Sue, Richard & Toby update 12th November 2016
Sue, Richard & Toby update 12th November
Greetings once again from sunny Kenya! The temperature has been in the 30s most of this week, hitting a high of 37 one day. We understand that it’s not quite as warm as that back home! Don’t get too jealous, though: the relentless heat during the day means that our energy is quickly sapped (though Toby still wears a coat quite a bit of the time) – and we have been trying to get quite a lot of practical jobs done this week. We had heavy rain one afternoon, which was a blessing in many ways, but it did mean that the dust immediately turns to horrible sticky mud: this is a harsh environment to live in.
To be honest, we have found things quite tough at times this week. As well as painting dormitories and trying to get some paperwork done with Millicent, we have been project managing toilet building, dining room floor renewal, storage building and play equipment building. Only one of these has been straightforward: Gideon, the pastor-carpenter is a thoroughly reliable man who listens to what you want, goes away to price it, gives you a written quote and a diagram of what he is going to do, then does it on time and for the quoted price. Those of you who are at all familiar with Africa will realise that such a person is rare!
Anyway, the toilets reached the prescribed 25 feet (poor workmen scrambling down into the centre of the earth to dig by hand, as described last week) and just today we have a basic structure on top. It seems that building a toilet is far slower and more complicated than building a house! Matthew the builder is also laying slabs in the dining room. Unfortunately, one day when we were not on site he also laid them in the store room, which was not part of the plan. Lost in translation, I guess… but another instance of needing to keep an eye on what everyone is doing and another source of frustration.
The play equipment, which I said in last week’s blog ‘should be done by the middle of the week’ eventually arrived on Friday, incomplete. The play equipment we had asked Emmanuel to make (he’s 6’9” by the way – I measured him!) was for netball posts (fine) posts for a volleyball net (fine), a swing (basically OK) and a climbing frame with slide (problem!). We had seen it in construction in his ‘engineering yard’ and had spent ages in the hot sun checking that he knew where to put everything – but when it arrived he said ‘you said you didn’t want a slide’. ‘But we did – and we paid you extra money because you said everything cost more…’ etc. etc. Eventually, after going into a big sulk, he said he would make one – and today turned up with his sidekick on the back of his motorbike clutching a slide of sorts. It’s not perfect – a flat sheet with girders at the side – and still needs to be fixed on, so it might end up being something else to climb on – but I think it’s as good as it’s going to get.
Delivery of the swing and climbing frame was a sight to behold. To save hiring a lorry (though we had paid for ‘transport’ in his quote, Emmanuel persuaded three men with a handcart to push this heavy metal (the frame is at least a 7’ cube) the three miles or so from his workshop down a horribly busy single carriageway road to the Care Centre! We saw them along the way, and arrived at the Centre just as they were pushing the final few yards, by which time one of the tyres on the cart had gone flat and come off the rim of the wheel! Witnessing this delivery was one of the most bizarre things we have ever seen – last night, looking at the pictures and video we took, we were in hysterics! At the time, though, we felt so sorry for the owner of the handcart that we paid him to get his wheel fixed. I will post pictures in due course! So ‘Eddie’s playground’ has already provided rich entertainment, and when the swing (3 seats) was finally firmly fixed to the ground this afternoon, the children absolutely loved it. Hopefully at some point on Monday we’ll have the climbing frame completed and painted so the children will be able to enjoy that as well. It will be a fitting tribute to Eddie, who loved the Lord, loved Pamoja, loved children and loved having fun.
At the end of today, having been painting, scrubbing down the climbing frame and rust-proofing it, we were, I think, as hot and dirty as we have ever been! Still, we could have a long hot shower…but not for a week! It gets to be quite an art for both of us to wash with one kettle of water (we always have to be conscious of not using too much of the precious commodity here). Feet last is the best routine! The water was an interesting colour afterwards! By the way, we can’t risk drinking any local water: the people here use a borehole which is very saline or rainwater from a tank, or river water that very muddy and has animals wandering around in it. We reckon that buying bottled water has cost at least £10 a week – a choice we can make, but most people around here simply cannot because their incomes are so low. It is a myth to say simply that it’s OK for them to earn a pittance because the cost of living is low. They survive because they live on beans, cabbages, sikumo-wiki (a strongly flavoured green vegetable) and ugali, which is cheap (and filling); but shopping in the supermarket reveals prices that are, in many cases, significantly higher than in UK. Millicent runs a little shop that sells tiny packets of sugar and tea, and tiny quantities of things like cooking oil and margarine. Most people can’t afford toilet paper.
So we come to our last few days in this area. There still seems to be quite a long list of jobs, but progress has been made. The sewing machines we sent for repair and the mosquito nets we ordered last week have been collected. Next week Sue will work with a local tailor to help some of the children get the basics of sewing, and we will start getting the mosquito nets out to people in the community. Samson, one of the boys at the Centre, has his glasses following two trips to Kisumu – a great adventure for him, especially meeting the large model elephant at the supermarket: he was very wary. We have one room left to decorate (Toby and helpers have done a good job).
Solar power is being installed at the beginning of the week, and we will still need to keep an eye on our various workmen! But we will make sure we also have time with the children, who are the reason why Pamoja exists. We are planning an outing to a swimming pool (not sure what colour the water will be after we’ve been in), and while in that area we will also visit a house that Pamoja built for a lady and her disabled son.
Tomorrow will be Church – last week’s service was ‘very brief, very simple’ i.e. just under three hours, with a distinct lack of live chickens at the auction. And after Church, the members want to see the Jesus film in Luo, which we have shown the children over the past week. We showed it to them in two instalments, an hour at a time, and even the little ones gave it their full attention right through. Today, one of the older lads asked if they could see it again. It’s the second attempt to show it to people in the Church – a power-cut scuppered the first one! We will have a day of rest from the practical jobs tomorrow and instead spend time with the children, singing, talking together, sharing God’s Word, and having fun.
Pamoja is doing so much good in this corner of the world. As I write that, I am reminded that ‘Pamoja’ is actually all the kind and generous people who give freely of their own resources to help people who, in most cases, they have never met. Be assured that your contribution really does make a difference: thank you!
Please pray for us in these last few days: I think we’re both tired, and there’s quite a bit to do! We’ve appreciated hearing some news from friends in UK this week: sometimes home seems a long way away, especially on days when our African friends seem to think and behave in ways we don’t understand! Please also pray as we travel anywhere on these roads, especially on the long trip back to Nairobi on Friday.
Sue has been working on a ‘Outing to Ahero Market’ blog: watch this space. Suffice to say for now that driving into the centre of Ahero to pick up the goods for the Care Centre is not for the faint-hearted! It’s a seething mass of humanity walking everywhere, motorbikes in every direction, lorries parked in awkward places, goats and sheep wandering about, traders with goods taking up half the road…we are very thankful not to have had any accidents.
Thank you all for your continued interest, support and prayers.