Friday 13th January, 2012

Today was the day 4 weeks ago when my dad was taken to hospital after his heart attack and stroke, never to come home. The Kenyans here at the orphanage don’t know about our ‘black’ Friday 13th, so tried to explain. They seemed confused and didn’t get it. Wash was massive today. Took 4 hours with 3 of us doing it. My back was aching and my hands all wrinkly. I need to toughen up! We had to borrow a generator from the chief of a nearby village to pump the water from the river to the tanks and from the big tank to the smaller tanks, but the pressure kept bursting the pipes so a big problem throughout the day. Uncle Patrick then had to go to town and collect the generator belonging here from being repaired then take the borrowed generator back, and release water down the line to the nearby Magimboni village as several places were out of water, including the secondary school.

Me outside the sign to Footprints

Water is such a precious commodity here – every drop is used efficiently. Then the other pipes were bursting along the line, so he had to fix them. Mamma mia!

Lots of activity here today with Kerry doing a big shop in Ukunda as she and Uncle Patrick taking a few days off, which they really deserve. It is so full on here all the time. Have made up a daily ‘early learning’ timetable for the mammas and aunties for the 3 younger children. It is a hard task explaining what has to be done, even after me showing how to do it, and them following it. As they don’t have these experiences with their own children, as they don’t have the resources it is all foreign to them, and 2 of them can’t read which is even more difficult, as I want them to read to the children every single day.

Saturday 14th January 2012

Kerry and Uncle Patrick got away early for Zanzibar, so it is Kerry’s daughter Lauren in charge. We have a car here which is good for emergencies. Samwell’s leg is badly infected, virtually overnight, so I really need to keep an eye on it and keep on top of it with bathing and keeping it covered from the flies. Played games with the kids and showed them our son Wesley and Sherrie’s wedding which they were amazed at. The kids asked to use the itouch I left them last year and play games and listen to music. They LOVE it. Best gift I could have ever given them. Also played the maths game I made up for the kids. After Kerry and Uncle Patrick left a gentleman appeared at the gate and wanted to be let in. It was Anna and Kijana’s uncle who had come to see them.

Dotti lovin her face painted

He is 79 and still looking after their 7 brothers and sisters. Kijana and Anna were in another orphanage before coming here which was shut down by the government so must have been bad. 3 of their brothers and sisters have since died since them being here, which makes 12 kids in the family, and both parents are dead. The uncle was wanting Kerry to take more of the brothers and sisters by what he was saying to the staff in Swahili. But there is not the room here. How he looks after the other 7 remaining I don’t know as he doesn’t have a garden as I asked the staff to ask him. Anna had run up to him as he came in and hugged him and was so, so happy to see him. We gave him some food and chai and he didn’t stay long. He had come from the village miles away and walked here. He wanted Kerry’s number so we gave it to him. He was so old and his eyes covered with cateracts – I felt so sorry for him. Anna wouldn’t stop sobbing after he left and just hugged me and wouldn’t let me go. She said she missed her village and brothers and sisters. You just can’t imagine a little child’s life like this, and for whatever reason the 2 of them were chosen to be put in one orphanage then it being closed down and Kerry brought them here. I am not sure if she knew there were other brothers and sisters, as they had become part of the other orphanage and they had custody, then Kerry. It really did upset me most of the afternoon as she held her hands out to him as he was leaving. She had gone and gotten photos of her and Kijana to show her brothers and sisters how she now looked. The uncle was so happy they looked so well and clean. It was also sad that Kijana couldn’t find his photos to give, but I told him Anna had given some that had him in it. Your heart breaks for them and you can’t imagine how much they must miss whatever family they did have even though they are so loved and cared for here. After dinner I did the girls makeup and they borrowed had a great time pouting in front of the mirrors they had been given.

George after making his pasta necklace

Hadija tried to teach me to dance African, but hey, I don’t have the moves like her. She is nothing short of amazing. She really can shake her booty. Tried to put a movie on for a treat on my laptop but it wouldn’t play. Was really disappointing, but not much I could do. Tried several I brought over to no avail.

Sunday 15th January 2012

Woke this morning around 7:45 – had a quick coffee, dressed and went to church with the kids. Oh my god – I had to carry Dotti all the way to church and back on my back and she was like a sack of potatoes. It nearly killed me – 45 mins carrying her there and then back. She is a little chubby but eats the same amount of the other 2 young ones. Hadija started carrying her and I had Tumaini but was even too much for Hadija so we swapped. The preacher was different to last week, and still had no idea what he was saying, but the kids singing is truly beautiful to listen to. The parents dress the children up so lovely for church. It is more an outing I think. Sunday is a busy time on the road to and from the nearby village Maginboni. After lunch Lauren and I drove to Shimba village about 20 mins away as I wanted to have a cold beer. Shimba is a hive of activity but nothing like it in Australia I can tell you. A lot smaller than Ukunda, but poverty and how people live is so sad. We tried to find a place that sells cold beer, but the first 2 only sold hot beer, but then we found a place and it was like heaven. We needed petrol for the car which was sold out of soft drink bottles. Beer was so cheap – $.75 Australian for a 450ml bottle. I indulged myself and had 2 tuskas – the local beer. Heaven on such a hot day!! A huge funeral was taking place on the way home and people everywhere along the dirt track.

Tumaini so proud of her pasta necklace she made

We got home to find the gardener Julius had taken the gate key home with him and we couldn’t get in, so had to ring him to get a picky picky (motorbike ride) back here with the key. He lives near the village of Shimba. Chips and barbequed beef for dinner and salad – a real treat. Took me over 2 hours this morning to peel the potatoes for 25 of us, then cutting them into chips took longer. I tried not to think of the beef with no refrigeration – I trusted the marinade as it was bought early in the day. Tenille my daughter would have a fit!!! The bread here is so sweet it must be so full of sugar. It really isn’t nice, but I eat it some days. Sunday breaky here is pancakes, but don’t eat them, so have a piece of bread and jam. You would take the bread back to the baker at home and ask for a refund – but is 25 cents a loaf Australian. The older 6 were in school all day from church till 5pm, then doing homework. They never complain… and it is chalk and talk and workbooks.

Monday 16th January 2012.

Heard the elephants last night, breaking through the trees and the dogs going crazy at them. I told the male staff to leave the key to the gate out for me so I could walk about 5:00 each morning but they insisted I not leave until at least 6 as the elephants are making their way back to their resting place at that time, and don’t want me to come across them. You see their droppings some mornings along the road. I’ll take their advice. Bush babies also on my roof last night – some nights I hear nothing and other nights it’s a right riot. Today was overcast and I was sure it would rain with the humidity but the staff told me definitely no – no rain until April.

Aunty Siriana with George

Well it didn’t rain, and no breeze. Lauren and I went to take the porridge to the Stephen Kanja School. The car wouldn’t go, so I could only assume flat battery, loose terminals or no water in the battery as she said it wouldn’t even turn over. No good asking any of the staff as they don’t have cars as does virtually anybody up here in the hills, so I tried it, and water in battery and terminals loose, so tried to tighten them and it worked. Having a husband who worked away certainly helped me when things went wrong – I had to work it out for myself or call RACQ. She doesn’t want to drive now without me as she doesn’t know what to do if it doesn’t start. Wednesday I want to go to Shimba Village as Lauren said they have a market day there. It will be interesting to see. Hopefully I can pick myself up some avocadoes, but the staff say they are not in season yet, but it’s the same climate as home, so I am hoping. I had an interesting debate with the staff today on religion. We have some good conversations about lots of things as we are working, and our cultures are so alike and yet so different in so many ways. The lack of a quality education is very evident in the staff, however they are so eager to learn more and you can’t help but feel how their lives would have been so different if they had been born into a developed country, and how different mine would have been if born here.

Tuesday 17th January 2012 to Thursday 19th January 2012.

These days actually are a blur to me now as I sit on my bed with the kerosene lamp going. The solar ran out (a big improvement on last year as no electricity here – only 1 hour in the kitchen at night then).

Kijana loved the facepaint

The routine of the day here continues with the big washes, the kitchen and cleaning duties and looking after the younger children, while the others are at school, and taking the lunches up to the ones who leave the compound for school. The early learning program I have started with the younger 3 has begun. One of the mammas understands (I think) what to do, but the other 2 hhhmmmmmm. I turn my back for 5 minutes and they are sitting and the kids off doing their own thing. I have to tell them over and over what I want done, show them, and still it doesn’t happen – but persistence is the key. I am trying to get them to prepare the stuff instead of me, but that is a process in itself. The activities I set are for only ½ hour of a morning and ½ hour of an afternoon as they always have other work to do, so not a big thing, but from one week to the next I have to explain and show again. I asked over a week ago from the cleaning staff and the other staff to save empty boxes, toilet rolls, plastic containers etc., for me and put a box for them to put the stuff in – but I was the only one doing it, so reminded them again, and glass things were getting put in there, even though I explained it was for the younger ones to build things with. Glass and concrete don’t mix with 3 x under 3 year olds. The kids LOVE doing the activities, and bought some pasta today to do threading and ingredients to make more play dough. George’s concentration is very limited. He is much better than the girls at gross motor skills and Dotti has a lot of patience when doing her fine motor skills, whereas Tumaini doesn’t follow instructions too well, even though she speaks English quite good now with Swahili thrown in amongst it.

George all dressed

Went on a huge walk – over 2 and ½ hours on Wednesday further up into the hills along the ridges with Mr Colonzo the bigger kid’s teacher and went to a chicken farm along the way and past some of the staff houses –all made of mud. It was an uphill walk for most of the way. The scenery was beautiful. The older kids loved it as they had been used to being in classes of 70+ and never leaving the classroom for anything other than to pee. They had been learning about landforms, so they were really interested. We got to where another past staff member lives and I wanted to go and see her, so we went into her house and she was so surprised to see me. She care takes a house for an Englishman. Fresh elephant droppings were all along the entrance and she said we had only missed them by ½ hour as they had been in there wrecking things. They come up from the Shimba National Park. We didn’t get home till nearly dark and I was tired as in the morning I’d gone for a long, long walk with George on my back for nearly an hour before breakfast. Saw some teachers from the local school who remembered me by name from last time. At lunch when I took the kid’s lunches to them monkeys were in the trees close by. First time I’d seen them around here. I have seen lots of baboons but not monkeys as yet.

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Umoja Orphanage Kenya is a Project of the Sunrise Rotary Club Bundaberg 
RAWCS Project Number 51/2011-12
Umoja's founder Cathy is a member of Fitzroy Rotary Club District 9570

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