financial situation and educate them on the importance of corrective surgery.
– Identify children who need corrective surgery (all of committee based on children they see) and ask assessment center about who she’s come across in need of surgery.
– Identify partners to assist with corrective surgeries etc. like APDK and Bethany crippled children’s home.
– Determine financial and time costs through APDK….maybe some kind of cost share…it will be faster.
– Identify someone who can take the child to Mombassa (Patrice) and then someone to accompany the child to Kijabe (near Nairobi). Maybe village health workers or church members from St. James.
– Prioritize children once we have list and funds.
Sunday Nov. 26th
After attending Rev. Mangi’s church, I took the afternoon off and went bird watching with my friends from A Rocha (Christian environmental group I stay with while in Kenya). It was A Rocha that brought me to the Kenyan coast and eventually to these children after all. Here you see St. James church. They have been in the process of consturcing a new church for the past few years but still hold services in this church.
Monday Nov. 27th and Tuesday Nov. 28th
Leonard and I spent my last two days on the coast doing much needed paperwork such as writing 8 job descriptions, finalizing forms for progress reports and child information, teaching a few computer programs and finishing up with a few children for interviews.
Wednesday Nov. 29th
Since I flew out of Mombassa to get back home, we went to visit the bishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya to discuss the U.S. church support of Rev. Mangi at St. James church. It was a great meeting and we think we all came to an agreement of the direction we are headed in terms of Rev. Mangi’s involvement with Kupenda.
The Bishop (Rt. Rev. Julius R. K. Kalu), me and Rev. Mangi (right)
For those who made it this far. Thanks for reading. There’s so much that God is doing it is beyond comprehension at times. Thank you to those of you who pray. I certainly felt them.