a Future and a Hope

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. 

What Do You Do When You Children Grow Up?

Our February newsletter, just in case you missed it:

Our children are growing up.

Ten years ago, we thought it would be a great idea to take in disadvantaged, teenage, orphan/abandoned girls into our home to raise them along side our biological children as one, big, happy family. It had its highs and lows, but I am proud to say that we have RAISED them and raised them well. I'll skip all of the 'what would have happened if we hadn't...' stuff and move on to the good news. Grace, our oldest orphan-no-more just graduated high school in December at age 23. This week, she got her first job selling perfume at a large, local supermarket! She is on her way to being independent. She will probably receive her first paycheck in about a month. Johnny and I will brainstorm and decide how much we will support her or if she needs it at all... We are not an institution, and we are her only 'parents.' We are proud of her and her and will always be her family.
Mildred, age 22, is doing the same as Gracie. She just graduated high school as well and is working her first job selling perfume in town with the same company as Grace only in a different outlet. 
Next, Sarah Apiyo age 23, also just graduated high school, and has moved to Mombasa with her sister but is still receiving monthly support from us to help her eat and live since she has not found a job yet.
Sarah Muthoni, age 19, just graduated high school, and we are putting her through a cooking school right now. We have paid half of her school fees, but we lack funds for the other half because all of the other school fees...
Beatrice, age 17, is in a new boarding school because she made high grades on her exams. This month saw the beginning of the school year, so we had to provide new uniforms and supplies.
Our youngest orphan-no-more is Edith, age 15. She just finished primary school and started attending Shiner's Girls boarding school this January. Her school is a bit more expensive than the others because her grades were high so she qualified to attend a better school. We spent about $570 on her uniforms, books, beddings, mattress, tuition, and etcetera... She called yesterday needing more money for school supplies and seems to be doing well.

 

What do we do when our kids grow up?

As our daughters are growing up, we are finding ourselves focusing more on keeping other orphan children in school, as well as feeding the hungry, and helping children with disabilities through our Equine Assisted Therapy program, Horsepower. In Kenya, if you are born with any disability you suffer a life of difficulty. We have seen children locked in dark, tiny rooms and given no food or drink because the parents say the child is incapable of understanding how to eat food due to mental illness! Kenya is VERY FAR BEHIND when it comes to understanding children who seem 'different.' Equality isn't even a thought. Culture in Kenya, especially in the rural villages, is still based on superstitions, curses, rituals, and witch doctors. Lack of education has kept them in the dark and it is harmful to children with special needs. We are doing what we can to bring hope to the children and the parents or guardians. Our impact is small at the moment as we are just starting up, but our vision is big. 
We have regular therapy sessions now happening every week. We have three ponies and one horse bringing so much joy and physical therapy to the children who ride. 
Here is a short video of one of our newest riders who has autism. It is a worthy watch and only 1 minute long. I am finding that this young lad has absolutely zero balance. He marches up hill until the hill wins, and he tumbles down backwards head over heels. It is my hope that he will learn how to stabilize himself as he experiences the changes in his center of gravity every time the horse moves forward and when she stops. This is just ONE example of many reasons why we are doing Horsepower.
One interesting and sweet story is that the lad with autism comes with his mom and dad. They were so touched by what is happening with their son they gave us $10 towards our therapy program. In Kenya, that is a HUGE offering, and we are extremely touched. 
 
 

On the Home Front

Lots has been going on here at home on The Shire. I (Kate) have been playing with mud during my spare time building things such as a bench, a window, and a bathtub. The window was an 'upcycle.' Johnny accidentally put a hot pan on our glass table top (on a silicone mat) and the glass broke. The mud bathtub is not complete as it is drying and needs a waterproof layer in a few weeks. In the mean time, we are bucket bathing in a temporary place. We are raising our water tank higher because we have issues with water pressure. We need a plumber to do some work, but we look forward to having a bath on the Shire after 4 years of patience and waiting. Our phases in 'building' are one 'modernization' at a time..

 

Keep your eyes opened...

Our daughter Eowyn, age 8, will be in a Lipton tea commercial that should start airing some time this month and through the year so keep your eyes open for her cuteness! It is a global thing, and we are excited for her! She'll also be in gifs and other litpon media so let us know if you see her!

Horses are good for other stuff, too...

Every morning, my home educated students must 'work.' Together we feed horses, groom them, and then  most mornings we tack up for rides in the countryside looking for poacher snares and dismantling them. Living in Kenya where wildlife are protected and many are endangered, we take our efforts seriously. This week we found a rare silverback jackal snagged in a snare... Here is the video .

 

Other kids...

Our daughter Butterfly and Makena are working together to write a book with Makena's illustrations (left).
Butterfly is heading out to ride on a 30km endurance ride after raising $200 to support conservation efforts to help save elephants near Mount Kenya.
Emma is still riding and jumping her pony and recovering from chickenpox (as well as Makena, Eowyn, and Starry). She also now has a virus and is feeling quite grim at the moment. 
Andrew is preparing for the SAT and GED, and we are considering our first trip back to the USA in over a decade.
Starlette is still nursing, playing, and riding. She is adorable as always.

 
Thank you for following our family. We try not to put pressure on people nor do we like to 'fund-raise,' although, it is a must at times. Being that it is early in the year, we have quite a lot of needs pressing on us. Last month, we spent most of our funds on school fees for this term for our orphansnomore. We cannot meet these needs without help so I am just putting them out there...
Here is a short needs list of extra items that seem out of our reach:
  • 100-200 bales of hay $300-$600
  • school fees for Sarah M $80
  • Glass for the outdoor tub project $85
  • annual teeth filing for the horses $500
  • tires for Dolly our Land Rover $350 EACH X4 ($1400)
  • insurance $100
  • some repairs on Dolly (again, but she's 20+ yrs old and our roads are not roads at all|) $550
  • a truck full of rocks to keep the arena from washing away $120
  • plumbing work on our water tank $150
  • a small shelter construction to keep our riders and their parents out of the hot sun during our weekly sessions $100
  • passport renewals for all of us, it's that time!! $150 each plus a trip to Nairobi $2,000
If you are feeling overwhelmed after reading this, so are we! Thank you for your compassion and understanding. We also would love to buy FOOD. If you give to us already, thank you. We are a small group that keeps us going. <3 
To all of our sweet and beloved friends out there, we are extremely grateful for your individual support. We are not a part of any "mission organisation." No one is advertising on our behalf and giving us a set monthly budget. We rely on you to share and encourage us. Each month is different based on who remembers us. Thank you for your support. We can receive donations through paypal to [email protected] or checks mailed to: A Future and a Hope
c/o Bob Humphrey
7909 Walerga Rd STE 112-141
Antelope, CA 95843
We also have a bitcoin wallet for those who are into that medium as well. We haven't used it yet, so someone can be our 'first!'

Feel free to share this newsletter with your friends.

Thank you!
 
 

Money Lessons

Many things happened in 2005, which was when we moved to Kenya thirteen years ago. 
 
 
It was one of those years that thirteen years later seems to have been o.k., but during that year it was pretty rough. Actually, it was mostly hard work and upheaval for us. We decided to move because we felt that was what God wanted for our lives, and we also felt that we should abandon traditional fundraising methods. This proved easier said than done. We sent out a letter and that was about it. The response was great but slow. 
 
We were still deciding where we fit in the Christian religion, and well, folks tend to give to missionaries who believe like them and follow all their religious rules. We came from a charismatic background, and our church was relatively conservative in it's theology. Personally, I (Johnny) was more theologically liberal back then and did not feel that my voice was appreciated. I also felt it necessary to challenge and raise difficult questions, often. Not the best case scenario for fundraising. 
 
Despite this, and sometimes because of this, we did attract a few donors. The church we helped to plant came on board along with several members and family members. We had no money for a car, no money for traveling, no money for furniture. Yet we knew we should make the sacrifice. 
 
We learned how the poor in Kenya survive. You grow your own vegetables and harvest wild weeds for food. (Once when digging around the garden in 2005, we came across a number of small potatoes. That night we partied with fried potatoes.) No air conditioning meant much lower electricity bill. No car meant no money needed for maintenance, insurance, and petrol. No electronics stores meant no new computers, phones, DVD players, nor really any entertainment at all. We learned to live on much less and to work around or with lack. 
 
We learned to relate. We learned what it means to rely on someone else to get to the hospital with a sick child, who was not breathing due to a feveral seizure. (Our landlord lived next door and felt that she needed to stay home that morning. She found out why when Kate ran over to see if she was home and if she would drive us to the hospital. Butterfly was the child and had malaria and pneumonia.) We learned to rely on our community to help feed our children and theirs. (I went around preaching in that first year that we should take care of each other. That the first church had no needs not because of miracles but because they took care of each other. A few congregations took me seriously and helped us out from time to time.)
 
Thirteen years later we still have to work hard to raise money and have to budget very carefully most months. Yet the donors have grown in number, and we have learned new means of raising money. I think my biggest lesson has been to just trust. If myself or Kate feels that we should do something, then I have learned to trust that the budget will be met. Often times in creative ways, but the money will come to accomplish the project. We have learned that it is o.k. to ask for help, because people really want to help. You guys are great. 

Thirteen Years

In a few days we will have lived in Kenya for thirteen years. We landed in Nairobi as a family on January 17, 2005, and have been living out our adventure ever since. We have undergone quite a few changes and grown tremendously since that day. I suppose the biggest change has been the additions. When we deplaned we touched Kenyan soil with three little Americans. There are now three more biological children (who are both American and Kenyan) and nine Kenyan girls that have been added to our "little" family. Three plus three and nine more equals, a whole bunch. 
 
Kate and I have grown as individuals and as a couple. In fact, I believe that that personal growth makes the marriage possible. Stagnation in one or both parties cannot be a good thing. We will celebrate our twenty-third wedding anniversary next month, and speaking for myself I look forward to many more to come. 
 
Over the next few days I will take us back to see where we have come from then look at where we are and finish with where we are going. In the meantime let us look at a few photos and a video or two of the first month in Kenya:
 
I did not find many pictures of Kate and myself but did find this cute one of Kate on the phone in the George Bush Intercontinental Airport
 
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She was negotiating luggage prices with our travel agent and British Air. Thankfully she managed to get them to honor their original agreement and saved us several hundreds of dollars.
 
Here is Makena and Butterfly playing in the airport:
 
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Butterfly was eighteen months old but pretty big. She filled out the baby cot in the airplane pretty well.
 
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Andrew enjoyed trying out all the amenities on offer and always knew the location and condition of the toilet. 
 
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Upon arrival immediately the children found all the animals so amazing and wonderful.
 
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Love Andrew's boots in the above picture.
 
There were many struggles that the children either did not know about or just were not as concerned about as much as mom and dad were. Thankfully we made it through them and these children have grown up into beautiful young people. 
 

From Butterfly

A message from our 14-year-old daughter Butterfly:

"A child in a classroom is taught many things. Sit still. Pay attention. Make good grades. But what are they really learning?

They are being taught that learning something is a chore, and therefore unenjoyable. This sort of mentality could later prove difficult to overcome.

Horse therapy takes that bored, disinterested child and puts them outside, gets them moving and happy. Horses are amazing! Games are fun! and learning becomes a delight.

This is especially helpful when it comes to children with learning disabilities. The horses and games encourage them to work hard, and the desire to participate is furthered by helpful peer pressure.

Yes, some children thrive in the classroom setting, but horse therapy provides an option for those children that do not."


Dreaming of the Future

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

 
Kate and I found this passage from Jeremiah inspirational. Leave alone the context for now and just focus on the words. We felt everyone deserved a hopeful future or at least the chance for one. Hope is a powerful thing and can accomplish almost anything.
 
Children without hope, or who cannot look beyond today, struggle to accomplish anything in their lives. They have to spend all their energy on surviving. Looking for food for the day, caring for a sick mom, or being abused occupies the space that hope would take. There is no looking forward to tomorrow because tomorrow brings more of the same pain and suffering. If you can break in with a little hope suddenly everything changes.
 
Next thing you know that child is planning to finish primary school and hopes to do well enough to get into a good high school. She might even be able to look beyond finishing high school to higher education or a decent job. This hopeful future is possible because space was created for hope in this child's life. Helping with food, medication, or paying school fees, frees her up to act beyond the moment. When you get a child to a place where she can dream of the future, well that is the sweet spot. 
 
Most of us reading this take that situation for granted. Our biological children spend huge chunks of time thinking, planning and dreaming of the future. They have a safe environment where they do not have to worry about food, security, etc. The Kenyan children we took in also have that space to dream of the future, they are not as prolific in their dreaming as the others, but the fact that they can dream of the future at all is a huge accomplishment. Of course, they do have futures thanks to being in school, and for four of them now having finished school.
 
This little thing called hope is enough to bring about miracles in these children's lives. 

Sent Home

Education. Something I took for granted as a child. I started kindergarten and went all the way through high school without any danger of not finishing. It never even occurred to me that there were children not going to school or being sent home because they could not pay.  I had not even heard of homeschooling back then.  Unfortunately not being able to go to school is a way too common occurrence here in Kenya. Too many children are aware of the fact that they can be sent home at any moment, and often for the most trivial of circumstances. 

Imagine if you will that you are headed back to school. You are starting class eight this January, a crucial year as at the end of it there is a test that will determine what high school you can go to. It is your chance to get into a good school that could even help you qualify for university or look good on your resume as you apply for that all important first job. It is a big year. The end of primary school and you can begin to see the shape of things to come in your future. 

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Now imagine if you will that your mom gets sick. She is out of work say for two weeks and has to spend money she cannot afford on medication. Consequently, she is unable to afford to pay your school lunch fee, which is not that much, but when you make two hundred or so Kenyan shillings a day (about two U.S. dollars) that lunch fee can seem insurmountable. Or maybe you rip your school uniform and are sent home to replace it. (Currently, we need to buy a second uniform for B.T. which altogether will be 6,900 Kenyan shillings.) Perhaps this is multiplied over two or three siblings. Tough.

We want to be there for these children. We believe in education as a way to escape the slum, poverty, and a host of other social ills affecting Kenya. The system in Kenya is not perfect, in fact, it is far from it. Yet it is the system one has to navigate, and the more children we keep on that journey through school the more bright futures we create. These futures are not just for the kids, but for us as well. These are the future scientist, politicians, mechanics, astronauts, and so on. They are necessary for our future.

I took school for granted and luckily ended up with a decent education. I do not want to take these children's educations for granted. I will fight for them to stay in school.


Happy New Year!

Goodbye 2017 and howdy 2018. 

 

We spent 2017 digging deeper into The Shire (our almost twelve-acre piece of land here in Kasambara, Kenya.) We did some learning on permaculture and have begun to implement some of it's methods here on the farm. Farming is not easy, but not too difficult either. Growing food is something that I feel is innate in most people and does not take much effort to learn and experiment with. We are working towards drought proofing the land and growing more and more food for ourselves and others. 

Our lives took a giant leap forward with the acquisition of a solar freezer. We now have ice and can keep meat for longer than a couple of days. Already we have put some of our own chickens, rabbits, and pigs in the freezer. More rabbits will go in this first week of 2018 if all goes according to plan, and about half of a piglet (or whatever is left over after the birthday celebration.)
 
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We ended 2017 by giving a pig to a good friend who throws a party on Christmas Day for his neighborhood. We try and distribute as much meat as possible from what we produce here on the farm, and it sure was fun to be able to give an entire animal at the end of the year.
 
So much happened in 2017 and more is in store for 2018. As our children get older and require less and less from us as far as daily care goes the more time we can dedicate to alleviating the pain and suffering of folks here in Kenya. Kate will continue to expand the horse therapy program. The systems in place for creating the space for the children to have success in the therapy have to be worked out and fine-tuned constantly. Horses need to be fed, exercised, monitored, and groomed all the time. Kate feels the work is worth the results she achieves with the children. I will continue to expand our program to keep as many children in school as possible. Often times here in Kenya children are sent home for minor things such as shoes, uniform, not paying the lunch fee, books, etc. Little things too many of us reading this, but to the child's family it can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. We will also continue in 2018 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick and oppressed. 
 

Praying-hands-2539580_960_720I, (Johnny) have also ended my sabbatical of all things spiritual. So I will begin speaking again in Kenyan churches and sharing with groups. I think primarily I will focus on; God is not mad at you and living a peaceful life. Two things I believe are desperately needed here in Kenya.
 
 
Thank you to everyone who walked with us in 2017. Here's to another leg of the journey in 2018.

Success!

Our Dawn of the Ice Age fundraiser has reached %110! Yea!

Thank you to everyone who gave and shared this fund raiser. You helped us achieve what we could not on our own. It may be an overused phrase but, "many hands make a light load" is a true maxim. We have already purchased some food items for ourselves and one other household. One of my favorite things to do is buy food for hungry people. It is not a way to save them or rescue them from poverty, but it is a way to bring hope (and a bit of nutrition.) To know that someone, or in cases like this someones, cares enough to go out of their way and help you, restores hope that things can get better. Hope is one of the first steps for someone to be able to get out of poverty. With that hope, one can start making a life that is worth living. Without it, well it is then just easier to stay down and out. 

As for purchasing the solar fridge set up, we will wait until the excitement over the election dies down. Hopefully sooner rather than later, and then I, Johnny, will travel to Nairobi and make the purchase. Our plan, currently, is to use the same company that sold us the solar hot water heater (thanks dad,) and have them do the installation. I am hoping to haggle a bit on the price and save some money, which will then be used to buy more food for more hungry people. 

We will keep all of you in the loop with pictures and videos. 

Again thanks to everyone who gave and shared. Plus thanks to Bob who coordinated the whole fund raising effort.