Years ago before moving to Kenya, Johnny and I bought a house in Port Arthur, TX. We felt so happy to have a bigger home that we decided to 'give back' by taking in homeless people. We received so much negative feedback from the 'church' asking us why we would do such a thing. It was the beginning of our pulling away from religion.
But what we learned from that experience was that we can help people with things that we HAVE. Start small. Step out and be bold by doing just a little with what you have where you are...
Often times, when people hear that we care for orphans in Africa, they gasp, "Wow. You are so special." And it makes me feel as if this idea exempts them from thinking they, too, can do something 'great.' I am no one special. Johnny might think he is special, I don't know... But the reality is we are normal folks who had to start somewhere. I knew that children in Kenya didn't have taxpayer dollars helping them when they lost their parents. I also knew that I loved being a mom so I decided I could offer the little I had to fill a need. I decided to be a mom to more than my own children. Now we have a small homestead in Kenya helping orphans and people in the community thanks to people like you who support us.
Fast forward to 2016, we have lived through raising 15 children. I have learned many lessons along the way. When we started taking in children (mostly preteens and teens at the time), we had expectations that our new children would be so overwhelmed with love that they would just fit in and be like our own kids. We knew they had traumatic pasts, but we didn't expect it to be difficult to connect to them. We loved them as our own, but for some reason they wouldn't talk to us, or they would do strange things like hide food in their shoes, or urinate in weird places. It was hard. We needed help, but we found that there wasn't any place in our area of Kenya that would fit the bill. Our Kenyan children had issues with trusting people because people hurt them in their pasts so counselling with a 'human' wasn't exactly the answer.
So here is where we are now: our orphansnomore are growing up. They have turned into beautiful girls who are still in our care for a few more years, but our dynamic is changing. Johnny and I feel as if we can't continue raising new batches of children forever. We are developing our farm to be a model for future orphan care projects. We also are helping orphans stay in school by paying their school fees and buying uniforms, books, etc... but I have this fire in me to fill another hole by doing something I am passionate about using things we have on hand. Once again, I find myself excited to be starting something new.
Having the farm and having the gift of having a horse that was given to us as well as tack that was donated is such a wonderful thing. (I believe every child should have a pony and learn from them if possible. Here is a good article on that.) And being the person that I am, I don't want to just keep a horse to myself. I want to use our horse to help kids in need. Why not combine the two things I absolutely love: horses and helping people? (Not to mention Kenya is the perfect place to do just that because horses are inexpensive to keep in Kenya costing around $39 or less a month for a good doing pony up to $74 a month for a guzzling Thoroughbred. That includes shoeing, hay, feed, salt, vet. That's less than people spend on a dog per month.)
This is not an 'all of a sudden' thing. I have been planning and preparing for this for YEARS. It is only now that I am feeling bolder and more confident about it. I attended a bit of training in Nairobi on two different occasions. I have studied, and I am still studying. Am I completely ready to do therapy with horses? Not quite, but if I wait until I am completely ready, I will never start. So, I will do what I always do. I will start with what I have where I am. I have people asking for this 'service,' and I have been preparing to a point where I feel like we can take the first steps to starting this endeavor.
I have a friend who works with disabled children who she believes will greatly benefit from this venture. She is not the only one hoping we get this going. Another friend who works with orphans wants to bring them here as well. Not to mention my own orphans-no-more who will and do benefit from this.
With that said, we are starting small where we are with the horse that we have. We are doing our first 'riding for disabled children' this Wednesday with three children who have cerebral palsy. I am so excited about this. I want to make children feel special, loved, and give them hope. I want to help disabled kids develop confidence and muscle tone. I want to give orphans a place they can feel love and acceptance, and I want to give struggling orphan guardians a place where they can see their children heal from traumatic pasts.
I don't think horses are THE answer nor will this be all we do, but I do believe they can be a part of how we bring hope to the hopeless.