“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
(Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith)
I have exciting and difficult news to update you on after my recent trip to Tanzania and Kenya. We are thrilled about the success of the Kilimanjaro climb while struggling with the recent cancer diagnosis of our Kenya director, Leonard Mbonani. Today is Leonard’s birthday so I thought it fitting that we celebrate the amazing accomplishment of the Kilimanjaro hikers…something that would not have happened without him.
In spite of Leonard’s health issues, he and I are so excited about the achievements of these three kids with disabilities. Our hike leader/coordinator wrote a great narrative of this incredible journey which I encourage you to read. Fourteen of the seventeen climbers summit-ed Kilimanjaro on January 5th….including two of the Kupenda kids. Reaching the peak was only one small part of the goal so the hikers who did not summit are still heroes.
I saw the immediate impact of this climb on the community when I returned to Kenya with the three Kupenda climbers. They shared their experiences with large crowds, received awards, and proved the skeptics wrong. They are already showing their communities that disability is not inability. We can only imagine the impact the “Kilimanjaro for the Children” documentary will have. Take a look at more photos and descriptions of their recognition here.
After a week of celebrating the kids’ accomplishments, filming, and working with the community to advocate for children with disabilities, we received difficult news. Leonard’s bone marrow test revealed stage IV follicular lymphoma. Last Monday he started chemotherapy treatment in Nairobi which he will undergo once a month for the next 6 months, while we continue to look into possibilities for further treatment if needed. The plan is to follow up with medication, from home, every other month for 2 years after that. Even if Leonard comes out healthy on the other side of this, it is going to be a tough road professionally and personally. Cancer stinks. No one can do what Leonard does in the way he does it, but the Kenyan board is developing strategies to keep the work going with Leonard’s reduced capacity. Of course, it is a big blow for me, especially after the loss of my father last March.
Leonard and I have a shared vision for these children with disabilities in Kenya. Therefore we’ve been through a lot of hard things together. Like all we have been through before, we will try to use this new hard for good even when it seems impossible. We’re still struggling to figure out how. The recent climb of Mount Kilimanjaro reminds us of the immense joy that results from overcoming incredible obstacles. Cancer is one more challenge to triumph over as we continue to enable children with disabilities to meet their God-given potential.
We need your continued support, especially during this new difficult season. In honor of Leonard’s 58th birthday and the beginning of his cancer battle, would you donate a $58 gift (or more) to the children he loves?
Thank you for continuing to keep Leonard and his family in your prayers as they travel this rough road.
With much love and gratitude,
Kupenda for the Children
PO Box 473 Hampton NH 03843
If you’re interested in supporting one of the many children we serve, head over to our sponsorship page to learn about how you can make a difference.