Sue, Richard and Toby update 5th November 2016
It may be 5th November, but there are no fireworks here tonight! We’ve had a few spectacular natural shows in the sky in the form of electric storms over the past few nights, but very little rain. The 30 minutes we had on Tuesday helped briefly, but much more is needed, however inconvenient it might be to us in the short term. (30 minutes of rain was almost inevitably followed by 18 hours of power cut.) Keep on praying, please!
As we explained in our 1st November blog, we were banned from the school grounds this week not because of our bad behaviour but because of exam regulations. We are pleased to report that the exams went without a hitch and the children came away saying that they felt the papers were fair. They had obviously been well prepared. By the way, part of the security measures involved the Head going to the exam centre about 20 minutes away at 5.00 am each morning on his old motorbike to collect the papers for the day!
Meanwhile, we concentrated our efforts on practical jobs at the Care Centre. This is not really our forte, but with local help we are pleased to be able to facilitate this necessary work. Despite being only about 12 years old, the battering the buildings receive from the harsh climate (extremely hot, then torrential rain) meant that plenty of repair and maintenance needed to be done. Chief amongst these was the new toilets – this week has seen the ‘long drop’ hole progress to a depth approaching its target of 25 feet, which should be a safe distance from noses for a few years! Every piece of soil was moved by hand. First the men dug out to about 6 feet: this was then bricked and concreted around the edge to form a foundation. Then they just kept digging! The team of three took turns, one hacking away with a pick, one shovelling out, and the other resting. At one point, upon approaching the hole, all you could see was soil flying up into the air, rather like a large dog kicking up the dirt! Then, as the hole got deeper, they scrambled down the sides to work and a bucket on a rope was used to haul out the dirt. All this, remember, in temperatures of 30 – 35 degrees. These men have our deep admiration.
At the same time, Toby, Sue and one of the older lads at the centre, James, painted the dormitories. Sue enjoys mixing colours, as the selection available at Akaii, the local builder’s merchants, is a bit limited. So one boys’ dorm is now red and white, with a border brought from UK, and a girls’ room has three lemon walls, with blue to follow next week. Three more rooms to do after that! The plaster is rough, with cracks and holes, so it’s a bit of a cover-up job, but it should brighten the place up a bit even if it wouldn’t win any prizes on The Interior Design Challenge! We had some enthusiastic help from the children one afternoon. The paint was certainly applied quickly, but not necessarily in the right places! It was one of those times when wherever you looked there was a child with a paintbrush applying paint at top speed. Korge, one of the small boys, didn’t help by continually disappearing with white spirit, or a brush, or a cloth – or basically whatever you really needed at that moment! We have discovered that ‘Ah-ah!’ – said with short vowel sounds, is a useful phrase. It means ‘No!’ – and if you keep doing that there will be consequences!) White spirit and a cloth tidied most of the mess up, though. As well as decorating, Toby is enjoying playing football and draughts with the children – he is making himself quite at home here!
Gideon, local pastor and carpenter is busy making wooden storage units for the dorms, so each child has a space for their belongings. The present arrangement of heaps of clothes and books on the floor and under the bed is a fine old mess! It’s great to know these people who just turn up, listen to what you want, measure up, give you a price, then go away and start making things. Kenya is such a strange mixture: sometimes things that would be done immediately at home can take weeks – or never, but with a lot of practical tasks, the opposite is true.
Then there was the drain…or the gulley with stagnant water. The open system has worked reasonably well for a few years – we would be horrified in UK, but it’s the norm in Kenya, in the streets of the towns and everywhere. However, the dry weather means that not a lot of natural flushing has been taking place, so we felt it was time to do something to spoil the mosquitos’ breeding ground and avoid the potential for cholera etc. Maurice the plumber arrived on Wednesday morning to look at the job, and we agreed what needed to be done. He wrote out a list of the pipes, traps and joints needed, priced it up, and said that if we bought everything he needed, he would do the work on Thursday. Since we also needed to buy more materials for the toilets, I wrote off Wednesday afternoon for a trip to Ahero.
I think I’ve explained in previous blogs that buying things in Kenya is not quite like popping into B & Q. To get into Akaii’s shop (or Victor’s shop – we’re getting on first-name terms with people!), you trample through wood and general debris, into a dark space (particularly dark on Wednesday because of a power cut). But Victor Akaii is a lovely man who likes Pamoja, so he always tries to help us, and even bought us drinks while we waited! I must admit, that’s the part I don’t quite understand…you order everything, pay for it, get the receipt…then…nothing seems to happen for ages. About half an hour later, various people start finding the things you have bought and much later, everything is either put in the car, or, for the big stuff, onto some local fellow’s pick-up (for another negotiated amount). Matthew, the fundi, helped me in all this, though he had to borrow my glasses to see what was going on in the shop! The next day, he suggested that I might have a spare pair I could give him! We’re planning take him and one of the lads at the Care Centre whose eyesight for an outing to the opticians in Kisumu something next week.
We have brought some money with us which was given in memory of our dear friend from Velmore Church, Eddie Marsh, who died in August last year. Eddie was such a fun-loving person that we felt ‘his’ money should be spent on something that the children would really enjoy. So Emmanuel, the local metalworker (6’6” tall and built like one of his own poles) arrived at 8.30 on Thursday morning to discuss making swings, a slide and a climbing frame for the Care Centre. After looking at some pictures we had taken of very expensive equipment in Nairobi, Emmanuel got the idea and has gone away to start construction, at a very reasonable price. It should be done by the middle of next week.
Another Saturday today – another trip to Kisumu – help! We went to collect the 40 mosquito nets we had ordered last week. Oh – when we got to the shop, apparently we hadn’t ordered them. The manager couldn’t get them from other stores, so it would take a ‘special order’, which required a 50% deposit. So, when we appeared, he asked for the deposit…but he couldn’t tell us when the nets would be in. He would ‘check with headquarters’ and let us know later in the day. We phoned back three times, but each time he hadn’t got an answer – frustrating! Much later in the day, we found another shop that has placed an order for us – the nets will be in on Tuesday…we hope…. Buying a sewing machine for the Centre was much more straightforward. Blythswood Trust has kindly given money to enable the young people to learn the gentle art of tailoring, which is a very useful skill for life. We discovered two machines already at the Centre, which we have arranged to be refurbished. Together with the new one we have bought, this will mean we have three machines working and there should be enough money to pay for a local tailor to give some tuition sessions.
During the past week, the framework of a house has also been built with Pamoja money. The young couple whose home it will be are local people: Jack has two nephews at the Care Centre, and in the long term, he and his wife Judy are likely to be the only family members who are capable of giving these lads a home (there is a history of mental illness in the family). Jack himself was born out of wedlock, and has suffered taunts from some of his family who said things like ‘Where is your father, Jack? Show us your father?’ He came to Eric, very distressed, and Eric told him that he could show him his father – his Heavenly Father who would always love and care for him. On the day the house was built, Jack was lost for words, eventually saying that he never ever thought he would be able to have his own house. Judy said she didn’t know how she could repay – but of course that is not the point. Our God has a heart for the poor, the widows and the orphans, and Pamoja exists to demonstrate His love. From what we know of Judy, in any case, she will repay our financial contribution many times over by turning that house into a home for Samson and Andericus, the nephews. By the way, although the house was only a wooden framework, she and Jack slept in it on Wednesday night. The local tradition says that now it is their home, that is where they have to be.
And all the time, we have been chatting to Millicent and Eric about individual children and local families. Their dedication is certainly ‘over and above’ – they give their lives for these people.
Tomorrow is Church again – just next door this time, thankfully, so we might get a bit of a lie-in! On the other hand, the cockerels start crowing from about 4 am… In the afternoon (assuming Church finishes before nightfall) we hope to finally have time to have some fun with the children.
Thank you for reading again! I’m so sorry we can’t put pictures in, but we’ll try to put that right later. If you have a moment, please e-mail us with any news from home. We love it out here, but we miss our family and friends – you seem a long way away! We are over halfway through our stay. Please keep praying for our health – Toby has a headache and a sore throat today, but otherwise we are OK.
Thank you for your interest, your support and your prayers.