Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kenya - A Safari

The last two days of our trip we were treated to a safari.

In my last blog I promised that if any of you, my readers, would desire to have the Joy Village and Nazareth experience, that I would organize the trip, which also would have a safari element in it. It is a shame to come all the way to Africa and not see the animals roam in the wild.

I am showing you here a sampling of the pictures taken during those two days.

(Above a ranger during a car stuck problem, below one of our strong women, paving the way for our vehicles)

(Our lodge in the park)
(Mama get up, get up please)

( the black rhino is a very rare sight)

(a four meter/ thirteen foot wingspan)

(Bad eye sight, but considering to attack)

Can't promise you will see all of the above, but I promise you it will be amazing.

PS hope you could name all the animals.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mission trip to Nazareth hospital and Joy Village

This is a completely different blog about my realization of tragedy that befalls a substantial number of people on this globe of ours, who require our compassion and help.

(The moment we arrive children flock around us)
(Boniface and his best friend Gerald)
(4 year old Catherine)

(The house was a gift to the Catholic Diocese from a wealthy lady who made her fortune in selling imported second hand clothing. The gift came with the stipulation to use it for children)

One reads about the efforts of, for example, Bill Gates and his wife trying to eradicate diseases around the world, but those stories belong to the realm of news and then we change the TV channel to a program of our choosing. And if a typhoon hits an island somewhere and decimates towns and villages some of us transfer some money to help, and then we change the TV channel to something more pleasant to watch.

(Angele Kame is a brand new arrival, still a bit shy)

(Achuu and Catherine are not with the same mommy but are about the same age and playmates)
(There in the compound is not enough grass, too many pavers and toys are limited)
We in the developed world do not get face to face with misery and despair, till you arrive as we did right smack in the middle of trouble that befalls a large number of people in the underdeveloped countries.
(Shoes are washed daily and dried in ingenious ways)
(Each house has three bedrooms, one for 5 girls, one for 5 boys and momma's room. A kitchen and a living-dining room)

Mind you Sandee and I have been traveling as tourists in those countries and we might have been face to face with people suffering from HIV without realizing it. This trip with 10 other members of our church in Norfolk however was the confrontation with evil and misery that touches you to your core and makes you realize that one should not only reach out to the people in need we meet, to make them simply feel loved and console them when possible, but also reach into one's billfold where it could solve a problem or two.

(5 kids to a room. Their duty is to make their room up and help with washing clothes, besides school work. Helping prepare food is done by some of them)
(These type of pictures are found in many of the bedrooms we visited)
(Mama's room with a bed for visiting auntie's who sometimes relieve Mom so she can visit her family)

Like so many smaller NGO's (non governmental organizations) our Presbyterian church in Norfolk followed through on the life's work of members of the church when they retired by assuming the financial burden of keeping a HIV clinic open at the grounds of the Roman Catholic Mission Hospital Nazareth north of Nairobi in Kenya, run by Franciscan nuns from India.

(Sandee has taken a shine to Boni and will sponsor him)

The church also started a pastoral team to guide hospital patients through their stay, clarifying procedures and medication regiments to predominantly uninformed and often illiterate patients.

(I witnessed several kids scraping their knees on these pavers, luckily that will be history in a few months)
(Each house has their own animals to play with and to feed)
( above and below 4 year old Emmanuel shows me his toys and also how strong he is in schlepping heavy stuff up the stairs)

Then they started to sponsor a primary school on the hospital premises for the children of tea pickers who in average earn 1 to 2 US dollars a day and thus cannot send their children to school. These children get free education from grade 1 to 3. Presently about 60 children out of hundreds are chosen to attend.

(The Allamano School on the Nazareth hospital compound has received a kitchen stove and uniforms and teaching materials in the past. Fundraising for a roof replacement is underway)
( We organized a games day and handed out bat and balls and soccer balls and jumping ropes; the afternoon was a huge success)

All this is and was financed by the church members, but here is where the story changes.

(Jane, one of our team members is a huge Orioles fan and taught the kids to swing the bat as well sing the team song)

In 2012 the church's "Tree of Lives" foundation that provides above services started Joy Village, an orphanage of presently 54 children in age range from 2 to 14, based on an international prototype model of 9 to 10 children in one of eventually 7 homes. Each home has a mother, who has been carefully selected and trained to shepherd her children from early age through school and home life into adulthood.

The mothers are not married and have no little children of their own anymore, so they can dedicate all their time and motherly love to their new brood. All the pictures above were showing you what I write about at this stage in the blog and all the pictures below this sentence are about the work started before Joy Village was opened, can you guess why?

(On our HIV patient home visits we all crawled in a matatu or little bus with seats for 15 passengers, but normally loaded with up to 20 people)

(Sandee and I are trailing Rose the counselor with a client that met us at the bus stop)
(The little boy could not talk but had a great smile; the mother our HIV patient wasn't home but grandma who cares for the boy invited us in)

Driving through the gate of the walled-in orphanage we were met by a horde of seemingly happy children. A few hours later we had heard the individual horror stories that brought these children into the compound: a little boy sodomized at an age below 1 year, requiring surgery to mend his lower body; twin girls, 3-4 years old, one well fed, the other hardly fed at all, because their mother chose to eventually have only one daughter. The irony however was that these now almost equally grown bodies, showed HIV positive in the well fed girl, compliments of her HIV positive mother, and the malnourished twin is healthy. Two little boys, that were found in a home tied to the bed by their mother, who was never home as she reveled outside the house in drugs and men.

(A usual road scene on the way to a clients home)
(Above the scene in front of the home of below HIV client, who shows us her youngest baby, who is also HIV positive)
(Above another typical road scene we walked towards clients home. Below Rose counts the pills to see if her patient has taken all her pills regularly, because the medication is ineffective if taken irregularly, which is often the reason for spikes in the levels registered during checkups)
( I was fascinated by the housing of these goats by their owners, who built these roofed pens in front of their huts. It seems to me the goats had more housing space than their owners)

I could go on and on. Tree of Lives has volunteer medical professionals dedicating their time, whenever their U.S. schedule allows it to tend to these children and patients in the Mission Hospital and a clinical social worker comes at least once a year to work with the children to heal them from their past horrors. This good works effort requires decades of future commitment and it seems the church funds are not any more sufficient to completely cover the expanded annual budget.

(A separate visit was to Masai patients deep into the countryside. It took several hours to reach this compound and met the Masai family below)
(16 yr old daughter, mother and sister in law)
(Our HIV counselor climbs on a termite hill, scanning the area for a possible herd, being led by his patient. But alas we came for naught, the HIV positive man we were visiting is off with the herd and out of reach or sight; very recent newborn goats below)

(The man of the house with a young goat poses with Sandee for my camera)

Here is what this trip resulted in: we and other team members committed ourselves to sponsor a child to the tune of $2000 a year to guide them through their preteen and teen school careers, feeding and clothing them and providing education financing. A mere $167 a month will help a child gradually forget the horror days and grow into a healthy grownup with a future.

(Masai housing is ver primitive and cow dung and mud make up the wall)
(Father mother and child pose before we leave)

(Young lambs gathered together waiting for the mothers to come back to camp tonight so they can get fed)

More than half these children are HIV positive, compliments of their parents. Presently only 24 children are sponsored. I call on you to consider stepping up to the plate. However It does not need to be a longtime commitment into bringing a child into adulthood. The church is for this year $100,000 short on its budget to maintain the orphanage and the other earlier projects it had committed to. So any funding into the general Tree of Lives operating fund is especially welcome as the 12 of us wil be brainstorming on new fundraising options to secure a safe future for the projects we are committed to.

(Tea fields as far as the eye can see)
( the team takes a stroll through the tea fields)

We were in a beautiful area of miles and miles of tea fields and we passed several rose producing farms. We went with daily roving HIV teams on home visits to clinic clients who were behind on their maintenance schedule or had lapsed into the danger zone levels of their affliction, as far as miles into the Masai area, deep into nowhere land.

We accompanied the pastoral counselers on their rounds through the hospital. By the way these professionals may lose their jobs because of the funding short fall, when priority decisions will require to choose for Joy Village and against their jobs.

(Third grade class visit)

We organized a games field day for the primary school on the hospital grounds and provided soccer balls and jumping ropes.

( roaming around the hospital on a tour, notice Sandee's long skirt - requested appropriate attire)
(Above and below pictures of the hospital grounds)

As you see I am deeply moved by all I witnessed and I am normally not easily moved.

(Our living quarters on the hospital grounds and outside living being the preferred downtime)
( although some people prefer the living room)

I wish I could find a better way to move all of you too. If any of you wish to visit with us Joy village next year, I will organize a trip for up to 10 people to stay at Nazareth hospital and have you experience what we experienced.

We are definitely returning.


PS for those of you that are willing to consider contributing to the Tree of Lives, the link is It has a wealth of information.

PPS This came in a few days ago, highlighting the fact that these are not real healthy children.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 4.37.23 PM

Dear Friends of Tree of Lives,

This morning Ruth Njoki, Director of the Joy Village, sent us an alert as to a number of medical issues among the JV children. Sometimes we forget most of our children are HIV+ and susceptible to a variety of "opportunistic" diseases.

Ruth, the moms at Joy Village and the Tree of Lives leadership would covet your prayers for the discernment and healing for each of these:

Catherine had difficulty breathing on Saturday night and had to be taken to Nazareth Hospital at 3am. She is now stable and has had no other attack.

Naomi had ENT review. She needs a hearing aid for her right ear. We have booked surgery for her left ear in November. She also needs a PTA hearing test.

Eunice still has some wax on the left operated ear and was prescribed ear drops. She is booked for surgery of the right ear in November.

Mary had ENT review and the doctor said the swollen nodes were not a big concern.

Bernate was booked for a hearing PTA test.

Achuu has a discharge, especially on her right ear, but is on ear drops and antibiotics.

Christine has perforations in both ears and is booked for November surgery. She also needs PTA hearing test.

Yvonne has fast breathing, a fever and blocked sinuses. She is on antibiotics and cetrizine and booked for her next ENT review next week.

Kennedy and David both have swollen fingers. An x-ray shows deformed fingers. They have taken rheumatoid blood samples and we are waiting for results.

Burton fell at JV and hurt his palm. It is swollen and painful. An x-ray shows no fractured bone.

In Him,