Watoto Wote Wazuri

Nyumbani Village–final days and saying goodbye

Posted in Uncategorized by Lynn Ouellette on 01/31/2014


Wonderful smiles from two Village children


It has been a very busy, wonderful, magical week in Nyumbani Village. We have accomplished an incredible amount and we have enjoyed the unique and magical experience of being here once again. Each morning we head out and enjoy the cooler air which has settled in over night knowing that by midday it will be oppressively hot in the bright sun. It’s a beautiful walk down to the old guest house where we have our breakfast through paths of red Kenyan soil and beautiful trees with the sounds of so many birds singing. You never know what you will encounter as you walk through the village–being heartily greeted by hip shaking grandmas, with hearty handshakes and Kikamba phrases, giggling children who love to have heir picture taken or a beautiful scene like this one provided by Mother Nature. 

Beautiful Black Capped Heron on the top of a tree

The busy start to the week continued as Deb interviewed more of the grandparents capturing their histories and life stories for the Memory Book which will be a record of each family history to be handed down to the children. Since all of the children are orphans and the grandparents hold the histories for the families including the children’s parents, this is priceless information to pass on to the children. Because there are 100 grandparents (7 grandfathers and 93 grandmothers) it is a large and ongoing project that will hopefully be completed by next year. Deb presented the memory book to the grandparents when we had our Tuko Pamoja meeting with them amidst lots of clapping and cheering.


Presenting the Memory book

Karen worked with both the staff and the grandparents on financial issues. She met with the group of grandparents to discuss basic finances and to assess their capabilities and needs. In addition, she met at a local community meeting of Financial services Administration which is a rural banking cooperative which prodives both banking services and financial education. Not only is money scarce amount the populations  with whom me work but there are also cultural influences which markedly change the ways of managing money which need to be taken into account when working on promoting budgeting and saving. 

Lloydie has been developing a sister School Program with the third, fourth and fifth graders at Woods Academy in Maryland. Fifth graders of the school and those at Nyumbani Village exchanged photographs and interviews with their grandmothers. fourth graders exchanged reports about the stars of the U.S. And counties in Kenya. Third graders prepared a video of a play with singing and dancing and the third graders at NV presented cultural singing and dancing and recitations which were videotaped for exchange and also made jump ropes out of sisal as gifts. Lloydie presented new backpacks to all of the third, fourth, and fifth graders which were sponsored by the children at Woods Academy and contained letters from those students. Nyumbani Village children wrote return letters in response those which were enclosed in their backpacks. 

A new backpack

Valerie rolling up sisal jump ropes


New backpacks


Letter from NV child

Letter from NV child

Letter from NV child

I continued to work with Lilian to provide psychiatric evaluations in her office. Once we met with the Susu’s (grandmothers) at the beginning of the week, a number of them came to see me Valerie and me for individual sessions in the office. We continued to meet with all of the Lawson High School and the polytechnic school students to discuss grief and loss as well as to answer any questions that they might have related to the topic. These are some of the questions we received:



The older children had the opportunity to write their questions down, but before that, we talked and they shared about the grief that they all have in common about being orphans. The Kenyan culture does not promote the acknowledgement of grief and teaches children (and adults) that they must have strength and not cry. This has been a concern for Lilian for the children and the grandparents as she sees the effects of unresolved grief and PTSD. We had remarkable discussions with the children and adolescents and when we explained the possibility of having a special ritual of resemblance there was uniform acceptance and enthusiasm. I will say more about this in a later post. Valerie and I also met with the teaching staff and Home Care (social work staff) to talk about stress and burn out. The latter carry large case loads being responsible for five clusters each–a cluster us comprised of four houses, each with ten children and a grandparent. The social work staff are really the people who attend to managing the families and all family and social issues. They also go on rescues to bring new children into the Village, most often rescued from extreme conditions in which there are child headed houses after which both parents have died and children have been barely able to survive. Theses circumstances can themselves be traumatic for the staff. 

Children were rescued from this home

And this one

On our last full day in the village we also met with all the grandmothers and the few grandfathers to do an update on Tuko pamoja. Since very few of them speak any English at all we did not do as detailed a meeting as we have done with the other Tuko Pmoja groups. We had been seeing them and greeting them through out our time in the Village. They are a very colorful buch with lively enthusiasm who teach EVERYONE who comes to the village the appropriate KiKamba greetings which are complete with handshake and gestures. Getting them all assembled in a hall, with each having time to greet to us all, and the worst sense of time in Kenya (where everything takes place later than scheduled) is always a task unto itself. There’s always lots of bursts of singing and dancing before things can settle, but they did. We talked to them about the growth in the success in selling baskets and Karen had a special surprise for them. We had also all collected a LOT of yarn which was donated for them to use on their baskets which are made of wool, sisal, banana leaves and other natural materials. We discussed some quality control issues and color issues that would increase the sales success and they were all quite receptive. Karen’s surprise was that a group of knitters who gather in a store Near her hometown in N.H. had gotten together and knit over 100 scarves to present to the grandmothers. Although the village is hot this time of year it is chilly when the long rains come so they will really appreciate these. And the grandfathers were given hats.

Karen presenting a scarf

Hugging a scarf recipient

Grandfathers with their new hats

Or old AND new!

Instead of a cash bonus, because we wanted to give something to all the grandparents in the village and not everyone makes baskets, everyone was presented with a new  leso.

Colors of lesos

Lloydie presenting new leso

Valerie presenting a new leso


On our last evening in the village we were invited to a concert and dance in cluster one where you can find ome of the best musicians and dancers in the village. We crowded in one of the houses and had an amazing show. 

Valerie, Karen, and Deb enjoying the show

The performance was amazing, but in very low light. I hope that I can edit the video I recorded to bring something to the blog for you to view later as  it was so much to watch! It was a great way to spend our last evening in the village. As we were walking back to our lodging under the beautiful, most starry Kenyan sky, with now a very pleasant breeze,  encountering children coming home from Lawson high school on the dark (they do homework at school until 9PM), and other people still out strolling, it was magical to hear voices shout out to out from the houses dark in the dark, “Have safe journey, we will miss you so much! Or God bless you!” There no real words that can describe this. 

So we had to depart bright and early the next morning and were so delighted to reunite with Justus our friend and driver. before departing we left all our food, snacks and other things they might enjoy with the volunteers who were still left–a friendly gesture which is always well appreciated. Off to safari, but first enjoy some of the wonderful faces of Nyumbani Village!

Me and my friends Luro and carol


Primary school children

Playing a game on the school ground

Playing a game on the school ground

Loving Valerie’s hair






One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Marc Kaplan D.O. said, on 02/01/2014 at 11:39 am

    So wonderful to read this Lynn and I look forward to the video of the musicians. Will


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: