Jambo everyone!

I hope you are all doing well and 2024 has gotten off to a great start! I can hardly believe that I’ve only been back in Kenya for two months… a lot has happened in a short amount of time! To say we’ve been busy is putting it mildly!

In January, we were once again blessed by a team of visitors whom we lovingly refer to as: The New York Team! These guys have been coming every other year for the past several years! They come with a team of dentists and dental hygienists, ready and willing to put in long hours in order to examine and clean all of the kids’ teeth, plus do additional procedures for those who need it! 

The way they create a dentist office, including a reception area, individual files on all the kids (which follow them from year to year), two examination rooms, etc. is quite a sight to behold! They are amazingly efficient in the way they move the kids through, one class at a time, seeing to each of their needs despite a language barrier with the littlest kids, in addition to the general anxiety of a dental exam. It was pretty awesome to watch!

Two years ago, when the dental team last visited, the dentists and hygienists evidently talked amongst themselves about how nice it would be to have a mobile dental unit, which would enable them to examine and treat twice the number of kids in the same amount of time. One dentist could see kids in the existing room with the dental chair setup, while another could be working from an examination room across the hall, using the mobile dental unit. I was not part of this conversation and honestly didn’t know anything about it. I think the idea was kind of put on the back burner as the team wasn’t scheduled to visit again for two years and the machine was quite expensive!

About six months later, I was visiting the states and had coffee with a couple who have been friends of ours and great supporters of our kids for many years. As we were catching up, the gentleman mentioned that he had been wondering about the dental needs of the kids. He felt that God was prompting him and his wife to give a gift towards this need and they handed me a sizable check that had the word “dental” written on the memo line. I was not aware of any current dental needs, so I just smiled and thanked them for the gift. They said, “That’s ok. Just hold onto the money until it’s needed.”

Later that day, I shared the story with Estha Madeira, Executive Director of Rehema for Kids, and she got so excited! I wasn’t sure what was going on until she told me about the idea of purchasing a mobile dental unit, which you guessed – would cost almost exactly the amount that I had been given earlier that day! God is still in the business of doing miracles! The machine made it possible for the dentists to examine all of our kids this year!

Besides the dentists and hygienists, the team also consisted of “Dan the Fish Man” and “Dan the Scientist” (both lovingly nicknamed by the kids some years ago), along with an amazing photographer who provided us with updated pictures of all the kids! There were also teachers who gladly took over some lessons, spent library time reading books to the kids, taught some fun PE classes, etc.! Science projects for the older kids were a big hit, along with lots of other fun learning activities! It was a wonderful ten days for everyone!

As has been his tradition, Dan the Scientist brought all the materials necessary for the older kids to build battery-operated cars, which they individually designed, painted and finally raced across the basketball court! Prizes were given out to the winners and all had a great time!

A few weeks after the New York Team returned to the states, the South Hills Church Team from Tri-Cities, Washington arrived! As with the New York Team, many of the team members had been here before, so the kids were extra excited to see them! 

While their main project this year was to build a playground for our bigger kids, they also came ready to spend a day teaching fun science lessons about the solar system; including bottle rocket building and launching, activities and songs that taught about space, gravity, etc.  

They totally transformed one of the primary school classrooms into a solar system extravaganza, which the kids absolutely loved!

As I mentioned, the SHC main project this year was building a play/climbing structure for the older kids, and what an amazing playground it is! They came prepared with required tools (although at least one key tool was the unfortunate victim of a lost suitcase) and a plan as to how exactly they would pull off such a big project in such a short amount of time! 

As it turned out, they were able to complete the playground with a couple of days to spare! Between the very organized and capable visiting team and the hardworking local work crew, it came together in remarkable time! Directly following the dedication service, almost two hundred kids stormed the structure for the first time! What a joy it was to watch! (I must admit that I also got a kick out of watching the construction workers also try out the slide!)

It was great to have Tori Costello, Operations Manager of Rehema for Kids, also join the team! She has been trying to come see things firsthand for about six years and finally was able to do so! Because Tori is constantly updating pictures, etc., she could identify most of the kids at first sight, which sort of freaked some of them out, as they had never met her before! LOL!

For those of you who have followed Joanie’s story, I just want to give a quick update. Joanie is doing so well in school! She is very bright and eager to learn! She is now relying more and more on her verbal skills, which are improving daily! She is talking at what I would guess is about the level of an 18-month-old child, but as is true for most of us learning a new language, she understands much more than what she is able to verbalize. The good thing is that she loves to talk and is not shy about trying new words.

We are very blessed to have an American Speech-language Pathologist (I won’t mention her name, as I have not sought permission to do so) who is now working with Joanie once per week via Zoom! Nurse Abby joins in the sessions so that we can know what to work on in the upcoming week. It has been such a relief to not have to disrupt Joanie’s (and my) life to travel back and forth to Nairobi for her sessions! That was a necessity for the first year and a half, as we traversed through the first stages of verbal communication, but at this point it’s nice to see Joanie just being a normal kid!

Speaking of child updates: Bianca is getting healthier by the day! She has become more responsive when spoken to or smiled at. She’s now ten months old and weighs twelve pounds! (Considering she was less than three pounds at five months old, that is a huge improvement!) She is finally bearing weight on her legs and can almost sit up by herself! She had such a tough start, but we have high hopes for her future!

As I’ve mentioned many times before, and some of you know from your personal experience of visiting us, power outages are a very common (almost daily) occurrence here at the children’s homeFor the past thirteen years, we have relied on a generator which was rebuilt and donated to us by a farmer in Washington State. We lovingly named her Genny. LOL! Over these past years, we have managed to put over 15,000 hours of run time on her and she is in dire need of replacement! We rely on Genny to power the main house, big kids’ dorms, Stepping Stones and the kitchen, whenever the electricity goes out! Without her, daily operations would be very difficult! We need to raise $13,000 for a new generator! If you would like to help with this urgent need, please contact Tori at Rehema for Kids or make a gift online!

Next week, our four high school graduates and myself will take a trip to Nairobi to check out university possibilities! We will also see some sights in the big city, which will be an adventure for these country bumpkin kids! I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thanks so much for everything you do for God’s children! It is a privilege partnering with you to save lives and give hope for a future!

God Is Good All The Time (GIGATT),

Mama Carla

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