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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Final Day of Applied Tech Classes and another surprise Visitor

Thursday students wrote a test  based on the course content and Friday I awarded participation or achievement certificates based on their performance. It was encouraging to see the enthusiasm of the students throughout the course. For many I could tell that some of their physics lessons "came to life" as they gave application to previously taught concepts.

Friday night yet another former Omwabini orphan came to visit Mama Mary a few hours after his graduation from University in Eldoret. His strength of character, strong faith in God and  his gratitude for all Omwabini did for him and his success in his studies was an encouragement to all.

                                We got to have fun with James as we join him in a few celebration pictures. 

Tim Horton's may have met its match here in Kimilili. These tasty little morsels called mandazis,  are every bit as tasty as Tims but without the sugar coated glaze and only cost 5 cents each. 
They are made fresh daily and sold by a roadside vendor that I have to try to walk past on my way from Mary's house to the Center. Too often I stop by for a treat.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Another day another Challenge

Every day at Omwabini seems to present new challenges and surprises, not all pleasant.  Yesterday Kenya’s version of the traveling Department of Transport police from another area decided to set up a vehicle inspection sting operation in Kimilili. Omwabini’s tractor and trailer were confiscated because of a number of infractions ranging from bald tires to no registration plate and on the trailer. I guess trailers pulled by people, donkeys or oxen don’t need a registration plate but one pulled by a tractor does.

 The end result of this sting operation for Omwabini was a hefty $250. fine and yet another expense Omwabini could ill afford and were unable to pay. It it does seem a real shame to spend that much money to solve this "crisis" when there is so much need.

After we paid the fine we were able to get their tractor and trailer back. The next challenge is to come up with a plan that will make them road and field worthy in preparation for the upcoming planting season.

 The cost of tires for the tractor rear tires is 70,000 ks each (approx  $925.CDN) the front tires $250 and 4 good used trailer tires are $530.00 or about $2,880 for both the tractor and trailer,

On a more positive note, the Applied Technologies classes with the older orphan boys wrap up this week . They each had an opportunity to gain an understanding of applied technical concepts and  hands on skills in a variety of areas ranging from electric circuits, hydraulics, dc motors and piston engines. When this wraps up I will then direct my efforts to reviving some of the equipment, tractors, and vehicles etc.. to prepare them for the upcoming planting season.

By Carolyn: I got to join members of the household to sort the bad maize kernels from the good ones in this beautiful Kenyan climate. I didn’t include this on my bucket list, but had I known about it, it would have been sure to make it. Who would have thought that I could be sitting among millions of maize kernels out on open tarps to dry in the sharp sun, listening to workers singing, laughing, talking, birds chirping, a beautiful purple jacaranda tree forever blooming overhead. I could have been sitting alone in my home back in Canada, but I was blessed beyond measure to be here instead.  The harvesting conditions were wet when the maize had been put into the storage crib, so now the rot is being battled.
They empty the 100 lb bags of kernels each day to dry in the sun, then sort, then shovel back into the bags before the afternoon rain.It takes about 5 drying days for the kernels to be dry enough for long term storage.We will soon shell the next batch.  The bad kernels must be taken out or they will cause the cooked maize to be bitter, even poisonous, causing serious digestion problems. Please pray that there will be enough food for the children throughout the year till next year’s harvest.

These young boys worked together to complete this 1008 piece puzzle in their spare time

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Another week and a few more Challenges

This week is offering up a few additional challenges for everyone here at Omwabini. Heavy daily afternoon rains and no running water at the orphanage and Mama Mary's compound has caused us to alter our daily routine. We were starting to feel the inconvenience for sure. Even with the heavy rains the rain barrel is emptied for laundry, washing dishes and bathing etc...  They needed to make trips to the nearest protected spring to get a supply of for drinking water for everyone at Mama Mary's and at the orphanage. Fortunately after three days without the water is now running again.
 It helps everyone to remember what it was like when they had to walk to the springs for water and remember how much they’ve been blessed! Like most of our creature comforts in life we soon take them for granted.

 Applied Mechanics classes are postponed for a few days because the older student  hands were needed to help with the shelling and drying maize. The damp weather of the past month is threatening the recently harvested maize crop with mold so the decision was made to switch from hand shelling to machine shelling to speed up the process.  After purchasing fuel for the tractor, empty bags to hold the shelled maize and an additive to help prevent rot and mold the process could begin. When all was done over 50 bags of maize was shelled.  I will use the down time to make some mechanical repairs.
Back to class tomorrow.

                   Maize sheller at work. Notice the make shift rear tire repair to  the tire bead area. Fortunately they didn't throw out the old tires so there are pieces available.

                               Who needs an x-box when you have one of these

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Armed Guards, Shelling the Maize and Sunday Worship

Now that the government exams are done many of the orphans are being taken back to their family communities and will be staying with grandmothers, uncles or aunts and in some cases they will stay with different families in their home church communities until classes begin again in the new year. A few of the more fortunate may still have a struggling mother waiting for them.

I was surprised to see an armed guard on stand by at both the elementary and high school at different times when I entered the school yards and wondered if the folks here knew something they weren't telling me. However they assured me that the extra security was common government practice during the grade 8 and gr 12 exams to ensure the integrity of the exams and that they proceed without interruption. The exam results determine entrance opportunities to specialty schools, colleges or universities as well as the standings of the school in the county.

The Form three boys that are taking the applied technologies course will leave for their family communities when the course is complete while the Form Four students in our group will be leaving Omwabini and be preparing to strike out on their own now that they have completed High school. There are about 40 - 50 children who will be staying here at Omwabini the entire time because they have no family or a home community that will have them.

Some of the children staying behind seen here taking their turn at shelling the maize cobs

Carolyn and I  joined Anna and Angela Bunyasi and their families for worship this morning at their home church. The energy and enthusiasm they pour into their singing and praise is amazing and the volume must carry across half of the town.  The pastor was very accommodating and delivered a good part of the message in English so we could benefit as well.

By Carolyn:

We had a lovely worship time with a local congregation and sound preaching on 5 – S’s from scripture: Serve – we were saved to serve. Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to be served but to serve, and gave his life as a ransom for many.” Step up – to lead, to act, not full of promise but of action, sometimes it means to swim against the stream. He urged his fellow countrymen to fight against corruption, expecting opposition – Proverbs 27:5,6 “Open rebuke is better than secret love…”. Speak out – don’t be silent, encourage somebody. Speak for the poor and needy. When you’re silent in the midst of sin it is sin! In love direct a brother who is in the wrong, confront sin. Stand strong – Be firm when you are attacked, challenged, criticized. Jeremiah 1:18 – God told Jeremiah he was a fortified city, a defense. Cowards are not fortified against the princes of darkness. 1 Corinthians 15:57, 58 – “but thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Stay humble – start humble and end humble. 1 Peter 5:5,6 – Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Such sound advice to live by!  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A heart warming Story....

Today Carolyn and I met a very pleasant young man named Kevin and his wife Gladys who currently live in Nairobi. Kevin was one of Mama Mary's earlier orphan children and is one of Omwabini's success stories. Kevin left Omwabini in 2009 after completing High School. He now lives in Niarobi where he owns and runs a successful office supply business.

Today he, accompanied by his young wife, made a return visit to Omwabini bearing gifts of clothing for the young orphan children who now call this place home. His generosity and expression of appreciation to the folks here for being there for him during a very vulnerable time in his life brought an inexpressible joy to Mama Mary and it warmed our hearts to see the difference genuine love and a hand up can make in someone's life. Of course every orphan exit story here don't all have a happy outcomes but as we witnessed today those who embrace the love and faith in God that Mama shares with them are as well equipped as any to face the world.

                               A surprise visit and gifts from a former Omwabini orphan Kevin

                                                                Mama Mary with her special guest

By Carolyn:This morning was so special! I had baked a chocolate cake (Nairobi Chocolate Cake from and brought it into to the primary school office to be handed out to the staff, cooks and dorm moms. I left it to the kitchen and office staff to deliver the pieces of cake, but they said they must first sing a song for the cake and say a prayer as this was a time of celebration for them, the end of a school year and the last day they would all be together before the break. After hands up and high tens’s and much laughter the cake pieces were handed out. Something as simple as baking a cake we take so for granted back home but here it was such a special thing - perhaps because they don’t own ovens and still cook on charcoal stoves.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Applied Technogy classes in full swing.....

It is both a challenging and rewarding experience teaching these very eager young men the basics of applied technologies. Challenging because it is often difficult to find  points of reference because student exposure to technologies is very limited, but rewarding because they are a very eager and motivated bunch. It is always a challenge to get them to stop working when it is time wrap up for lunch and at days end.
Currently I have the same 28 students with me for the full day. They will be rotating through six different work stations getting exposure to and hands on experience in different  areas of applied technologies including small engine repair, design challenges applying hydraulics and levers to creating and working with different types of electric circuits.

The activities draw a crowd of curious onlookers to the doorways and windows.

  This is a common site in our village. A farmer will bring his cow or calf to "greener pastures" along the roadway, tie it up and then pick it up again later in the day and walk it home.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Saturday in Kimilili

No classes on Saturday so I took opportunity of the down time and walked through a different section of town the town track down some "accessories" that could be used in the student projects.

Kimilili, like most Kenyan towns are full of many small shops that are about 10' x 10'. Many of  the shops/stands carry local produce  or house very basic supply shops, repair shops or trade shop like this tailor shop. A few of the shops carry manufactured goods are imported from China and India.

 This is typical of a local automotive engine repair shop I came across Many of the repairs have a short life because  lack of tools and knowledge but they work with what they have and what they know.

.This one of the very few three story structures that is going up on the main street. No scaffolding or safety harness used here.

Meanwhile back at the orphanage...
Carolyn and the kids spent much of Saturday doing puzzles, crafts, etc in the small room that functions as the library. With very little else to do here the orphans take advantage of every opportunity to be in the library to do crafts and puzzles.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Suppertime at the Orphanage

Normally Carolyn and I aren't out after dark but we wanted to drop in on the supper meal at the "center" for a few pictures to see just how they manage to feed that many orphans at once.
Also we wanted to get a few pictures for our grand kids to see how their efforts at fundraising at a lemonade stand this past summer and another one tithing from his allowance was a reason that all the children here could enjoy some beef pieces in their gravy with their evening meal - as Carolyn put it, a very rare and special gift for them for sure.

                     Supper is usually served between 7 and 8 pm. A long lineup of kids wait for their scoop.

     Carolyn in the cookhouse with the pots of ugali, kale and and the special treat of gravy with pieces of beef

Two ladies at Mama Mary's place where the maize is stored clean the chaff from the grain by pouring the grains back and forth from one bucket to another and let the wind carry the chaff away

As high school exams wrap up the applied mechanics course I teaching continues to grow. I may soon have to limit the numbers so the each students participating can each get some worthwhile "hands on" practical experience. This week the classes begin after school and continue about six. Beginning next week the students will be with me full days.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Success with Tractor Repairs and the first evening of Classes

 My challenge was to repair a major injector pump fuel leak on the tractor. After assessing the problem I advised Victor, James' brother, that we would need to get seals and bushings for the injector pump. He believed that he knew of a small shop in a town about an hour away that might be able to help and asked, should we take the Matatu, a local shuttle van or Omwabini's van.
After my last Matatu experience, my quick response was lets take the van. I'll pay for the fuel.

Word got out that we were headed to Kitale and  it wasn't long before we had a van full of people who wanted to take advantage of the excursion and we were off.

We did locate the repair shop/shed, and thankfully they had buckets full of salvaged injector pump parts and were able to scab a bushing and seals from an old injector pump to solve our problem.

                                                Workbench at the injector pump repair shop

Fortunately the makeshift repair job did the trick so now they can use the tractor to shell maize without leaving a puddle of diesel fuel on the ground.

           Every once in a while we will drive by someone working on a vehicle or doing some welding and my reflex thought is "that's not safe".

This young roadside vendor sold each of us in the van a boiled egg to hold us over until we got back for lunch.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday worship With the Orphans and Tractor Repairs

This Sunday morning gathering was a very special time for many of the orphan/students here at Omwabini. This morning would be the last worship service many would share together until classes start again for the next school year in January. Omwabini makes every attempt to arrange for the orphans to stay with relatives such as aunts and uncles, cousins and or even older siblings that that may still live in the family home of their deceased parents.   This is a practice they have done for some time in an attempt to encourage the orphans to maintain some family connections. There are a number who will stay at the orphanage because they have no one.

Much of the special time of worship was led by the Gr 12 students who may be here for the last Sunday ever since they have completed their High School education and are now young adults. In spite of their personal life hardships their genuine testimonies of faith and thankfulness to God and the expressions of gratitude for the compassion of Mama Mary, her family  and the Omwabini staff was very touching.

                                                      Sr Class leading the music during Sunday' worship

Government exams wrap up this week and a number of the senior and graduating boys have arranged to stay with Omwabini for a little longer to take part in the applied mechanics course that I am teaching beginning tomorrow after school.

Keeping vehicles, tractors and equipment functioning here at Omwabini is a real challenge. The limited budget and the local lack of technical know how often results in attempted repairs that are short lived or cause bigger problems. Tomorrow Victor and I are off to a bigger city in a little over an hour away with the hopes of locating parts for the leaking fuel injector pump for the tractor.

Tractor in bad need of repairs ranging from injector pump fuel leak, tie rod ends, wheel studs etc...

I remember making this type of repair on the farm years ago when the sidewall split. I think it was called a "boot"

This is a the common meal in Kenya. Maize (ground corn meal) kale alone or with tomatoes.

In all your giving in this upcoming Christmas season do consider supporting the good folks here at Omwabuni. Their challenges are many. Funding their teachers very meager salaries, medical supplies for orphans, school material, material for school uniforms, tractor, vehicle and equipment repairs... The list goes on... We do see a lot of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" as they look to do what it takes to deal with the most urgent problem. Donations can be made through the web site or if a Canadian Charaties donation receipt is desired donations to Omwabini can be made through Hebron CRC 431 Albert St Renfrew, ON K7V 1V8.

Thanks for considering.