Posts Tagged ‘Volunteers’

Are we really doing this?

Ian here, sometimes I get a bit of inspiration and hop on here to share my thoughts.  Today I was woken up way too early by a text message from teacher Mercy and have spent the morning working with her to finalize a few things.  Why?  Because she has been frantically working to get everything ready to START Kiang’ombe school project in less than a week.  Is this really possible?  I find myself sitting here feeling pretty weird about it all.  Humbled, proud, and more than a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility as well as the support we have received.  In fact, Anne just got the mail and there are two new donations, both unsolicited support.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the amazing people who have come around us to make Ameena Project come to life.  You give us the confidence to push ahead.

School supplies purchased – check

Feeding program supplies purchased – check

Registration complete – check

Staff hired – check

50 lucky kids ready to have the best year of their life – check.


Big load of supplies heading to the Kiang'ombe


Mercy and Hillary picking up the portable blackboard and misc. supplies


Off site store room


Mercy and Hillary unloading some supplies


Working hard to inventory and organize the new supplies

It’s really coming together.  I am grateful to play a part.  Ian


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.

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.

Awesome volunteer award!

We had a retired school teacher come to visit Karibu Centre from Portland, Oregon. 

This was Connie’s 5th trip to Kenya.  She’s becoming quite the pro….pretty able to handle the smells, and sights, and people.  But she still needs that Starbucks coffee fix in the morning!  Some things take awhile to take out of the American. 

Connie planned some wonderful professional growth activities for the Centre teachers and also did  a few sessions with the pregnant girls/new moms introducing the ideas of business and self-sustaining enterprises.  The teachers and girls all seemed to throughly enjoy their time with Connie.  It is interesting to note that several staff and many of the pregnant girls/new moms were struck by Connie’s testimony.  I wasn’t around to hear the testimony itself, but it was eye-opening to the girls and staff to hear that “white people/wazungu” have struggles in their lives as well.  From what so many of them see, they have this picture painted in their minds of Americans/white people having perfect lives, with perfect house, and perfect kids.  Goodness sakes, they even told me they were shocked to hear that I vomited… any ordinary Kenyan.  My how I wish I were immune to it as they imagine! 

Anne working on one of Connie's craft projects...a fabric doll representing her son Alex



Besides her work with the Centre staff and residents, we all got a chance to enjoy time talking to a fellow Portlander and the kids got to have some “gramma” like time. 


Connie was “lucky” enough for the kids to pick out a Skippy Jon Jones book.  She had never read this author before.  If you’ve ever read Skippy Jon, it takes a little getting used to!  We love him, I think the language and style gave Connie a headache.   I remember Grandpa having a bit of a difficult time getting the lingo of Skippy right too.  

All in all, we were so thankful for Connie’s trip to Karibu Centre and all she got accomplished in her week here.  We can’t wait to have her back again this spring!

The Portland Crew

So it’s been a little over a week now since our volunteer training crew from Portland has left.  It seems like forever and a day since they were here; so much goes on in each and every day at the Centre that we are just worked and worn out by the evening.

Our crew consisted of 7 wonderful women:  Jorie, Laurah, Shari, Angie, Laurie (or is it Lori??  I really should know!), Sheila and Connie.  Each woman came with their amazing “real world” talents and gifts and then also just the gifts of friendship, time and a lot of doting on our kids.  What a treat for Eli and Lucy.  They really truly had their emotional gas tanks filled for the first time since our move here.  I don’t think that Ian and I had realized how busy and distracted we had been in trying to get all of this up and going….until we saw how they content they were after full days of loving from the ladies.  I am so thankful for that gift from them!

With all of that said….I was a horrible picture taker.  I don’t think that I took a single one.  The ladies more than made up for it, and I think there will be some amazing videos and photo collections from the trip…but just not here.

You can go to megan steele’s blog and find some pictures of our great volunteers though!   They organized, cleaned, taught, listened, taught, fed, hugged and in general gave hope to each and every one of us here.  They were gracious and walked with our local women to their homes, and endured conditions that would make most Americans cringe.  The women will never forget the mazungus we came to their homes and listened to their stories.  An amazing gift.

I would encourage all of you who have even just a little tugging at your heart to come over and experience this….to….do it!  It is a blessing for us, and for you.