OPEN LETTER from Darlene and Wendy Sent July 7th 2009 from Kakamega, Kenya
Our time here in Kenya is going very well. We are being well cared for by our friends and feel very safe.
We have a driver named John who is always with us and we really enjoy his company. He thinks we are pretty funny with the things we react to and want to take pictures of!
We arrived in Nairobi after a very long double flight which was followed the next day by a chaotic nine hour road trip to Kakamega. It was a difficult drive over roads that make Quebec roads look perfect. We witnessed a tragic accident and the sight of unending poverty for nine hours was a bit overwhelming for all of us – especially the two young girls with us, Dawn & Paige.
However, now we are well into our work here and we are all inspired by the great people we have met and their courage and joyfulness. The children are always overjoyed when they receive their new clothes, a toy, a soccer ball or the many beautiful books. We have distributed over 1,000 mosquito nets with another 1,700 to go! We have now learned that it was most likely Malaria that caused the death of our well loved child Gertrine at Tirimas in May. The importance of these nets is brought home once more.
We have visited several of our projects now and they are all thriving. We stood in the corn fields of Emalindi which have been funded by Suitcases for Africa and we were very moved by their success. Hunger has been declared a National Emergency in Kenya. We can see that many are hungry. We have seen first hand the extent to which some have to go to get food! We have decided to expand this program for the next planting in August. The crop in August will be ground nuts. We took part in the Suitcases for Africa feeding program in Emalindi yesterday that also brought us to tears as young children performed poems and sang. One poem was called Canada and told how wonderful and uplifting Canada is and another was about how bad AIDS is because it took away the child’s mother and father!!! She told us of her sadness and hard life and how Canada came and extended a hand to her and lifted her up. We are profoundly grateful to all of our donors and friends who have helped to make these projects possible.
There are so many stories we will save to share with you when we return. One in particular is an orphanage called the Mukumo Home that desperately needs our assistance now.
Charlotte – we have indeed been presented with live chickens and danced with them! One got loose in the van on the drive home yesterday. John was really amused as the girls screeched and jumped up on their seats. (Admittedly we screeched a little also!)
Each evening we have been meeting with the principals of the schools we support and on Sunday we met with Josephat Karani from St.Ursula, a school for handicapped children. What a nice man! He told us that in the past when the disabled children went to bathe in the river they were shunned and sent away by the locals. Therefore the construction of the water holding tank at the school is all the more important and they are very grateful. “Their spirits have been lifted,” Mr. Karani said, “by knowing they have assistance from Suitcases for Africa and friends in Canada”.
An enjoyable and totally unexpected highlight of Sunday followed our visit with the boys at St. Peter’s Seminary. They entertained us with a humorous skit, poems and a dramatic performance. After meeting with Michael and Lawrence, two boys being sponsored, we heard singing from the chapel and we asked permission to enter. WOW! The sound of 250 boys singing was overpowering. Neither of us could move until the service was over and the last chord was played. What an awesome experience.
Our goal for the day on Monday was to purchase four new sewing machines and material for the Women’s Sewing Group so they can produce more jackets for us to bring to Canada to sell. We also planned to deliver three medipacks. We met with Susan and three members of the sewing group and we finally found all the material we needed. Unfortunately the machines were too expensive. We will keep looking. Susan accompanied us to Kisumu – a two hour drive on terrible roads! We went to the worst slums we have seen yet. The whole area seemed like hell on earth. It seems grossly unfair that some people live like this from birth to death and we get to drive away and eventually go home to Canada. We met with Sister Bernadette who is truly a saint – she is a brilliant beacon of hope for the forgotten! She almost died this April from Malaria but she continues and actually feels blessed to be in Kisumu. She manages a visit home to Ireland only every two years. She was excited about the contents of the medipack – especially the stethoscope!
We took John (our driver) and Susan to a hotel for lunch. Imagine our excitement to see a flat screen T.V. with CNN. We feel so out of touch with the rest of the world that we loved watching a little bit of news. Judging by our reaction one would hardly know it had only been just over a week since we had watched T.V. on the plane. Then we had the long drive home , usually at 40K/hr. feeling like we were on a roller-coaster. Today we are preparing for a busy week ahead visiting two schools per day and commuting over an hour each way. We leave at 6:00 tomorrow morning to meet Crissy at Kisumu airport and on to Itegero. We will write again next week.
The work is never done but we feel privileged to be here!
Love to all,
Darlene & Wendy
I love you all – Kiswahli