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.


Returning to Kenya….in just 41 days!

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Kenya, Responding to poverty in Kenya by Lynn Ouellette on 12/09/2012

Acaciaa's in the afternoon sun at Lake Nukuru

Acacia’s in the afternoon sun

In some ways in feels like a long time since we left beautiful Kenya and in other ways it feels like we just said goodbye. In the almost year since I’ve been there, much planning and work have taken place to get ready for this trip and of course our amazing leader Lloydie Zaiser and her fabulous sidekick Jen Geiling have put in an enormous amount of work not only planning this trip, but also Lloydie led a multiple week trip to Kenya over the summer. We have been hard at work planning our activities for Tuko Pamoja which in its first year has been a success beyond what we had hoped. In fact, the order has already been placed and the women are working starting to make the items now. For next years sales. There will be seven of us traveling to Kenya this year, 5 of us make up the Tuko Pamoja U.S. Board and have all been to Kenya before and we have 2 additional volunteers who have never been before who are very excited to be joining us.

So let me say a little bit about our plans for this trip. First of all I have to say that it is a wonderful whirlwind of an inspirational, industrious, impassioned and ambitious itinerary, like all the past trips, but even more so! WE will spend some time on the weekends at Nyumbani Children’s Home with multiple enrichment activities plan with the children and other volunteer activities. Having started the tradition of face painting with the little ones 2 years ago and realizing that they remembered the experience when I when I went last year means that this is a must for an annual activity–and one that I have so much fun doing with them. In fact the first place that we land is always the Children’s Home where we get the warmest of all possible welcomes.

Innocent--remember him?!

Innocent–remember him?!

We will not spend much down time before we are up and running however as we arrive on Friday and have our Tuko Pamoja Board meeting with the Kenyan Board on Saturday. This will give us an opportunity to review the year and plan a day long workshop that we will host for the TP women on the following Saturday. More details will follow as I blog about it, but it is very exciting to have some plans to work with the Kenyan artisans groups in a way that will help them build business and financial skills, take pride in the wonderful work they are doing, collaborate in helping to grow their self esteem and empower them to feel truly successful. Prior to this workshop and during the week we will be visiting all of the women artisan groups except for the Shushus of Nyumbani Village who we will see the following week when we spend the whole week in the Village. We will go to the outreach clinics in the severely impoverished areas around Nairobi such as Kangemi, Dandora and Kibera. I”m delighted to say that there will be another art exchange with the women of Kibera paper who I had such a wonderful time teaching to block print last year. Yikes, I don’t have the project planned yet but I know I will come up with something that will be fun and valuable to exchange. We will also spend 2 days at the Maasai community of PCDA working with those women and their adorable children.

Maasai Children in the School yard

Maasai Children in the School yard

One of the plans I have for the children there is to use my new digital Polaroid camera which takes tiny sticky back pictures (2×3 inches) and mount them on some kind of backing so they will look framed and they can bring them home like “school pictures”. They never have pictures of themselves so I think this would be so special for them. Lloydie, since you know I have too many ideas for this trip all the time, you might not know about this plan yet….but doesn’t it sound like fun and something they would so enjoy bring ing home to their mothers?! On all our visits to the women artisan groups we will be reviewing their progress, offering support, going over the sales success of their products etc. During our visits we will be bringing various donations and supplies to different places–like for example last year we brought supplies that enabled the school lunch program (i.e. daily porridge) to continue at the Maasai school where for some it was the major food intake for the day. The work with Tuko Pamoja will culminate with the workshop and then we will head out to Nyumbani Village for the following week.


Nyumbani Village

While in Nyumbani Village there is always a lot to be done. Each year we get a list of donation requests along with bringing many duffels of donated clothing and other items with us. Once we get there we sort them and often the Village is the place with he greatest need for clothing and other things. This year amongst the list of requested items was supplies to make 100 chicken coops, one for each family (one grandparent and 10 orphans) in the Village.

Children of Nyumbani Village

Children of Nyumbani Village

Clearly we need to go out and purchase the supplies and part of our role will be to help to build the chicken coops! Now I am usually busy much of each day working in the clinic with Lilian doing psychiatric consultations but I have been encouraged to join in the fun of chicken coop building at least long enough for a good photo op. I have never built a chicken coop, but I’m very handy with tools, so this is not too daunting to me and if the who Shushus are participating it could be a wildly fun time. I will also be helping the children do art work for the Memory Book which is being created with the stories of all the grandparents of the Village. Lilian, who I recently corresponded with over email tells me she already has a client waiting list for me so I don’t think I will not have a problem with idle time! Then again, there is no idle time when we are in Kenya, just time full of amazement, magical time immersed in the culture, singing, dancing, and feeling connected to people who live across the globe and then stay forever in your heart. I will wrap up my stay after we return from the Village, but most of the group will stay on for another week and do some additional volunteer at another orphanage. Someday, I will stay longer too when it fits together better with the rest of my life. For now I feel really lucky to have discovered this kind of work, the wonderful people with whom I travel and the remarkable people of Kenya, many of whom have so little yet with which to get by, yet rejoice in life with amazing and admirable spirit that I wish everyone could experience. Keep reading my blog….I’ll do my best to share that as far as words will allow.

Lillian, the Village psychologist, and me

Lillian, the Village psychologist, and me

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