Watoto Wote Wazuri

Much more after I left….

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Nyumbani, Our Kenyan Family, Responding to poverty in Kenya, Tuko Pamoja by Lynn Ouellette on 02/14/2016

This year in Kenya I was the first of the volunteers to leave, ambivalently, reluctantly, but headed home to my own life and responsibilities that beckoned me there. I left knowing that some of the work would continue, donation money would be well spent, and more good would come after my departure.

Because of very generous donors we were able to address many needs in the communities we visit and for the Kenyan people we love. Although I was leaving, I knew that my remaining donation money was in good hands and that it would reach its fullest possible potential with Justus at the helm of seeking out bargains that could only be accessed by someone local, someone Kenyan, our favorite Kenyan. Before I departed we pooled the rest of our donation money and divvied it up to go towards various projects. Our last night at the Nyumbani Village guest house, we gathered in the open sitting area, fatigued though happily satisfied with our time there. Drinking wine out of water bottles (the only possible glasses) and eating a dinner of our remaining healthy and not so healthy snacks, we counted money and packed it into envelopes designated for different causes. We had already been able to purchase 200 sets of sheets and blankets for Nyumbani Village, but in doing so learned that the need for mattresses was even greater. So mattresses, with plastic covers for the younger children became the object of one of the envelopes of money. Though we had purchased sports equipment, uniforms were still to be purchased, uniforms that would instill pride and identity by including the Nyumbani name written on them. And we had been communicating with Philip of PCDA, despite our various technological problems with phones, computers and internet, regarding shoes for the Maasai school children. This was another envelope of donation funds dedicated to a real need. This was my final night in the Village and I had one more day in Kenya, the wonderful day we spent with Justus’s family.

After I departed, and while I was settling into life back at home, recovering from travel and jet lag, those volunteers still left in Kenya, along with Justus were busy at work doing other things. Deb and Karen headed to Talitha Kum, another orphanage, but before that,  Deb purchased baby clothes to be donated to the maternity unit mothers and babies at St. Joseph’s. Since Lloydie stayed in the Nairobi area, she got to deliver those in a final visit there.

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Sisters  at St. Joseph’s delighted to receive newborn clothes from KEST traveler Deb DeArmon!

She also got to visit with the spirited nuns, Sisters Rhoda and Ida. I wonder if there were any more stories of the Pope’s visit?! While at St. Joseph’s, she also met with a women’s self help group there, one that is just getting started, and could benefit from some Tuko Pamoja wisdom.

Wonderful, inspiring women, love 'em all!
Wonderful, inspiring women, love them all!

She and Justus did some major shopping and arranged for mattresses to be delivered to Nyumbani Village. I wish I could have been there when they arrived since it looks like it was a major event!

Thanks to Raphael, the Village Director for sending photos along with a huge and heartfelt thank you that I am passing on to my donors.Thanks to Justus for scouting out the best prices and doing the leg work! The sports uniforms had to be printed with the Nyumbani name so had not yet been brought to Nyumbani Village before everyone departed. But Lloydie enlisted the help of the children at the Children’s Home to model some of them for photos!

I really wish I had been around when the Maasai children of PCDA got their new shoes, but Lloydie has sent me very many great pictures so that I could share the process and the delight.

James and Eunice who helped us buy 91 pairs of shoes and socks.  They received a very nice tip!
James and Eunice who helped us buy 91 pairs of shoes and socks. They received a very nice tip!

I think Justus had a good time!

Out with the old, in with the new!

How happy are they to have new shoes!

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Happy Kids!

I had to restrain myself to keep from posting all 248 photos of smiling children with shiny new shoes! But I think you can get the feeling of how happy they were and how much  of a difference this made for them. Next year….they really need new school uniforms!!

Lloydie wrote to me about all the things that she continued to do after I departed,  while Deb and Karen were at Tabitha Kum and after they departed. She had not slowed down one bit (no surprise to all who know her!) She went with Charles, Lucy’s brother, both of whom grew up in Nyumbani Village and visited Charles’s school for which she is sponsoring him. He is training in the hospitality business which should afford him a job in the future. They also got to celebrate his birthday.

She also met with Nicholas Syano, former Director at Nyumbani Village, and Joseph Lentunyio, former Sustainability Director at Nyumbani Village, who have teamed together to help teach communities permaculture farming techniques. A future plan is being made for them to come to PCDA to teach the women and children how to farm crops that are hearty in their environment. And stage 2 of the PCDA water program funded by Woods Academy in Bethesda will include water accessible for farming!

There is so much more work that was done, but yet still so much more that could be done. You can already see some of the goals for next year taking shape and including replacing all the mattresses in Nyumbani Village over time, getting new school uniforms for the PCDA kids who clothes don’t hold a shine to their new shoes. We would like to support the Maternity Unit at St. Joseph’s more–more baby clothes and I am researching an incubator update. Karen is working to have a micro finance program to help the people that Nyumbani serves through the Lea Toto Program.  We always end up with more new ideas, projects to pursue, work to be done our next time in Kenya.  Never do we leave with our hearts not feeling full for the work we have done, the people with whom we have connected, the relationships with our Kenyan family and a profound love of Kenya and all that she holds.


– A poem by Bridget Dore, dedicated to Madiba (Nelson Mandela)

Africa smiled a little

When you left.

“We know you,” Africa said,

“We have seen and watched you,

We can learn to live without you,

But We know

We needn’t yet.”

And Africa smiled a little

When you left.

“You cannot leave Africa,” Africa said.

“It is always with you,

There inside your head.

Our rivers run in currents

In the swirl of your thumbprints;

Our drumbeats

Counting out your pulse,

Our coastline,

The silhouette of your soul.”

So Africa smiled a little

When you left.

“We are in you,” Africa said.

“You have not left us, yet.”

© Bridget Dore

We all get teary each time we read this as its sentiments  apply to how we feel about Kenya and the roots we have grown there.


A Special Day with Justus’s Family

Posted in Kenya, Our Kenyan Family by Lynn Ouellette on 02/01/2016

If you have read any of my posts before, you know that we have a special relationship with Justus who began as our driver in Kenya, but who has become  part of the KEST family, part of Tuko Pamoja, and simply put, part of what makes Kenya for all of us. Because I usually depart before the other volunteers, I had never had the chance to meet his family and neither had Karen. But we spent my last full day in Kenya with Justus and his family driving to Lake Navaisha where we went on a ‘”hippo safari”

When they first arrived, Denzel and Wycliff presented all of us with a letter from each which also had earrings and a magnet in the envelope, and each of us a beautiful bouquet of roses. I was so moved by their presentation and simply meeting all of them that it brought me to tears.


We visited for just a bit before we set off to buy lunch and to get on the road to Lake Navaisha. In celebration of the occasion, we had ice cream before we ate our lunch.

The ride was quite beautiful along the Rift Valley.

And arriving at Lake Navaisha was equally as beautiful!

We then boarded the boats for the hippo safari, a tour through the beautiful lake teaming with birds and other wild life, including, of course, hippos.

The boaters

The hippos

I wasn’t nearly as impressed with the hippos as I was with boat ride itself since the water was full of vegetation and so many birds. It felt like we were going through the bayou for part of the ride.

The entrance to the water

A sampling of the birds we saw.

As we got out further from the shore, the guides pointed out the African Fish Eagle and threw a fish up into the air so it would take flight.

African Fish Eagle

Following our foray with the birds, the boats picked up pace and brought us over to Crescent Island. The island is actually the site where “Out of Africa” was filmed and originally did not have any wildlife. All of the animals that are there were initially brought over  and remained,  but the lion was brought and then removed.

We ate our lunch on the island which was very beautiful and then began a walking safari that was so incredible because we were so close to and amongst the animals.


We first encountered encountered many zebras. Although we weren’t quite close enough to pat them, we got within 30 yards of them. You may notice that there are some young ones in the group. They were born 3 and 4 months earlier and we had the opportunity to see them playing, frolicking, and even nursing.

The zebras, including the cute young ones.

Many other animals were sited, including a giraffe that was just 4 days old!

We saw many other animals while on the walking tour of the island, but the best part of all was spending time with Justus and his family.

We were there all afternoon, managed to avoid the thunderstorm that was happening in the distance and enjoyed a cool breeze which made it much more comfortable to be there. We headed back on the boats in the midst of different scenery now that it was later in the day.

We did not get into the van to head home until appropriate group pictures had been taken!

The ride home along the Rift Valley was a whole new vista, just as beautiful as earlier, but different as the sun was going down.


The Rift Valley at Sunset 

When we arrived back at Dimesse Sisters Retreat, that rascal Justus had something up his sleeve. His sister and her family were there to meet us!


The cousins

We had a really wonderful day together. I was so happy to finally meet Justus’s family. By the end of the day it felt like we were all part of a family. And then, of course, came the hard goodbyes. But we will be in touch by email and as always the goodbyes were really “See you next year!”

I am finishing this blog as I countdown to my flight to go back to the US so please pardon any typos. I depart with such mixed feelings; its so hard to say goodbye to Lloydie, Karen and Deb, too, and to this beautiful country that has filled my heart.

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