Zuri Watoto Wote

Returning to Kenya in Just Eleven Days!

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Giving back, Kenya, Tuko Pamoja by Lynn Ouellette on 01/03/2015

I am returning to Kenya for my annual volunteer trip in just 11 days. The last year has been personally a very difficult one laden with grief, but the return to this beautiful country and these warm and gracious people truly lifts my spirits. I am also so very excited to be once again in the company of my good friends and fellow volunteers and the new travelers who will join us. The eastern members got together at my annual Tuko Pamoja event in the fall and excitement was running high.

The east coast travelers

The east coast travelers: Kristen, Lloydie, Judy, me and Valerie

KRISTEN!

Kristen is returning with her wonderful smile!

image

Yes, excitement was running high..

Lloydie and one of the boys from her cottage at the Children's Home

Lloydie and one of the boys from her cottage at the Children’s Home

Deb with a child at the Children's Home

Deb with a child at the Children’s Home

I am looking forward to meeting the new travelers, to reuniting with Deb  and Lloydie for our fifth trip together,  and so excited to have Judy, my friend and colleague, joining us for the first time! We will miss Karen and Jen so much, but will await the news of the arrival of Jen’s baby while we are in Kenya. There are so many people in Kenya who I am excited to see, but most especially at the top of the list is Justus, our trusty driver with Kenyan nerves of steel, our reliable guide sherpa and protector, and most of all our dear friend.

Justus looking at photos with the children near Kibera Paper

Justus looking at photos with the children near Kibera Paper

Justus our good friend, guide, driver and more with Kristen

Justus our good friend, guide, driver and more with Kristen

As is always the case, we have a full agenda, many projects to do, places to go and people to see. For part of the first weekend,  we will spend some time at Nyumbani Children’s Home. Going to Kenya year after year it’s wonderful to see how these children, all orphans who are HIV+ continue to grow and thrive.

One of the most popular fun activities at Nyumbani Children's Home

One of the most popular fun activities at Nyumbani Children’s Home

Valeris joined in the face painting last year

Valeris joined in the face painting last year

We will also visit each of the Tuko Pamoja sites and have a business meeting and a wonderful dancing and singing visit with all of the Mommas at each of the Tuko Pamoja sites to which we can drive from Karen outside of Nairobi. This is when we will review the success of Tuko Pamoja over the past year, especially sales in the U.S., place orders for the next year, give bonuses, look at new crafts etc. We have a long history with the women in these groups much affection and a powerful bond from years of working together, sharing our lives including successes and hardships. Here is a little gathering of video clips to give you a peek at what the time is like.

We will visit the Tuko Pamoja groups in the slums around Nairobi as well as the Maasai community of PCDA. There we not only visit with the Mommas, but also bring donations of support for the school and the community including the lunch program, supporting access to water and much more. We also do enrichment programs with their gorgeous children who are all lively and eager learners. I have some of my best time filling the role of the official photographer there taking many photos of their beautiful faces.

Maasai children of PCDA

Maasai children of PCDA

Maasai children of PCDA

Maasai children of PCDA

PCDA Maasai Women

PCDA Maasai Women

On the second weekend, on Saturday, we will host the third Annual Workshop for Women, when women of each of the Tuko Pamoja groups come together to improve their business skills, marketing and product development, increase their pride and improve their sense of personal wellbeing. Two years ago, when we held the first workshop, it became one of my all time favorite days in Kenya. The gathering together of diverse groups of women from within Kenya, together with us from across the globe united in a common cause was powerfully moving. When we all sang together, hand in hand, gathered in a circle in beautiful harmony at the end of the day it was magical. I get teary when I think about it now and I remember looking across the circle to Deb and we both had tears streaming down our faces. Be ready to be moved new volunteers!

Tuko Pamoja Women"s Workshop group photo

Tuko Pamoja Women”s Workshop group photo

After we spend some more time with those beautiful children at Nyumbani Children’s Home we will head off to start our second full week by traveling to Nyumbani Village, about four hours away from Nairobi. There it is will be much hotter and very different than the time that we have spent near Nairobi. In the Village, where 100 grandparents raise 1000 AIDS orphans, life is more rustic and in keeping with traditional Kamba culture. During the day the children are at school in their school uniforms and many groups of them will pass by and greet us to and from on their way. Though they will be quite enthusiastic, these  are nothing like the greetings we get from the shoshos or grandmothers who walk down the paths in the Village and will be singing and dancing as they greet us with the special three part Kamba handshake. They will teach this and some greetings in Kamba to the new volunteers with boundless enthusiasm and ALWAYS break into dance at the sight of us. In the evening, the children will be out gathering kindling, climbing trees, playing together, and as night falls we will be under the starriest sky you can imagine.

Nyumbani Village

Nyumbani Village

Nyumbani Village children in the school yard

Nyumbani Village children in the school yard

Many happy beautiful faces at Nyumbani Village

Many happy beautiful faces at Nyumbani Village

Some fun loving boys at the Village

Some fun loving boys at the Village

We have many projects planned in the Village which is a place steeped in culture and rustic living, but very advanced in farming and sustainability projects.  The grandmothers have a tradition of making beautiful baskets and are the final group of Tuko Pamoja women whom we will visit. As the sale of their baskets is their sole income, and the Village is very focused on sustainability, one of our projects this year will be to support (with the generosity of our donors) and participate in the planting of 5 acres of sisal, the main fiber of their baskets. Then the grandmothers will be able to harvest and grow their own rather than having to purchase it and the Village will be another step closer to full sustainability. I won’t personally be planting as I spend most of my time volunteering in the counseling center, but other members of the group will be planting sisal and doing a whole lot more.

Traditional Basket weaving at Nyumbani Village

Traditional Basket weaving at Nyumbani Village

As part of my psychiatric volunteer work, I will consult to the two counsellors in Nyumbani Village  on their most challenging clients and continue to address the issues of grief and loss in the Village. This will include the first Day of Remembrance, a luminary ceremony dedicated to acknowledging family members lost to AIDS for the children, grandparents and staff of Nyumbani Village. This will also be a legacy to the memory of my son Brendan and to the lost children of other mothers I know. We have packed 1500 luminaries to travel to Village, one for each child, grandparent and staff. Having a remembrance ceremony and lighting all of them in the evening as we all sing under the skies will be a moving and beautiful scene which I cannot fully imagine ahead of time. That will take place on our final evening in the Village which will be on my son Brendan’s birthday, a wonderful way to honor his memory.

With Lilian, the Billage counselor

With Lilian, the Village counselor

Nyumbani Village as night falls

Nyumbani Village as night falls

There is so much more I could say about the Village because it is one of the most special  and magical places on earth,  but I will save that for posting when I’m there. After we wind down our week at the Village we will have a couple of days of fun and hopefully a little more rest as we head off on safari with Justus as our guide to end our trip. Stay tuned to hear many stories that will touch your heart and many new photos when I blog contemporaneously from Kenya where my first post there will be the 100th post in my blog!

My all time favorite photo taken on safari

My all time favorite photo taken on safari

14 Responses

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  1. sharon tardiff said, on 01/03/2015 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful post and your plans…somewhere deep inside of me I wish I could go and experience what you gals do and how it makes you feel. Such a big world in lots of ways…such a small world in lots of ways. As it is starting to snow as I reply…I often wonder how the little ones would react, besides freezing.

    I hope you have a safe trip and send lots of pictures. And remember Lynn…watch out for that Judy….:}

    Sharon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/03/2015 at 7:09 pm

      Stay tuned. Your comment about Judy made me laugh!

      >

      Like

    • Judy Marblestone said, on 01/03/2015 at 8:45 pm

      So excited for this journey! Your comment made me laugh too, Sharon!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/04/2015 at 8:26 am

        I am so excited to do this with YOU! The trips just keep better and better, even though I think it’s not possible, every year it happens! I can tell this year will be no exception. We will have an amazing time together!

        Like

  2. Susan Strout said, on 01/03/2015 at 10:09 pm

    Looking forward to following your posts of your remarkable trip. ♡

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/04/2015 at 8:25 am

      Thank you! It was wonderful to see you today. I’ll come visit you when I return and need to relax after a busy trip! Love you!

      Like

  3. Barbara Sutton said, on 01/03/2015 at 11:54 pm

    Lynn, your post really lifted my spirits today. I’m excited for you, Deb, and the others who will go. Your photos of these beautiful children and women helps me realize why you are eager to be with them again. The celebration of light you have planned for all those lost, including Brendan, will be moving for all of you. May you be upheld each day as you continue to serve, both here and in Kenya. Peace and blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/04/2015 at 8:24 am

      Thank you Barbara for you kind comments always! You are so devoted to following us and this work. I can tell Deb has a wonderful friend in you. I would love to meet you some day!

      Like

  4. Patti Arata said, on 01/04/2015 at 7:25 am

    Safe travels and best wishes to all of you. Anxiously awaiting your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/04/2015 at 8:22 am

      Thanks for your support in more ways than one. It occurred to me this morning that you won’t be calling my mom to share the blog anymore. Have to think of her and Brendan as shining down upon us from the incredible starry sky there. Be well, love you!

      Like

  5. Lloydie said, on 01/04/2015 at 8:16 am

    Are we there yet?! Your blog is extra inspiring and I am already tired thinking of everything we will do. Must remember, I don’t go to Kenya to sleep! Famous last words! See you in 10 days!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/04/2015 at 8:20 am

      Sleep in Kenya??!! Hah, what’s that? Need to store up our need to sleep for the journey home! Can’t wait to share another trip with you my soul sister! It going to be another amazing one!

      Like

  6. debdearmon said, on 01/05/2015 at 10:54 am

    Counting the days until we leave! Thanks Lynn for the beautiful posting. Now I’m counting the minutes until we leave! Can’t wait to share a big hug!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/05/2015 at 8:05 pm

      Me too! Another year going off on this adventure together and it will be another amazing trip. Get out the tissues!cant wait to see you!

      Like


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