Watoto Wote Wazuri

Returning….at long last

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Kenya, Nyumbani, Nyumbani Village Day of Remembrance, Tuko Pamoja by Lynn Ouellette on 10/26/2019

I have not been to Kenya since 2016. Every year since, when others have made the return trip my heart has ached to not be with them and to miss seeing that beautiful country and those beautiful people who I have grown to love. I have looked on Facebook or in my email to hear the news of what was happening there and could smile at the photos of the children, laugh at the videos of them dancing, have my heart warmed by seeing the women of Tuko Pamoja gathered for the Women’s Workshop and more. Still, I had to steal away a piece of my heart that was also very sad to be missing the experience, most especially the deep connection that we have developed with the people that has filled and changed my heart in deep and profound ways. Until now, because I know I am returning in January, I haven’t really  allowed myself to actually think about that. Now, knowing I am going back, I feel the excitement and know the moment the plane lands and I see the broad smile of Justus greeting me in the airport with a warm “Karibu!” I will be bursting with joy and tears.  And that will only be the beginning. Since I am joining the rest of the group one week into the trip, the same thing will happen greeting each of them, and they aren’t even Kenyan! They are the people, Lloydie, Deb, Karen, Megan, Valerie with whom I have shared this experience on my prior 6 trips to Kenya, the tears, the laughter, the being moved beyond what I ever thought possible; we have done it together. I have missed them too, not going for the last 3 years. There will so many tears in Kenya.

Yes, that is Justus, not in Kenya, but visiting the states, with a very nice sweatshirt 😉
3 of usphoto
Karen, me and Deb after a hot day setting up the Day of Remembrance at Nyumbani Village enjoying a rare COLD drink.

So what’s on the agenda for this trip? Sadly I cannot go for the entire time since I cannot leave my busy practice for more than 2 weeks and this year I will miss going to the Maasai Community.  One of my jobs there is usually being the official photographer, we always joke what a hardship that is,  and I will miss taking pictures of all those adorable children’s faces and will miss seeing the women who make crafts as one of the Tuko Pamoja groups. One of our fundraising efforts is to collect donations to support the school lunch program there and at another school, the Mutungu school in Machakas County, where our efforts enable the children to have a meal at school day, which may be their best meal of the day.


Children of the Maasai Community

The itinerary is full with events happening before and after I leave and simultaneous projects going on, so this will give you an idea:


As for me, I will arrive in time to work with a number of the women’s self help groups who participate in Tuko Pamoja. The first group I ever met, back in 2010, was the group in Dandora and I have a special fondness in my heart for them. They are wonderful women, many of whom are living with HIV or are raising children with HIV or orphans with HIV along with their own children. They are strong, amazing resilient, big hearted women who so inspired me that first year when I met them that I left carrying a place for them in my heart that will always be there.

The women of the self help group in Dandora.
Happy with the women of Dandora

I am also excited to spend time with 2 more of the Women’s self help groups of Tuko Pamoja before a few visiting stops and heading out to Nyumbani Village. The women of Kibera paper have a lot of spirit and there is always much singing and dancing at the end of out time there.

We are all excited to visit Lucy, our “daughter” originally from Nyumbani Village for whom some of us teamed up as “Team Lucy” to help fund Lucy’s education at the University. She is a lovely young women, she gotten her degree, is still taking courses and we are all family.

We are One family..

Nyumbani Village, that magical place where 100 grandparents raise 1000 AIDS orphans is my absolute favorite place in Kenya. The minute we drive through the gate and I start to hear children,  the feeling overwhelms me; it’s the knowledge that if it were not for this place, every child there would not have survived. Instead they are healthy and thriving, learning and playing, singing and dancing, and the knowledge of that is over[powering with emotion.  In this video you can learn a bit about all the amazing Nyumbani programs:

As I have done in the past, my major project will be to have a Day of Remembrance for the community at Nyumbani Village, a day to remember and honor all the loved ones, but most especially the parents, who have been lost to AIDS. Over the years working with the counselors there, I learned that there is so much unresolved grief and trauma related to loss, yet no one talks about it. That is not the way things are done in the Kenyan culture. So the Day of Remembrance is a day when the entire community comes together in religious ceremony, ritual, and song to honor their lost loved ones. There is a mass in the church followed by a luminary ceremony, with loved ones names on the luminaries, each of which are spoken out loud, interwoven with beautiful singing. Every year it’s a mad dash to put it all together, to get the luminaries organized and set up, the candles lit, and somehow it magically comes together in something incredibly beautiful and profoundly spiritual and connecting.

Somehow, after the Day of Remembrance,  we are always tired and emotionally drained , yet it always hard to leave the Village.  But we will leave, and we will head off for a couple days of exciting safari, what I always think of as like being a kid with a camera in Kenya in search of magnificent photo opportunities…and we have Justus, the best guide in the country.  Truthfully, the entire time in Kenya is a photographer’s dream with the countryside, the beautiful faces, twilight, the stars….all before you even get to safari.

These are just a few highlights of what we have planned. I have some other projects up my sleeve and everyone else has so many projects on their agenda. To name just a few, Karen will be working with finances with the grandmothers at Nyumbani Village, Lloydie will be teaching at the Nyumbani sister school, Megan will be working with sewing projects at the Polytechnic School, we will have a Women’s workshop at the Village and there will be other repeat travelers doing projects (Valerie) and maybe some new travelers too. If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I am excited, my heart is soaring just thinking about being there and I need LLoydie to start doing the annual day count down (hint!) I will keep blogging when I’m there to take you along with me with words and many photos. I never can quite fully put the experience into words, but I do my best to share what moves me and hopefully bring you along, and move you too.



11 Responses

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  1. Patricia Arata said, on 10/26/2019 at 6:19 pm

    Beautiful photographs and heartfelt emotion! So happy you get to return and those you love will see you again❤


  2. Lloydie said, on 10/26/2019 at 10:10 pm

    You asked for it, Lynn! 81 days until you leave to be in your beloved Kenya once more! The women have asked for you each year you have missed. They will be beyond excited to welcome you back! Your return to Kenya is an answer to so many people,s prayers, not the least of which are mine and Justus’s. Your fellow traveler’s will give you a warm embrace upon your arrival and we will create more magical memories together! Karibu Nyumbani rafiki! Loved the blog, BTW, and shed quite a few tears… imagine! Photos are spellbinding…so glad you are back!


    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 10/26/2019 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks for the countdown! It’s an early blog, but Kenya was so much on my mind after sending out the invitation for Tuko Pamoja event. Now it’s all even more on my mind. Looking forward to seeing you next month, Soul Sister! XO ❤️❤️❤️


  3. Karen said, on 10/26/2019 at 11:42 pm

    Love your blog, and soooo thrilled you will be with us this year! It just isn’t the same without you. Tears of joy will flow from all of us!
    Xoxo Karen


  4. Sharon Tardiff said, on 10/27/2019 at 8:46 am

    Can’t wait for your trip and your blogs. I know first hand how much this means to you and how passionate you are towards Kenya. Safe travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sharon Tardiff said, on 10/27/2019 at 4:38 pm

      How do I unsubscribe?


      • Lynn Ouellette said, on 10/27/2019 at 5:47 pm

        If you got the post in your email, you are subscribed from before, so you do not have to do anything!


  5. Kristen said, on 10/27/2019 at 1:44 pm

    I am SO happy you are returning! Kenya has missed you, that is for certain. Wish Jon and I could be there for the great reunion – but we know we can live vicariously through your blog! 🙂
    Amani na upendo, missing you rafiki!
    xoxo Spankie & Jon


    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 10/27/2019 at 3:20 pm

      Live vicariously this time ….and we will return again together. I would LOVE that. You and Jon have a way of wonderfully multiplying the tears and laughter! Love to both of you!


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