Posts Tagged ‘Thika’

Ameena thoughts

Ian laughs every time he sees the picture of this little girl.  We wondered tonight what she might have been thinking when this picture was taken.  Do you think she was thinking, “Go away, I don’t want your help”?  I can’t imagine that she was.  I imagine that she was wondering what this white person was doing in her neighborhood/village, or what this white person was snapping at her OR whether this white person might be kind and help her?

Lucy, our 5 year old asked me today how to say Ameena’s name in Swahili.

I said, well, it already is Swahili.  It’s Ameena in Swahili and translated into English it would be “Amen” or it means honest and trustworthy.  She seemed so puzzled by my explanation.  In her mind, Ameena was just English and American like everything else she knows.

Using this name in our organization title has a history.  There is of course the whole bit about Ameena and the other babies all being born in the same place yet having different opportunities that I talked about here .  But there is also the drive of our Kenyan teachers pushing to use the name Ameena.  There is a deep connection between these staff and us.  In Kenya, as in other African cultures, relationship is everything.   The importance we  Americans place on doing, accomplishing, being efficient, and checking things off the list……it’s equivalent in Kenya….is how you treat and interact with others.   It is the highest honor and acknowledgement of relationship to name your child (or organization!) after another.  And then, there is the meaning of the name.  The fact that it means honest and trustworthy speaks to the values that we have in our relationships with the people we partner in country with, and with those of you who support us here at home.  We will work hard to be honest and trustworthy in the work we are carrying out.

With that being said….several of you have stepped in & have partnered with Ameena Project to support the Kiang’ombe preschool financially.  One family of teachers sent a donation to buy the educational supplies for the preschool program, another family used inheritance money to give a year’s worth of monthly support in honor of the grandparents who had passed away and yet another family gave a donation acknowledging that while they might never make it to Africa, it didn’t mean that they couldn’t be involved IN Africa.  Others of you have indicated that you are interested in supporting this project which is incredibly encouraging!  We are sending the first amount of funding for the teacher salaries and some of the basic supplies with the hopes that by the end of November we’ll have 50% of our annual budget pledged and received.  It really is important to those of us behind Ameena Project to know that we will be able to sustain this project for the next year.   If you’ve had the tugging at your heart that you would like to be involved in some way, please leave a comment or email one of us!  Your thoughts, words of encouragement, and financial gifts remind us that we are not crazy for embarking on this endeavor.

The nitty gritty of Ameena Project

It started the moment we arrived home from Kenya.  The usual calls from friends, former employees and acquaintances in Kenya.

“Can you help with school fees?  A new business?  Food for my family?  Building a  house on land that was gifted to me?”

And in our relative abundance, we have given, knowing all along that we desired something more structured and focused.

And then this summer, two teachers that we had worked with in Kenya were looking for work.  I told them to go ahead and look for work in a local school, that we had nothing for them.  I hated saying it, but these are persistent folk and they just need to hear it straight, the first time.

And then one of them emailed back and said she couldn’t go back to just teaching anyone.  That after working with these vulnerable kids and seeing the change in them….that this was her calling.

“Could we please help?”

I hated hearing that.  It stressed me out.  Didn’t she know work was unsteady for us, finances unsure, our life still in transition from returning home?  How could she possibly think that WE could help HER?  I think we must have said no a few more times.  I know I let a few calls from Kenya go to voice mail rather than having to say “no” yet again.

But she persisted.

And joined forces with another teacher we had employed and trained.

Ian being the person he is, called their bluff and told them to go find some vulnerable kids then.

They hunted.  They found.  They reconsidered.  And hunted some more.  And found.

The result is Kiang’ombe, an isolated slum village about 3km off the main road in Thika, Kenya.

Kiang'ombe

Community members and elders were thrilled to hear from these teachers.  Overjoyed with the fact that the idle school building they had built themselves within their community…might find life again through the funding of teachers and materials.

This is what we have hoped for all along in thinking again of how we might make a difference in Kenya.

Idle community school building in Kiang'ombe

Ameena Project will be a US based, 100% volunteer run organization made up of individuals who have been deeply and permanently impacted by encounters with extreme poverty.  We will come alongside talented and passionate individuals who have a demonstrated commitment to working with the neediest children within their communities.  We desire to work in developing and undeveloped countries.  Simple and focused, it is our goal to recognize that to whom much is given, much is required.

By carefully choosing opportunities that fulfill our mission we reduce the risk of financial mismanagement,  loss of community culture/knowledge, and dependence on outside leadership.  While our group grew out of the wish to partner with these Kenyan teachers and enable them to serve the community of Kiang’ombe, we also recognize that the future might bring other partnering opportunities.  But for now, this is how you can help.

We need people willing to fund this program for the 1 year trial we’ve committed to.  Village elders have offered the free use of the facilities and are ensuring community protection of any program supplies that are brought in.

Kiang’ombe Nursery school will provide full day preschool for 50 children ages 4-6 as well as a full feeding program for enrolled children.  We have seen from our previous work in Kenya the powerful effect this type of program can have on a struggling community.  The change in the children is profound when they get the combination of regular nourishment, academic instruction, and structured social activities.  Children in extreme poverty literally come alive when they are given these three basic elements of healthy development.  The effects of this type of program also impact the local community, sometimes in a dramatic way.  When parents know their children have a safe & nurturing place to spend their days, they are often freed up to seek employment themselves, multiplying the positive impact on family systems.  When the youngest & most vulnerable children in the community begin to do better it has a tremendous impact on the community as a whole.  Adult lives that were consumed with worry over their children who were malnourished and only just surviving are transformed when they hear the sounds of singing, see children playing together again (or maybe for the first time), and feel the relief that comes from seeing joy in their child’s eyes.

In order to maximize direct benefit to sponsored programs, Ameena Project values simplicity in all operations and management procedures.  This will allow us to operate programs at a lower cost than more elaborate American derived programs.  This will be a Kenyan preschool that looks like a Kenyan preschool.  No fancy American supplies and equipment.  But, because of this concept, we will be able to fund salaries for 2 teachers, a cook, and a security guard; and schooling and meals for 50 children 5 days/week for less than my monthly take home!  And I only work 2 days  a week!

Here are the specific ways in which you can choose to join this cause:

Make a one (1) time financial contribution towards the start-up program costs:

educational supplies – $555.00      toilet renovation & construction of chalk board – $278.00     cooking, food service & cleaning supplies – $445.00

55 student chairs, 4 adult chairs, and 10 tables – $834.00     1st month’s salaries & operation  costs – $1200.00

or, make a year-long commitment to the monthly costs of running this program.  We would LOVE to challenge you to commit to giving & joining in this project in exchange for the benefit of being uniquely connected to this community and 50 specific children.  You can send a check to us monthly, quarterly, or in a lump sum.

While we work on acquiring non-profit 501c3 status, we have a fiscal sponsorship contract with Nomad Charities out of Bend, Oregon to allow for tax deductible contributions.  If  you desire  a tax write-off, you would write checks to:  Nomad Charities with Ameena Project in the subject line.  If you don’t want to go through our fiscal sponsor, you can make checks out to Ian and/or Anne May with Ameena Project in the subject line.  All checks (including Nomad checks) can be mailed to:  Ameena Project, 1455 SW Huntington Ave, Portland OR 97225.  Your monies will go toward the program in Kenya, all members of Ameena Project volunteer their time/services.

We anticipate the launch of our website, with more specific Ameena Project information in the next couple of weeks, but also recognize the need that is immediately present in Kiang’ombe, and wish to begin funding the preschool & feeding program as soon as possible.

These children are waiting:

If you have more specific questions about our budget, financial arrangements, giving, and/or volunteering opportunities, please feel free to email any of the Ameena Project members directly:

iansmay00@yahoo.com;  ianandanne1@yahoo.com, altreead@easystreet.net or meganjsteele@yahoo.com

We also welcome those of you who wish to contribute through volunteering your professional skills. 

Ameena & Aurellio. One month & a world apart.

Ameena & Kenyan friend Aurellio in our Kenyan home

Ameena Project was born out of the heart-wrenching, true-life experience of seeing how 2 children, born just days or  months apart, both in Kenya, can have such a different outlook for life.

The stark reality is that Aurellio will struggle to make it past his 5th birthday living as he does in poverty–constantly exposed to rampant, life-threatening illnesses such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, malaria and meningitis.  While Ameena will grow and thrive up to and past the age of 5, certainly exposed to illness, but almost certain to overcome it easily with convenient and inexpensive medication.

Is Aurellio of less value than Ameena?  Does he have less potential than Ameena?

Am I of more value and worth than his mother?  Does my origin of birth, upbringing and opportunity REALLY justify that I should  have more than 99% of the world population (that’s if you made at least $52,000/year in 2009)?  And lest we feel sorry for ourselves, if you make $25,000/year you’re still doing better than 90% of the world’s population.

No.

The answer is that we truly feel that each child should have the opportunity for health, development and dignity regardless of the parents origin or residence.

We know we can do something about this,

and we’re going to.

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

Introducing……Kenya Part 2!

It hasn’t escaped our notice that our blog title has read: “Our journey to Kenya and back” and that the title has seemed awkward since we have been back home here in the United States.  Ian and I have discussed if I should change the title, but there has been something in me (and him) that has been unable to let the title (and the experience) go.  I think maybe a part of us still hasn’t made it back.

We have now been home for 15 months, the exact amount of time that we spent living and working among Kenyans in Thika, Kenya.  I reflect back and already cannot believe that the woman living and experiencing that life….was me.  I read back over blogs written while there and realize how much has slipped from my memory already.  Did I really sit on benches next to laboring women in 3rd world maternity wards, travel pregnant in a public vehicle with 20 Kenyans, and navigate Ian being held & questioned at a Kenyan police station?

Many of you know Ian.  He’s great & I am so thankful that I get him as a partner in this life.  You also would know that he can be really  intense.  He says stuff that makes me want to stick my fingers in my ears while mumbling, “La, la, la, la. I don’t hear you.”  He knows this.  So instead, he chooses carefully when to share these thoughts with me & I in turn try to listen without freaking out.  He hears intensely from what we call the Holy Spirit: that inner prompting of your deepest self to take action that can be scary, challenging, and humbling.   Ever since leaving Kenya he has struggled with  knowledge that he can do more for people living in chronic & serious need.  He struggles with balancing the safety and comfort we both want for our family & listening to the quiet yet growing call to use his talents in places that other people would rather only visit and take pictures of.

Can I just say that it is downright terrifying to think of giving up all of the wonderful comforts of Portland, Oregon AGAIN to go somewhere…..ELSE?  It wouldn’t be a short-term choice if it happened again.

I’m pretty darn sure that the Holy Spirit is working on both me and Ian.  There is definitely the knowledge that this Kenya Part 2 is probably just the gate to something else amazing & scary & perhaps downright crazy….but I am so pleased to share and announce to you all that for now, from Portland, Oregon, this desire to serve globally is being done through the launch of:

                                                Ameena Project

I am thankful that Ian called on some like-hearted friends, Megan Steele and Shari Altree, to listen to his desires to continue serving globally & that they whole-heartedly jumped in with us.

Tomorrow I’ll take you on a tour of Ameena Project:  What it is, How we’ll work, What it will take and so on!  We’re so happy to welcome you on this journey with us.

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…..so 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 gifts...it'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.

Farewell

Goodbyes are a big deal in Kenya.

Through out the 15 months that we were in Kenya our family was able to learn about the importance of a proper farewell to Kenyans.

Of course we’re talking about a going away aka tea party.

Of course there will be presents.

Of course a ridiculous amount of photographs will be taken.

That’s normal even for Americans.

But what was new and an adjustment for our family was:

The flood of unexpected visitors to our home throughout the day and evening the  entire week before our departure.

The unexpected amount of gifts ranging from bunches of fresh bananas cut from the tree to hand knit baby sweaters for Ameena and offers of a goat to take home with us (declined of course because we were traveling by air not a matatu!)–mostly given by people with barely enough to eat themselves.

The ways in which staff began to pull back from us emotionally in preparation for our departure.

Allowing for (and planning/paying for) an airport escort by 38 staff, residents and friends because you’re not a true Kenyan if you don’t escort someone fully to either the bus, the train, the airplane etc.   I guess the 2 vanloads (yes 38+ people) of Kenyans at the airport made an impression because a fellow airplane passenger I met in Dubai said he thought we had the whole town saying goodbye to us when he saw us all at the Nairobi airport.  Perhaps not a town, but a whole Centre community!

And hopefully tomorrow, pictures of the event……