Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent 2009

Advent candles mark our journey
as we prepare for the coming of Christ

Emma lighting the first advent candle
"In the beginning when God created
the heavens and the earth..."
Genesis 1:1

Our Advent Wreath
This year we are using a little booklet called "The Messengers for the Messiah" by Peter Mead as inspiration for our family advent devotions and candle lighting. Each day we gathering to pray and meditate on a different messenger (someone or something that points us to Jesus). Based on the themes in Mead's booklet, we will light five candles over the coming weeks. Today we lit the CREATION CANDLE: throughout this week we will be thinking about the ways that God communicates with us through creation.

We're decking the halls and trimming our tree

On Saturday, we had a wonderful rainy day at home decorating for Christmas. Since moving to Kenya, Christmas has become an important link to our memories and experiences of life in Canada. For some reason, the smoke of a fire and smell of apple cider steaming on the stove help us feel connected to a long a deep past.

New Traditions
Along with the old, we are incorporating new traditions into our Kenyan Christmas celebrations. One of our favorites has been making our own wrapping paper. We gather all the old markers, crayons, and coloured pencils together and start drawing and colouring our images of winter and Christmas on old newsprint and flip chart pads. The real fun is just sitting together and joking around with our kids.

A little masterpiece!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kenya's National Museum

Tristan and Emma are enjoying a long weekend off from school as Rosslyn Academy celebrates the American Thanksgiving. We had a fun day today with Zach Rowley: after running a few errands in Westlands, we visited Kenya's National Museum.

Erica, Tristan and Emma on our
tour of the mammal room
Along with exhibits of Kenya's cultural diversity, the museum hosts a huge display of bird and animal life in Kenya. Emma was wide eyed as roamed the exhibit rooms that featured everything from the skeleton of a colossal elephant to some of the world's earliest hominid fossils found near Lake Turkana.

Zach and the hippo

After exploring the main museum, we braved the snake park where we had an up close look at Kenya's more dangerous residents. Kenya is home to the world's largest spitting cobras, vipers, puff aders, and the feared black mamba. After our tour, our guide offered Zach a chance to handle the 200 kilogram python, but we had to go and pick Ava up from Potter House -- sorry Zack, maybe next time!

An inquisitive Boomslang keeping a
close eye on us at the snake park.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas Band Concert

On Tuesday evening, the Rosslyn Academy band department presented "The Celebration of Christmas" conducted by Mr. Jose Muniz

This was Tristan's first band concert
and despite some butterflies he was great!

Tristan playing percussion
in the fifth grade beginning band

Happy Club

Members of the weekly Happy Club with teacher Gladys and Iftin youth leaders Zahra Shariif and Tunis Shariif

Singing and dancing is a regular part of Happy Club
The Happy Club had it's closing party yesterday as the fall school semester comes to an end at Rev. Kareri Primary School. Over the past three months, the club has met each Thursday after school. It is a fun way for newly arrived refugee children to build friendships and find a listening ear from the volunteer youth leaders from Iftin.

Zach leading a game of pictionary relay with the students during their closing party

Teacher Gladys and her team were the winners of the game. We shared t-shirts and hats left by the Middleton Baptist Church volunteers as prizes for the team.

Aaron teaching the Happy Club
one of Ava's favorite songs:
"Here is the bee hive. Where are the bees?"

Monday, November 23, 2009


On Saturday, our new friend Zach Rowley arrived in Nairobi from a short trip to Kisumu. Zach has been volunteering here in Kenya for the past six weeks. This week he is staying with our family and helping out with the Iftin programs in Eastleigh. We've enjoyed getting to know Zach and hanging out together in the evenings popping corn and watching Christmas movies with the kids.

Today, Zach worked with all three of our morning literacy classes and then, after a trip into Garissa Lodge for lunch, he visited two of the newly formed Iftin women's self help groups. This is a busy week for the girls as they prepare for their final exams on Thursday. Please keep them in prayer as many of the students are balancing family responsibilities, work, and studies. We also hold Zach in our prayers as he makes the most of his last few weeks in Kenya -- he'll be returning to Toronto on December 9th.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mistletoe Market 2009

Erica and Patrick at the annual
Mistletoe Market
hosted by Rosslyn Academy.

This is Noor Creation's first year to participate in the many Christmas sales and exhibitions that take place throughout Nairobi. Erica, Patrick and Aisha are taking care of the Noor display today. It is a great opportunity to tell other people about the project and help the ladies sell jewelry.
Solidarity Necklace
The Noor ladies are asking women to stand in solidarity with the women of Iftin as they strive together to empower the refugee women of their community. The Solidarity Necklace is a symbolic way of showing unity with victims of violence, conflict and war. Every necklace purchased assists these refugee women to overcome poverty with dignity.
Women Helping Women
For a Brighter Future

A selection of bracelets, necklaces, earrings
and beads all produced by the women of Noor

Not your typical Christmas tree!

Although Noor jewelry is on sale only in Kenya this Christmas, we do hope to be able to bring some back to Canada with us this spring. Our hope is that we'll have a website with a catalogue up and running this year to help the Noor ladies to market and sell their products. We are also very thankful for a few friends who have offered to sell some of the jewelry in their Canadian stores. If you are interested in learning more about how you can support these ladies or about purchasing their jewelry you can contact Erica at . Please continue to hold these women in your prayers!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Active Learning

Kara Carline and Lara Cochrane singing "Making Melodies in My Heart" with teacher Nelius and the students of the second Iftin English literacy class.

On Thursday morning, Kara Carline joined Erica in Eastleigh for a job-shadowing assignment with one of her high school classes at Rosslyn Academy. It was a lot of fun for the Iftin girls to have Kara and Lara, another volunteer visiting from Louisville, Kentucky, teaching them an interactive lesson on personal hygiene.

Subow, one of our student helpers, assisting a small group during a cooperative learning assignment during class one.

One of our goals within Iftin is to find ways of empowering women to become active learners. Within each class we use various problem solving and cooperative tasks to encourage confidence and independent thinking. Research has shown that developing such critical thinking skills is key to helping people over come the trap of poverty. We are very proud of each of these women as they take such initiative to improve their lives and the lives of their children.

The street in front of the community centre showing both the bounty and the bane of the rains which are now mercifully falling throughout Kenya. Despite the challenges of navigating the mud tracks, God's blessing of rain has brought new life into a dry and weary land!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wa Nabaad Football

The Wa Nabaad (Peace) Football Tournament was held on Saturday, November 7th at the Eastleigh Community Centre's football pitch -- With a big thanks to Rueben Mutua and the eight member implementation team of community youth whose hard made the day a huge success!
The tournament was built around the theme of "Building Peace". As part of our community mobilization strategy, the tournament enabled various emerging community leaders and youth to come together and discuss the issue of peace and unity within Eastleigh. Now that the tournament is over, these young people are continuing to meet and look at ways that they can be a positive influence for peace within their community.

When the planning for the tournament began back in August, we had hoped for 200 participants. It was a wonderful see the overwhelming community response as 368 Somali and Oromo youth registered. There were 28 teams in total.

Over a thousand community members also joined the excitement as spectators , cheering on their favorite teams. The biggest crowds gathered for the late afternoon playoff games and the awarding of trophies (and a 5000 ksh/- cash prize) to each of the championship teams.

Being a part of an organized tournament was very exciting for many of the community youth and children who largely play in informal matches.

Captains of the Itals Boys, champions of the seniors tournament, receiving their team trophy from Ehud Gachugu, director of the Eastleigh Community Centre.

The Shooting Stars were the winners
of the under 14 tournament

Rueben Mutua, program officer for the Eastleigh Community Centre, with captains of the Arsenal Boyz winners of the under 12 tournament.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Baby Talk

A very protective mother goose
at the Nest Children's Home
halfway house.

We are at that age and stage in life when many of our siblings and friends are having children. Since we moved to Kenya in 2006, Erica's sister Lori has had a baby boy, Tyler; Aaron's sister Amanda and Justin have had two boys, Dublin and Eliot; and Aaron's brother Adam and Ivy have had two girls Livia and Laurel. We are looking forward to seeing our growing family when we are home next year. We are also excited to see several of our good friends who have had babies over these past three years. Over the internet, we've been able to see how much they are growing, but it isn't the same as being home.

Scott and Lara Barnet with their
newborn daughter, Emma Nicole
Here in Kenya, our friends the Barnet family just gave birth to their first child, a beautiful baby girl. We pray for their safe journey back to the United States as they return to visit their family next week.

Erica helping out with
feeding time at the Nest

From time to time, we are able to take our kids to the Nest Children's Home to volunteer with their orphaned baby program. This is a special experience as this was the children's home that first received our Ava almost three years ago. Throughout Kenya abandoned and orphaned children present a huge need. We are thankful for organizations like the Nest and for programs like CBM's Guardians of Hope that take seriously our Christian responsibility to care for widows and orphans. It is a blessing for us to spend time cradling and loving these kids.

Ava cuddling one of the beautiful babies

Looking back on this past week

"Not My Style Day"

This was "School Spirit Week" at Rosslyn Academy, and Tristan and Emma had a lot of fun dressing up in silly costumes according to each day's theme. Tristan says that "Not my style day was the best!" Emma dressed up as her big brother, while Tristan had fun wearing his Hindi outfit from India.

Too cute!

While November continues to be a busy month, we are so thankful for the fun and laughter of each new day. Thank you for keeping our family in your prayers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Digging Deeper

After several weeks of canvasing the community and mobilizing vulnerable refugee woman, the Iftin Self Help Group (SHG) Team hosted a community mapping gathering with almost 150 prospective SHG members at the Eastleigh Community Centre.

"Unless you dig into the earth
you will not have food"
African Proverb

As we gathered, the women trickled into the community centre over an hour long period. While we waited for the program to start, we talked informally about Self Help groups and shared proverbs. One of the elder women became an enthusiastic voice for the program urging on the younger woman to take this opportunity seriously. Gathering up a handful of earth she shared a proverb about the need for working together and working hard: "Unless you dig into the earth you will not have food" she told them. Throughout our formal presentation, she cheered us on and was one of the first to join the mapping exercises.

Among the gathering were many of the eldest women of the community. It was remarkable to see the older generation calling the younger to change.

Aaron and the community facilitators discussing with the women about purpose and way forward for the Iftin Self Help Initiative.

Because of the size of the gathering the women divided up according to the part of Eastleigh where they are living

As the woman divided up into smaller groups, the community facilitators lead them through an exercise of drawing a community map: first in the sand and then on paper. Each of the team members did a fantastic job as they helped the participants capture the details of their community and discuss the dynamics of life in Eastleigh.

Each woman put her mark on the map, as the women described their parts of Eastleigh. At the close of the gathering, three self help groups were formed. Please pray for these woman as each of the three new self help groups will be meeting within the community on Monday.