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.
Many 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.
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.
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.