Veronica Home

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.

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.

a New Man

Ab and Sam
Ab and Sam

Just a few months ago, the Veronica Home welcomed another boy known as "John". John was abandoned at the Kitale District Hospital with severe malnutrition and HIV. When Mark, our Kenyan Manager first saw the boy, he said he "felt like crying. Though his father and mother abandoned him, his heavenly Father will not abandon him". Today, just three months later, John has found himself in a family and doing quite well. Pictured above is John with one of his new brothers, his "twin" Sam who also came from the same hospital some time previously. Pictured below is John with some of his new siblings.

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10 of Veronica Kids
Sam and Ab
Sam and Ab

We are grateful John has a new family. We are grateful for the transformation in his health. We are grateful for friends like you who make this possible.

Kennedy and Ab
Kennedy and Ab

Three-year-old boys

We are reeling here in Canada this week as we process the image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, body limp and lifeless. We are ashamed and angered and full of sorrow. I have been glued to the radio these last two days waiting for someone to do something. My church applied to sponsor a Syrian family 5 months ago and we have done nothing but wait in these months since. As we wait the feelings of helplessness become more and more acute, and this week they are unbearable.

It is true that millions have been displaced these past four years and yet it seems this one image was needed to inspire the masses.

We just don't want to see dead three-year-old boys.

Two days ago we in Canada received word about another three-year-old who we'll call John. John was abandoned by his mother at the hospital, severely malnourished and HIV positive. Mark Kamondi says, "After seeing him my heart broke and I felt like crying." Mark decided that John would be welcomed into Veronica Home as the newest member of the family.

I am struck by how blessed we are to have someone on the ground in Kenya who is full of compassion, someone who acts, who recognizes the value of a tiny little life.

As I mourn the death of a little Syrian boy I never knew, I rejoice in the life of little John.

Kathryn

Worth Celebrating!

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Unlike Westerners, a birthday party in many African countries is not something that is typically celebrated. Besides being viewed as an unnecessary expense, for many children, especially as an orphan or vulnerable child, their birthdays are not known since many come from many disadvantaged backgrounds. For some, they may have been abandoned at the local hospital or the Children's Department by the mother leaving those who care for them as well as the child only a guess at what the actual birthday would have been.

Recently, the children of the Veronica Home were celebrated with a party that few in Kenya have ever seen and for these children, the celebration was one they will not soon forget! Even the announcement to the children of a birthday party sent them into celebration. The neighbouring Neema Project girls, another children's home and even some of the surrounding community joined in the festivities as the 14 children of the Veronica Home were celebrated like never before. Here is what Mark Kamondi, our Kenyan Director had to say about the event…

"Our main reason to celebrate these children is to show them how much we love them and we care about them. All have come from different backgrounds from which no one was ever worth celebrating them as a person. Seeing their happiness and joy that day was moving as we celebrated the birthday of 14 children, not wanting any to be left out. During this birthday party, we ate, we drank, we shared God's word and prayed for each of the children. It will be a day that none of them will forget!"

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Did you know that YOU too are worth celebrating? You have a Father who loves you and rejoices over you in the same way. May none of us ever forget that! Mark Kamondi celebrates with the Chlidren

palm sunday

for one week every year i become liturgical. i go to five different services and experience foot-washing, fourteen stations of artwork, candlelight, and a sunrise. but it all begins with palm branches.

last year it was hard for me to be in kenya during Holy Week. the western evangelical church has so influenced christianity in kenya that no-one even knew what Holy Week was. when i proclaimed excitedly to everyone at veronica house that we would be with them for palm sunday, all i got were blank faces.

the night before palm sunday mark kamondi said with a big smile, So, you're preaching for us tomorrow! he loves to joke, so i laughed and quipped something back and didn't think any more about it. (the whole family at veronica home along with girls from the neema project meet together each sunday for their own church service.) the next morning, 15 minutes before the service started, mark said to me again, So you're preaching for us! You're serious?!, i said.

he was indeed serious.

i grabbed my bible and flipped to the passage where Jesus comes into jerusalem on a donkey, the joyous beginning to a most dreadful week. i found out the word for donkey in swahili - punda - and suddenly i had a sunday school lesson. we talked about the punda and what kind of animal it is, which was so much more poignant in kenya, where we see donkeys pulling carts everywhere. we talked about why a great man like Jesus would choose such a lowly animal as a punda as His way to make an entrance. i taught them the song, "Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!", which was what the crowds called out as Jesus passed by.

we had quickly asked the farmer next door to cut off branches from his banana trees and i passed them out and we had a lively procession around the yard waving branches and singing. i don't know what everyone in the veronica family thought of the whole thing, but it was definitely the most lovely palm sunday service i have ever been part of.

kathryn

Shamba

Just yesterday we put a section of our garden to bed, said good-bye to it for the winter. We pulled up the tomato plants and turned over the earth. Already I'm dreaming of what we will plant next year. Over the summer most of our meals contained zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, onions. Now it's time to eat the hardier veggies: beets and carrots and brussels sprouts. I love the garden. I love that we get to eat from the work of our own hands and that our children are learning to grow their own food.

People in Kenya were so interested in my shamba (garden) at home and it was fun to compare notes. Above you'll see me working in the shamba at Veronica Home, weeding between the kale. In the background is the greenhouse, full of tomatoes. Behind me are green onions, and on the fence are passion fruit. As I write this I am looking out the window at my front yard where I can see about 10 kale plants growing. We have just pulled up all the green onions, lovingly planted and tended by 8-year-old Joseph. Sadly we don't have passion fruit here in downtown Toronto. I guess blueberries from the market will have to do.

Here in urban Canada a vegetable garden is a novelty. It is fun for us and if it fails we can still get everything we need at the grocery store a block away. In Kenya, a shamba can mean everything. It can mean nutrition, an income, and it can be the difference between eating and not eating.

Here we are looking at the field that Veronica Home managed to rent this year. It was about to be planted when the photo was taken, but now I expect the maize (corn) is tall and strong as it waves in the Kenyan sun. Only at the end of the growing season will we know the impact this field has had on the people of Veronica, but it will likely be significant.

As we move into Thanksgiving week-end, I feel a deeper connection to thankfulness because of our vegetable garden. We have truly seen God the Creator at work and we have been blessed by the fruit of the land. As we thank God for our food and for the garden that feeds us each day, we will remember the luxury that it is and we will remember to thank God for the shambas that are lifelines for so many Kenyans.

Family time

Evenings were among my favourite times at Veronica Home. After a dinner of ugali (cornmeal cooked into a dough) and vegetables the children would clear the tables and family time would begin. Most nights we three would sneak away both because it was approaching our bedtime and because I wanted to let the family have its own time together. As we made our way out into the night I could hear scripture being read, announcements being made, and always a bit of laughter. Mark, Joseph, and Eunice take their positions as heads of the household seriously. Eunice is a quiet but strong presence. Mark and Joseph are not afraid of dealing with problems or of giving direction, but somehow they are able to do it in a lighthearted and loving fashion. Whenever I had questions about how certain difficult things are handled in the household, the answers I got were clear and direct. It seemed there was nothing the family hadn't talked about, nothing that Mark and the house parents hadn't already thought about. It also seemed as though they were always tweaking and always trying to do things better.

There were a few nights when we stayed with the family after dinner and those were such rich times. One night I read to the children a book I had brought from home: For You Are a Kenyan Child. It is the one I read to my children every night the first time we visited Kenya (when they were only 5 and 3) and that I had read to them at home many times since. The children at Veronica giggled as I read bits in Swahili and I heard them repeating my accent for days afterwards.

Another night everyone decided there should be singing. And did we ever sing! In one song, the leader calls for everyone, two at a time, to get up and dance together in a kind of dance-off. I tried to audio record, but there was such whooping and hilarity that my recording is useless for anything other than making me smile.

Dear friends of ReACT, rest assured that good things are happening in Kenya. Marvellous things. The kinds of things that build good, strong people and good, strong communities.

Kathryn