Jambo everybody!

Wow! How time continues to fly! On one hand, it seems like I just updated you all! On the other hand, so much has happened since I last wrote! So, here goes…

One dilemma that Jeff and I are constantly faced with is the desire to help our community at large. It is a huge challenge because how do you help this family and not that family, when obviously, we can’t help them all! Also, once you start with handouts, a line magically appears out of nowhere… some who genuinely are in need and some who are doing just fine. But let’s face it… the “If it’s free, it’s me” philosophy is known the world over!

This is the main reason that Jeff and I are so active in our local Rotary Club. It makes it possible for us to help people outside of our gates, without it being the wazungu (white people) who are helping them. It is the Rotary Club of Kitale who have helped them! Through our Rotary Club, we have been able to help hundreds of people with some very essential needs like: drilling boreholes to provide clean water to entire communities, providing textbooks to low-income primary schools, building and teaching communities how to build smokeless jikos (charcoal cookers that don’t fill the house with toxic smoke), providing hand-washing stations to marketplaces during this terrible pandemic, providing sanitary pads to female students so they don’t end up dropping out because of missing a week of school each month, delivering food relief to flood victims, etc.

But every now and then, we are presented with an opportunity to help an individual who wouldn’t qualify for help from Rotary, as those projects are focused on communities. 

In the nearest town to us, Kitale, where we do our shopping and other business, there is a very kind and humble lady who sits outside a certain supermarket and begs for a living. This lady is crippled, with useless legs. But she always has a brilliant smile and a genuine greeting, as she holds out her cup, hoping to receive a coin or two.

You see, here it’s not like it is America, where the disabled qualify for social security and other government programs to help them. It reminds me of stories I have read in the Bible, where crippled people are forced to beg for a living. What else can they do? They have to eat! They are one hundred percent at the mercy of well-wishers!

So, one day this beautiful lady starts up a conversation with Jeff, as he is dropping some coins in her cup. “Mister Jeff, I could really use a wheelchair! It is getting more and more difficult for my neighbors to carry me to this sidewalk every day, so that I can try to obtain a few coins to buy food to get me through until tomorrow.”

Jeff simply said, “I will see what I can do”.

It just so happened that a few years ago, we received a gift of new wheelchairs from Joni & Friends – the Joni Eareckson Tada ministry (in partnership with Rotary International)! They donated chairs for all of our kids at Stepping Stones, plus a few extra “transport chairs” for people who didn’t need the extra support of straps and buckles. One of these extra chairs would be perfect for our friend in town!

A few days later, Jeff quietly and unceremoniously, dropped off a wheelchair to the lady. She is still seen in the same place every day, but is now much more comfortable and more easily transported back and forth from home to town. Something that cost us nothing… a simple pay it forward… yet, life-changing for her!

Sometimes when it rains it pours! A few weeks ago, on a Wednesday morning, Nurse Abigail was doing her usual rounds when she noticed that Susie, our beautiful little girl who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, was in distress! Susie was struggling to breathe and was wide-eyed, silently calling for help!

Jeff was alerted and quickly rushed Susie, along with Nurse Abigail, to a private hospital in Kitale. Susie was immediately put on oxygen, as the doctors assessed her situation.

In the meantime, back at the children’s home, our eight-year-old boy, Wayne, fainted and was totally unresponsive! Because Nurse Abigail and Baba Jeff were not around, I was the next in line to deal with an emergency!

When I was made aware of the situation, I rushed to Wayne’s side. I gently patted his cheeks and called his name. Nothing. I ran for my car key to rush him to the hospital, where he was immediately admitted.

So Susie and Wayne shared a hospital room and our amazing social workers took turns staying with them, providing for their daily care. (Here in Kenya, when someone is admitted to hospital, a caretaker must also stay with them to take care of the patient’s basic needs; feeding, bathing, etc.)

As it turned out, Susie was suffering from extreme pneumonia and Wayne had Appendicitis! Susie was given IV antibiotics and oxygen therapy, while Wayne was rushed into emergency Appendectomy surgery! After about five days, they were both released from hospital and are doing well at home!

Obviously, we do what we need to do at the time, when our kids are going through emergency medical situations! It makes me sympathize with the many Kenyan families who aren’t able to cater to these types of emergencies. How many families are faced with similar situations and are forced to try to deal with it at home because they don’t have the support that we have for our kids?

Nonetheless, the total hospital bill for Susie and Wayne was almost $2,000.00! I know that by American standards that isn’t much for two people in the hospital for five days, but it was an unexpected expense! If you would like to help us with this emergency, please contact Tori at tcostello@rehemaforkids.org) and let us know!

In western countries it is normal to circumcise baby boys within the first week of life, or to choose to not circumcise them at all. Here in Kenya, that is not the case. Circumcision is a rite-of-passage for boys to become men. It is essential that boys are circumcised before going away to boarding school. This is a BIG DEAL!

Before leaving home to pursue a high school education and beyond, our boys (according to the Kenyan culture) must endure a three-week period of time where they are kept totally apart from normal society. This time period starts with their physical circumcision and continues on with advice and council from “those who have gone before them.”

This year, I have been especially affected by this ritual because we have two boys, James and Freddy, who are intellectually challenged, and are included in this group of boys, because of their age. (Obviously, as a boy gets older, the procedure becomes more painful and carries more risk.) Although it would not be appropriate for me to enter their room and check on them, I have been assured that they are doing fine and are very proud to be amongst the group of “men.”

This Kenyan tradition has always intrigued me! My western way of thinking wonders why this is such a big deal… but it certainly is! I have heard horror stories of grown men having been discovered to be uncircumcised, taken down by a mob and forcibly circumcised on the street! A boy doesn’t dare go away to high school without having gone through this ritual! He would be ostracized and bullied! And it’s not just the physical change, it’s also the bonding amongst peers as you share this experience of being together for three weeks, without any communication with anyone else, all of you proudly wearing your leso (sarong) wrapped around your waist, focusing on what it means to be men.

Tomorrow, we will have a celebration in honor of these “men.” They will, for the first time in three weeks, put on regular clothes and rejoin society. We will eat snacks, drink soda, dance, hear from older men about what it means to no longer be a child, etc. It really is hard for me to get my head around what a big deal this is, but I have been assured that these boys will no longer act like children, but will now be mature, responsible, honest Kenyan citizens.

Last month, I told you about our water issue and one of you anonymously stepped up to replace our pump with a more suitable one! Thank you! I’m always amazed at what amazing supporters we’ve had over the years, always ready to fill a need, no matter what it is!

The past few years, we have been praying for God to make a way for us to drill a second borehole on our campus. As I have mentioned before, our present hole is being pumped almost constantly and still can’t keep up with our needs! The kids at the dorm pretty much always have to carry water for bathing, cleaning and washing clothes because their tank for running water is empty! (Not that carrying water is the end of the world for Kenyans. Most people have to walk much further than the distance between the dorm and the laundry area, to get water! It’s actually good for them, as many of them will have to carry water when they leave here.)

Our recently installed rainwater collection system has helped a lot, but when it’s not raining all the pressure is back on the borehole, which so far has never gone dry, praise God! But the constant pumping water from the hole and then gravity feeding it to all corners of the property, is really taxing on it.
Great news! Some amazing people at Water from Wine, a Washington State non-profit, have offered us a grant to drill a second borehole!

Water from Wine operates a vineyard and winery and uses the 100% of the proceeds from certain wines to fund clean water projects all over the world! What an awesome way to help thousands of people who struggle daily for water! Next time I’m home, I’m going to visit one of their tasting rooms! You should too! In the meantime, check out their website waterfromwine.org! What an inspiration!

Weird! I just finished writing this, walked out of my room to check on something, and was told that the drilling rig is here! I ran (ok, I walked fast) down to the drilling site to get pictures of them breaking ground! I wasn’t the only one! Everyone who possibly could, ran down to watch the drilling begin! It is really happening!

Thanks so much for all you do for our kids! We are so blessed… it’s just mind-blowing!

GIGATT (God is Good All the Time)!

Mama Carla

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