Monday, March 28, 2011

Hope For the Village Child, Kaduna, Nigeria

Hope For the Village Child, Kaduna, Nigeria
March 2 – 11, 2011
I arrived in Abuja the capital city of Nigeria on March 2nd from Nairobi, Kenya via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  It was a distance of more than 2,000 miles.  Two staff members, Prosper and Ruth from the Hope for the Village Child (HFVC) met me at the airport.  It was about a 2 hour drive from Abuja to Kaduna where the HFVC headquarters are located.    I noticed along the side of the highway lots of women selling at little stands an interesting vegetable that I thought was a gigantic potato, but it was what they call yams.  The yams are white inside and taste somewhat like a potato.  It is a staple food for Nigerians.  They cook it and eat it plain, slice and deep fry and mash it also.  It is a very starchy.  We stopped and I took a picture of some of the women with their yams.  I showed them the picture in my camera and they were happy to see themselves.
When I arrived at Sr. Rita’s home in Kaduna -she had two sisters visiting from the USA.  Sr. Gemma and Sr. Roberta.  Sr. Gemma is from the Garden City, Kansas area and is presently in Ohio at the Dominican Sisters head offices.
My  days with Sr. Rita and the HFVC staff was another heartwarming experience to see the donors’ dollars going to help so many children, women and families.  Sr. Rita has been in Nigeria more than 30 years in a variety of ministries.  She has devoted the past 12 years nonstop to HFVC programs.  She is the director of HFVC which has donors from the USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands and other countries.  The HFVC has many worthwhile projects including the following:
Rural health; in particular child immunization,  prenatal care and health education, i.e. aids prevention, malaria
Water wells for remote villages, over 100 wells have been dug since 1999
Women small businesses, micorfinacning, some examples are sewing clothing items, making jewelry, batek cloth, milling rice, storing  grain and more
Eye clinic for examination and fitting of glasses
Rickets disease, prevention and surgery to correct the deformed limbs
Building rural primary schools and furnishing books for rural schools.

The following day after my arrival, Sr. Gemma and I went with Abigail one of HFVC nurses, an assistant and driver to one of the remote villages to operate a  “clinic day” of immunizations for small children.  The roads to the villages are dirt rutted roads.  No road repair or grading is done on the rural roads, ever.  Once they are built the government forgets about them.    The HFVC has an old Toyota Land Cruiser that we bounce around in to the clinic.  The villagers do not have cars, unless it might be the village chief.   Some use a motorcycle or bike and the others walk.
When we arrive at the clinic building, women are already waiting with their babies tied to their backs.  The typical way African women carry their babies and toddlers is tied on their back.  The babies do not wear diapers.  Each mother has a health record for each child of immunizations etc. She brings it with her so the nurse can document what care was given.  HFVC also keeps a health record on each child.  The mother is required to pay a small amount for the immunization shots.  Babies are weighted, shots given and sometimes medicines such as antibiotic or vitamins.  It depends on what the nurse feels is needed for the child.   Sr. Gemma has a nursing background so she assisted the nurse.  I helped weigh a few babies and dispensed some medicines.  You could tell that the mothers were so grateful to have the nurse come.
This village also had a primary school built by donors of HFVC.  I visited several of the classes.  The school is a very basic rectangle building with large black board in the front, no electricity, water or outdoor toilets.  The children go till about 12:30 pm. No afternoon classes.   I asked why and the only answer I got was the children needed to go home to eat.   The schools don’t meet the standards of the developed countries in any respect.  However, I saw many eager children ready to learn.   Progress is being made I tell myself,  just a few years ago  there was not a school here and children received no education.   Before a school is built in the village, the chief of the village and the villagers have to agree to participate in the building of the school.  The donors of HFVC furnish the financial support but the villages furnish the labor and some of the materials.  After the school is built the government takes it over and it becomes a government school.  They furnish the teachers to the school and that is about all they do.   If any maintenance is done to the school it will be done by the villagers not the government.
I did two more clinic days.  All were important visits for the prevention of childhood diseases like polio, measles, chicken pox etc.  Another bonus is the nurse is able to see how the baby is developing and talk with the mother about the health of the baby.  If the baby is seriously ill the mother is told to take the baby to the local government hospital in Kaduna.  The government hospitals have long lines of people waiting for care so you have to get there early in the morning to hopefully be seen that day.  
Sr. Rita meets with the village chiefs periodically to keep in touch with what the HFVC is doing in the villages and what progress is being made.  One day we stopped by to meet with one of the village chiefs about an upcoming meeting/workshop on ecology issues.  One of the struggles the area is facing is the cutting down of trees for firewood.  Men will go into areas and randomly cut down trees like poachers would do with wild animals.  In Nigeria as well as other countries in Africa their land laws are different than ours in the USA.  People can graze cattle on land that is not cultivated whether you own it or not.    Occasionally you will see some fences but most often the land is open range.  The tree cutters treat the trees the same way.  Unfortunately the land is becoming barren, erosion of the soil and loss of valuable trees.  When we went to the remote villages you see small trucks heading to the larger towns loaded down with wood that had been cut in the “bush” country that they will sell.   When you see the cut wood you know more trees have been cut and none replanted.  Another day we went with Sr. Rita to meet with a District Head Chief at a village.  He did speak English but was more comfortable speaking the the local language of Hausa.  One of HFVC staff who spoke Hausa fluently was the spokes person for HFVC.  The District Chief invited other men leaders to come to the meeting.  There is a certain protocol followed.    No women except Sr. Rita, Sr. Gemma, Sr. Roberta and me were present.  It reminded me how the chief of the village wields a lot of power with decision making for the villagers. He is looked up to as the “go to person” for advice and approval.  To understand Africa one must understand the tribal culture first.  At the end of the meeting we took pictures with the District Chief.    I witnessed how essential it is to walk softly and get the village chief on board to have projects succeed.  The District Chief expressed appreciation for everything that the HFVC was doing in the villages.  The HFVC is very careful about making sure the villagers/chief participate in getting the projects up and running.    On one of the clinic visits I saw that the little clinic building was painted white inside, I asked how that got done.  They said the villagers built the mud brick building than painted it too.  It was a simple building but clean and neat.   In another village a local Baptist church allowed HFVC to have the monthly clinic in the church, since they didn’t have a building.  Each village where they have  a clinic, they have a village volunteer (health assistant) who monitors the village children and talks with the mothers about health concerns.  He/she is  sort of a health educator too.  HFVC provides  training for this person.
Sr. Rita asked if I would like to go see a water well being dug.  I said, “sure I would”.    I met Emmanuel the HFVC staff person who heads up this project about 6:30 am.    He has been involved since 1999 with over 100 wells being dug.  They write a contract in the local language Hausa that outlines the responsibilities of the villagers and HFVC.    The financial cost for the HFVC for a hand dug well including the hand pump is about $1,2000.   Emmanuel ” witches” for the well and has about at 90% success rate.   I ride with him in an old Toyota pickup filled with gravel to take to the well site.  Two other HFVC helpers go along too, one fellow is the cement finisher for the well wall concrete forms .  These three men work in unison with the village men and women, it reminded me somewhat of the Amish putting up a “barn”.  When we arrived at the site, women were carrying water on their heads in big pans and plastic cans and dumping into a barrel near the well site.  The water would be used to mix the sand, gravel and cement to make concrete walls for the well.    The dimensions outlining the size of the well had been made the day before and some concrete forms had been made too.  The village men took turns digging.  Some hauled sand in a wheel barrel and others hauled the gravel.  They made a circle where sand, gravel and cement were mixed together than water added.  They mixed this by hand.  The concrete would be used for the forms for the walls of the well.  Emmanuel told me that the concrete walls would go about ¾ of the way up in the well so the well would not collapse.  I estimated the diameter of the well to be about 4 feet.  The chief of the village was there and spoke with me.  He also shared with me the need for a primary school in the village.  Presently the children walk several miles to go to primary school.  I told him I would share his concern with the person at HFVC who would come out and speak with him and access the situation.  The area was really desolate, very hot and lots of plastic bag debris.  There were several new stucco homes in the village, however, most were mud brick 2 room homes.  No electricity, no water.   The area was experiencing very dry weather, the corn or maize as they call it looked burnt.  They were waiting for the rainy season.    I was so impressed with the organization and efficiency of the water well project.  I can imagine the blessing that so many families will receive with clean drinking water. 

Another day I travel with the person from HFVC, Faith , who monitors the schools in the remote areas that were built by HFVC donors or that books were donated to the schools. She is responsible for about 30 schools.   Today we will visit two different villages.  One where books have been donated to see if they are being used.  Most of all primary education is done by writing on the blackboard by the teacher and the students copying into a notebook (exercise book) if they have one.  The teachers are not use to using any kind of text books or story books to teach the children.  The first  primary school we visited had books donated by HFVC but were not being used often.  While Faith spoke with the teachers I visited with the children.  The children are taught classes in English but of course they don’t speak it at home so their English verbal skills are minimal.  This is a very poor rural area.  There were no  school desks or benches in the one classroom, another classroom had some benches with desks.  I only saw 2 classrooms being used.  The children sat barefoot on the floor.  Most did not have a notebook or pencil to write with.  No doubt most of their parents never attended a primary school.  I took some pictures of the children and showed them the photo on my camera and they were excited about that.  They also said the ABCs for me.  I gave them a big applause.  It was difficult to leave the children.  I saw myself in them when I was a little child, eager to learn.  How lucky I was to have the Dominican Sisters teach me from grades 1-8.  And yes, we had text books and a small library of books in the front book cases of our school rooms.  Faith told me after we left the school that she gave the teachers until the following week to come up with a plan on how they were going to use the books or she would take the books and give them to a school that would use them properly.  Faith said she has done workshops with teachers on how to use books in a classroom.  However, teachers come and go at the government schools.  Since the villages are so remote it is hard to get high quality teachers to ride motorcycles out to teach at these schools.  It is much easier just to teach in the larger cities like Kaduna.
The next school we visit is much larger about 6-8 classrooms.  The teachers there have inquired about getting books from HFVC.  Faith meets with them and they seem very upbeat and enthusiastic about getting books.  I could see a big difference from this village much larger and more progressive than the previous village.  Again I was encouraged that the donors’ dollars for HFVC is spent wisely and monitored.
Another staff person at HFVC heads up working with the village women in getting small businesses started.  The hope of course is that someday they will be self  sustainable without HFVC help.  The most profitable business so far has been a storage building for grain, mostly rice and corn.  The corn and rice are stored in large bags with the owners’  name on it in a building that the varmints can’t get to. When the price of the commodity is higher in price than they sell it; previously they would sell the grain when they harvested it and of course the price would be low, because the market was over supplied. 
One of the problems is always the marketing of the products like beaded jewelry, knitted items, soap etc.  Presently they have market days in the nearby towns that they try to sell their products at.  I bought several necklaces and earrings.  HFVC helped the villagers get started with a small business with micorfinacning.  Each women has to contribute a small sum of money for the groups’ account then loans are made from that money.  The women are the ones who do the majority of the work.  I’m really not sure what the men do.  
Another important project is rickets disease. - I had the opportunity to see two children who had surgery for the disease.  What a difference in their ability to walk with straight leg as well as more self confidence.  Rickets have affected many children in several villages.  A group of German researchers are trying to find the cause of the outbreak.  They have eliminated the water as a source and are now doing more soil samples.  While I was there 3 people from Germany were visiting at the HFVC about the project.  The cost of surgery to correct the deformed limbs  (usually legs but sometimes an arm, too) is only about $500 US.  Sr. Rita said they have about 70 or more surgeries to do.  A local surgeon in Kaduna is having great results with the surgery.  A mini miracle for sure.
I also had an opportunity to see about 50 people come to the eye clinic which is held about once a month.  An optometrist with his large eye case filled with lots of lenses for testing your eye sight comes on a motorcycle. He doesn’t have one of the fancy machines that our eye physicians use.  This would be the first time these people ever had their eyes tested.  When they get glasses, you should see the smiles on their faces.  They can actually see well.
The country of Nigeria has many struggles.   The country seems to be broken.   They have the south and north divisions as well as Muslim and Christian differences.  The government spends lots of money in the capital city of Abuja on building fancy big houses, government buildings and roadways but does little for the other areas in Nigeria.  Motorcycles are all over the streets in Kaduna.  It appears almost lawless.  Sr. Rita says it is not safe to drive at night.  A business man, banker in Kaduna that  I met said the government taxes , paperwork etc is so extensive that manufacturers who might come to Nigeria to set up a business are deterred from doing so.  He said the cost of electricity would be about 40% of a manufactures expenses.  And of course you can’t depend that the electricity will be on during the day or night with any regularity.    I didn’t see one manufacturing business.  The big business  is the refinery on the outskirts of Kaduna.   The government schools are poorly staffed.  The private schools are better but struggle too.   Jobs are few.  Nigeria like many of the other African countries has lots of natural resources including oil.  But the problem always stems back to the government and its misuse of funds and lack of leadership to give the citizens an opportunity to get jobs and be self sufficient.  Without a manufacturing base, I don’t see how they will progress.  I’m struck by so many people living in poverty.  It is a harsh existence.  Lots of pollution in the air and a dusty haze.  Everything in the home is convered with dust, floors, curtains, furniture, etc.  You would have to dust several times a day to have a really clean environment.  People just get used to it.
I leave the Hope for the Village Child mission and Sr. Rita with thoughts of what great strides they have made to assist the rural people. Your donor dollars are wisely spent.  I thank Sr. Rita and the HFVC staff for allowing me to shadow them and learn and witness so much.  They are truly earth angels.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Christian Foundation For Children and Aging, Kenya, Africa

Sunday, Feb. 20 to Tuesday, March 1st, 2011   Kenya,

What a wonderful Mission awareness week.  I wish you could have traveled
with me;  I know in spirit many of you were there.  I arrived at the
Nairobi airport about 9 pm on Sunday, Feb. 20th and the CFCA staff was there
to greet me and others arriving from the states.  They held up a big sign
saying, CFCA with big smiles, and a warm welcome in deed.  We had a total of
17 who were sponsors of children from the states of (North Carolina,
California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maine, Colorado, Kansas, Indiana,
Illinois, and New Jersey) who were my traveling companions for the week.  Our
ages ranged from 82 years young to about 30 years old.  A lovely diverse
group, the best traveling companions’ one could ever want.  Stacy who was
part of our group was a representative from the CFCA office headquarters in
Kansas City, Kansas.  The local Kenya CFCA staff took care of us with
graciousness and kindness.

Some of the sponsors arrived earlier in the week to
or came that afternoon.  We didn’t check in to our lodging at the Rosa
Mystica Spiritual Center until about midnight.  We were all tired and especially the folks from the states who had jet lag.  All the sponsors met each other the next morning along with the CFCA Kenya staff. 

During morning orientation, Peter who heads up the CFCA Kenya staff gave us
an over view of the projects CFCA is involved in and introduced us to some
of the staff from the different departments.  Amos, the youth coordinator, led
us in several songs and we got a flavor of the beautiful African music and
dancing too.
A highlight of the day was the meeting of our sponsored children.  My sponsored
child is Jaysie and she will be 12 years old next month.  I have been sponsoring her
for about 2 years.  Her mother, Judy accompanied her.  It was a great
meeting of sponsors with children and their families.  Several of the
sponsor’s children were older teens; they have been sponsoring them for as
long as 10 years.  One young man is now in Nairobi University doing very
After lunch we went outside and got to know each other better.  Jaysie is a
shy young girl but very bright and speaks and writes English well as does
her mother, Judy.    All the sponsors brought small gifts to give to their
sponsored child.   I also had a gift for Jaysie’s mother.  
There was a shopping center in walking distance that had an ice cream
parlor, plus lots of stores.  In the afternoon we walked over to the
shopping center with two social workers from CFCA who monitor Jaysie’s
progress, and Jaysie and her mother.  I treated them to ice cream and we
called it a” girls day out  shopping..”  Jaysie has two younger sisters and
one younger brother.  There was a department type store in the shopping
center so I asked the social worker if I could buy a small gift for Jaysie’s
siblings,  she said that would be fine.  I had Jaysie pick out a small gift for
each of them to take home
We walked back to Rosa Mystica and said good bye for the day.  Jaysie and
her mother, Judy had about 2 hours to go by local bus home, changing buses 3
times.  We would meet them the next day at the Nairobi Arboretum for a
morning of games and a picnic.    Jaysie’s mother said they didn’t get to
bed until after midnight because the children were so excited about their
gifts and wanted to play with them.   Judy, Jaysie’s mother was wearing my
gift of a light weight crocheted sweater, scarf and sandals.    Jaysie
brought me a gift of a locally made purse and bracelet.  How thoughtful and
generous of them.
We had a fun morning of “kid’s games” but all the adults participated too,
including a three legged race, jump rope and singing and dancing.   The
arboretum morning was a great way to mix together and enjoy our time
together.   We also had short talks from some older sponsored children who
were in university telling the younger ones and the sponsors how CFCA
sponsorship helped them.  It was very touching to see the potential being
  I took Jaysie over to one of the young women who is in university
and introduced her to Jaysie.  I said, “Jaysie this will be you in the
.”  Her mother told me that some of the monthly sponsorship
donations I send through CFCA are being used to send Jaysie to a private
school because many of the public schools have 75 to a 100 students in a
classroom and the teachers are not well trained..  She was so thankful for
Jaysie’s sponsorship.  I was overwhelmed thinking my small donation each
month is providing this family with so much hope and a brighter future.  Jaysie’s,
mother brought pictures of the entire family with her to show me, including
her husband, Robert the children’s father.A very nice family.

We said our final good byes!!!  They asked me if I would return to visit
them.  I said, “I will leave it up to the Lord.”  I told them I sponsored a
young boy in Guatemala and plan to visit him the year he graduates from high
school which will be around 2013.   If God is willing I might be able to return
to see Jaysie go off to University.  We had tears in our eyes of joy.  I
thought of them as they left to get on the bus to return to their home,
wondering if I might get to see them again.   With Skype maybe that can be
arranged in the future, presently CFCA does not offer that to the sponsors. 
Our communication is done through written letters and pictures about once a
quarter.  I found out how important the letters and pictures are to the
sponsored children and aged, so I will be more conscientious in the future
with writing promptly

In the afternoon we toured the small CFCA headquarters in Nairobi.  They
showed us how they keep each child’s record, finances etc.  Presently a lot
is done by hand but they plan to convert a great deal of the record keeping
to computer in the future.   The social workers have anywhere from 200 to
275 sponsored children or aged as their clients.  To keep track of each of
these sponsorships is an amazing task.  I felt very comfortable when I left
the CFCA offices that money wasn’t being spent foolishly on lavish offices
or furniture.  Very modest in deed.      

After dinner we all packed and repacked for our next CFCA visits which would
be for 6 days in outlying areas.   Our little gray bus and our capable
driver, Richard and CFCA staff, Stephen, Amos, and Regina from Nairobi would
be traveling with us.  We had become a CFCA family.  They had to load our
luggage on the top of the bus.  So it mean’t lifting it up and taking it
down several times in the next 6 days.  The guys were great in handling it
On, Wednesday, Feb. 23rd we headed out of Nairobi for about 3 hours on some
paved roads but also some that were under construction.  Our driver, Richard
had a lot of work ahead of him with motorcycles, bicycles, big buses and
trucks on the road, plus pedestrians walking on the shoulder of the road..
The Nairobi weather was very nice, warm and sunny but cooler at night.  However,
as we journeyed to Nakuru the heat began plus lots of dusty roads.   We got
to Nakuru about noon and just dropped off our luggage and went to the
restroom.  Our next stop was to have lunch with some of the sponsored CFCA
community of ladies.  These ladies may or may not have a child or aged that
is sponsored by CFCA but they are helped in some way by an extended family
member who might be sponsored.  Also CFCA is working with Mother’s/Women’s
groups to aid them in micro financing to start small businesses; such as
raising chickens to sell eggs.
After we left our hotel in Nakuru we headed out on small dusty rutted roads
like cow paths in the country, the little gray bus was having a hard time
trying to go over all the bumps, ditches etc.  What you really needed was an
army jeep or caterpillar.  We didn’t really know what to expect.  We thought
we were just going to meet some nice ladies and have lunch.    After about
an hour or so bumping around on the bus a little tired and hungry here we
see a group of ladies on a hill singing and dancing welcoming us.  It is a
scene that I will never forget.  Out in no man’s land these wonderful ladies
dressed in beautiful African dresses in the bright sun waiting for us with
open arms.  They had prepared a homemade luncheon for us.  Lots of wonderful
local dishes including mutton, fermented milk, rice, beans, ugali, chicken,
salad, fruits and more.  I tried a little of everything.  They brought
pillows for us to sit on under trees for shade.  How they got all this food
in big pots carried up to this spot I don’t know.  But I am sure it was all
hand carried for miles by these ladies.    After we went through the buffet
line then the ladies ate.  I walked around and tried to shake every ladies
hand and thank them for the wonderful food and hospitality.  We took
pictures together with them.  I thought of my mother and her lady friends
from the farming community of Willowdale, Kansas.   How much sacrifice and
hard work they would do for others.

After lunch we visited one of the sponsored children’s home in the country
and saw the chickens that were part of the micro financing business.  The chickens were
really healthy looking and kept in clean quarters.  The mud brick home was 2
rooms, living room and another room for bedroom.  I’m sure some people sleep
in the living room too.  Much of the cooking is done outside on charcoal
fires.  Of course there is no electricity or running water.  I do remember
seeing a hand water pump which was wonderful to see.  At least they have
clean water.  Most often a water pump is shared by many families.     *It
was a day to never be forgotten.** * We said good bye to these lovely
ladies.  On the way back we had to get out of the bus so it could maneuver
up a hill, our weight was too much for it.
When we got back to the hotel in Nakuru someone cleaned the hall floors and
steps which were like linoleum and they put oil on them to make it shine.   
Well it was like a skating rink, it is only by God’s graces that one of us
didn’t fall.   I proceeded down to the bar and had a cold local beer, Tusker
lager.  It was very tasty.  We had dinner at the hotel and went to bed
early.  We were leaving tomorrow morning at 5:45 am for Lake Nakuru National
Park for an animal safari.  We saw rhinos, baboons, gazelles, African
buffalo, storks, flamingos and more.  We all enjoyed the safari and headed
back about 10 am for a late breakfast then bags to the bus to be loaded for
our journey to Kisumu which is about a 3-4 hour drive.    We stopped half
way on the journey in Kericho at the Kericho Tea Hotel which is located on a
tea plantation for a late lunch.  You could see that this at one time was a
grand place but no maintenance had been done for years.  The same situation
in Kenya as in Tanzania, maintenance of buildings, roads, grounds, plumbing,
and electricity is not done.
We arrived at our next place to stay in Nakura, Santa Anna’s Center.  Here I
shared a room with Karen from New Jersey.  She was a great room mate.    Santa
Anna’s was in need of a new cleaning crew.    No AC of course, but we did
have a wall fan that we put on plus used our mosquito nets.  The first night
we took cool showers, but they managed to fix the hot water and we had warm
showers the following days.
On Friday, February 25th we meet the and Bondo (Bon) project office
staff and sponsored families.  Lucy heads up this project with the able help
of Lawrence and other staff.     As our bus pulls up to an area a band of
young men are welcoming us.  They are dressed in professional band uniforms
but lack the normal band instruments that our USA students would have.  But
it didn’t matter, they had a drum some cymbals and plastic made to do
instruments, and performed for us with skill.  Some of the band members were
sponsored children.   If anyone has contacts with school band/students who
might be buying new instruments and would like to donate their instruments
this would be a great place to do it.  I think of all the musical
instruments that are sitting in people’s garages, basements or closets not
being used.
The day was spent in celebration of our arrival to their area.  We had lunch
prepared by the women’s groups, reading of poetry by children, singing by
children lots of dancing by everyone including all of us.  We had a large
tent so that kept us from getting sun burnt.  The ladies made us all “straw
hats”.  How nice of them.  There were about 300 people in attendance.  Lynn
and Terri of our group who are both choir members in their respective
parishes each sang a hymn as a thank you.  They did us proud.  It was also
very special to meet some of the aged who are sponsored by CFCA.   I talked
to many of the children that are sponsored and spent some time visiting with
two bright young ladies who are in high school.  One of them is on a tennis
team and is able to travel to different areas of Africa playing tennis.  I
asked her how she got on the team; this is not with the school she goes to. 
This is sponsored by a private group.  She said she tried out for the team
and was chosen.  I thought what a wonderful way for her to be able to expand
her knowledge and meet people in different places.  So often the young
people in Africa never get out of their immediate area unless they go to a
University or are fortunate enough to go to a boarding school. Most of their
parents do not own cars and cannot afford for them to travel.

It was a great day!!!  Thanks Kisumu CFCA.
The next day we traveled in our bus to another remote area called Bondo town
about 2 hours over dusty road construction roads.  We had to shut and close
the bus windows constantly.  It became a joke.  Lawrence from the Bon
project would shout “close the windows” when we were coming upon dirt roads
with flying dust, then when we would past the area he would shout, “open the
windows”.  He knew every little detail about the roads including upcoming
speed bumps.   We stopped on the way to visit Kit-Mikayi archaeological
site:  This rock formation dates back to pre-Christian times.  Most of us
climbed to the top of the formation.  After that we made several home visits
to sponsored children families.  All the homes very modest with mud floors,
clean and no electricity, running water etc.   Seeing some of the families’
homes is a big eye opener for most of us.  We also visited the Bon project
offices.  Again very modest.

It is hard to believe but it is Sunday, Feb. 27th.  After Mass we head for
about one hour to Ahero town to another CFCA project called Nyando.  This
area has sugar cane farming as a major source of income for the region.  Many
people are subsistence farmers.    We meet several sponsored families in our
home visits and also meet an aged who is sponsored by CFCA in her home.   We
meet about 25 women who are in the mother’s/women’s groups.  I walked with
one of the women and she told me that the group recently bought a big
outdoor tent to rent for income and they want to buy plastic chairs also to
rent.  They each have to give 100 Kenyan shillings a month to the group as
part of their micro financing project.  That would be about $1.20 in USA
dollars.  We also saw a goat project that the women are involved in of
selling goat milk.  I held hands with these wonderful women, wishing them
God’s blessings.  They felt like sisters to me.  Very welcoming, generous
ladies who work hard to provide for their families.  Many of children in
this area have experienced HIV deaths of both parents.  So they have
guardians, older sisters/brothers and grandparents who take care of the
smaller children.   The women give us a basket of gifts, mangos and honey
from their bee project.  The aged lady who is a CFCA sponsored gave 2 clay
pots for cooking and a gourd to our members.  What a generous gesture.
We had a full day and will head back to Nairobi tomorrow morning.   Back to
repacking the bags.

Monday, Feb. 28th is a day of travel back to the Rosa Mystica Center in
Nairobi and a clean room with hot water.  Yippy!!!It is about a 6-8 hour
ride.  We will stop at the hotel Kunste that had the slippery floors for
lunch which is about midway.  Some of the group bought really nice in
expensive gift items in the gift shop there.  So I thought I might browse
for a few things.  I found some inexpensive jewelry.  One of our group,
Lydia who grew up in Kenyan but now lives in California was a great
bargainer.  So before anyone made a substantial purchase they would get
Lydia to do the negotiations.  Also Regina from the CFCA office in Nairobi
helped with the purchases.  Many of our group bought beautiful baskets and
sisal purses.  Very artistic and colorful.   Lots of beautiful carved wooden
After dinner we had a final reflection time together and a trip review.

Tuesday, March 1st is our final day in Nairobi.  After breakfast the group
heads out to the Mathare Valley subproject for CFCA.  It is about a mile
away from Nairobi downtown.  The area has about 800,000 people living in the
second largest slum in Nairobi.   Lynn from Florida sponsors a child who
lives in this area.  I elected to stay back and work on my pictures to
download for my St. Joseph Girls Hostel mission.  Unfortunately after about
2 hours I had to give up on the project.  Using land line to download about
90 photos and emailing them is a challenge. Many Kenyans live behind walled
structures with security guards around the clock.
We had lunch at the Center then most of us headed out to the Giraffe Center
in a very exclusive area of Nairobi.   Beautiful trees and landscaping.   It
would be like a country club area in the USA.  You can see that Nairobi is
very cosmopolitan town with the real wealthy and then the very poor.  I’m
sure there is a middle class too.  I was told the land is very expensive in
Nairobi and the cost of living very high.
At the Giraffe center we got to feed the giraffes and learn more about the
three types of Giraffes in Kenya.  It was a nice outing.
Kenya is a beautiful country.  It appears to have a higher standard of
living than Tanzania.  The agricultural areas are more cultivated.  I saw
more tractors in Kenya than I saw in Tanzania.  Kenya is suffering from lack
of water at the present time. They grow lots of roses for exporting to
Europe.    English and Swahili are the national languages.  However, in the
more remote areas you will find them speaking first in their “tribal
language”.  So many Kenyans speak three languages, Swahili, English and
their tribal language. 
We had an early dinner about 6 pm at the center then boarded the bus, bags
on top of the bus for the Nairobi Airport.  Most of the group was heading
backing to the USA on flights leaving about 11pm.  My flight to Abuja,
Nigeria didn’t leave until 3:30 am but I went with the group because it was
too far for them to take me later.   After I checked in about 10 pm I met up
with Lynn and John from California and Terri from Colorado.  We had a beer
and wine together before their flights took off about midnight.  John and
Lynn were going through Dubai and changing planes and Terri was going to
Sweden on business then back to Colorado later in the week.
It was definitely a memorable 10 days.  I would recommend anyone who wants
to see how your donation dollars are spent with CFCA to take a mission
awareness week.
Thanks CFCA staff for a job well done. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Greetings from Kaduna Nigeria

Hello to all.

I am just sending a short blog because of the limited internet connection I have.  I am behind in posting to my blog and I apologize for that....the access to computers to download pictures and post is very limited.  I tried desperately in Nairobi, Kenya; but after 2 hours of work I had to give up.  I am trying now to download photos from St. Joseph Hostel in Songea, Tanzania. I am at a cyber office but the electricity went out so now they are using a generator to keep us connected.

Briefly my week in Kenya with the the awareness mission week of the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging was such an eye opener.  I left Kenya with a new perspective of what one person can do to help someone.  I met my sponsored child, Jaysie and her mother.  It was heart warming to know so little of a donation can go so far to bring a brighter future to a child, aged and their families.

I am having a wonderful stay with Sr. Rita in Kaduna, Nigeria.  I arrived on Wednesday late afternoon.  A special addition was having Sr. Jemma (from western Kansas) and Sr. Roberta (from Ohio) who are in Ohio at the Dominican "headquartes" visiting Nigeria.  They will be leaving for the USA later today.  Sr. Rita and her staff are doing marvelous work here.  I will write a blog later with details on the CFCA Mission Awareness Week in Kenya  and my present week at the  Hope for the Village Child mission.

I will journey to Ghana later in the week.  Hopefully I can do some blog posting this week.

I appreciate those of you for blogging and emailing me.  It is good to hear from you.