I hope your year has started out full of blessings and good health! Here at In Step Children’s Home, we are blessed beyond measure! God continues to show us how he’s got our backs, not only in material provision (which is in great abundance), but also in health, happiness and peace! (I know that sounds cheesy, but I mean it wholeheartedly!)
I know that many of you are places where it’s cold and wet! We, here in Kenya, are experiencing the opposite! It’s so dry and dusty… not dust like desert sand sort of dust, but dry, red clay sort of dust… the kind of dust that makes your nose itch and sting constantly! Everything, even the plants along the roadside, are tinted red! Just walking across the campus makes one feel like you need to wash your hands and face… and even brush your teeth! It’s hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced it!
When we first came to Kenya, almost twenty years ago, the seasons were so predictable. Not anymore! We live in Trans-Nzoia, Kenya, which is considered to be the breadbasket of East Africa. Having distinct seasons, both rainy and dry, are essential to a good maize harvest, as most farmers do not have any sort of irrigation system but depend completely on the weather. Now is the time of year when these farmers start trying to second guess the weather and make their decisions as to when to plow and plant. They know that if they plant too soon and the rains delay, the seed won’t germinate and they will have to start over, which most can not afford to do. Adversely, if they wait for the rains to come before they plant, the seed can be washed away before germination.
Maize is the main staple food and its harvest is a driving force of the economy, which in turn means that it is a driving force in determining the number of people who are able to feed their families! Please pray for this year’s maize crop! The past few years have not been what they used to be, which along with many other factors, has caused crazy inflation! Many people are literally going to bed hungry most nights!
The Kenyan school year is finally back on schedule! Following the long shutdown of all schools in 2020, the government revised the schedule to get everything back on track to have the school year coincide with the calendar year. After a few very short “school years”, we are finally back to normal! In Step Academy opened January 23rd and this year, at the request of our surrounding community, we have added Play Group (preschool)! We have a lot to offer, namely computer classes and an amazing playground, amongst other amenities like running water, and our neighbors are excited for their kids to get a spot at In Step Academy as young as possible! Play Group is brand new to us, so I’ll fill you in later on how it’s going! LOL! We now have more than eighty day-scholars (kids from our surrounding neighborhood) attending In Step Academy!
As I’ve explained before, there are lots of changes happening as far as education in Kenya is concerned, the main one being that Kenya is now implementing a junior secondary (junior high school) system. Kids will now attend primary school through 6th grade, then junior secondary 7th through 9th grade, and finally secondary school will be 10th through 12th grade. We have received our government registration and are in the process of building the junior secondary school building! This building will consist of a classroom (7th grade), a teachers’ lounge/administration office, a science lab, and washrooms. Then, as we did when the primary school was growing, we will need to add an 8th grade classroom in 2024 and a 9th grade room in 2025.
While converting from a primary/secondary school system to a primary/junior secondary/secondary school system has been an unexpected challenge and expense, I feel like in the long-run it will be better for our kids. This change means that, after next year, our kids will not go away to boarding high school until the 10th grade. I’m hoping that, given the extra year at home, the kids will be more prepared to be away. Many of our first-year high schoolers really struggle with homesickness and the “world’s way” of doing things. It can be quite a shock to their system when they first leave the security and stability of In Step.
Speaking of high school, we have finally gotten all 46 high school kids plus one culinary school student settled in at various boarding schools, 15 schools in all! What a logistical nightmare that was! I thank God for our hardworking and extremely capable social work department! They did an amazing job making sure the students had proper school uniforms, school shopping according to each school’s specific requirements and arranging for transportation for each of the students to their prospective schools! I’m telling you, it was all hands on deck for a few weeks there, but a job well done, indeed!
Before school opened, we wanted to make sure that all of the kids got off campus for a day! Obviously, this was another logistical challenge for the social work department! They divided the kids up into eleven groups and Jeff and I, using both Land Cruisers, followed the predetermined schedule of which group would go when, and took them to a nearby resort run by our friends. The kids enjoyed swimming, chips (French fries) and sodas. These “outings” are something we started a few years ago and it’s a very special time for Jeff and I to spend with the kids! No social workers, aunties or teachers… just us and our kids!
Besides the regular outing to our friends’ property, our high school kids were also able to visit Mt. Elgon National Park, which is about one and a half hours away! They absolutely loved it! They got to see some wildlife, experience waterfalls and caves, hike through the forest and appreciate God’s beautiful creation like never before! We really appreciate Tracy and Tamara Tripp for helping Jeff with the driving, as these two excursions took place while I was busy preparing to travel to Nairobi with Joanie!
It’s so great to have visitors! Babu Terry (Kiser), along with his wonderful wife, Sandy, have been such a great help and support to us for many years! Babu arrived about a month ago (unfortunately for me, Sandy was not able to join him this visit), and as always, his timing couldn’t be better! Besides overseeing the construction of the junior secondary building and beginning construction of the directors’ house (yes, you read that right!), he has also been instrumental in helping us deal with a crazy water shortage!
As I mentioned before, it has been DRY for a few months now! Lack of rain causes water tables to drop, pumps to strain, extra silt in the boreholes, etc. This has required pulling and repairing pumps, adding extension pipes into one borehole and flushing the other one, all the while making sure there is enough water in the tanks to cater for the needs of 250 people plus two construction projects and a farm! If you’ve never lived in a place where water is a problem, it’s probably hard to imagine, but believe me, water is life!
Besides the expense and inconvenience of having to organize for a tractor to bring tankers full of water from the river (never mind that the words “CLEAN WATER” are boldly painted on the sides of the tanker), our kids have also been able to experience the Kenyan way of doing laundry!
Each Saturday, all of the big kids (2nd grade and older), carry their dirty clothes a mile or so down the road to the river, where they wash them and haul them back home to hang dry. I haven’t heard any complaints, in fact I think they enjoy it, even if it is a lot of work! I’m hoping that the kids will come away from this with an appreciation for the blessing of precious, clean water and an understanding that the indoor taps are not magic!
Joanie and I are back in Nairobi for her speech therapy sessions. She is doing so well! She continues to build her understanding of words daily and is enjoying attending school (play group) with the other kids.
This trip, she is obsessed with brushing her teeth! I’m not sure if it’s because she can see herself in the mirror, because she knows how to say the word “brush”, or if she just likes the taste of toothpaste, but I thought you might like to see a picture of our miracle girl!
We sure appreciate each and every one of you! It has been, and continues to be, an amazing journey! Thanks for taking the ride with us!