Thursday, December 24, 2015

Farewell to Omwabini

Our time at Omwabini Rescue Steps has come to an end and it is with mixed emotions that we say our farewells. Our time serving with you has been both very rewarding and at times challenging. It was humbling to see the steadfast commitment of Mary, her family and other staff as they persevere through some very difficult challenges and do what they can to give the Omwabini students/orphans the love and support they need during their younger years.

Farewells to he Bunyasi family, the heart of Omwabini

We boarded an inland commuter early this (Tues) morning and were welcomed to Nairobi by Davis Omanyo and his family. Davis has spent much of his life overseeing the work of a christian aid agency called World Renew in different Africa countries and guiding the different development efforts in that part of the world. It was informative to hear the progress made and emerging challenges that are still before them.

Enjoying our outdoor Christmas dinner with the orphans

 Carolyn was in her glory, shopping the local market for their new clothes

I'm finishing this our last blog post from Canada in the middle of our first night back, (jet lag).which is about noon in Kenya.  Carolyn and I can't thank everyone enough for your words of encouragement, prayers and support in allowing us to be your hands and feet here on the ground in Kimilili kenya.  Although the needs there are ongoing we know that the staff and 450 plus students/orphans are much better equipped to face a new school year, the upcoming planting season and the future because so many of you have come alongside them.

Tractor with new tires and a number of other repairs

We will miss our Kenyan friends and the daily greetings from the locals as we made our walks to and from the Center

We wish everyone both here in Canada and abroad a Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year. We couldn't say our farewells without saying a special hello to those of you who visited our blog from time to time from the four corners of the world, as you can see from the screen capture of the visitor's stats page of the blog below we had visitors from many countries. Thankyou for your interest.

This is a screen capture of the stats of this past months visitors and the country they are from. 

 Remember, Omwabini  would welcome you there as a volunteer or as a supporter. Do send me an email if you have any questions

Sunday, December 20, 2015

An Tour to the Kurea District of Kenya, Home Community of 165 of Omwabini's Orphans

Early Friday morning Mama Mary ,Victor, Carolyn and I plus others boarded the Omwabini bus for an eight hour ride to the Kurea Community of Kenya that is home to about 165 of Omwabini orphans. Some of the boys who stayed after the school year ended to take the Applied Technology course and to help with vehicle and equipment repairs joined us for the trip there to be with a relative/ guardian over Christmas until school starts again in January.

Frankly I wasn't too keen on an eight hour bus ride to go for a "meet and greet" but Mama Mary insisted that we join her for the excursion to meet and address the gardians of many of the children that stay at Omwabini.

Pastor Ed Chacha and his family served as our hosts for the two days. The Pastor, who was an orphan himself, has a big heart for the plight of the orphans in this community.  To support his work as a Pastor his family also have a roadside mandazi stand and a small store.

                          Pastor's son and a friend serving up some delicious mandazis

The orphans from Kurea at Omwabini are an older group from Grade 7 and up to Gr 12. The younger orphans of that community remain with a guardian/relative and attend this school below.

Buildings that serve as the JK to Gr 6 classrooms


One of the classrooms

My address to the guardians was simply words of encouragement reminding them that we, with the help of our supporting community of friends and family in Canada, are here as volunteers to come alongside them and to support them as they reach out to care for and nurture the orphaned children of their relatives.
Mama addressed the group of guardians with a passionate testimony of how God had seen her through and provided for her in hard times when she became a widow of 4 young children and pregnant for her fifth. She identified with their challenges and encouraged them to rely on God's faithfulness during their tough times by doing the right thing. She then outlined the challenges faced by Omwabini with some firm words, "You are their guardian, these children are the children of a relative, your brother, sister.  You must treat these children fairly and love them like your own, they need nurturing. Don't dump them off on us and shrug your responsibility.  Omwabini will come along side to help. Take an interest in their progress.Share some of your resources with them as you do with your own children. Don't treat them as a second class family member. You pay school and uniform fees for your own children, do the same for the orphan children you leave with Omwabini. Contribute to their support.  If you don't treat them fairly as your own, they become bitter and disconnected and Omwabini has to deal with bitter, angry and undisciplined students. Omwabini did have a very short list of orphans who would not be welcomed back because of their destructive behavior. The high school principal/teacher and the vice -principal/teacher joined us for the excursion and addressed the group as well.

 Gathering of orphan/guardians at our meeting

The Kurea community which is located very near the Tanzanian border is a very beautiful area of lush green rolling hills but also a community with a fairly high illiteracy rate among the adults.

Our late night drive back to Omwabini was a bit more adventurous that we had hoped for. About half way back shifting gears became nearly impossible so Victor pulled into a gas station parking lot so we could  investigate.  After crawling under the bus and using the beam of cell phone lights we were able to determine that the clutch was the source of our problems so we "camped out" in the bus for the night. Fortunately we were able to purchase replacement parts and repair the others.  Victor, a student, and a mechanic friend  removed the transmission and replaced the clutch in the parking lot and about six hours later we were back on the road.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Tires for the tractor and the Basket weaving continues...

Tuesday we traveled back to Kitale town to purchase some much needed front and rear tractor tires, engine and gear lubricants, filters , etc...  Since the lorry (truck) that I changed the clutch in three years ago is now a school bus we simply strapped the tractor tires to the rack on the roof of the bus and transported them back to Kimilili.

Today we installed the four new tires at a location in town that was equipped to fill the tractor rear tires with water after we had them installed and mounted.  A big thank you for the latest generous donations that allowed us to make these purchases - a Godsend for the folks here at Omwabini and the people they care for.

 Omwabini's  tractor driver "Sam" and two of the students installing the new rear tire onto the rim

  Filling the tire with water. Not a problem here it doesn't freeze
  Many of the men hang out or work in around the village center. This is a cultural difference that is hard to get use to. It kind of reminds me of what some of us men might do on a Saturday with a few friends when we had a project to do. More socializing than work. Their wives may be at home tending to household duties or tending to a roadside sales stand.

                                                        A couple of 11am shots

              Omwabini's cargo trailer tires. I think I found the leak.

Yesterday Millie, Mama Mary's daughter boarded the matatu (shuttle van) to Kisumu to purchase some more webbing so the basket weaving team could continue their production.
Thirty five completed, fifteen to go....

                    Basket weaving and maize sorting....

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Woven Basket Production in Full Swing

By Carolyn:
Production is well underway to fill orders for 49 woven baskets. Half the retail of $10 will go to cover costs and half will go to the orphanage. My prayer is that the workers will be gratified as they work to supply their own needs as well as helping the orphanage. 

                               Sorting maize and weaving baskets

Baskets taking Shape

          Street side shot of Sunday's BBQ lunch with Carolyn inside enjoying supper with the gang

                       The neighbour's chicken dropped into our bedroom for a visit

A view of spare parts and vehicle repair alley in Kitale

                                  Cargo delivery going green in Kimilili

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Van Repairs and Sunday Trip to Kisumu Airport

The van transmission repairs turned out to be more of a challenge than anticipated. Victor and I did survive the shuttle van ride and made it back to Omwabini with transmission and suspension parts in hand. Spare auto parts store as they call them here don't believe in parts catalogues they take your"sample" disappear for about 10 minutes and after some rooting and digging they come back with a part. The transmission assembly process wasn't working, the two halves just wouldn't quite line up and after a number of checks and double checks I discovered that one of the new gears that appeared identical was not. One gear on the new gearset was 60 mm in diameter instead of the 58 mm diameter gear we took out. Problem is now solved and transmission is back in the van.

 The two blue pipes you can see in the middle of the picture are actually the legs of the parts clerk looking through his inventory for the suspension parts.

Our outdoor workshop works well until the daily afternoon downpour starts

 After replacing a steering control arm and tie rod it was time for a Kenya style wheel alignment. If the string touches the front and back of the rear and front tire at the same time when the wheels were in the straight ahead position all is good.

On Sunday we traveled to Kisumu Airport to pick up James Bunyasi, Mama Mary's son and the project co-ordinator, who was returning from visiting the communities of volunteers in UK and in the USA. On the way to the airport we dropped off some orphan/students who stayed behind to take the applied technology course and were now heading out to stay with relatives until the New Year. We again fueled up and took the school bus because it was the only roadworthy vehicle at the time. The upside of taking the bus was the extra seating gave the orphans who remain at Omwabini full time an opportunity to get out of the Omwabini facilities and see a few different things. They all excitedly lined along the fence at the airport to watch the few planes come and go. Carolyn and I treated the thirty something passengers to supper at a place in Kisumu that Victor recommended because the food was good and at about $1.95 per plate, the price was right.

The restaurant kitchen might not have been given the stamp of approval by our Canadian Provincial health inspectors but the food was delicious, BBQ chicken, kale, cabbage and ugali. 

Since most Kenyans eat with their hands there is always a sink close by to wash your hands. 
(The bucket below the sink is to catch the water from a minor leak)

This lady taking the tailoring course offered through the community development side of Omwabini and others working with her will be kept busy for the next few weeks making baskets to fill orders from family and friends that  responded with orders from Carolyn's facebook post.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Teachable moments and Practical "Hands on" Experience for Applied Technology Students

This week has been a great opportunity for some of the Applied Technology students to get relevant  practical, hands on experience as we make needed repairs to the vehicles and equipment.  Our first challenge this week was to replace a broken suspension spring on the school bus and with that task completed  we are on to their real work horse vehicle, an all wheel drive Toyota van. This was the same van we took down some "near roads" and donkey paths to reach some of the mud house building projects we were involved with while here three years ago.
The Toyota van  has been out of comission for a few months now and is in need of major repair. We now have the transmission removed from the van and disassembled. Victor and I plan to board the public shuttle van bright and early tomorrow morning for Kitale to purchase the needed replacement parts. If all goes as planned we will be back before the end of the day with the parts in hand.

The boys did most of the grunt work while I coached from the sidelines.

Gears with damaged teeth will need to replaced. I"m surprised that the "spare parts store" claims to have the parts we need to make the repair. 

                Another beautiful view of the Mount Elgon area from our hike this past Sunday,

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Morning Chapel with the orphans and a Hike at Mount Elgon

This morning Carolyn and I prepared for and led Sunday worship with the orphans that are staying during the school break. I must admit that when students lead the worship music in Kiswahili it is much more spirited than when muzungus lead worship songs in English.

 Initially our afternoon plans were to go for a small afternoon hike with a few orphans as tour guides but Mama Mary suggested a hike through the hills at Mount Elgon would be far more spectacular and that if we paid for the fuel cost, Victor could drive us there.  Rather than just going with just a few in the van we took advantage of this opportunity, fueled the bus and invite all of the orphans to join us on this adventure. The more the merrier! Victor then contacted one of Omwabini's cooks to serve as a tour guide and we were on our way.  The scenery was spectacular and the experience was amazing!

The lush green vegetation covers the hills and valley

This fast flowing mountain stream eventually makes its way to Kimilili and supplies the town with its water 

Its never hard to gather folks for a picture 

This mountain lady and her husband allowed us to trek through their yard during our hike

A bit worried that their hiking flip flops might not give them the needed traction as they scaled to the top

Camera photos often don't often give you a real picture of the elevation drops