Welcoming....

Welcoming....

We are happy to announce that six-year-old Lawrence joined the family at Veronica Home recently.  He was very, very ill when he first came and is currently being treated for health complications.  His body was so stressed and malnourished that his hair is completely white.  The children at Veronica have welcomed him with open arms and he is getting better day by day.  

(Please note that we always change the names of children when we tell you stories about them.  We hope to post a photo of Lawrence once he is well again.)

Ride for ReACT 2017

Ride for ReACT 2017

We are so grateful to our 15 Chain ReACTion riders and to all of our donors who made this year's ride day so much fun and such a success.  There were people who rode 50 miles, one brave soul who rode 100 miles, and then we all rode 25km together as a group.  The team spirit was infectious and it seems everyone wants to join us again next year.

The team raised well over $20,000!  This amount goes a long way in Kenya and will have real impact in real time.  Thank you to all of you who gave and all of you who shared our excitement as we rode again this year.

Ride Day!

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With only 2 days to go, our cycling team, Chain ReACTion is ready for show time!  This coming weekend we have 15 people signed up to ride one of three races designed to challenge our riding abilities.  Pictured above are some of the Team riders that came for our practice ride in August.  We are incredibly grateful for each one that has sacrificed time to be a part of this years ride as well as for every sponsor that has donated to our cause.  To date, we have raised between $15-$16,000 for the children of ReACT and it looks like this year we will have set a record for the most money raised to date.  Anyone can still donate HERE up until Saturday.  Stay tuned!  

On the Road...

Part of our cycling team, Chain ReACTion met for a training ride this past Saturday morning.  Four of us enjoyed a 55 km ride with 600m of climbing while a couple made a 25km ride on another route.  Riding with great people in good weather is a real treat so come join us on July 22 for our next team ride.  If you are interested in riding, joining our team or supporting a rider on our September event day you can find out more at www.chainreactionriders.com .  If the ride itself does not excite you, I can guarantee you that Brenda’s home baking and coffee after the ride will put a smile on your face!  

Reunion

This most recent visit to Kenya was one of reunion and the continuation of precious friendship.  

ReACT is privileged to have on its Canadian board Daniel Lipparelli who lived in Kitale, Kenya for 8 years and was the founder of Veronica Home.  This February Daniel met Michael in Kitale so they could visit friends together, all of whom Daniel had not seen in 5 years.  

Daniel and Mark leading a training session

Daniel was touched to see how the children have grown and are living such healthy, happy lives.  He saw that the ReACT staff have rich relationships with each other and are thriving together.  "I was overjoyed to see how happy and healthy the children are! I was also blown away by the outstanding staff, seeing their dedication and love for each child. I am so thankful for Mark and his leadership!"  Probably most exciting for Daniel was seeing Mark Kamondi.  Mark is the Kenyan director of ReACT now, but Daniel has known him since he was a young teenager.  Daniel was a mentor to Mark and so is delighted to see how Mark has flourished.  It was a long-awaited reunion of two brothers.

Motorcycles

There is a stark difference in the West in how we view a motorcycle. To me, it is a recreational toy for my personal enjoyment on those few days in Canada warm enough to ride. On my trip to Kenya in 2014, I saw how integral these two-wheeled machines are to everyday life.

 

Mark Kamondi sees his 125cc Jailing as a lifeline to those he serves. As full-time manager, the motorcycle he drives every day is one of the essential tools in keeping ReACT Kenya’s ministry functional. His regular contact and physical presence with those in Home-based Care, the deaf school, and other satellite locations is key to providing feedback and making changes to assist in the most cost effective and culturally relevant ways.

 

This little Chinese bike has been through torrential downpour, knee deep mud, and has seen more dust and stone chips than any Ontario back country road can throw at you. And after many miles and multiple repairs, the time has come to upgrade this and the other ReACT bike to something more reliable.

 

My appeal comes as a fellow motorcycle rider and one who has driven the roads of Kenya first hand on these machines. The dangers of potholes the size of a car, road washouts from rain, and an no-rules driving culture requires a responsive and reliable machine. Keeping Mark and the team safely moving ReACT forward is a goal worth getting behind.

 

We have priced out these machines in the local market with Mark and have come to understand that a median price would be $1,500 - $2,000 CDN for one bike. Our goal is to purchase two this February. The old units will be sold back into the resale market to offset the cost of the new bikes.

 

Please consider partnering with ReACT on this. I know it may not have the glamour of a picture on the fridge - however, I have seen the look on an orphan’s face when Mark arrives – his bike coming down the lane is a reminder to these kids that people care.


Donate now by clicking on the Take Action button. Please indicate “React Kenya – motorcycles” in the memo section.

Mike Smele

 

A Great Light

If I were to reflect on the past year for ReACT, I would summarize it by telling you of a story that has surfaced in the last 2 weeks relating to of one of our boys at the Veronica Home.

 

Each December, the children at the Veronica Home return home to extended family to celebrate Christmas and strengthen the ties with their local communities.  One such boy (that will remain nameless out of respect for his privacy) returned to his grandmother’s home about 2 weeks ago to find that he had just missed two funerals for two of his brothers.  Both had passed away from HIV, the very disease that took his sister’s life about 5 years ago as well as his parents’ lives before to that.  It is also the life sentence that brought him to us at the Veronica Home.  

 

Grief.  

Brokenness.

Darkness.

 

About a month ago, this particular boy went for his regular analysis at a doctor that monitors each child’s HIV levels.  At this time, the doctor asked our staff,

 

“What have you been doing to this boy?!  Whatever it is, keep it up!”  

 

Apparently, the levels of his disease are low enough that the doctor does not need to see him for 3 months.  

 

Joy.  

Thankfulness.

Light.

 

A sharp contrast to the rest of his family.  

 

There is urgency to this work and there are many more children who need the hope that the Veronica Home brings.  Like Aaron, we can literally be the ones who “take fire from the altar and stand between the living and the dead” Numbers 16.

 

Rescued” is not too dramatic a word to be used when we describe what is happening with these children.  The years of “Restoration” at the Veronica Home are nothing short of miraculous as they are equipped to ultimately be “Released” back into their communities as a testimony of hope to all who know them.  

 

Light in a dark place.

 

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

 

Thank you for carrying the urgency of this vision with us in 2016.  

Michael

Rescue, Restore, Release

Rescue, Restore, Release

For 2016, ReACT's focus has been on three projects where we have seen great results.  Our vision is strong for the Veronica Home, the Home-Based Care Program, and for the elementary school students who are deaf.  In each of these projects, Rescue speaks to our desire to identify and reach the most needy children in the community.  Restore refers to the journey each child takes during the years of partnership.  It is our hope that they will find healing and will become equipped so that they can one day be Released.  After 10 years we are excited to see the oldest of our children moving back into their communities with the skills they have learned.  

Thank you for the way you have partnered with us this past year.  We are looking forward to a 2017 full of new ideas and new relationships.

Merry Christmas from the entire ReACT team

Vital Signs

Vital Signs

Children in Kenya have been out of school for the months of November and December to allow for a new exam-writing schedule.  The time can be long for children at who are at home, but it has been a great opportunity for ReACT's Kenyan staff to visit the families we are supporting through Home-Based Care.  

Mark found the six families he visited to be well and each telling a different story.  There was the grandmother who is recovering from malaria, the youth who had just written their Grade 8 exams and were waiting for the results, families who were in need of some money to buy clothes for the children, and some who were only in need of the usual monthly food drop.  

Mike Smele, a Barrie man and friend of ReACT, visited the HBC families a couple of years ago and shared his impressions with us:  

The experience of visiting the Home-Based Care initiative was shocking to my sheltered, western idea of home life.  The warm reception at my arrival almost led me to believe the homes were normal environments of regular, nuclear families.  The truth couldn't be further in that most had suffered great loss of parental figures due to HIV/AIDS and the political strife of not so long ago.  Family units comprised mostly of an elderly woman with children from multiple deceased parents of the greater extended family had come together under one roof to survive what we would consider horrific circumstances.  Sitting with these aunties and great-grandmothers over chai in waddle and daub huts as they explained their day-to-day trials was heartbreaking and encouraging all at the same time.

The impression left with me is just how vital this work is in assisting children to stay with their families and be raised by those who know and love them best.

 

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We are beyond delighted to officially announce the arrival of Trevour Mindoti Kamondi, new son of Mark and Laura.  He was born Thursday October 20th at 7.7 lbs and he and Laura are doing very well.  For years Mark has lived on site at Veronica Home, but shortly he and his new little family will move to their own place not too far away.

Trevour, we send you our blessings and our love!

Kukus

Kukus

I visited a friend today and while we chatted she gathered these eight eggs from the chicken coop in her yard and sent me home with them.  Tomorrow morning we will crack them open and their dark yellow buttery yolks will feed my family.  Having just received a recent email with news of the kukus (chickens) at Veronica Home I found myself thinking of the children there as I relished these little gifts.

Eggs are little powerhouses of nutrition, full of protein, vitamins and minerals.  And thanks to the kuku project the children are able to benefit from them regularly.

There are now 42 chickens and 40 chicks and the folks at Veronica have their eyes set on even more so they can be both eating and selling more eggs and more chickens.

Good nutrition is so important for children whose immune systems are compromised and we are so happy that they now have so many eggs available in their own yard.  Self-sustainability is also so important in the developing world and so we are happy to see such ingenuity playing out as the kuku project grows.

Kathryn 

Ride for ReACT a Success!

Ride for ReACT a Success!

Our team of nine cyclists rode this past weekend despite rain and wind and when all was done they had raised over $13,000 for the work of ReACT.  Thank you to our riders and to all of their sponsors.  

This cycling event is gruelling  - 80 km of hills - and all done by ordinary people, some of whom only took up cycling a few years ago.  When waiting for the ride to start they all feel daunted, nervous, even afraid.  But they finish with big smiles and a sense that we have been part of something great.  Congratulations team Chain ReACTion!  Onwards towards next year...

Echoes of Africa

I remember visiting the Johabeto Home after a long absence. Our dust trail must have been visible from a long way off because Martin and Ruth Shikuku, adorned with a layered skirt of a dozen bright-eyed children, surrounded our car, dancing, leaping, and ululating until we arrived.  We were ushered in with fanfare. They hung glittering garlands around our necks and continued to lavish songs and celebrations upon us.

We offered back handshakes and a hug.

How tepid.

I am moved by the way Kenyans channel joy or grief. They have an outlet for raw, visceral emotion. I observed the same expressions among the children at the Veronica Home, and even, remarkably, the students at St. Anthony’s School for the Deaf. They feel with their bodies, their souls, and their lusty cries.

I, on the other hand, have learned to polish feelings.

I train my children to be emotionally regulated. Resilient. Stoic.

Ruth Shikuku saw the need to to teach me to ululate.

She laughed at my feeble, controlled attempts to let a full-throated cry rush from my lungs. Again and again, she modeled the marriage of sound and piercing emotion. Her lips spread and she released a long, wavering howl, trilling with the rapid back and forth movement of tongue against uvula.

I heard war welling deep in her chest.

This summer, I took my children to Killbear Provincial Park. From the cliffs, we watched the sun set over the bay. Then, we saw the moon rise. Low, large, otherworldly. 

Someone howled like a mournful, lone wolf. His cry was answered, deep in the park, by other campers haunted by the moon. Then, forgetting myself, I ululated, Ruth-like, into the night. My cry ricocheted back. My girls chimed in, wailing with release and delight. Then, ripples formed - loudly at first, then faintly, as our ululations spread across the park. 

We stool still, letting them rain over us, these familiar and beloved echoes of Africa.

August 18, Killbear Provincial Park

August 18, Killbear Provincial Park

By Manon Christensen

 

Example of ululation (not by Manon Christensen):

https://soundstudies.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/zaghareet-egypt.mp3

Sisters of Hope

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Hope has found a home. It has almost been two years since Hope (not her real name) made her home at the Veronica Home.  This past week she had an operation on her one hand to rectify the damage her illness had done.  After several days she returned to her family at Veronica Home although further work is still required.

Hope is finding healing.

She has found a family...a home.

Hope has sisters and brothers that care for and love her.

Most of all, she is finding a Saviour that loves her unconditionally.

When our Kenyan team found her, her parents had passed away from HIV, and then her grandmother.  She was staying with a guardian and 6 other children in a slum, often without food and never with her medication.  She almost certainly would not be with us today if she did not transition to the Veronica Home.

Thank you for being  part of Hope's transformation and for helping write this chapter of her story.

There are many more stories waiting to be written.

Chain REACTion and Centurion

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Its that time again when we are planning and looking forward again to our third annual Centurion Ride. We are inviting you to be a part of the ride team that we have rebranded as "Chain REACTion". This year's event will take place on September 16-18 at the Blue Mountain resort with the C50 and C100 on Saturday and the Kid's Ride and C25 on Sunday. You can take advantage of the early registration and save $30 up until April 15.  Find everything you need to know about this event here get signed up and get those legs spinning!.

Family Day!

March Family SwimFamily Day 2 Every family needs it.  Deliberately planned time away from daily routine.

Presently, my family and I are on a family vacation and nothing unites us like time together around a pool.

The children at the Veronica Home recently started a similar "family tradition" as well!  Not far away, in the town of Kitale, is a hotel with a new in-ground pool and for a small fee, the Veronica family enjoys a day of luxury that few children their age get to enjoy.  Swimming and a meal of "chips" is something these kids will not soon forget and is a part of raising healthy adults for tomorrow's Kenya.

What are you doing to invest in your family memories?

Kings and Queens

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Kings and Queens The rich of the world are not found in Hollywood.

I returned last week from staying two weeks at the Veronica Home in Kenya and it has reminded me that these children are some of the wealthiest of the earth...

Looking into the bright eyes of H after her last 18 months of transformation from the brink of death.

Listening to the laughter of two year old A as he chases M around the compound before they tumble onto each other into a heap of dust.

Seeing D’s face light up as he proudly tells you of his recent grade on an exam.

Hoisting M into the air and spinning him around to the sound of squeals of delight both from him as well as the 11 other children waiting for their turn.

All fighting, and mostly winning their battle with "the un-cureable".

The wealthy of the earth wash themselves out of a plastic pan of water and soap.

The rich use a pit latrine each day.

The rock stars of the earth do not have elaborate closets full of clothes.

They use kerosene lamps to do homework in the evenings.

No, you can’t find stories of the truly rich and famous in the Entertainment section.

I found them in a hidden place.

Like "treasure in a field".

And I realized that I was the rich one for having spent time with them.

The Kings and Queens of the earth.

The Educated

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“Send me to school” a thin voice begs. A small bottle dangles from his upper lip, glued firmly in place so that both hands are free to grasp each other in prayer. His large pupils are coated with a buttery glaze. He is one of the many street children in Kitale who struggles with addictions. “Send me to school”, he echoes as though the first try didn’t have the impetus to reach me.I purse my lips, and no words are able to force their way through. I can only take his hand gloved with callous and grime. School. What positive connotations the word has in Kenya. It is a privilege to go to school. However, despite the free education policy that the government has instated, some families are still unable to afford a uniform and basic supplies. Children with disabilities are even less likely to be enrolled in school. According to Fatma Wangare, the chief executive officer of the Kenya Association of the Intellectually Handicapped, “Many children are denied admission in schools, especially children with [an] intellectual disability. The denial is based on disability - for example not being toilet-trained, lack of speech and language - which is very unconstitutional,” she explains. According to Deaf Child Worldwide Internal Report, only 4% of deaf children attend school (2009). Deaf children simply cannot fit into a conventional school system. In fact, some of the deaf children we met in Kenya didn’t know their own name. ReACT now sends 39 children to Saint Anthony’s School for the Deaf. They learn to communicate. They learn a trade. They find purpose. They discover hope. Still, I press the small hand tucked into my own and feel at a loss. Children from the slums are equally disadvantaged. He reevaluates his priorities: “Seesta, give me bread”. For today, that is something I can do.

Manon