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.


AT LAST, we leave today………

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Nyumbani by Lynn Ouellette on 01/28/2010

So we leave today…….after months of preparation I can hardly believe it!  This is my last post from the U.S. until we return. Needless to say I am very excited, hoping I have attended to every detail here, pretty tired from all the preparations, yet still buzzing with excited energy. There are a few questions that people have very frequently asked so I thought I would try to answer them here.

How long does it take to get to Kenya? We are flying from Boston to London and then London to Nairobi. The combined flying time is about 15 hours going over and 16 hours coming back with a 4 hour layover in London.  Yes, that is a really long time!

Where will we be in Kenya? We will be in Karen, a suburb of Nairobi and the site of the Nyumbani Children’s Home; in  Kitui, a town about 100 miles away from Nairobi and the site of Nyumbani village; and in Kibera, an enormous slum outside of Nairobi and the site of the Lea Toto outreach program If you would like to see what life is like in Kibera, please check out this YouTube video that was done by a volunteer from another program who spent time there and it will give you a sense.

 The Masai Mara Game Preserve in southwest Kenya and Lake Nakuru will be the sites of our last 3 days in Kenya when we go on safari. If you would like to have a sense of what the safari will be like I have a found a good video on YouTube that got me pretty excited:

What will we be doing? The answer to this question is partly sprinkled throughout the blog, but I will recap some here. We are visiting all 3 sites of the Nyumbani Programs. We will do volunteer activities that have been organized for us, tour the medical clinic, go on home visits in the outreach program, mentor the counselor as I described in my previous post, do the art exchange project (I can’t wait to share the art from the Maine kids!)  and organize art donations and ideas for future projects. Tom will do some running relays and other sporting activities particularly with the teenage boys.  We will get more acquainted with the programs so we can learn: how we can raise awareness (and funds) for the program back at home, determine if we can facilitate addressing any of the medical needs, and figure out what comes next for us and our involvement with Nyumbani. And, of course, there is the safari for the last three days which includes a visit to a Masai village.  Since I am also a photographer, the entire experience is an amazing photo opportunity and I will be taking a lot of pictures.

Because of the breadth of what I will be exposed to in Kenya, all of which I only know second-hand now, I imagine that it will be an experience filled with awe, sadness, joy, amazement, heartache, and profoundly intense emotion, some of which I will make an attempt to share.

Baadaye  marafiki!  (See you later my friends!) I will write next from Kenya.

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About Nyumbani

Posted in AIDS in Africa, AIDS Orphans by Lynn Ouellette on 11/22/2009

Children at the Nyumbani Children's Home with its founder

The Nyumbani Children’s Home was founded in 1992 by Father D’Agostino, a Jesuit priest and physician, in response to the need of the increasing numbers of abandoned and orphaned HIV+ children. Today the orphanage at Nyumbani, located outside of Nairobi, is home to 110 HIV+ orphans who receive medical care, psychological services, and attend public school until they can become independent adults.

The Kibera slum

Nyumbani launched the Lea Toto Program (Swahili for “to raise a child”) in 1998. It is an outreach progam to HIV+ children providing home based care to them so that they could access medical care,  psychological support and even basic needs such as food and safe drinking water.  This program provides services to children and their families in the most impoverished areas of Kenya including the Kibera slum outside of Nairobi where over  one million people live in an area smaller than the size of New York City. It is the largest slum in Africa and the second largest slum in the world.

Satellite view of Kibera slum

There are many videos like this one posted on u.tube about Kibera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9crGUNUP22I.  It’s hard to imagine without seeing some video footage and I imagine it will be overwhelming to be there in person.

Nyumbani Village in Katui

Nyumbani Village was built on 1000 acres of property given to the program by the government. The village was established to address the needs not only of orphans but also of the elderly who in the past have relied on thier children to be available as part of their extended family but have been left without them as the middle generation has succombed to AIDS. At the village, grandmothers, or shoshos, live in cottages with 10 children and create new blended families that foster healing, hope and opportunity while the HIV+ children receive ongoing medical care,  psychological support and attend school. The grandmothers also receive support and care in this extended family environment and community setting. In addition the village operates a sustainability program with solar energy, farming, and other resources.

During our trip we will be volunteering at each of the Nyumbani sites.

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Planning the trip

Posted in AIDS in Africa, AIDS Orphans by Lynn Ouellette on 11/16/2009
Nyumbani Poem

Lloydie and the children from the Nyumbani orphanage

 We leave for our trip to Kenya on January 28th and have much to do to get ready. We have been deeply inspired by Lloydie Zaiser who is incredibly devoted and energetic in her dedication to the children of Nyumbani. We are also grateful for all her work in organizing our trip and creating a meaningful itinerary (www.k-e-s-t.com ).  Please click on  “Nyumbani poem” above to hear the voice of one nyumbani orphan.

We have also been inspired by Stanley Waringo,  our Bowdoin college host family student from Kenyan, whom we enjoyed having as part of our family for four years and beyond.   Stanley rode the bike treks across the country in support of Nyumbani and first introduced us to the organization.

Lloydie has done an amazing job creating an itinerary which has integrated us into the Nyumbani programs and winds down the emotional intensity (if one could even say use the phrase wind down about any part of this trip) by setting up a safari and a visit to a Massai village on the last few  days. Although the volunteer activities are built in and we will travel with a large load of doanted items, my husband and I wanted to each do a special project that would give something to the children that would reflect sharing something personal. Since my husband is a runner he will do a running clinic with the adolscent boys and hand over some of the hundreds of running T shirts that he has collected over the years. Since I am an artist and photographer, I will share an art project and record it photographically with the help of some special and generous participants from Maine……more about that later. Though we are both physicians and will be learning about the medical facilities and I, as a psychiatrist, will spend time with the social worker, our special projects, by design, will not involve medicine…… this time.

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