Jambo everyone!

I hope you are all doing well as you wind down your summer and send your kids back to school! We are also starting up school again, but for us it’s the beginning of third term, not the start of a new year. Here in Kenya, a school year is a calendar year; school starts in January, takes a break in April and another one in August, then closes for the year at the end of October. The kids are excited to be heading into their final term of the year!

During this school break, we were visited by a busload of students from a local high school. They spent the day hanging out with our kids, playing soccer, giving a few inspirational and encouraging speeches and delivering gifts! They brought lots of useful items to give to the kids; things like biscuits (cookies, maybe not so useful, but very appreciated), toilet tissue, soap, vegetables, etc. It’s nice to be shown support from the surrounding area and even nicer that schools are starting to teach their students to give back to their community. Up until a year ago, there were just a handful of established businessmen who occasionally gave to our kids. It’s great to see that starting to change!

Please don’t misunderstand! I’m not just talking about “giving to our kids!” I’m talking about a noticeable change in a society where most people take care of their own, but don’t give much thought to helping people outside of their personal circles. This is the third school to come and “visit the orphans”… of course, our kids don’t see it like that… they are just happy to meet new people and have a day of fun and socializing. They understand that we are supported by the generosity of others, so we are very proud when that support comes from their fellow Kenyans!

Our kids got more than one chance to socialize this month! During most school breaks, In Step likes to host a soccer tournament where we invite other children’s homes to come play ball! Moses, a young man who has been with us for years and is an avid soccer fan, does a great job coaching! For having the youngest players of all of the teams, we do pretty well! The soccer tournament is definitely the favorite part of school break! I think the other homes enjoy it too!

Just like being visited by other students, hosting kids from other children’s homes is a morale booster for our kids! I think the fact that every single kid on the field also lives in a children’s home, creates a bond and a sense of belonging for them all! I just love to watch it! And I love to hear the kids talk about their new friendships and about how other homes do things (obviously a topic of conversation during lunch break)! “What do they feed you at your home?” “What time do they make you get up in the morning?” “Do you have to do chores?” “Do they make you wash your own clothes?” It totally cracks me up, but I love it!

I think I might have told you before about the kids’ shambas (farms). Many of the kids have staked out small plots… maybe 3’ x 3’ or so and have planted a variety of vegetables. They diligently work their farms! I mean, they can tell you how many tomatoes are on their vines, estimate when their cabbages will be ready, give an exact count of carrots and when they expect to harvest, etc. I think there’s such a sense of accomplishment when they see a process through from beginning to end; from driving your stakes in the ground all the way to harvest!

At first, I had promised them that if they grew their vegetables, they could come to my kitchen and cook them and eat them. It went fine at first, but then just became a nightmare for me and Beth Ann, who were trying to facilitate the process. Every week there were around 75 kids who needed the use of my kitchen and the missionary kitchen to “do recipes” (cook their veggies)… it got crazy! In fact, it got ridiculous and overwhelming!

We enlisted some of the matrons and patrons to help with what had become a full time job! It was ok for a couple of weeks, but it was still just too much craziness (plus I never had access to my own kitchen!). LOL! I loved the fact that the kids had worked so hard… had seen a project through all on their own… were continuing to plant anew after harvest, etc. But it was just too much! It was borderline out of control! (OK, maybe not borderline. Maybe totally out of control!)

I think we have finally found a solution that works for everyone! Instead of harvesting and cooking, the kids are now harvesting and selling! With a staff of 64 employees, they have plenty of customers! It’s really working out well! The kids sell their bounty and the money they earn is credited to their duka accounts! It gives them such a sense of accomplishment and they reap the rewards on Duka Day! Plus, they physically see the money exchange hands, which I feel is really good for them.

Living in a children’s home, these kids never actually see money. Everything is just miraculously there. Unlike kids in a regular family, they don’t go to market with their mother and see where their food comes from and the fact that someone (usually their parents) had to work hard to put that food on the table. Our kids don’t hear their parents complaining about the cost of living. They don’t see their neighbors suffering. This shamba project has turned into a great lesson all the way around!

Speaking of duka, I’m wondering if some of you maybe don’t know what that is. Duka is the Swahili word meaning small shop. A duka is usually just a roadside stand where a Mama is selling her excess vegetables. She might also have soap, sugar, sweeties and other small items, sold in small amounts.

Our kids are given the opportunity to work for pay. But, instead of giving them actual cash (I mean, where would they spend it anyway?), we give them credit for Mama Carla’s Duka, which takes place every other Saturday afternoon.

Mama Carla’s Duka is stocked with lots of treats; boiled eggs, fresh eggs (the kids can come fry them later), sweeties (penny candies), scones (dinner rolls), popcorn, biscuits (cookies), small items like pencils, erasers, hair barrettes, necklaces….you get the idea!

But the favorite duka item is noodles! Top Ramen-type noodles! Last week, thanks to the sale of lots of garden vegetables, 38 kids were able to purchase noodles! This meant that for the following 3 days, Beth Ann or I spent the afternoon in my kitchen, overseeing the kids cooking their noodles! They love it! I love it! But, I must admit, I’m glad it’s only every other week!

So, that’s what’s been going on around the home! It has been raining quite a bit which means lots of mud, wet clothes on the line, and FLOWERS! I just thought I would close out with a few pics of God’s wonderful creation, which lifts my spirits and creates a beautiful environment for our kids, as they push forward to overcome the adversity and trauma of their pasts.  

As always, I want to say thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read this letter, pray for us and support these kids financially! Only God knows where they would be without you!

GIGATT (God is Good All the Time)!

Mama Carla

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