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

Sisters.jpg

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

IMG_0208.jpeg

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

DSC_3021-1.jpg

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

89.jpg

“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

Video-Home Based Care

Kenya-Day-Four-20151-269.jpg

[embed]https://vimeo.com/139228546[/embed]One of ReACT's most cost-effective and culturally relevant projects is the Home Based Care (HBC) program. Instead of investing large funds into costly infrastructure and removing a child from their local community, orphaned children are cared for by extended family in a familiar place. ReACT's role is simple...to monitor the child with one of our Kenyan trained social workers (we call them "mentors") and to provide the basics for the child on a monthly basis.

Child care simply cannot be any more cost-effective or culturally relevant than that!

War

Kenya-Day-Four-20151-74.jpg

Lying in bed last night, my six-year-old daughter asked me, “what is war”?My textbook answer withered and my words rang hollow. I never understood war less than in that moment. I realised that it is beyond my capacity to process war when I explain it to a child. Her innocence robbed the word of meaning.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that children, too, are caught in war.

I thought of children her age in Syria right now. I thought of the children in Paris, who lost parents and the semblance of safety.

How could she process that man is wolf to man?

I elected not to tell her that many children she will one day play with in Kenya have also been displaced and orphaned because of violent tribal clashes. In our home-based care program, four children still grieve for their blind mother who died after she ran for her life and stumbled into a well. Seven orphans and their aged grandmother were also forced from their homestead and now live in an old water tower, far from their community and tribe. And these are the lucky ones, whose basic needs are met. Whose wounds are starting to heal.

God, save the children.

Would heavy words like “war” float aimlessly around their heads instead of piercing their hearts.

These thoughts jumbled in my mind and words stuck in my throat as I watched my daughter peacefully drift asleep. Safe, sheltered, as children should be.