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We talk about bringing hope to orphans and abandoned children here in Kenya often, daily in fact. The truth of the matter is that for the majority of these children the future does not contain that much hope. There are exceptions of course. Kenya does have some families that provide for these children, but those families are the exception rather than the rule. Most of these children end up watching life from the sidelines, often while they are working as maids and/or herders.
Our mission, or goal, here in Kenya is to put these children into the game. Get them off the bench and in a place where hope can blossom. I wrote yesterday that loving them is easy, which it is. That is the first step to creating hope. Unfortunately it is not always enough. Many of these children have become so accustomed to not being loved nor wanted that it can and will take a lifetime for them to get to a place where they can embrace that love. In the meantime we have to be creative in our efforts to break through. We have to show love by providing for material needs, but we also have to go beyond that. Kenya has a culture of receiving aid or perhaps it is better to say there is a culture of expecting aid. These children really do need help with food, school, health, and clothing. No doubt about it. Yet there needs to be a person, not an institution behind that help. Someone who can be loving and tough at the same time. You know, parental where there are no parents willing to step up. (Big example here is sex. Teens here in Kenya engage in unprotected sex at an alarming rate. Partly because there are no parents teaching them the dangers of casual unprotected sex and the beauty of sex in a committed relationship. Sex education is coming primarily through media.)
We all have stories of someone in our childhood who had a profound impact on us. Teachers, coaches, pastors, uncles, and anyone who took the time to put some effort into our lives. Kate and I want to be that someone for children here in Kenya. Certainly we have and are having a major impact on the nine girls that came to live with us more than eight years ago. Their lives are full of hope and dreams for the future. (Not all of them are reasonable dreams, but each year the planning of the future gets more realistic. Just the dreaming of the future is a huge breakthrough.) They not only have us in their lives but other people that we know as well. Friends and family interact with them and have a chance to be a part of bringing them hopeful futures. Because they do not have to fear for tomorrow they have a chance to develop relationships and experience life on their own terms.
These girls needed us and we needed them. (Why we needed them is a post for another day.)
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.
I do not do resolutions, but I do take a moment each January 1st to reflect back. This morning I take a look back at the past year and try to evaluate not if I was a success or a failure at my endeavors, but rather was I human or not. Did I do the things that make Johnny a better man or did I just coast through life? Am I a positive or negative impact on life?
My forty-third birthday was in November. There is no doubt about it, I am a grown up. Full size. I no longer need to be told what to do and when to do it. (Though I am still learning how to do many things, but then again so should everyone.) Mommy does not need to hold my hand as I cross the road. I know what it is I am to be doing with my life, and in 2017 just like 2016, I will continue to do what it is I am meant to be doing.
Which is what?
I, along with my wife Kate, work here in Kenya to bring as much hope for a future, to as many children without hope, as possible. Each and everyday in 2017 will be spent working towards that goal of hopeful futures. You see we learned a secret about nine years ago; it is not hard to love a child. Love is easy. We learned to unlearn all the platitudes, cultural hype, and marketing that taught us that love is hard. It is not. Loving a child who has lost her parents is one of the easiest things in the world. Try it, you will find it to be simple. (Liking a difficult child, that on the other hand is not easy. Loving and liking are two different things. It is nice when they work together, but when they do not one can still love a child or adult whom one does not like.)
The hard part is caring for that child day in and day out for as long as it takes. When we took in the nine orphaned/abandoned girls that became part of our lives we found loving them came easy. In fact from the first moment we laid eyes on them we were able to express love towards them. Inviting these young ladies to live with us as family was one of the easiest invitations we have ever given. Feeding them, now that has proven to be more difficult. Clothing fifteen children (9 plus our 6 biological) makes you appreciate nudist philosophy. Working out disciplinary issues is not as simple as hugging and saying "I love you."
We are still loving and caring for these children in 2017. Not everything looks the same as it did in previous years, but the love has not waned. In fact it has increased. Combining love and care is the way to start restoring hope.
I hope your New Years celebrations are fun, we will be celebrating Starlette's first birthday today. I look forward to continuing to journey with you and working together as we strive to bring hope to the hopeless in 2017.
Today I went to town and used my PHONE to pay for EVERYTHING.
See, here in the 'third world' we have this really cool, modern thing called 'mpesa.' Basically, we load money on our phone by going to a little shop, handing the guy cash, and then he sends it digitally to our 'mpesa wallet' on our phone.
In a society where most people do not have bank accounts, and having cash in one's house is risky, mpesa is amazing.
Mpesa is everywhere. I took a taxi and paid by sending 'money' to the taxi driver's phone number.
I paid for our 30 'day old' chicks the same way.
I paid for our lunch, our groceries, our cow feed, etc... all through my cell phone that has now turned into my virtual wallet.
I pay our workers this way, as well, keeping our house cashless and safe.
Pretty cool? Huh? Money from our USA bank can be sent directly to my phone, too! It is INSTANT. No waiting. No going to a moneygram office or an atm. It is like someone handing me cash over thousands of miles right into my hands.
It has its limits, though. It only allows $1,000 worth of transactions in one day, and that is the max amount you can have in your 'wallet' at once. But we find it is a pretty modern thing for where we live.
*We have been using mpesa for years, but thought it would make an interesting article!
Our friend is doing a fundraiser to help us repair our vehicle Dolly!
We need $2,000 in 2 weeks. Please consider sharing our campaign and helping with whatever you feel led to help with. Details are on the campaign site.
If you already help support our project, we don't want you to give to the campaign, but maybe share it with your friends!
One of our readers is enjoying our archive posts so much, he suggested I remind folks that they are there! So for fun, perhaps, or to get to know us better, maybe try reading through some of our old blog posts. We have come a long way since 2005!
I like to always talk about the positive and try to keep things light, but for the sake of being completely honest, I am going to tell some truths.
As I was taking inventory of our farming successes and failures... I realised that we have not been completely successful.
Our rabbits have not produced much for us (people). Our cats have probably eaten over 150 baby bunnies over the two years since we moved here. In fact, we only have the male and the female rabbits left. The babies all vanish. Finally, we made our enclosure completely cat proof with double wire, and bunnies were hopping all over the place. A few weeks later, they started dying without any symptoms. I called the vet, but he didn't have the meds on hand. By the time he found some, the babies had all died. Hopefully, the mom and dad will produce more soon, and they will thrive.
Our cow has given birth three times since moving to The Shire. This is a success. However, each calf has been a bull, and we need more COWS. So that end of things is a failure. At least our cow produces milk for us to make butter and cheese.
Our chickens have been eating their own eggs, and they don't sit very well. From one 'couple' we have hatched and grown probably a maximum of six chickens in two years. We hardly get any eggs since they like eating them before we can. This is not a success. Since we ate the rooster this afternoon, we have found 2 eggs unharmed in the coop! Obviously, they won't be fertile, but we can eat them. I think we should just eat our 4 hens, buy 30 chicks and rear them up for future eggs and meat.
Our pigs have been the MOST successful animal on the farm. They have birthed 11 babies in the last two years, and we have sold 5 and given away the rest. We hope to buy a second sow so we can always have piglets around...
As far as farming produce goes, we managed to grow some maize that looks pretty small, but our fruit trees are growing (minus the ones the neighbor's cows munched). Plus, our boxes are growing beautiful carrots, spinach, a few beets, oregano, and strawberries!
Often times, one can get bogged down trying to find out more about A Future and a Hope like 'who we are and what we do' through our blog since we update it frequently. So we decided to build a website with basic info about us at www.afutureandahope.com
This website is a great way to share about our work in Kenya.
As we expand our project, we are needing more folks to help us out each month. What is really cool is that we are NOT a big organisation so you can see exactly where your donations go. We don't hire fundraisers nor do we take a salary. In fact, to save funds, I built the website myself, and I am continuing to tweak it a bit. So please, get to know us and be a part! We have lots of things going on, and if you are curious as to what those things are, check out our website. :)
We have been hoping to start this project for quite some time. This week, we finally started our riding therapy for children with disabilities or traumatic pasts. The first session went smoothly, and the kids were smiling ear to ear!
The benefits of horse therapy for children with Cerebral Palsy like Peter pictured above are huge. Just by riding a simple walk, his abdominal muscles will get stronger and stronger. Children who are wheelchair bound evently gain strength to sit up and some even learn to walk with assistance. But most importantly, they have fun and gain confidence through riding.
This is such a fun project. It requires a lot of work on our end keeping and training our horse to not be bothered by all of the people walking around her, the music, clapping, etc. plus getting enough people to lead the horse and walk along each side with the rider... and it requires a great deal of work from my friend Haley who hired a van, bought snacks, and convinced guardians and parents to bring their kids!