Upon arriving, we were greeted by all the children. They greeted us by singing a number of songs heartily in their orangey red or green sweater uniforms. We felt welcome! It was much poorer than I expected it to be. Though the kitchen/dining room was a new cement brick building, they still cooked over an open fire in a small shack and had no tables or chairs to sit on. They had some sort of runny porridge for breakfast and then 2 meals of beans and maize (corn) mixed together plus boiled potatoes or carrots or cabbage. Meat is rare. There is no wondering what they are going to eat every day.
The cement brick girls’ dorm is new as of September, 2006 but the boys’ dorm is 2 tin buildings with plenty of air ventilation. The new boys’ dorm should be completed this June. Each grade (kindergarden to grade 8) has its own tin building with rugged cardboard holding some knowledge. The wooden and worn desks are occupied by many children and looking as if they are ready to fall apart.Most children have a uniform but not all have shoes. At one point, I playfully asked a boy where his other shoe was. That is when it hit me that he only had one shoe!
The staff at HopeCC consists of 15 adults: some teachers, a cook, 2 night watchmen, a man who takes care of their 2 pigs and piglets plus their 4 cows, some house parents, and of course Lucy. Their budget is $40,000 a year which includes $2000 per month for their food. This is the total expense to feed, clothe, school, give needed medical treatment, etc for just under 200 children! Needless to say, there have been many months over the years when they struggled financially. Just this last time that we were there, I discovered that every Wednesday nobody eats, it is a day of fasting. With the food not eaten on that one day, they are able to invite around 75 HIV positive women to their complex once a week as well as give them beans and maize to take back home. This humbled me greatly.
It is the leadership of Lucy Gacheru, being only 30 years old, that impresses us so much. She grew up in the same area as the orphanage is located. Growing up in poverty amongst 8 siblings, Lucy grew up with compassion and determination to someday help those enduring hardship. Her heart is evident to be full of love for “her” many children. They call her “mama Lucy” and hold much respect and love for her.
None of the children have a mom or dad nor do they know their birthday. On our first trip to Kenya in January, Henry and I had many opportunities to enrich the lives of those at the orphanage. Besides the purchase of the 10.4 acres, we paid for 23 high school students to start school (their school year begins in January) since they didn’t have enough finances to send them (costs about $500 per student for room and board for the year). This process included supplying them each with a mattress, blankets, towels, sandals, sheet sets, underwear, and metal storage box. That was fun! The new boys’ dorm had stopped its construction due to lack of funds so we offered to pay to complete it. The next day there were 6 men working on it – and it cost $20 per day for all 6! The dining room was one big bare room so it was arranged for some men to come and measure the area and make tables and chairs for 200 to fit into the room. The area along the kitchen/dining building was muddy and so a slab of concrete was hand mixed on the ground and poured. A grill for the new kitchen was ordered to be made so that all the cooking could be done there. An underground water tank was very much needed so that was begun and electricity was applied for to be brought into the orphanage. They did have a solar panel on the roof of the girls’ dorm so had some energy from that source. We also bought the needed curriculum for their school. This consisted of 2 books per subject per grade. One book was for the teacher and one was for the rest of the class. The pencils were cut in three in order for all to have access to one. We were busy the 5 days that we were there but it was a wonderful busy.
The second time we went to Kenya, beginning of April, we had different goals in mind. We checked on the progress that we had set in motion in January – the boy’s dorm wasn’t complete yet but progressing, there were tables and chairs in the dining room, the old cooking shack was gone and all cooking was being done in the good kitchen, the cement slab looked wonderful in front of the kitchen/dining building, and the high school students were returning for their month break of April. One goal of ours was to buy 3 more acres down by the creek so that a guest house can be built there. Right now, there is no room for any group of people to stay on location. A guest house would allow others to experience the fullness of the orphanage and also have their own kitchen in order to cook their own food. Henry and I know from experience that it isn’t fun to get sick there. Now the plans need to be drawn, approved and hopefully started in August.
My other goal this trip was to take a picture of each child and have them write their life story so that I could instigate a sponsorship program. It was a big job but successful with the help of one of their teachers. They write fluent English and are eager to interact with us Canadians. We have much to learn from them!
This last trip also took Henry and I to another orphanage whom some of you may have read the life story of the founder, Charles Mulli. The book, Father to the Fatherless really impacted Henry and so when we received a reply from Charles to visit two of his 5 orphanages in Kenya, we were excited. He is a great business man and also has a huge heart for the street children, especially the girls who have been so mistreated. Charles is conducting several projects so that his orphanages can become self-sufficient.
Our intent is for Lucy to learn from and be inspired by Charles regarding her vision for Hope CC.
The heart of the orphanage is their gratefulness to God. To hear them sing and dance with so much energy and watch them as they pray earnestly is truly uplifting. Their trust is in a God who cares for them and gives them a future of hope. Many of their letters reflect their gratefulness to God. It was very humbling for Henry and I who come from a land of such plenty and waste.
We are very pleased to be involved in Hope CC in North Kinangop, Kenya. We are committing to long term involvement in walking along side of Lucy in her dreams for these children. What a privilege for all of us to offer opportunities in creating hope for those who were hopeless. How very blessed we are to touch their lives and in return be touched so deeply by them.