Watoto Wote Wazuri

Nyumbani Village: the first few days

Posted in Uncategorized by Lynn Ouellette on 01/29/2014



Nyumbani Village at Dusk


We arrived in Nyumbani Village Sunday evening after a ride through some beautiful countryside if mountains, terraced gardens and luscious red Kenyan soil. Along the way we spotted some zebras, gazelles and graceful giraffes feeding from tall Acacia trees as well as many mango trees heavy with ripe mangos. 


Country side photo taken from the van

We had heard a rumor that we might be housed in different quarters at the Village this time and that was confirmed once we arrived and actually found them after driving around the Village in the dark and getting slightly lost as we made our way to there. The Village is developing an Ecotourism program to highlight their remarkable sustainability program and we got take advantage of this by staying in the new Guest House still under construction. This Guest House has running water, an ecotoilet with an actual seat and generator driven evening power–it’s like a five star hotel compared to what we are used to in the Village! We have teased Valerie for whom this is her first time visiting the Village, that she is totally missing out on the authentic Village experience by staying here and should spend at least one night in the old quarters with no power, no water, a pit toilet, etc. She is not convinced. 

Nyumbani Village

NV grandmothers

The group heading out for the day

The group heading out for the day


It was wonderful to wake up the next morning to the familiar sites of Nyumbani Village–the red soil, beautiful trees and gardens and all the familiar friendly faces offering us enthusiastic greetings. We do many different things in the Village to  offer volunteer services. We bring MANY duffels of donations of clothing, medical supplies, and this year many bags of yarns for the grandmothers to use to make their baskets. Volunteers are also working on a memory book with a history of each grandparent to preserve their family story and includes a picture of each. This year Karen  is doing a special training session with the grandmothers on finances and we are of course having a Tuko Pamoja meeting with them. Much of my work, and Valerie has joined me for much of this (she is a child psychiatrist who has been wonderful to have along) has been working the counseling center or doing the work of counseling in other settings here in the village. There are two counselors here, Simon and Lilian–up until last year there was only Lilian for many years for all the staff, 1000 children, 100 grandparents and the surrounding community. When I come to the Village, Lilian has a very ambitious packed schedule for me and this year was no different!

My first patient arrived on a motorcycle


Monday my work began with seeing people from the community as well as village children whom Lilian had identified as needing psychiatric treatment. My first patient arrived on a motorcycle–a women riding between two men. One marvelous thing was a woman from the community who returned with her 21- year old son who has autism and who had violent outbursts and was very difficult to manage when I last saw him. I recommended a modest amount of medication to help with that and she returned to say thank you and that he was doing much better. He was among a number of children and young adults I evaluated in a community in which there was no concept for or understanding of autism. The problems I will encounter especially from the community are always a surprise and very interesting and challenging.  I saw one women from the community who was severely ill–in the U.S. She would be hospitalized, but that is not possible here–so we are pursuing getting her some medication as well. Lilian told me that I was to see “the whole village” when we spoke before I arrived and I thought she was joking but as it turned out she was not! She had surveyed the various groups in the village and set up a schedule for me to meet with all the grandparents, primary school and high school children in groups to talk about grief and loss–most certainly an issue hitting very close to home for me. She also set up time for me to meet with all the staff in the Home Care Department  (social workers)  and all of the teachers in the different schools to talk about stress management and burnout. Interspersed between these appointments were individual sessions with children staff and grandparents. The stories of hardship here are hard to bear. One grandmother asked me “how do I have the courage to face the things that caused my grief?” She went on to tell me about hoe her daughter was to be married to a man in am marriage arranged by her own husband and the father of the man she was to marry. When her daughter refused she was beaten to death by the grandmother’husband oldest son and a mob of people they gathered.the issues were complex and heartbreaking and she was in the Village raising this daughters 2 children.  Valerie worked with me and I was especially glad to have her along when Lilian kept offering people the opportunity for individual sessions! One of the major psychological issues in the village for grandparents and children is the serial loss of loved ones. All of the grandparents have lost children to AIDS, all of the children have lost both parents to AIDS; most have lost multiple other loved ones. The frequency of losses, as well as the Kenyan culture encouraging people to “be strong”, to not cry, and to move on discourages grieving and acknowledgement of losses. Amongst the all the groups we talked about the possibility of having an evening of remembrance—song, luminaries and ritual, to remember loved ones. This was met with uniform agreement and enthusiasm and the suggestion “since you have introduced us to this idea you must do it with us”. So next year we will have a very special Evening of Remembrance in the Village. 

Group Meeting with the grandparents

Group meeting with some of the primary school

Nyumbani children at the drinking spout–sometimes you just have to cool off your feet!

I also was able to see Albanus the young man whom I met two years ago with a serious psychotic illness who came in with his father. He had recently run out of medication but I was able to take care of that and he still looked like he was doing reasonably well. He and his father are always profusely grateful,when they come in and this time had prearranged with Lilian that I come with all my fellow volunteers to their home for dinner in the evening. They so clearly wanted to share a meal and welcome us to their home so we all piled into the car belonging to the priest who serves the Village and the surrounding area and drove through gorgeous country side to their home. We were greeted so warmly by the whole family including his parents and his 3 brothers and served a wonderful meal outside under a beautiful Kenyan starry sky. 

On the drive to Albanus’s home

Lloydie and I with Albanus and his family



There will be more to come about Nyumbani village, this is a most magical place. In the meantime please enjoy some of the faces of the children we encounter on our way back to the Guest house out gathering wood or just playing in the evening. 

Two NV girls

A group of NV children

Sweet face







Sweet face with Deb’s hand



One Response

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  1. Germaine said, on 01/31/2014 at 9:23 am

    This is an amazing project. Congratulations.


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