Advent is not really meant to be a time of thankfulness. It is a time of preparing, expecting, waiting. We are all meant to be holding off for Christmas morn when our joy and thankfulness can come pouring out and yet we often find that this time of year is one of profound gratitude. We become aware of what we have and, more acutely, what others do not. As we approach Christmas and reflect on the past year, we are immensely grateful for the ways in which children and their families in Kenya have been blessed. We are thankful to donors who are supporting those children, and thankful to God who makes it all possible.2013 was an enormous year of transition for ReACT as we welcomed two new projects into the fold: the Veronica Home and home-based care (HBC). Initially unsure about the financial implications of these additions, we have seen God’s provision and for that we are incredibly grateful! We are also so thankful for the team on the ground that has made the transition a smooth one.
The Veronica Home is named after a young girl named Veronica who died in July of 2009 at the age of 7 to chicken pox. She was HIV positive and so when she contracted chicken pox, it was too much for her compromised immune system and she passed away in her sleep at her home. The Veronica Home currently has 11 children, 9 of them being HIV+. The home provides a great family environment and a well-balanced menu to help build up each of the children’s immune systems. The home has a small garden on the property and was recently blessed with a greenhouse by a team from Canada. The vegetables that have been growing in this garden and in the greenhouse have been a blessing to the children and have helped cut food costs. Because of the ability to eat many vegetables, the children’s health has improved so much that some of them have had their medication reduced as they have shown signs of better immune strength. The Veronica Home has applications for 5 more children living with HIV and our hope is that we will be able to take these children into the home in 2014. The Veronica Home sits on land that is now owned by ReACT and just within this year we have been able to make some significant improvements to the property: building an outdoor cooking area, erecting a greenhouse, and finishing a hut. All of these projects were made possible by unsolicited donations - thank you!
The home-based care (HBC) program assists orphaned children living with grandparents or aunts and uncles. Extra children can sometimes cause strain on a family that is already struggling, and so ReACT endeavours to support these families so that vulnerable children can stay in a home environment. Every month, our team on the ground goes to each of the homes and delivers food to the children and their families. School fees are paid for at the beginning of the year and basic school supplies, including uniforms, are purchased through the program. At the end of 2013 we have 68 children in home-based care who are receiving food and education.
Our long time relationship with Martin and Ruth Shikuku and their children’s home, JOHABETO is moving along well. They currently have 45 children living in the home, many of whom live with disabilities. They have had a few hardships in 2013 but they have remained positive through them. In February, JOHABETO did lose one of their children: Naomi. It was hard on the family but thankfully, they pressed into God and had a peace in knowing she was whole and healed in Heaven. In August, with the heavy rains from the rainy season, the pond that JOHABETO had put in to raise fish for eating and selling, flooded and killed about one thousand fish. It was a big loss to the home but they remain positive for the future of becoming partially self-sustainable. We are so grateful for Martin and Ruth and the hearts they have for caring for children who are vulnerable.
St. Anthony’s School for the Deaf in Webuye presently has 37 children that ReACT is sponsoring. This school has a curriculum that follows a similar system to that in our public schools in North America, that is a kindergarten to Grade 8. We are excited to see that some of our students have actually written the national grade 8 exams in the last month and are anxiously waiting their results. What a joy to see these children succeed in completing this level of education given the family backgrounds and culture that actually views disabled children as a curse. There are many smiles on faces in this place!
We are also pleased to see that as each year passes, we actually have fewer and fewer children at St. Teresa’s Handicapped School also in Webuye. While most children are continuing on at the deaf school, St. Anthony’s, annually the number of children sponsored at the handicapped school called St. Teresa’s is being reduced. Unlike the standard kindergarten to Grade 8 program that the children at St. Anthony’s follows, the challenges facing the children at Teresa’s are so unique and diverse that it is virtually impossible for them to follow a standard education program. Some struggle with Down's Syndrome, some with mental or physical disabilities. The program here at this school aims to equip each child with a skill unique to their desires and abilities, some in carpentry, some in craft making, farming, knitting or other skills. Since each child has a unique capacity, Mark and Martin Shikuku assess with the teachers there when each child has reached the potential that the school has to offer. In past years, our team has visited the homes of some of these children and prepared the care-giver to receive this child back to their homes but with one difference. As each child gravitates towards a specific craft or trade, the final year of support is pooled and the child is sent home with tools and materials to now become a contributor to their home’s income. In the one instance last year, we were able to send home a young man with a calf to care for. In time, this calf will produce milk as well as an income and make this young man a contributor not only to his family, but also to his community. This is our goal for all the children at St. Teresa’s that they would receive a passion, a skill, the confidence and tools to become active adults in the community and in doing so, in time, break any prejudice and fear others may have of them. We are grateful to see this happening!
Everything that ReACT is part of is possible because of our wonderful Kenyan team who give so much of themselves and our wonderful international team of donors. As we reflect on the past year and as we wait for the Christ child to come we are truly filled with gratitude for each of you.
It is important that our donors know that 100% of your donations go directly to support the children in Kenya without any taken for administration. This past year ReACT was able to begin providing salaries to both Mark and Anne who work tremendously hard on the ground, but those come from a specific donor and not from your givings.
For anyone still hoping to give before the end of the year, we need to receive any donations by Friday December 20th in order for them to be processed before Christmas and for you to receive a 2013 tax receipt. A charitable receipt can only be issued for donations made within Canada, though we are grateful to our partners from outside of Canada! Cheques can be made out to Assists Projects - ReACT Kenya and can be sent to: ReACT Kenya, 24 Whispering Pines Place, Barrie, ON, L4M 9R7 Michael is planning to visit Kitale in the late winter and is excited to connect with so many dear friends and to see all that is happening. Please stay tuned to the website for photos and updates!
Advent blessings, Michael and Manon Christensen