Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Clean Water

Ceramic water filter system
Maji Afiya (Healthy Water)

Thanks to the generous support of many individuals and churches, we continue to be able to distribute ceramic water filter systems to vulnerable refugee households living in Eastleigh. Today another 38 Somali and Oromo women took part in a training workshop on the importance, use and maintenance of ceramic water filters. Each household received a filter purchased with funds raised by First Baptist Church, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. We want to share our thanks to the congregation for your generous support of this project! Access to clean water continues to be a major challenge for people throughout Kenya and much of Africa.
As we shared together about the difficulties surrounding water in Eastleigh, the women told us that the city water only comes to Eastleigh sporadically from Friday evening to Sunday. There is absolutely no water available from Monday to Friday. "When the water comes we store it in pails and old cooking oil containers." explained a Somali woman. "We put it where ever we can. There isn't even a glass or mug that we don't fill with water when it comes!" The groups laughs, but soon they the are all sharing about their daily struggle to provide water for their families. Once the city water runs dry, the women walk into Mathare Valley where they can fill a 20 litre used cooking oil container for 20 Kenyan Shillings. Because the water quality is terrible and the women will spend another 20 shillings on a packet of "water guard" a chemical they add to the water to make it potable. On Friday morning, when nearly everyone has run out of their stored water, the price in Mathare jumps to 30 shillings. Worse still, if there is no water available in Mathare, the woman will have to resort to paying 50 shillings or more from local merchants.
While the ceramic filters are able to clean water. Access to water continues to be a major issue for people living in poverty. We pray that the rains will be sufficient to bring a regular flow of water into places like Eastleigh.

Nadhifo and Hani very excited
to be taking their filters home

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Little girls playing the game kora
during their school lunch break
at the Eastleigh Community Centre
The rain has been a blessing in Eastleigh over the past few weeks. Most of Kenya has finally received some rain fall after a dismally short spring rain. We pray that these rains will last and refill the reservoirs and dwindling water table. Throughout Nairobi, we have been on strict water rationing (only receiving water once a week) and many of the city's bore holes have simply run out of water. The recent rains have had a miraculous affect on the grass and plants around us. Seeds that we planted over a month ago have actually come up through the ground over the past few days. The rains have also produced a tangible sense of hope in people, you can see the relief on people's faces.
One of the places that we talk about the importance of rain and water is with the children of the Eastleigh Community Centre. Each day about 320 primary students and about 90 preschool children learn, live and play together within the safety of the community centre.
"Everything is better with the rain," commented one little girl. "I don't like the dust, it bites my eyes." The girls are sitting on a cement walkway gathering stones and bits of broken pottery into circles for a game of Kora. They take turns throwing and catching the rocks as we talk about the weather and the importance of water. "I don't like it when it doesn't rain. Everything is sad." agreed another girl. For most of these children, no rain has meant that there is no water to bath, wash their clothing, and at times even cook their meals. Without access to city water, most families living in slums like Eastleigh and Mathare have had to resort to buying buckets of water often at prices five times that of what we would pay in North America. And the water they are drinking is often of poor quality. In response to my question about how they filter or clean their drinking water, one of the elder girls answered "Sometimes we boil our water or filter it. But you can't do that when you need it right away."
Every Thursday, many of these children take part in a refugee children's program called "The Happy Club". We started the club with two volunteer leaders from the Iftin literacy program. Along with games, songs, and dancing (the kid's three favorite activities) they are able to talk and learn more about issues of heath and wellness. We pray that as these children learn more about the dangers of unclean drinking water, that they will be agents of change in their homes as they put into practice many of the simple behaviours that can protect them and their families from water born diseases.

Despite the bravado of the little boys the girls insist that they are much better at the game!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ava's Dedication

Today, we celebrated Ava's dedication. We held the service in our backyard surrounded by our friends. It was a beautiful time of prayer and blessing as we recognized God's faithful love and mercy in bringing Ava into our lives.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
Proverbs 24: 3-4

Ava's Aunties Mel and Kerry and our friend Kelly Carline

Wes and Andy blessed us with music

Everyone gathering under our umbrella tree

Ava makes us all smile!
... And now O Lord,
bless this beautiful little girl.
Guide her steps in the way of Jesus
Protect her heart from all that is unlovely,
Shape her spirit by your grace and truth,
Fill her with your joy and love.
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday, October 23, 2009

Night Rider

Ava taking her new bicycle for a spin

This evening our friends Mel and Kerry surprised Ava with a pink birthday bike. Ava couldn't wait to start riding. She raced out into the driveway with squeals of excitement. Poor Henry and Reese didn't know what was going on!

3A All-Stars

Mommy and Emma in their 3A All-Star shirts

Erica, Kerry, Melanie, Maddie & Emma

Emma's teacher, Melanie McKee, is using a sports theme in her third grade classroom this year: In the spirit of teamwork, the class called itself the "3A All-Stars" and today they all came to school in their class T-shirts. As the class mom, Erica wore her All-star shirt as well. Three Cheers for 3A!

Yum yum !!

Emma and her pal Maddie helping out at the Nest Children's Home after school today.

Although many orphans live within the Nest, most of the children who call this loving place home are staying here while their mothers are in prison. Emma and Maddy visited the Nest's half-way house today, where released mothers are reunited with their children and provided a stable environment to bond and get back on their feet.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

School children gathering to see the elephant parade

Feeding time at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on te edge of the Nairobi National Park.

Each day from 11 am till noon, hundreds of visitors and school children come to the David Sheldrick conservatory to see the dozens of orphaned elephants and rhinos that are being cared for and made ready for release. Since 1977, this trust has continued the work of David and Daphne Sheldrick who pioneered techniques in raising orphaned elephants and rhinos and reintroducing them to the wild. It is facinating to hear the individual stories of how each of these creatures came to be orphaned and of their rescue.

The volunteer team from First Baptist Church, Vancouver, enjoying a Saturday of site seeing in Nairobi.

We said good-bye to the Vancouver team on Sunday as they headed to Machakos for their time with the Africa Brotherhood Church. It has been a wonderful week full of rain and an appreciated day off from work and school as Kenya celebrated a national holiday on Tuesday. Tristan and Emma have begun their rehearsal schedule for the Christmas play and they are having a blast!

Tristan and Daddy hanging out
at the Giraffe Centre in Karen

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Football Champions!

The Rosslyn Elementary 2009 Football Champions
The Green Team
with coach Carline and coach Chute

Emma chasing the ball during Monday's game.

Emma played in a nail biting championship football match today completing the fall intramural season. On Monday, they suffered a defeat against their undefeated rival "The Red Team" (Both the Greens and the Reds had gone into Monday's game undefeated, but Red's strong offence proved unstoppable).

Today's final championship game pitted the Reds and Greens once again. It began with rain, turning much of the field into sticky mud. The kids played hard ending the first half in a 0-0 tie. In the second half, Red came out strong scoring two quick goals. It didn't look good for Green. But the kids rallied and Green came back scoring twice to tie the score again. The play seemed even until the final few minutes when Green made a hard rush and scored a third goal -- ending the game in a 3-2 win! The Green team were overjoyed.

Emma and her team had
a fun but muddy time!

A Strong History

CBM alumni, Bob Swan,
with us at Village Market, Nairobi
We have the great pleasure this week to enjoy some time with Bob Swan and seven short term volunteers from First Baptist Church Vancouver, British Columbia. Somali Ministry is certainly in Bob's blood as he and his family lived and served in Kenya for many years. The Swans even lived in a ground floor apartment just up the Street from the Eastleigh Community Centre back in their language learning days in Kenya before they began their ministry in Garissa and Northeast province.
Please keep this group in your prayers as they continue to serve into next week with our Africa Brotherhood Partners.
The Canadian volunteers working with several of the women in our advanced English literacy class today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving
from the Kennys!!!

Can you spot the turkey?


The first IFTIN Self Help Group Training module was completed today in Eastleigh as our team of community facilitators prepare for a busy fall of community mobilization and group formation. On Monday, the group was encouraged by several special guests including both the Kenyan and the Rwandan national self help group coordinators who joined the women in field visits in the Mathare Valley Slum. From The Sharing Way, Ruth Minyau and Bruno Soucey also dropped by to encourage the women and to see some of the activities happening through the development program.
On Friday, we learned about the role of the community facilitators and about governance within the Self Help Group approach. During this day, Aaron also talked about the importance of communicating the purpose of SHG and about forming group identity. One exercise that the group did was the creation of a unique symbol for the Iftin Self Help Group initiative. Together we discussed what it meant to be a part of a women's empowerment program, and how we were trying to build a peoples institution, or movement, that empowered vulnerable women within our community. With our Iftin motto of "Women helping women for a brighter future" we began to think about how each woman contributes to bringing light into places of hopelessness. Before long, we began to picture an image of women coming together and forming a burst of light.

This is the symbol that we decided on as a group.
Like the eight Somali and Oromo women who sat around our table, the eight women in this picture have joined together for the good of others. But they are only able to lift up their arms and make a great impact through faith in God's presence and compassion, through unity and cooperation with their sisters, and through personal sacrifice and commitment.
Each of the eight "Somali women" in the Symbol will be different colours: each colour representing an aspect of the story of Iftin. After some thought and discussion, the ladies decided on the following eight colours:
Black for "Where we have come from"
Blue for "Faith"
Pink for "Sisterhood"
Brown for "Our hands and hard work"
Green for "Prosperity"
Red for "Love"
Gold for "Empowerment"
White for "Peace"

Of course, the symbol is only a reminder to all of us of the realities behind who we are as we come together to serve our neighbours.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cast List

Tristan's reaction as he heard the news that he was cast in the lead for the Rosslyn Academy Elementary School Play -- "The First Leon"

Tristan celebrating with his buddy Michael

Emma thrilled to find out that she was
picked to sing a solo in the school play

After school today, the elementary was a stir as kids ran to the music room door to read the cast list for this year's Christmas play. Students in grades three to five auditioned over the past few days for the production. The four judges had a difficult task as there were so many great auditions. Erica will be directing the drama portion of the Christmas Musical. She is working with the kids over the next two months.

Happy Birthday Jessica
Wes, Jean, Aaron, Erica, Jessica, Kyle, Julia and (hiding in the back) Ava
The celebrating continued as we joined some of our good friends for a birthday dinner for Jessica Davis. While we were enjoying some great birthday cake, the patter of rain began to fall. Before we knew it, the kids were running around the yard in a rain dance.

Bridging the Gap

Pharis leading the women through the process of translating the Self Help Group materials into their mother tongues.

The fourth day of the Self Help Group training took place at the beautiful Heart Lodge. After a short time of review, the day's focus was on record keeping. Each of the volunteer community facilitators will become trainers within Eastleigh enabling their neighbours to establish functioning groups. Understanding and having competency in accurate record keeping is essential for the success of the program. As part of their training, the women are translating the group and individual record books into their own language. This led to some very interesting discussions as the ladies wrestled with bringing concepts of savings, loans, and terms of repayment into their own culture. Rather than charging interest, Muslim Self Help Groups work on a fee based system.

The ladies also had a chance to apply some of what they've been learning about running a meeting as they tried to find words in their own language for the concepts of "setting an agenda" and "keeping minutes or a record of decisions". We thought Somali was a challenging language, but Oromo is quite a tongue twister too. Here is a little sample: "Galii Tarbaaningalu Bekkumssa waan bitamtte" (translation: "Weeks total brought forward").

This has certainly been a great opportunity to get to know these ladies on a deeper level. Yesterday, one of the women shared about her own struggle coming to Eastleigh as a thirteen year old girl hoping to be able to go to school, but instead being married off to a man who did not love her. By age fifteen she had the first of her four children -- she never was able to attend school. She lives with her children and an unmarried cousin in the dusty clutter of Eastleigh. She knows that she must depend upon herself to provide a future to her children. Tearfully she told us how she decided to accept this role "not only to help my neighbours, but... I'm here to help myself!"

Zahra, the Iftin Community Coordinator, helping the community facilitators work through the final translation of the SHG materials into Oromo and Somali.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ready for School!

Ava enjoying a quiet moment

The sun rises by 6:30 am in Nairobi, but in our house the day begins when Ava (our little ray of sun shine) rises -- at least an hour earlier! Will we ever need an alarm clock again?

Ava is enjoying the new routine of going to Potter House pre-school each morning. She is making new friends, learning new songs, and joining in several fun activities.

Now that our adoption is complete, we continue to work on her Canadian citizenship. This part of the process is much less stressful than when we were going through the court system. In quiet moments like this, we are so thankful for the ways that God has answered our prayers.

Time for school!

Birthday Weekend!

A dusty zebra looking for grass along the very dry sand bed which was once Lake Amboseli.

Kerry, Mel, and Erica
at the Kibo Eco Lodge, Amboseli

This past weekend, Erica joined two of our good friends for a birthday getaway to celebrate our friend Mel turning 30. They traveled three hours south of Nairobi to the Tanzanian border, where they stayed in the Amboseli National Park.

The girls enjoying some quiet time in their safari tent after a very hot and dusty drive.

Erica up early to catch a glimpse of the snow covered peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro. As the highest mountain in Africa, Kili forms a spectacular backdrop to Amboseli National Park, located on the southern border of Kenya.

The girls on their camping adventure.

While they did see some beautiful wildlife, they were struck by the terrible impact of the drought on the region. The severe lack of rain within much of Kenya has especially affected this part of the country. They saw very little water during their travels and sadly very little grazing for the animals: everywhere they went they came across herds of plains animals that seemed to have dropped dead where they had been standing. At times they saw hundreds lying on an open plain surrounded by dust and withered grass.

And yet, there remained thousands more struggling to survive. We pray for the rains to return and renew places like Amboseli.

A family of elephant crossing the plain.

A tired bull elephant cooling
himself off with a dust bath.

Amboseli is known for its large elephant herds that graze on the marsh lands below Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The lack of tree and bush cover in Amboseli makes it a prime spot to see large predators like lions.

These three lionesses were especially affectionate with one another as they lazed in the sun.

Some of Mel's friends had conspired to throw a surprise birthday party on Sunday evening at our home, after the girls returned from the camping trip. It was a great surprise!

Ava finally got to blow out those birthday candles

The conspirators!

Wendy, Mel, Kerry and Erica
-- Great Birthday Weekend!