Posts Tagged ‘Karibu’

Dear Karibu.

“We are stitched together, and what love has tethered, I can never undo”

Dear Karibu Centre family,

When you call me crying, you make me cry. 

When you call and need answers, and neither you nor I have them, I hate telling you so.

When you call and say you’re expecting a baby, I wish I were there to watch the amazing miracle of life grow and change you into an amazing woman and mother.

When you grieve the loss of a baby, I grieve with you and wish I were there to walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death (psm 23:4).

When you struggle, and fight, and are harsh with one another like Kenyans can be…..I want Ian to come over there and do something silly, just to make you all laugh and lighten up a bit.  And then I’d like to look you all mean in the eye, as if you were my kids, and tell you to knock it off!

When you send pictures of new babies, I yearn to KNOW them, not know of them. 

When you need an encouraging, loving, uplifting friend, know I will be here.  That though I may be a world apart from you all, we are stitched together.

I love you.


Mama Eli’s Duka aka “my Kenyan garage sale”

 So months before our departure from Kenya I told Ian that I had hatched a fabulous plan that would allow us to fairly distribute all of the things we had accumulated that would not be returning to the US in our alloted 8 suitcases.

That’s right.  No shipping things home.  I’m about reducing and recycling when it comes to packing up a house—and what a wonderful way for us to bless the many friends we had made in Kenya. 

Kenyan’s have surely missed out on the wonderful concept of garage sales.  Or at least it is wonderful in my eyes.  I know there are those of you out there who cringe at the thought of used clothing,  or half colored coloring books, or shoes with other people’s foot sweat. 

That’s not me. 

Or Kenyans. 

Kenyans are the MOST fantastical people when it comes to cleaning something up so that it can look spick and span new.  So I just knew that they would adore my garage sale, or as Ian termed it:  Duka Ya Mama Eli’s  (Eli’s mom’s shop). 

Soooo, in preparation for our move home I began to sort through our house in Kenya with the help of some ladies from the community (which was a score for them because they carted off bag after bag of miscellaneous goodies for themselves).  Separate  from the furnishings in our house that were owned by OO and would  remain, we had amassed a ridiculous amount of items ranging from kid and adult DVD’s, to nail polish remover, to the ax and kerosene lantern.    

Ian and I converted the pregnant girls’ classroom space into my shop, pulled in a few tables, and set things up by category. 

A few days before the party I let all of the staff in to preview the items.  Some staff  took up to an hour carefully looking over each and every item. 

Now, I decided that in order to make it a true shopping experience the staff would need money.  So Ian, being the handy and fun husband that he is, printed out play $10 bills so that each staff was given $100 to “spend”. 

After our going away party, we had the 27 staff draw numbers and line up from the #1 shopper on back. 

Waiting to shop!

  They each got to go in individually to shop.  They could buy one item (no matter how expensive) during each round.  We did this for 3 rounds, and then I let them all in at once to spend their remaining money.  

I am so proud of the men who shopped! They did such a quick sweep and grab of the womens' clothing for their families that the women of the Centre had to find other things to paw through!

Well into the free-for-all, Notice the empty tables!

They went crazy.  The laughter and excitement was contagious!  I LOVED it!  And so did they.  I loved watching them scheme and work together to get all of the things they had their hearts set on. 

In this next picture, you can see Tito happily sitting on his 3 piece outdoor furniture set that he bought for $120!  That’s right, Tito was the one and only employee who managed to convince another employee to give him some money so he could afford it! 

Oh yeah, sitting in his new chair guarding the door to my shop.

It was a fabulous way to wrap up such a serious day of thank you’s and good byes.  I was thrilled to share my love of g-sales with my Kenyan friends.  Even better was a staff member telling Ian that “we had taught them something fun they could do together in the future.”  I’m just sitting here in my American home imagining future Kenyan garage sales among the staff and loving it! 

Farewell continued

A farewell at the Centre usually means a tea party planned by the staff.  In the past this involved light food:  boiled eggs, biscuits, queen cakes and chai.  Ian and I decided about a month before leaving that we would like to throw the staff and residents a nice lunch for our farewell….with good food… we arranged to have a caterer for the party.  It was a win-win.  The Centre was able to not spend money on the party, we had wonderful food, and no one had to worry about set up or clean up!

But it’s easier to explain the farewell in pictures: 

Upon entering the party you must go through a tunnel of singing people

As guests of honor you sit up at the front while everyone sings & dances to their places

After announcements by the MC Hillary, the food line opens

Beef stew, irio, rice pilau, sukuma, and kachumbari. Anne's favorite is the green irio, Ian's is kachumbari (looks like slaw on the top)

After lunch the singing and dancing begins...complete with heaving us up on the shoulders

Ameena gets into the dancing too as Esther carries her around

I think it's safe to say Eli enjoyed the dancing

Esther with Ameena in her African party dress which came via Naomi's friend at St. Patrick's Catholic Church

Receiving the's a really big deal to take a picture of the gift and giver!

Eli and Lucy thought presents on a non holiday were fantastic!

A special song prepared and sung by the day program teaching staff

Ian and I had to give "speeches" to the staff. I talked about how God has a plan written for each one of them & how much each one had contributed to the success of the Centre

It took Ian a moment to find the right words to express all that we had experienced in our 15 months in Kenya with this staff.

We tried to keep the end of the party light with a "guess the $ in the jar giveaway" & the promise of shopping at Momma Eli's duka (shop)

At the end of our party we took about 30 of this same shot, with a different staff member or resident inserted. We then printed copies for the staff as photos are a very treasured and special gift.

The staff & residents of Karibu Centre. In 15 months, we went from 4 staff and 0 residents to about 27 staff, 27 resident girls, babies and abandoned babies and about 120 children in the day program! We felt so blessed to be with these people day after day!

And that was our formal farewell.  More in the next few days of my “garage sale” aka Momma Eli’s duka & of our push by staff/friends to the airport.


This morning I was greeted by our resident assistant, Naomi, and one of the centre girls at 7:30am on my front porch.  They reminded me that today was a graduation ceremony at the vocational training program a few of our girls attend.  All the girls had been up since 5am getting ready and they wanted a ride and I remembered I’d agreed to attend.  After 20 min or so we loaded into the centre van and headed out.  I got a call just when we were pulling out, my social worker asking for a ride.  No problem, we swing by, pick her up, and head over to Golden Top, it’s a 5 minute trip.  As I’m pulling in Naomi asks where I’m going and tells me that the ceremony is being held elsewhere so we proceed to the new destination which is 20 minutes away.  We’ll call this surprise # 1 of the day.

Now I’ve decided already that I don’t want to stay any longer than necessary and I tell Karen (my friend and the director of the Golden Top rehabilitation program)   this right when I arrive.  She puts up a big fight, insisting that I stay.  I tell her I have people to meet with at Karibu Centre and we agree that I’ll come back once the ceremony actually starts.  She accepts this compromise and says she flash me when they’re ready (no, not flash as in lift up her shirt, but flashing is when they call and hang up really quick so they don’t get charged phone credits for the call).  Side note, this is also what pretty much everyone does here and you are expected to call back on your dime.  Not fair, just the way it is. 

So I’m relieved, I head back to the centre and wait for my flash.  Kenyan events can take a LONG time so I was glad I was shortening the time I know I’d spend at this particular event.  At 10:20 I get a call from my social worker saying I need to come immediately, the ceremony has begun and they are waiting for me.  I beg her, can she please just represent the centre on my behalf and she explains:  That’s not possible, You are giving the graduation speech.  surprise #2.  Wow, really, I wish I knew that ahead of time.  So, I head over and am greeted by excited, nervous folks who rush me into a crammed room with about 120 people inside and another 100 or so outside.  I am seated at the very front, on the stage, facing the crowd.  There’s a program in front of me and what do you know, there’s my name printed right there, I’m speaker 5 ot of 11 (5 of which showed up btw).   It’s about 10:45 and I realize I am in for a very long  ceremony.  Back home graduation ceremonies really bore me, now multiply that times 5, at least.  

So, the MC announces me, I give a speech to the graduating class, families, and other "distinguished" guests which seemed to go over fine, especially for making it all up as I went along.  Then I sit down and survive two more hours of poems, songs, and Kenyan ceremony madness.  Finally we get to passing out the diplomas to the 75 graduating students and along comes surprise #3.  I get to hand them out, shake hand, snap a picture with the students…. you know, like the college president usually does.  Wow, awkward is all I can say about that.

Then after the ceremony ends I spend an hour outside trying to round up my people and get the heck out of there, it’s 2pm by now.  I take pictures with about 50 people I’ve never met who just came up out of the blue.  I did make some great connections with more local program directors and leaders and when I get in the centre van to leave I notice that the 7 people I came with has multiplied into 12.  Now this doesn’t even surprise me anymore because people here are extreemely good at filling up your car when you’re not looking and getting you to give them rides places.  No problem, as long as it’s somewhat on the way I’m usually OK with it, the van is a real luxury here and I figure it’s good program promotion being seen all around town with the centre vehicle. 

So I go to drop the extra riders off at their home and surprise #4, I’m told they have prepared lunch and a party for me.  This time I drew the line.  I really had some stuff to do at the office and I respectfully, but firmly declined, promising to come another time.  It was almost 3pm by now and I was tired, hungry, and just plain done.  Well, not to waste the opportunity, all my staff and the girls asked if they could go in and celebrate so I unloaded that van and headed home alone.  

Right when I got back, I  ate a big bowl of Githeri and then got word that there was some serious momma drama in Umoja slum.  I headed right over and spent the next two hours talking to women, children, and the village elders trying to solve some silly problems that were impacting the children who come to our learning centre.  Made some progress, but mostly just uncovered more problems that I’ll have to solve another day. 

Not exactly how I envisioned the day playing out, but I suppose I did make some good connections and gave Karibu centre some good publicity in the community.   For the first time in my life I think I’m getting more excitement than I would like.  I’d take a boring, predictable day or two about now.  Ian