Dear ReACT Partners, Merry Christmas to you all! As each Christmas comes along, I am continually amazed at the Christmas story again. The Incarnation finds God wrapping Himself in flesh and sneaking in the “back door” as a Baby. His example to us is to put “flesh and bone” to our faith and I am so thankful for your partnership and example of this in the past year in doing just that. As 2012 quickly comes to a close, I often look at this time of year both in reflection as well as anticipation for the New Year coming. As I have been reflecting I find myself thankful and as I consider what is ahead, I am both sobered and excited.
In considering 2013, I am sobered for the same reason I am excited. ReACT is growing and expanding as we are moving towards the sponsorship of upwards of 50 new children starting in 2013. Our vision has always been to respond to people instead of imposing our vision and ideas onto the local people there and a couple of opportunities have come to us over the past few months.
The first new opportunity is to help OVC's (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) through a Home Based Care model. While I cannot expand fully on this at this time, I will be able to in the coming month. Since the beginning, ReACT's vision statement has always been... "To rescue and ensure the well-being of OVC's by establishing simple, cost-effective and culturally relevant environments for their care." The Home Based Care (HBC) model falls directly into this vision. Essentially, HBC is simply coming behind OVC's as they are cared for in their natural environments, living with extended family, schooling and developing in their native areas. The hurdle to this has always been a lack of funding for an existing family member to care for the extra child/children. By simply having one of our team members, Anne, a trained Kenyan Social Worker visit the homes on a monthly basis and delivering some supplies to the home once a month, the otherwise displaced child can remain with family, in their local school and live a culturally relevant lifestyle. Both Mark and Anne will make regular visits to both ensure the children are doing fine as well as encourage the family members through monthly teaching and worship. Our role is to simply come behind those already caring for these OVC's and pray that a door opens up for us to present the hope of the Gospel as we do so. Mark, the Kenyan powerhouse behind ReACT, is a gifted young man who himself was raised and cared for as an orphan. Today, he carries a vision to pastor and care for these children.
The other opportunity that has come to us is caring for several children that are suffering in a unique circumstance in the area. Again, while I cannot expand on this at this time, I will be able to in January 2013. This is still a work in progress and although I am very excited about this new work, I have been asked to wait to expand on this. We will update you on this project as things progress.
These two new projects are both an exciting as well as overwhelming opportunity for us at ReACT but we have felt that we are not to shrink back into the comfort of the familiar. It is and will be a season of being stretched, but by God's grace we trust that the needs of these children will be met as we take a step of faith into this new year. If any of these projects interest you or if you have any questions or thoughts, we welcome them as we try together to walk ahead in this. If you would care to give towards either of these new works, please feel free to contact us about this. Stay tuned for more details!
Of course, we have not forgotten about the other projects we have been partnering with this past year! The past year has seen just over 70 handicapped children put through another year of school between three specialty schools. As you may know from our previous emails and blogs, last year we began sending some of these handicapped children back home again as contributors in their communities. While the deaf children of St. Anthony's are more likely to progress through the school system, the physical and mental hurdles facing most of the children at St. Teresa's can cause them to "max out" their benefit at the school. We are finding that most are better off returning home again although the timing of such is different depending on each individual circumstance. Last year, we saw a young man from this school return to his single mother instead of back to school for classes in 2012. In his years at St. Teresa's, he had excelled in the Agricultural class with a love for animal care. Instead of returning to school, his fees were used to purchase a cow that he has been using at home to contribute to both his single mother as well as community. This was very encouraging to witness for both us as well as the community!
Last winter, I brought to the Deaf School in Webuye a number of hearing aids to see if this may be an answer for some of the children in their education. Many children are treated as deaf simply because they do not have access to a simple hearing aid! Traditional hearing aids are problematic in Kenya for a couple of reasons. First, the dusty conditions in the dry season and the wet conditions in the rainy season make can make them difficult to maintain. Secondly, their dependence upon batteries makes them difficult to maintain because of access to batteries as well as the costs associated with them. While we cannot control the weather and conditions, we can teach the children proper care. The hearing aids that we brought them are still reliant upon batteries but the units are rechargeable using a solar panel. This removes the regular cost of replacing batteries as well as the issue of locating the batteries themselves in often remote areas. We have had good reports from the teacher that has been monitoring the children using these hearing aids but we are still somewhat reserved in drawing our own conclusions at this time. I plan to travel to Kenya in January 2013 and plan on seeing first hand how the past year has faired for these children and their hearing aids. Continue to stay posted in the months to come for a full report on this project!
In 2011, Daniel Juma and his wife Anastasia underwent wonderful transformations as they moved out of the town of Kitale and into the countryside onto 5 acres of land. ReACT no longer is a regular monthly supporter of this home and for this we celebrate! (You read that right!) While the Juma Home still has a number of needs, they have taken a step towards independence as they move towards being able to produce enough food on their new land to feed the 20 extra children they have in their family. They have a number of family businesses that are going well and constantly growing. The bicycle business is still going although it has been overshadowed by the motorcycle transportation business. The children are involved in various small businesses such as raising chickens, selling cows milk and selling popcorn in town. One of the Juma's son's, John has been supporting himself for a couple of years already as he has witnessed his father's example of an entrepreneurial spirit! ReACT has shifted some sponsorship towards John as he has taken two OVC's into his home to care for them in the same way his father has shown him over the past number of years. "He only does what he sees his father doing!" Our role is temporary as we are simply coming behind what John is already doing on his own. You can read more about this in a blog from earlier this year.
Martin and Ruth Shikuku are continuing with their vision of caring for the underprivileged children in their home. As you may recall, in 2010, their home was radically transformed as friends from the U.S. both raised the funds and provided the manpower to build several buildings on a new lot of land. The children are doing well and we recently received a good report that many of the children are at the top of their class in the local public school. This family has its share of challenges and while things are moving ahead, we are praying for wisdom and direction as we pray about how we can best help this home for 2013.
The year 2013 also saw the beginning of our participation in the Ride For Refuge. This past summer, my good friend Tim Gordon initiated ReACT in the autumn ride that raised over $3,600 for the children of Kenya and for this we are incredibly grateful! Our Team of four rode on a beautiful fall morning through the Caledon Hills to raise funds for these kids. We plan on adding a page to our web site exclusively for this Ride if any of you are interested in riding with us next autumn. Keep posted for more deets!
From the start, we have always recognized that the strength of ReACT has also been our weakness. Each dollar donated is sent to the purpose for which it was intended with nothing skimmed for administration. All of those involved with ReACT have done so as volunteers. As ReACT expands and grows in 2013, we do plan on caring for both Mark and Anne in Kenya by paying them a salary though this will be paid for from a specific personal donor so that you, the sponsors, can know that 100% of your donation is still going towards the care of the children. Another of our weakness has been keeping you, our partners, properly updated and informed. As we shift and grow, we will be trying to better keep you informed through the work of Mark and Anne on the ground in Kitale. There is still much to accomplish and we appreciate your prayers and continued support in the future, especially with the changes that 2013 will bring!
For anyone still hoping to make a donation for 2012, we remind you that we need to receive your donation by Christmas in order to process it before the end of this year. A charitable receipt can only be given for donations made within Canada though we are so appreciative of our American and European partners! Our contact information can be found at www.reactkenya.com .
In short, we want to thank all of you, our friends, for believing and entrusting your hard earned funds to ReACT. We are honored to serve as a part of the bridge between you and these children and pray that we can continue in 2013 in the many directions that God is taking us. The new year is bringing with it new horizons and we ask that you listen to the Ghost in knowing if and how you are to continue partnering with us. The children of Kenya join us in saying “Asante!”.
Michael and Manon Christensen