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Filling a Hole; how we started our horse program (p. 3 of 3)

Teen kate at horse camp
a teenage Kate at horse camp (middle)
When I was 14 or so, my parents bought a horse and let it stay at Plum Nearly Ranch in Beaumont. I volunteered at the ranch often. I even snuck out and rode my bike six miles to visit my horse and got into a lot of trouble for going there without telling my folks! I learned to ride at the ranch, too. My parents were going through a divorce. While my family was falling apart, my heart was locked on to the the steadiness and love of my Arabian horse. He was a place of focus and refuge for my soul. He loved me back, listened to my secrets, and let me ride on him. I loved the smell of the stables and the sound of hooves clogging the ground. I scooped poop, I bathed and groomed horses, I volunteered as often as I could. 
 
I loved horses so much, I had picked out an equine college I wanted to attend because I wanted to be a horse trainer. My parents weren't keen on the idea and said, 'No.' I ended up becoming a fanatical Christian, decided to give up everything important to me as a sacrifice to God, and ultimately, I went to a Bible College instead of equine. Meanwhile, my dad sold my horse while I was on a mission trip to Russia, and understandably, since my life was changing, but it hurt. He did it without telling me, probably because it was nearly impossible to reach me in Russia in the early 90's. 
 

Edith and abbi
Horses teach disclipline
Fast forward to when I was a grownup with children, my daughter Butterfly would spend hours musing over books full of horse pictures. She loved horses. Maybe it is in our genes? (I just discovered my great-great-grandfather was a horse cart maker!) Knowing how special horses were to me in my youth, I made a commitment to her that I would get her a horse one day before she was 16. (Take the time to Google why every child should own a pony).
 
A few years later, we bought our land and started
developing it; we had lived in Kenya for nine years at that time. Imagine my surprise when I found that near our newly purchased plot, there was a horse show going on! I attended the show with several of my daughters. We were watching on with so much excitement. HORSES! EVERYWHERE! My heart exploded. I had no idea there were people actually riding and showing horses in Kenya! And at the foot of my hillside, no doubt! 
 
The wheels started turning. I've lived in Kenya nine (now 13) years and hadn't known of any organised activities like this! I knew I wanted my kids (ALL of them) to experience the discipline and love horses bring. So I went on a quest to find a horse for The Shire. I built a small stable, too. I even designed our barn/house with horses in mind, but we are still living in it! I began clearing brush and rocks to make paddocks, making them safe as well as fencing them. My children also helped by digging up weeds and dangerous plants. I asked a lot of questions from locals such as where to buy a horse and had a difficult time getting answers. A 'newbie' doesn't just get a horse easily in Kenya; it's all rather secret, and rightfully so since they deserve understanding and a clean, safe environment! My neighbors with horses educated me on where to buy feed, who the best farrier was, etc... I learned that owning a horse in Kenya is relatively inexpensive when compared to owning one in the USA.
 
Finally, someone sold me an old thoroughbred who had arthritis and no teeth. (Never look a gift horse in the mouth, they say). They gave me some tack to go with him as well, including an old saddle and bridle. I had no idea of his age issues, but I was so happy to have a HORSE. The kids loved him, and not long after we got him, someone gave us another horse... with issues. It was a learning curve, but on those two horses, I taught our dozen kids how to ride with the little knowledge I had attained in my youth from Plum Nearly Ranch. 
How we started
a very dedicated Butterfly teaching her sister
 
One of our adopted daughters (nameless because it might be embarrassing for her) had many issues. She wouldn't speak to me. She wet the bed from the time she was four even up until adolescence... After we got our horses, and she was interacting with them, riding them, etc..  she started talking to me. She no longer avoided eye contact with me. She began telling me about her day. She loved riding. She stopped wetting the bed, and things changed. This change scientifically could have been caused by many factors, but as her mom I am just saying, she changed.
 
As I began noticing these changes, I started doing some research. I contacted the lady who gave us a horse because she was doing the only equine assisted therapy I knew of. I asked to volunteer and see what she was doing. I had NEVER heard of doing therapy using horses before. It sounded flaky, to be honest, BUT when I volunteered, I was touched. The children showed remarkable improvements both 
Edith and star and abbi
Horses bond sisters together
physically and mentally from their sessions with the horses. And despite being disabled, horses gave them a time of normalcy where every one was equal and on the same level. I was interested, but not completely convinced, so...
 
I began to do more research online to discover that horse therapy has actually been going on for AGES. How I missed this, I do not know. It only makes sense since humans and horses have been bonding and working together for millennia!! From farming to transportation, wars to therapy... Horses have carried us through history. We can't deny our connection and just forget about them. Horses are a part of us.*

As I studied, I learned that research in Japan has proven riding horses affects the linguistic side of the brain due to the rhythm of their walk. People with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's are using horses to help them by-pass the part of their brain that is giving them issues, and gets them calm and steady while in the saddle. I learned that they help build core strength and develop muscles in children who are weak. They, being flight creatures, can sense our emotions and reflect how we feel like mirrors because they must do that in a herd to save themselves.
If one is afraid, they all are afraid. This is something that gives them the ability to see into our souls with those huge eyes. They can bring healing... 
 
Mom and daughter
A relieved mom with her autistic daughter at Horsepower. Click for video
....that was when I realized that THAT was what I was looking for. Before we brought horses to the Shire, I struggled to connect with my Kenyan daughters. I didn't have a common ground with them. Horses filled a void that I hadn't realized was there, and I began to think that maybe- just maybe, I could help other parents with that very same problem. Maybe I could help parents whose children had special needs, were disabled, or troubled in some way. Maybe the horses and I could bring something to Kenya that fills people with hope in a tangible, almost physical way. Here was my chance to bring back my youthful love for horses, and share it with others, giving them a chance for a future and a hope. 
 
Here's our most recent Horsepower video!
 
*Because of the history horses have with humans, we still use the word 'horsepower' to describe our engines. For this reason, we call our program "Horsepower" to remind us of this connection from past to present and the impact horses are still making on the hearts of humans.
 

Filling a Hole; how we started our horse program (p. 2 of 3)

Raising 15 kiddos isn't easy for any one, and when most of them are adopted teenage girls who speak a different language, have different cultural backgrounds, and there are no grandparents around to help babysit from time to time nor close friends to lend a hand, either, it is definitely a challenge.
 
At ali'sMany of our orphansnomore each had so many questions... questions they were too afraid to voice. They had frustration, not that we rescued them, but because they NEEDED rescuing. Life dealt them a bad hand, forcing them to be parentless, traumatised, and impoverished. I am sure that a twelve year old Kenyan girl, like one of our daughters, who takes on the role of mother and nurse as she is forced to look after her ailing mother until her death cannot understand why moving in with a large American family with white parents and cool toys is really 'great,' when all she really wants is her mom back. 
 
Our desire was to fill the void by being parents to the parentless. Orphans don't belong in an orphanage. They are lacking guardians and guidance. They lack a voice in society. We stepped in and filled that void successfully, but not without issues.
Mom issues. We had them because dad's weren't really a part of the early picture in our adopted daughter's lives. They easily 'adopted' Johnny as 'Daddy.' For me, things were much harder.mixed family
 
I guess I just assumed that by treating them like my own kids, I would ensure they could heal, they could THRIVE! The difficulty came when they didn't ACT like 'our' kids. They were distant. Language was an issue at first, but soon, we adjusted to a mixed swahili/english in the house. Still, there were huge differences. Our new daughters would not look at me. They barely spoke to me. I would try to hug them and talk to them, but they didn't respond... for years. They didn't say 'thank you,' or 'please' because they never were taught to do so. (Though they learned, eventually). :) Our ways of teaching/discipline such as 'time outs' were foreign to them.
 
I would find myself frustrated when I felt I couldn't GIVE ENOUGH, especially when I wasn't getting the response I expected. I expected them to give love back, or at least realise how far they had come and how fortunate they were. I expected gratitude, but in retrospect, how could a child who has suffered so much trauma feel grateful for their situation? No one wants to be an orphan. 
No one.
 
So many times I really thought the girls and I could use some extra help such as therapy or counseling. We looked for help, but we didn't find any qualified people to fulfill this need. We tried out one lady who professed she was a "counselor" who basically told the girls to ask us for monetary items... and it just was all wrong. Needless to say, there is a huge void in Nakuru for therapy and counselling...
 
It took YEARS to get some normalcy. The struggle was so real. There were constant battles between who was being treated better than the others... Just when things would settle, we added another orphan to the mix. The dynamic would shift, and things would get difficult. Johnny and I realised in order to keep a 'family dynamic' we had to not take in any more children into our personal home. We decided that raising the girls over the last 11 years was us giving our all and doing our part, and that we should grow into something new, bringing a future and a hope to children, but not necessarily by adopting NEW kids and being their 'mom and dad.' Our project would have to grow with the children...

One evening, as we were (and still are) in a transition as our older children are growing up and moving out, I had a realization. I have always loved working with horses, and I know the need in Kenya for therapy is so great, so why not combine the two? WHY NOT do something I love and use it to bring help and healing to the people of Kenya and fill the gap in the Kenyan system?
 
Thus our equine assisted therapy program was born!
 
*stay tuned for the next article about how my past, tying it with the present, brought us to the place wehre HORSES actually became the therapists of choice.
 
 

Filling a Hole; how we started our horse program (p. 1 of 3)

Nearly 11 years ago, we took in our very first orphan. Two days later, a second orphan joined our family, and within a few months, we added nine daughters to our family.  Our familyNine girls who had trauma in their lives at some point. Either they saw the murder of their mother, or the slow death of of their mom to AIDS, or their mother abandoned them and was still living but just didn't want them because they could barely feed themselves through prostitution or selling illegal brews. Most of these children have no clue who their father is except the ones whose father died before their moms. Needless to say, our daughters came with trauma. I am proud of them, because ultimately, they have been SO STRONG through it all.
 
In 2007, the ages of our new daughters were mostly preteens and teens with a seven year old and four year old in the mix. Our own four children were ages newborn up to 9 at the time. We added two more babies over the next 11 years, too. I had never been a mom to teenagers before, when suddenly, I had several under my wings!
 
I just knew in my heart that LOVE would bond these children into one happy family and heal all wounds. If I just treated them like my own kids, and loved them the same, surely they would be happy and content...
 
I was naive. And, I am extremely glad. Love covers a multitude of problems, but...
 
I had NO idea that adopted children would still have issues no matter how much love we poured into them. I kept trying to make things fair. I wanted each child to feel equally 'loved.' I assumed love would fill all of the broken places, and they would love back and eventually begin to act like normal children... The bottom line was, they didn't ask to be born into the situations life threw at them. Sure, we took them out of poverty, out of abandonment, away from starvation... but they weren't necessarily grateful, and I don't blame them. I can remember asking them to 'remember where they came from' in my frustration, and one of them snapped, "Why do you keep reminding us and asking us to do that?!" I explained, it was because I wanted her to see how far she had come, how much she had attained, but the reality was... I also wanted her to fill part of my own need of wanting acknowledgement of my own sacrifices for her well-being, and that was a bit selfish of me. I wasn't caring for her because of her gratitude. I gave up my own family, my familiar culture, my everything because of my faith, and I don't do what I do out of the reactions of those I am helping. I believe every person can and SHOULD make a positive difference in the lives of those around us, even if it is just a tiny drop that turns into a little ripple. 
 
Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow!
 
 

Looking forward to this Saturday!

For those of you who do not know, it has been raining here in Kenya, a lot. It has rained so much, in fact, that people have died in floods. Many folks have asked if we are ok, and the answer is YES. We live on a hillside high up out of the way of the flooding. Our only issue has been that it is very slippery and muddy up here because our soil is clay. Getting in and out on our road has been difficult. This means that we haven't been able to do our therapy sessions these last few weeks. Our horses have been idle in their stables to keep them safe from sliding all over the hillside and protected from the constant cold, rain.
 
The exciting news is that this week, the sun has come out! Many of you may have seen photos of us riding on FB! Kate jumping moonWe are cramming in as much schooling, riding, exercising as we can before our sessions start back up this weekend! Horses are like children... leave them without any guidance, instruction, stimulation, challenges, they become undisciplined, bored, and a bit unpredictable, so we are diligently spending time with them every morning during our school schedule to see that they are consistent, confident, and steady for the children who come and trust them each week. (Plus, it is our PE time for school, and it challenges my children to compete with themselves, and push themselves, too!)
 
We are so happy to be getting back into the swing of things. We are adding 3 new riders with autism to our already lengthy list of children who are part of our Horsepower program. When we started this, I had no idea that we would find so many children with autism here in Kenya. I don't have my files in front of me to actually count them all, but they are many.* I have been studying to see how horses help children on the autism spectrum specifically, and I am amazed. I plan to write an article with my finds soon. 
 
The reason for this research is so that I can better understand how to train our horses and prepare games for the individual needs of the children who come.
 
Thank you for the love and support bringing a future and a hope to these special people.
 
How many of our readers have participated in or seen a horse assisted therapy session? Leave your answer in the comments!
 
Also, I am working on an article about how this horse stuff at A Future and a Hope all came about! Stay tuned!
 
*not all of our riders have autism. Some have down syndrome, learning disabilities, or physical disabilities.
 **Johnny insisted I put this photo of me jumping, but I think you might like to see horsepower in action instead!
 
Galia has non-verbal autism, and her mom is feeling so much relief to see her daughter delighted on her pony.
Mom and daughter
 

A Future and a Hope

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

Everything that we do in Kenya, the farm, horse therapy, feeding the hungry, helping kids stay in school, and helping people with access to healthcare is done to help create a hope in the future.

 

When we first met Edith more than ten years ago, she had no hope in the future. She was destined to either live on the streets or be sent to the village to become a herder of goats and sheep. There was no school in her future, no chance of relationships, nothing except hardship and trauma. She is why we are here. She is why we work hard at creating chances for hopeful futures. 


All Done

Andrew has finished high school, finally. He took some time off to learn mechanics and due to scheduling issues was just able to finish his GED. We felt it was a good idea for him to actually do the exam, though many people told us it was not necessary. (It did end up costing a little more than $240, but we feel that it was money worth spent.) Since he was homeschooled this was a good way to end that chapter of his life as an alternative to a traditional cap and gown affair. Andrew is not much for sentimental actions nor pomp and ceremony, so he was content to do the test and be finished with high school.

In just a few weeks Andrew will be traveling to the U.S. to explore the next step in his life. He is not sure what that will be yet, but he is excited to try out as many things as possible. He will be in Oregon for a few months. After that time will tell where he ends up.

Andrew is a relatively private person. He does not interact with social media that much and has his own interests (mostly in the real world.) I say this as a way of explaining why you do not see or hear from him much on the interwebs. If you popped in in person, well then you would get to know him better. 

Congratulations Andrew.

Andrew

 


Thank You

I am doing the data entry of folks who donated last month to A Future and a Hope, and wanted to say a quick thank you. Without your help, we would not be able to accomplish what we have so far, and would not be able to move forward. 

I cannot promise you finacial rewards for your gifts, but I am a firm believer in the spiritual law of sowing and reaping. This is not something we should or even could manipulate for our personal gain, but nonetheless when you do good things you will reap good in return. 

Thank you guys. You are the best. If you would like to help us here in Kenya here are some ways you can send money:

 

Western Union and MoneyGram (send to Johnny Brooks in Nakuru and let me know)

Wave (This is a newish app that will allow you to send money directly to our phone. Here in Kenya we have a service called MPESA which is a mobile money system. Works great and is the fastest most convenient way for us to receive money. )

PayPal (use afutureandahope@gmail.com) 

Check through the mail: 

A Future and a Hope
c/o Bob Humphrey
7909 Walerga Rd STE 112-141
Antelope, CA 95843

Or you could always bring it in person.


Highlights From Kate's Facebook Week

Here are some highlights from Kate's Facebook feed (in case you are not connected or simply missed them:)

 

Oh family tree.. I have learned so much and am really enjoying finding out who my relatives are and some of the scandalous or just interesting stuff in our past as well as my roots!!! Much thanks goes to Anna for doing all of the digging, verifying, and research. Taking my DNA test and applying it to my tree has been an amazing ride.

Kate did a DNA test to trace her roots and has been loving the results. She even found out she is a distant cousin to Beyonce.

And she's ready for school. Off she goes until the end of May.

Edith off to school

My eleven year old daughter Emma Caite loves to ride. 
Being home schooled, she doesn't interact with other kids much. Ponies give her common ground with the friends she has.

Emma jumping

Kate made this picture her cover photo:

Horse theropy

We actually had sunshine today. This is a very big deal! Now if we could have balance... Sun, rain, sun, rain...

I will end with this picture of a butternut squash.

Butternut squash

Veggie Tales lied. 
#bellybutton


Blogging?

There has not been much consistent activity on this blog for the past three or four years. Some of that is because we moved out to The Shire (our almost twelve-acre piece of land in Kenya,) partly due to computing issues, lack of twenty-four hour electricity, and also because we are active in other places online. Sometimes I consider just not blogging anymore at all, but then I go on Facebook and other social media and I am reminded that I like blogs and blogging. 
 
I like having a place to voice my thoughts and what is going on with A Future and a Hope without having to compete with politics, food, and all the other distractions. Which I believe is the biggest drawback with social media, it's ability to completely and utterly distract and derail. In fact, I had Facebook open in another window just a moment ago and ten minutes in I realized I had written nothing, neglected emails, and not planned the day. Also looking back at what I was consuming on Facebook, well it was nothing. I am not saying that social media has no place nor that I do not benefit from it, just making a point about how it distracts. The blog is a better medium as one is forced to stop and read three hundred plus words at once. It gives you time to digest the content and think about the one posting. The slower pace makes for better conversations and a more conducive environment to learn and grow.
 
I still read blogs, a lot of them. Some informative and some purely fun in nature. I prefer my blog reading app over my Facebook app. Unfortunately, the Facebook one is easier and I find myself opening it more.
 
Kate and I are going to make an effort to put more content up on this blog. We will still be active other places, i.e. Facebook, but more content will be posted here. Not just happenings, but thought provoking articles as well. I believe that we are at a point in human development when we can push through to intellectual levels never before seen, or we can be distracted by the flashing lights of social media and gadgets. 
 
And now for what is happening today:
 
Edith, our fifteen year old orphan no more, is heading back to boarding school today. She is starting the second term of her first year in high school. Her first term had some rough spots for her, she really missed being at home. (She did excellent academically finishing second in her class for the term.) Thankfully the school fee has been paid for this second term. We will do a little bit of shopping before dropping her off this afternoon. (I still have more school related expenses for other children that need to be covered.) Andrew, our son, will finish his GED on Monday and be officially done with high school. Next month he is scheduled to fly out of Kenya and head to Oregon where he has a job for a couple of months. He is both excited and nervous about it, we are sure he will be fine and excel at whatever he puts his hands to.
 
The cow is mooing, chickens cackling and crowing, pigs grunting, rabbits eating and breeding, and the horses neighing this morning. Weeds are being harvested for the goats and others. Everyone is ready to start the day.