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Entries from July 2015

More questions ANSWERED


My Facebook friend asked me more questions, and I give more answers to things that might interest you. If you want to read the first list of questions and answers read this blog post.


Here are today's questions:


1. You knew you were going to have to live in the barn when you built it, why didn't you stay in the house you were in until you had a new house built with floors, showers, etc.?


ANSWER


A. Renting our house in town was expensive. It is a more complicated and longer story than this, but in a nutshell, we wanted to get out from renting as soon as possible.


B. The complicated part pertains to the girls' schools and timing of the move during a non school month. The high school girls were just starting their first year of high school around the time we were building. They get to choose the school of their choice. We chose to be near our FUTURE location at The Shire even though we lived in a town far away. Traveling to and from school from Nakuru all the way to Kasambara was a HUGE ordeal every morning. We woke up at 4 am, got dressed, took tea, and not having a car, we walked 45 minutes from our house to town in the dark to catch a public van. I walked with them for safety reasons. Usually, the van took hours to fill up before heading towards the village. This drive took another hour. The van stopped on the hwy, we'd get out, and then walk through the very dangerous bush up the hill past wild buffalo, hyena, lions, leopards... to the school. It was early morning by then, grey and hazy, just when animals like to come out. The thrilling walk up the mountain took about 45 minutes to an hour. Once safely at the school, I had to walk back down the hill alone to the hwy, wait for a public vehicle for sometimes up to an hour, then head back to town where I would get off in town, walk up the hill for 45 minutes to our rent house. In the evening, the girls would walk from school through the bush, again, then down to the hwy and wait for a vehicle to pass by this remote area and pick them up, then bring them to town where they had to walk up the hill home in the dark. It was a huge struggle. When April came, and they were out of school for the month, we decided the barn, which was just a shell, was complete enough for us to move in. It is near the girls' school. The younger girls also needed to move close to their new school in April as well since it meant in May, they would start a new term at their new school.


C. Having never lived with dirt floors and no electricity, we had no idea how hard it would be. One year later, it is tough. The dirt floors are probably the hardest part. EVERYTHING is dusty and dirty. Imagine going to the beach for a year without ever being able to step off the sand.. Fortunately, we are fundraising to fix these problems.


2. And are you going to stay there forever depending on donations? Doesn't that get stressful? Well I know for me it would, me working and being able to pay my bills still gets stressful.




ANSWER:


We do plan to stay here forever. We hope to be an example as to how orphan care can be done well. We want to build more homes with parents caring for orphans as we do here. In fact, since we are improving the barn, we may end up using this building for housing another family after we build a house for our family in the future... I am open to following what needs arise. At the moment, a need has arisen, and we are giving our little hut to a single mom starting in the month of August.


Depending on donations is stressful, but we are encouraged that so many people WANT to help. We try to be efficient with donations. Most orphanages cost a lot to run with all of their staff expenses and what not. For us, we ARE the staff, and we work for free. We do have to eat, but when we eat, the children also eat... We do not feed the kids $1 a day food. No. We make sure we eat the same stuff, which is why our food bill is our biggest expense! Everyone gets to eat lasagna. Everyone. If the girls eat beans, I make sure that I cook them in the yummiest way possible because I will eat the beans, too! And because I love the girls! They deserve quality food.


3. And lastly I saw one day about not mentioning a type of religion or something like that, what exactly are you in terms or better yet what do you believe and teach?


We have pulled ourselves out of organized religion because we find it focuses a great deal on converting people to believe like we do and less on actually helping people's needs.


'Real religion is helping the orphaned and the widowed.' We teach love. Love people. All people. Whether they fit our molds of what we think people should be, or not, we should love them and help them.


 



Today I was asked some very good questions...

Today, a Facebook friend has asked me some questions that perhaps you have thought of asking as well, but didn't have the nerve like WHY do I say bio-kids and differentiate, and why do I home school some and not others? Also, what happens to my daughters when they hit 18 and stop going to school? For those answers, read below:

1. Why do the girls have to go to school but I home school the others.

ANSWER: I started home schooling my bio-kids when they were born years before moving to Africa. I do not home school just because we live in Kenya; however, education in Kenya for children is mandatory and not free.

When we took in our teenage girls, one of the things they lost when they lost their parents was the privilege of going to school. No one was there to buy their uniforms or books or pay their school fees.

I did home school them for one school year, and it was tough for many reasons, one of which I mention later... but the reality is, the girls WANTED to go to school. They felt like they were missing a huge part of their lives as if we were denying them the most important thing they lost when they lost their parents.

In Kenya, to get to go to school is a big deal. Plus, they do have aunties and or grandmas in their lives who protested them being home schooled. It is not heard of in Kenya, and they were irate that the girls were staying home and 'learning nothing.' So all of the girls felt pressure from external factors as well..

Another issue we had home schooling the girls is that they didn't speak English. It was so tough for them in our home school class. Now they have better English skills than their peers, but that has taken 8 years to develop.

If you could see the joy and pride on their faces when they finally got a new school uniform and back pack, you would understand that it made them feel human again. It gave them pride and selfesteem, something they had lost by being abandoned and hated by society. Now, they felt loved and cared for. I wish kids in the USA can imagine how much MY daughters WORK to go to school, (i.e. walking 2 miles in the rain, etc...).

Another thing Johnny and I had to consider was the fact that in the end, our Kenyan daughters must grow up and live in Kenya. Staying at home with American parents, they need to socialize with their peers some where some how. Ultimately, they are Kenyan, and we live in THEIR country, unlike a lot of adoptive parents you might know.

Also, the reason my bio-kids don't go to school is two fold. I love home schooling them, and we live in a village where my children stick out. They would not survive in local schools being pale. Unless you come and experience it yourself, you might not grasp this. They would be pinched, bullied, and cause problems. There are American schools which are very expensive. The ones I know of cost more money than we receive in a year. So I home school. Andrew, age 17, however, has gone to a local mechanic school where all of the students are African grownups, and that was just fine. They did pick on him a bit, but it helped build his character. He is old enough to handle it now, and he, a part from being lighter, blends right in with his gentle nature and ability to just be 'one of the guys.' Things would be a bit different for my daughters, I think.

2. Why do I refer to my kids as 'bio' kids I thought they were all your kids? I know tons of people that adopt and never distinguish between biological and not. Are y'all just fostering or actually adopting them?

ANSWER:

Most people you know who have adopted children live in the USA, right? They have jobs to earn a living and can take care of their adopted children. In our case, we live in Africa and are not allowed to work legally. We never differentiate between the children when speaking at home, obviously. Everyone is the same when it comes to life. They all sleep in the same room, same beds, eat the same food, have the same amount of gifts at birthdays, get outings with us, etc... however, for social media purposes, and for people in the West to understand we care for orphans and they should donate in order for us to be able to feed this many children, pay their school fees, buy their uniforms, etc... we must let them know that we have orphans. I use the word orphan-no-more and bio only on social media so that people can say, Oh! Orphans! I will help. Our situation is a bit different than most you know. We are the only people I know in Kenya who have taken orphans into our own home and NOT opened an orphanage or put them in a different space some where. We are doing the best we can to be equal in all things; however, if I always say, 'my daughters, my daughters..' noone will know that we are actually missionaries doing a unique style of orphan-care that gives quality care to our children. Plus, as you can see in the first paragraph, it just clarifies things for readers. Again, I never say 'bio-kids' at home. Though, I have said, "my students" when our other daughers are home during a home school day.

We have not legally adopted our daughters. We are fostering them, but forever. Legal adoption was not our goal, instead, we wanted to change the face of orphan care by creating a model that provides what orphans are missing-- family. So in a way, fostering for us is one in the same as adoption. Also, Americans are not legally allowed to adopt Kenyans, right now, either.

3. Do they have to go back to visit their family every year? Or Does that have to do with the fostering of them?

ANSWER:

No. They do not have to go back. In fact, one of our daughters doesn't go back at all, but most of our children came from a loss of parents, not a loss of an entire family. Although their families do not want to care for them, they still want to see them at Christmas and vise versa. And our daughters WANT to visit their cousins and aunts and uncles because they miss them. Wouldn't you? It is what they do each Christmas by their own choice. They spend all their time with us, and that is fine, except, in reality, they have extended family as well, and they are a sweet reminder of where they came from, a link to their parents whom they lost. We do not want to prevent them from having that.

Also, when they go back, they get to show off how clean and 'smart' they are. When they left their villages, they were skinny, uncared for, dirty, unhealthy, neglected people. Now, they SHINE. They enjoy showing their families that they are cared for and have value.

The reason they go in December is because it is the only month they have extra days off of school. They go to school Jan., Feb., March, part of April, then off until they start again in May, June, July, part of August (they have competitions during that 'off month'), then back to school September, Oct. and only HALF of November, then off through December until January where the school year starts over again. We follow this schedule for our homeschooling as well so everyone is doing the same thing. So December has the most days off making it the best time to travel far.

4. What happens to the girls once they are 18 and finish school?

ANSWER:

Remember how I told you that our girls missed school due to having no parents to care for them and pay their fees? Well, our oldest is turning 21 this October and is only in 10th grade. She as well as Sarah, 20, Mildred 19, and Sarah 18, are our oldest and ALL of them are in 10th grade. Not surprisingly, they are not alone in their class, either. Many children miss school at some point because it is so terribly expensive. So for them to get to go is exciting and wonderful. They still have 2 1/2 years of high school. Then, if their grades are good enough, each of them will continue her education in college, or if grades are a bit low, go to a tech school to learn a trade. Albeit, we have taught them many trades through the years, but you get the idea. They will mature and grow out of the nest just like any child. Noone 'ages out.' These are our children. We will help them through life until they can stand on their own.

 

 


Why Teenage GIRLS


It was brought to my attention that perhaps some of our friends do not understand why we took in teenage orphaned/abandoned girls. So I thought I would give some of the reasons we do what we do.

Kenya is a modernizing place. There are cities and cellphones, but large parts of Kenya, in fact, the majority of Kenya is still rural and slagging behind. In the village, perhaps even in our village, I am not sure since we are new here, men dominate everything. If a man wants two wives, he takes them. If a widowed or single woman refuses a man who wants her, he either takes her anyway or kills her. I know this because it is the sad story of how one of our daughter's lost her mother and ended up living with us. In fact, this child has siblings including a twin brother. Her uncle took only the boys and left our sweet daughter to fend for herself saying he didn't want 'girls.'

When a person dies, there is much superstition surrounding their death. People in Kenya fear death so much so that the children of a deceased person are considered a curse, a burden to society and no one wants them. In the case of girls, they are only good for a few things: sex for the dominate males in the village, herding cattle (thought that is mostly a boy's job), and servanthood in the home.

More than half of our orphansnomore have served as servants in someone's home for NO PAY. Historically, we called it slavery. Now, I think it is called abuse. According to my daughter's tales, they were forced to wake at 4am, take care of the babies in the home, wash all of the laundry, prepare the meals, clean the house, dig in the garden, care for the elderly and be the last person in bed after midnight, all why struggling with the loss of their parents and being only 7 or 8 years old. The 'slaver' consideres it an act of kindness to house a cursed orphan and make her his 'worker'. What the child receives out of the deal are crumbs that might be left on plates after her owner is finished eating, and a small room to sleep in. Grace, Mercy, Teresa, Mary, all have worked before moving in with us, and possibly Sarah, Sarah, and BT as well. I need to ask them!

In most of these cases where my children are concerned, they were practically 'sold' to the person who 'hired' them. In Grace's case, her guardian at the time was the one receiveing Grace's wages, and Teresa worked just to have lodging. Mary was being sold by her grandma who couldn't afford to keep her anymore to a man on the other side of Kenya just before we rescued her. We stepped in just in time. Mercy worked for a roof over her head as well, having been left locked out of her own home when her mother died. She was 7 years old. Due to the sensitivity of the topic, I will not go into which ones were raped, but that is a huge part of the servanthood deal.

Now these are the personal stories of my own children, but the truth is, any girl in Kenya without parents has noone to fend for her, to protect her. And a TEENAGE girl will be abused in so many ways.

Another angle to think about is that most 'orphan care projects' do not take in children in their teens. Teens come with baggage, traumatic pasts, and aren't as cute nor moldable as babies. And when a child reaches a certain age in most institutions, they 'age out' of the program putting them back into sticky situations.

Our teens are not cute cuddly babies, and they came with a past, but 8 years in, and they are beautiful, well adjusted people who are not going to 'age out' of our family. Will they move out? One day, yes. At the moment, they are all in junior high and high school. They will one day get a job and 'grow up' just as any child does. Hopefully, it will be a smooth transition with our help.

 

 

 



Every one has an opinion


This campaign we are doing is just a part of moving forward at A Future and a Hope. We are excited about this journey ahead, and it is all part of doing what we do to care for orphans and help locals in Kenya.

It is interesting to note that during this campaign, for some reason so many people are giving us feedback as to HOW we are supposed to do this fundraiser. Everyone has ideas. We actually appreciate that people want us to succeed and care enough to give their helpful tips. But most of the ideas are typical of the advertisements that pull on people's emotions. I find some of the ideas sad, and some just not our style.

For example: One kind hearted person feels that our campaign is too 'happy' and we look as if we aren't suffering enough. He suggests we take photos of our Kenyan daughters looking drab and sad with dirt on them and really playing the 'poor orphan' side to manipulate people emotionally in order to have people give.

He even was kind enough to put a video together with stock photos to get his idea across. I felt grateful that he took the time to do the video, and being the people pleaser that I am, I didn't want to crush his efforts. I informed him it is not our style to do that sort of thing, but maybe, I could send him some pictures that he could try to work with...*

I tried to get some photos for him... but the reality is... we take pride in the fact that our children at a Future and a Hope, which is also our personal home, are looking GREAT and are healthy, happy, well adjusted people. They do NOT look like the kids they were when we took them in 8 years ago.

Even our animals are happy! They came to us skinny and sick, just like our children, and now are healthy with meat on their bones. We are raising funds to expand their enclosures before they get overcrowded, not after the fact.

So faking it just to manipulate people won't work for us. We are REAL. If you don't want to see healthy happy children, then give to a corrupt orphanage some where where the owners are taking the funds instead of giving it to the children in good food, clean clothes, fun activities, and good education. There are plenty of corrupt orphanages out there. Trust me, we rescued two of our orphans-no-more from such homes.

But just for a bit of fun, here's our attempt at getting sad photos:

I asked them to sulk...

And they all got the giggles!
 


Here they are trying to be solemn, but... they still look happy.

If you ask my children how desparately they want more electricity, being the modern teens that they are, you better believe they want it! Not to mention a shower, bathtub with a bath room, floors, and I even included a few clothes for them in the campaign. They want this as much as ever.

Now, this photo was just how I found Butterfly. The state of her feet and you cannot see how brown her previously white shorts are... well, this is REAL. We really DO struggle with our dirt floors, limited electricity, and lack of plumbing.
But that doesn't mean we have to whine about it.
We just do what we have to do. In the mean time, we encourage ourselves knowing that folks out there really do care and hope with us that we can have healthier, cleaner, more efficient living conditions for ourselves and for the animals in the near future.
It is the next step for us on The Shire at A Future and a Hope. So we are doing a campaign to move forward!
It helps a great deal when people share our campaign with others, too.

 

*FYI, friend who wants to do the video, we can still work on it, just change the focus from desparation (many times I feel desparate, but I don't want to portray that), to this is the next phase for A Future and a Hope, and we are moving forward.

 

 

 

 



Every one has an opinion


This campaign we are doing is just a part of moving forward at A Future and a Hope. We are excited about this journey ahead, and it is all part of doing what we do to care for orphans and help locals in Kenya.

It is interesting to note that during this campaign, for some reason so many people are giving us feedback as to HOW we are supposed to do this fundraiser. Everyone has ideas. We actually appreciate that people want us to succeed and care enough to give their helpful tips. But most of the ideas are typical of the advertisements that pull on people's emotions. I find some of the ideas sad, and some just not our style.

For example: One kind hearted person feels that our campaign is too 'happy' and we look as if we aren't suffering enough. He suggests we take photos of our Kenyan daughters looking drab and sad with dirt on them and really playing the 'poor orphan' side to manipulate people emotionally in order to have people give.

He even was kind enough to put a video together with stock photos to get his idea across. I felt grateful that he took the time to do the video, and being the people pleaser that I am, I didn't want to crush his efforts. I informed him it is not our style to do that sort of thing, but maybe, I could send him some pictures that he could try to work with...*

I tried to get some photos for him... but the reality is... we take pride in the fact that our children at a Future and a Hope, which is also our personal home, are looking GREAT and are healthy, happy, well adjusted people. They do NOT look like the kids they were when we took them in 8 years ago.

Even our animals are happy! They came to us skinny and sick, just like our children, and now are healthy with meat on their bones. We are raising funds to expand their enclosures before they get overcrowded, not after the fact.

So faking it just to manipulate people won't work for us. We are REAL. If you don't want to see healthy happy children, then give to a corrupt orphanage some where where the owners are taking the funds instead of giving it to the children in good food, clean clothes, fun activities, and good education. There are plenty of corrupt orphanages out there. Trust me, we rescued two of our orphans-no-more from such homes.

But just for a bit of fun, here's our attempt at getting sad photos:

I asked them to sulk...

And they all got the giggles!
 


Here they are trying to be solemn, but... they still look happy.

If you ask my children how desparately they want more electricity, being the modern teens that they are, you better believe they want it! Not to mention a shower, bathtub with a bath room, floors, and I even included a few clothes for them in the campaign. They want this as much as ever.

Now, this photo was just how I found Butterfly. The state of her feet and you cannot see how brown her previously white shorts are... well, this is REAL. We really DO struggle with our dirt floors, limited electricity, and lack of plumbing.
But that doesn't mean we have to whine about it.
We just do what we have to do. In the mean time, we encourage ourselves knowing that folks out there really do care and hope with us that we can have healthier, cleaner, more efficient living conditions for ourselves and for the animals in the near future.
It is the next step for us on The Shire at A Future and a Hope. So we are doing a campaign to move forward!
It helps a great deal when people share our campaign with others, too.

 

*FYI, friend who wants to do the video, we can still work on it, just change the focus from desparation (many times I feel desparate, but I don't want to portray that), to this is the next phase for A Future and a Hope, and we are moving forward.

 

 

 

 



To bathe or not to bathe? That is the question

Let us start with the process so you can understand why this is even a question each day...

Step 1: Collect fire wood

Step 2: pump water from the tank into a container

Step 3: put water in a large pot

Step 4: make a fire then add pot of water

Step 5: wait for water to boil

Step 6: remove laundry from laundry room so you can bathe in there

Step 7: find a bucket and wash it so you can add your Herefresh bath water

Step 8: Find a large jug or cup for pouring water over your head

Step 9: Carry boiling water to the laundry room without spilling on your hands or toes

Step 10: Pour boiling water in bucket, add cold water

Step 11: find a towel, washcloth, shampoo, and soap

Step 12: close the curtain (there is no door) remove clothes and put them in the window

Step 13: Pour water over your head with a cup, shampoo hair, shiver and shake from being cold as you wash.

Step 14: pour warm water over your head with a cup and sigh a warm sigh of relief. Repeat 5 times until hair is clean

Step 15: repeat the process for various body parts, shivering inbetween cup pourings. Forget about shaving because of extra large goosebumps.

Step 16: dry off with a towel. Get dressed.

Step 17: step out of the wet room onto dirt floor fresh and clean just to get muddy feet.

Firstly, let me admit that I am overwhelmingly grateful to have come as far as we have. The fact that we own land, live in a 2100 sq ft mud barn, and have all of the things we do have, is beautiful and an attestment to the power of people coming together to help other people.

Living in the city a year and a half ago, we had unlimited water, a hot water heater, and a bath any day we wanted (except for when there were power cuts.) Our dozen teens could jump in the shower when they needed, and being girls, I think that ability is important.

Fast forward to today, having lived on The Shire for 1 year and 2 1/2 months, I can honestly say, learning to bathe without a shower, without a hot water heater, without a proper bathroom, without a bathtub has been the hardest adjustment of all. It is even more difficult than having no lights at night.

In fact, it is so difficult to bathe, we often just forget or choose not to do it. Johnny informed me this morning that my last bath was Sunday, FIVE days ago. After spending my entire day in town yesterday at doctor's offices getting my ultrasound scan, I think I probably should bathe today. But the reality is, it takes too long to prepare the bath, and I have to bake bread today, which also takes half the day. So either I bathe, or I cook and feed the kids.

Now our current situation, we do not have an actual bathroom. The room we use to splash ourselves clean is also our laundry washing room and is usually full of kids washing their clothes.

We want to build a bathroom with a cement tub outside of the barn. It will have a kuni burner which is a metal water tank that has a fire pit under it. The fire will heat the water for the bath. Have you ever heard the phrase, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water?" Well, that is going to apply to us. One bath will bathe a number of people. Grownups, then kids or vise versa... That is life when one is conserving water. Still, having a bath is going to be so much better than pouring a cup over one's head! Plus, I hope to use it during baby Brook's arrival this December.

Here's the link to our campaign where you can help!

http://igg.me/at/darkages

 

 


Solar Panels Needed

Part of our Out of the Dark Ages fund raising campaign is increasing our solar power for The Prancing Pony (the barn which is currently serving as our home.) Currently our setup just does not give us enough juice, and we would like to add to it.

When we moved off grid, not because we hate electricity but there is simply no connection here, we decided to go the solar route. Kate nor I had any clue to how the whole energy from the sun thing worked, but we know how to use Google, and now have a rudimentary understanding. Unfortunately our lack of experience led us to buy a set up that was just too small for our needs. However my computer experience led us to purchase a setup that was up gradable. So we can add panels and batteries. 

The girls, and us two boys, would be grateful if you could help us to double our solar energy setup. The girls mostly because they could have light in the wee hours of the morning as they prepare for school. Imagine being a teenage girl who cannot see her face in the mirror before heading off to school. Shudder.

Follow this link to participate in the fund raiser, and spread the word to your friends, relatives, and groups.

Out of the Dark Ages

 

 


Out of the Dark Ages

The results of our poll are in and the fundraising campaign is now named Out of the Dark Ages. As of last night (Kenyan time) the campaign is live. You, and all your friends, can now contribute and help us come Out of the Dark Ages.

Here is the link:

Out of the Dark Ages

If you follow the link above you can get all the details on the campaign. There is also now a box on the right hand side of this blog with the campaign.