a Future and a Hope

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. 

20170615_190246
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.)
 
P1310625
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. 


Dawn of the Ice Age

It has been more than three years since we last had adequate refrigeration. It has been tough going. We felt it was time to bring back the fridge to A Future and a Hope. We figured it was a good time to raise money to bring food to the hungry as well. We routinely feed hungry people, but this fund raiser will enable to spread the love on a bigger scale. 

Check out the campaign by following this link:

https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/dawn-of-the-ice-age--2

If you would like to give via PayPal use afutureandahope@gmail.com and include a note that it is for this campaign. 


Care Packages

It has been a long time since we had an article about care packages, and it has been ages since we received one! Granted, they do charge us at the post office a percentage of the amount written on the customs form, but some things we just cannot find in Kenya, and we would love to have them. Here is our wish list! For my friends with horse connections, finding some items are quite difficult. We are extremely happy with used items as long as they are in good condition. I will post the horse items here first because they are difficult to find in Kenya, but if that is not an area of interest for  you, please keep scrolling. We really miss certain things like ranch seasoning packets!

Horse stuff: (I am posting links to products so you can see what we are needing, but if you have used items in good condition, we are happy to use those!)

  • lead ropes (seriously, we have broken most of ours!)
  • 4 hackamores (bitless attachment so our horses can be ridden without bits) see this link or this link
  • 1/4" or 6mm thick parachord 100 ft long for making our own halters preferably turquoise or black, but not really picky!
  • 20 pieces if possible 1" Stainless Steel O rings to make our own bridles
  • 3 crops
  • 3 or so (because they break over time, but one will do!) lunge whips
  • bean bags (very important for our therapy sessions!)
  • plush dice
  • game idea books for horsey games (just search for some on Amazon) We aren't picky, and I don't have any!
  • cones
  • reins
  • breast plates (3 ponies, one horse)
  • Stirrup leathers 
  • stirrups
  • helmets
  • Rope halters
  • saddles obviously not easy to mail so designated funds to buy them here- $400 or so? I found one I really like! 
  • extra money for hay (it is tripled in price at the moment, so we need about $400 for 100 bales)
  • hay nets
  • speakers and ipod for music for therapy. Our speakers are not loud enough.

Meds:

  • Nyquil
  • ibuprofen
  • acetaminophen
  • Children's meds ages 1 year and up
  • vitamin C chewables
  • pepto
  • sore throat meds
  • allergy meds
  • bug bite meds
  • antibacterial cream

Household:

  • Mr. Clean erasers
  • hand towels
  • wash cloths
  • silicone Popsicle molds
  • LED solar twinkle lights (all sorts, these are fun!)
  • flashlights
  • hair bows for baby Starlette
  • hair brushes (remember, we live in a country where we are the minority so finding good hair brushes is difficult)

Food:

  • Ranch
  • TexJoy
  • butt rub
  • seasoned sunflower seeds
  • pistacios
  • pecans
  • almonds
  • marshmallows (both large and small)
  • hersheys
  • chocolate chips
  • peanut butter chips
  • m&m's
  • Reese's cups

school supplies

  • Pens
  • crayons
  • coloring books
  • erasers
  • pencils
  • paint brushes
  • watercolor paper
  • glue
  • notebooks

Pet Supplies

  • Dog sweaters for up on this cold mountain Size Great Dane
  • Dog leashes
  • Chew toys
  • Flea control
  • Dog bed

 


You and me, we are the same?

Something happened at our most recent horse therapy session that I had not thought through before. It makes complete sense, but it just didn't cross my mind until I witnessed it first hand.

Horse therapy 013This is Duncan. He has spina bifida and cannot feel his legs.  In this photo, he is extremely nervous about this new experience of coming to our farm, possibly riding a giant monster, and meeting all of these new people. It was his first therapy session...

It started to drizzle just as everyone arrived so we all gathered on our veranda and sat down. I began entertaining the kids by asking them to get to know one another.

See, usually, they all come, get on a horse, and off they go. It hadn't occurred to me that they didn't know one another until this moment when we were all huddled together seeking shelter.

When I introduced Duncan to Malia who also has spina bifida, I pointed out, "Duncan is just like you, Malia!"

 

Her reaction was priceless! 

Horse therapy 045

Malia just looked Duncan over soaking in the fact that she is not the only person who has spina bifida!

 

It never occurred to me that perhaps these kids have never met someone like themselves before! They are unique, after all!

This is a perk of our horse therapy program that hadn't crossed my mind until this point. 

Horse therapy 246Malia took it upon herself to show Duncan that, although she was afraid her first time getting up on a large equine, now she is a pro and can do it with a smile. She competed wholeheartedly in the games and really worked hard. (Right)

Horse therapy 156It took Duncan quite some time to get used to the horses. In the middle of our session, he was already experiencing fatigue in his core. You can see in this photo how he was lying on the horse because he was too tired to support himself. Therapy sessions are quite a workout, and in time, Duncan will get stronger and stronger. 

We are already seeing results in the other riders' core strength!

One thing is for sure, by the end of the therapy session, Duncan was enjoying himself! (Below)

 

Horse therapy 346

 

 


June Newsletter

I just sent out our June newsletter. Here is the text just in case you do not receive it. Use the link on the side of this blog to sign up.

A Decade of Orphan-Care

Not everything works out. Sometimes failure is unavoidable, other times we can avoid utter failure. Rarely is it possible to have everything work out exactly how we want it to. We have been caring for our orphans no more for a decade now. Ten years of feeding, clothing, housing, schooling, and above all loving unconditionally. There are times when it feels like twenty years instead of ten, and other days it is like we started last week. We cannot report success in everything, but we can report success in the most important thing. Family. We have successfully created a family with our girls.

This family is not like a typical nuclear family, nope it is different. The foundation for family, love, is there. We are connected and will remain so throughout the years. Yet we come from different places and sometimes see the world differently. Our girls are growing up. Only one of them, Edith, is still a minor. All the others are legal adults and capable of making decisions without us. Which they do frequently. Each one of them are still in school and rely on us one hundred percent for their livelihoods. Legal adulthood is here and practical adulthood is just around the corner. 

Four of them will be graduating high-school this year. That means four decisions on four different futures will be made soon. Vocational school, jobs, relocation, and relationships are all part of those decisions that have to be made. They will not all lead to success. There will be setbacks, failures, and mishaps along the way. However, just like the past decade each of those misfortunes will be handled with a family for support. We and this includes you, will be there for them, and hopefully, they will be there for us when we need them.

We have succeeded in love. We have a family. We have also triumphed in keeping the girls in school. They are healthy and able to make wise decisions about their health. They have experienced love and have confidence in us. They know, even if some of them do not acknowledge it, that we are here for them.

When I put it down on paper, not all our endeavors have found success, but the most important, providing family, has and is succeeding


A Little Equine Therapy Update

P1240634

Butterfly is hiding behind that post on her way to feed the horses. Each day they are fed four times with wheat bran, barley, and horse meal. Typically we feed them hay, but it has become hard to find and prohibitively expensive due to scarcity. They are also brushed, feet cleaned, and worked each day. It is a lot of work, but it is work with a purpose.
 
The horses are not just Kate's hobby. Nor did we buy the children ponies just to fulfill that seemingly ever present desire of young girls for a pony. We acquired the horses with the aim of using them as therapy animals. (Though of course some of our own children enjoy riding them as well.) There was a point in my spiritual journey that I decided to take Matthew 25 seriously. To aid and love "the least of these." Which is the reason we moved to Kenya.
 
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
 
Throughout the past twelve years we have tried to love and assist the least here in Kenya. We have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and assisted the oppressed as best as we can. We still do these things in fact. Yet we encountered many people that we struggled to be able to help. Disabled children were a big group in this category. We just had no way to bring joy and healing into their lives, until we encountered equine therapy. 
 
The horses do more than bring these children joy. Riding these animals forces the children's bodies to use muscles that otherwise are not exercised properly. It is a form of physical therapy using several hundreds of pounds of horse. The children sit on the horse and go through a program of games and activities designed to strengthen their backs, legs, arms, and minds. This all takes place within half an hour to a hour, but all the work to get to that small window is worth the smiles and future improvements.
 
We are still at the beginning of this aspect of our project, but it has begun well. We have a thoroughbred and three ponies to utilize. The Shire, our almost twelve acres here in East Africa, is not quite large enough for fields of grass for the horses, but we have created a flat space for them to be worked and buy food for them from town. (Surprisingly there is a sizable horse loving community here in Kenya. We have not had much difficulty in finding feed for them.) We are at the end of our dry season. The rains are on the way. The space we leveled to be able to do the therapy in has had grass planted and we await the rain to spur the growth. The horses seem to be waiting for the rain as well.  They miss all the yummy grass that dries up in the dry season. 
 
Thank you to everyone that helps make this program successful, and thanks to those who will help in the future. These children are worth the effort.