Monday, July 16, 2012


We left LDO on the morning of Saturday, June 30th.  We spent our last week trying to finish what we started and preparing the children for our departure.  We finished most of everything, except the rabbit cage.  Hopefully they'll be able to use the wood we left behind and finish it.
Moises and Kristina both left on Friday morning to go to Nairobi for their flight back to America and that seemed to prepare the children for the rest of the team leaving.  We, of course, were sad to see them go and it felt strange with them gone from our team.  As for preparing the children for our departure..we probably should have prepared ourselves as well.  Leaving the children and LDO was excruciating, to the point where even as I write this a few weeks later, it hurts to think of those children and leaving them.

It's safe to say that we've left a piece of our hearts behind at LDO.

See you later, Fredrick, Evans, John, Christine, Sarah, Larwance, Pamela, Pauline, Mike, Kevin, Felix,  Leah, Japheth, and Erick.

Our Fourth Week in Kenya

Sunday afternoon in Africa, we finished the kitchen table for the cook to put the jikos on.  A jiko is a small, round clay grill Africans use to cook their food on (using charcoal) and since they're only a little more than one foot high, the cook has to either bend over double or squat to cook on it.  So we built a sturdy kitchen table that would lift up the three jikos they have and make it a little easier for them to cook.  The building was a good release for my grief.

The morning of Monday the 25th, we got started on the rabbit house we're building for their expanding rabbit "farm".  We agreed that it was important to do this since the rabbits will provide meat for the orphans and selling them will earn some money for the orphanage.  Anyhow,  I was bent over fixing a bent nail in the frame when I received a blow in the head that gave me my very first concussion (to be confirmed later by a doctor in Uganda).  It was a fascinating experience.  Alex later told me that my head was in the direct path of Kevin, the biggest of the boys, as he was running at full speed down the hill.  My fragile little head received the full brunt of his hip.  I had a "whiteout"- the opposite of a blackout- dizziness, a fierce headache, and nausea/vomiting.  Like Alex said, I now know something of what NFL players go through on a regular basis.

Tuesday, June 26. Tuesday was one of the most profound days in my entire life and THE most profound of this entire month.  We were given the opportunity to go look for deaf orphans living in villages a hour away from Kisii with Daniel, the director of LDO, and Winston.  My headache had reduced to a dull throb so I grabbed this opportunity, along with Alex and Alexa.  Javier and Dallas stayed behind to run camp, Moises and Kristina needed to do errands in Kisii to prepare for their flight back to America the following weekend.

First of all, the African definition of a village is nothing like what we think it is-- from our vast experience of watching various Hollywood films. Normally, an African "village" in one of those films consists of a cluster of thatched huts and scantily dressed people in loincloths, brandishing spears.  Maybe a hundred years ago, this would have been common.  In reality, a modern village is more likely to be just remote country with great distances between each hut.  The huts are still thatched, they are still made from mud, but they are nowhere as neat or well built as the ones we see on movies.  There usually is just one long road that is nearly impossible to travel on by car, despite it being miles from one end of the village to the other, with few of the huts within sight of each other.  The people of these villages are beyond poor.  Adults can barely clothe themselves, so their children generally go naked for most of their early years.  Food is scarce.  Children are lucky to make it past infancy.  Many are left orphaned by AIDS.

The first village we went to had four deaf orphans.  After getting our car several miles down the road (with some close calls) we met up with a nine year old deaf boy.  He was orphaned by AIDS before he was two, but thankfully he was taken in and raised by an elderly neighbor.  She did what she could to keep him alive but had no way or knowledge to give him a language. The entire time we were with him, the only thing he could do was nod.  We got to see the hut he lives in and the approximate site of his parents' graves, next to the hut.  The hut is badly dilapidated and the other children living in it looked badly malnourished and were listless.

The second orphan was brought over to the hut by her uncle and his friends.  She was introduced to us as Ooki and her unique features told us that she had Down's Syndrome.  Unlike the first boy we met, 7 year old Ooki wasn't shy about greeting us and giving us a thorough inspection of her own.  Her lovable and friendly nature won us over immediately even though she, too, had no language.  Her story is the same as the boy's - orphaned as a baby by AIDS and raised by her uncle.  We didn't get to see where she lives, but we can safely assume it isn't that different from the boy's home.

After meeting Ooki and giving her and the boy a lollipop, we walked back down the road to meet another child.  She was just a tiny thing that clung to her grandmother's skirt.  We were told that she was four years of age, even though she wasn't any bigger than my two year old nephew is.  Her parents both died of AIDS, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother. No language either.  She was deathly afraid of us all and cried if separated from her grandmother.  She didn't have any clothes on except for a ragged, torn shirt.

On our way back up the road, the fourth orphan met up with us.  She is four years old too.  She is the last of 12 children whose parents died of AIDS.  Her older brother and his wife has been raising her.  One of the things that struck me was how lifeless she seemed.  Nothing got a reaction out of her, negative or positive.  She just stood there, staring ahead, not exactly at us or anything else.  She let us pick her up but just hung in our arms limply and continued to stare out at nothing.

After leaving the last girl, we headed out to a school (for hearing children) about a hour away to meet two orphans that lived there with their caretakers.  One was a 8 year old boy, a shy but cheerful child with rudimentary language skills, mostly home signs.  His father's whereabouts are unknown and his mother died giving birth to him.  His mother's sister fed him cow's milk to keep him alive as a baby and raised him.  One of his forearms are shorter than the other, as well as his femur on the same side, but as his aunt tells it, he doesn't let it stop him.

The five year old girl with him is another orphan of AIDS, raised by her grandmother, who isn't in good health.  The girl had no language skills either but seemed quite animated and while somewhat shy of us strangers, was friendly with us in the end.

After the school, we went to another village about thirty minutes away and drove for about a hour down the long, rather perilous road of that village to meet the last orphan of the day (again, another victim of AIDS- both parents).  When we finally got to the point of no return, we still had to wait for the girl and her caretakers (neighbors of her parents) to make the long walk to the road from their house.  When they got there, we were stunned by the girl's age and how big she was.  She is fourteen years of age and already fully developed, at least physically.  Mentally, she had absolutely no language at all.  Her caretakers told us that she stays in the house all day long and does next to nothing.  They had no idea what resources are out there for the girl or they would have done something sooner.

At the end of the day, I was at a loss for words.  So many deaths from AIDS, so many children left orphaned by AIDS.  So much poverty.  The country we saw, the places where these children live is one of the most beautiful places in the world and the soil is rich and ripe for farming, but there is so much death, despair, and hunger on it.  It's all wrong.  It shouldn't be like that, but it is.

The more time I spend at LDO, the more confident I am that God has sent me here for a purpose.  Not just for this one summer but for many more to come.  LDO is a safe haven for these children and LDO needs as much help as it can get.  The seven kids we saw in the villages that day were only seven out of hundreds of deaf orphans in similar, or worse, situations.  The 14 wonderful children at LDO, who we've grown to love and gotten quite attached to, were once exactly like those kids we met in the villages that day.  Lifeless, languageless, inanimate.  Now, looking at them, seeing them play, talk, fight, it is difficult to believe what they were once like those village kids.

These children need a place like LDO.  They need LDO.  LDO would love to take in these children, but they can only afford to take care of 14 orphans, which they already have.  For just a small amount of money, we can give LDO the resources to take in these kids and feed them, clothe them, teach them, and more.

Saturday, June 24

My husband got back to my mother and stepdad's home in Florida safe and sound from Switzerland, where he was for the first summer semester of his PhD program.  Sunday morning, he emailed me to tell me that one of our beloved dogs, Big Head Red, was dying of lymphoma.  My mother, stepdad, and aunt had tried everything to get him to eat but BHR had lost the will to live.  Thankfully, he held out until my husband got home and said goodbye. BHR died a few hours after my husband emailed me on Sunday, at the age of 16. He was buried next to his brothers on my mother's property.  I wish I could've been there to say goodbye and hug him, but I thank God for the 13 wonderful years I had with him.  Especially the last three we had together in Utah.

My Sweet Biggie, you're free to go chase rabbits and UPS trucks over the rainbow.  We'll always love you and you'll be sorely missed.

Our Third Week in Kenya

A lot has happened in just over one week.  Once we got back from Mombasa, I taught the children the bible story about Jonah and the Big Fish.  It was quite an enjoyable experience and I look forward to my next story this week.  The children are one of the most attentive groups I've ever seen, especially the small ones.  They're so smart and I just pray for more opportunities to come back and work with them some more in the future.

The rest of the week was just a whirlwind of games, crafts, activities, and home improvement projects (we finished the garden!). We've all grown attached to the children and are having a hard time thinking about leaving them.  We've been trying to remind them that we're leaving this weekend for BDI in Uganda, but we aren't sure they quite understand.  It'll be a painful thing, leaving.  I need to continue to remind myself that Uganda is a new beginning, another place where we can do some good for another group of children.  But I've made a vow to myself that I will try my hardest to return to LDO at this time next year, if the Lord is willing.   It was in His plan to lead me here with the others on the team this summer, so I just need to see if another trip is in His plan for me next summer.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Monday, June 11 to Sunday, June 18

For being in a place where time almost comes to a standstill, where a single day can feel like an eternity, I'm wondering where time has gone.  It's been two weeks since we got to Africa and while I'm aware that we've managed to get a lot done, it feels like we have so much more to do, but so little time.  Only two weeks left to complete a long list of projects and run camp for the kids!

The first week of camp went by successfully.  We're taking turns teaching bible stories and my turn comes up on Tuesday, Jonah and the Whale.  We also have crafts activities, teamwork activities, and mental activities.  The children seem to have enjoyed them all and it warms the heart to see them absorb all the new information they're getting through these various activities, laughing, playing, and just being kids.  We're all growing quite fond of them and dread the day we'll have to leave them but hope we're leaving them with more than what they had when we first got here.

Projects we're doing and need to do:
1. Pavilion for shade (our first attempt was unsuccessful but pray that our second try succeeds!)
2. Benches (3 down, 3 to go.  Hand sawing each piece is tedious and time consuming!)
3. Kitchen table/shelves (so the cooks will not have to bend over and cook off the floor)
4. Rabbit coop (they want to expand the number of rabbits they have so they can have meat and sell some as well, so we will build them another coop in addition to the one they have)
5. Bookshelves
6. Clothes lines (Done! As you may recall, they were hanging their clothes off the barbed wire fence...hence the many holes in their clothes and the hours Alexa and I spent sewing them up)

We have many more projects- but I can't recall them all.  Will post more as I go!

We spent the weekend in Mombasa by the Indian Ocean.  We were all getting burnt out and needed a break to catch our breath and recharge for the last two weeks of camp and projects (plus another 4 weeks in Uganda for me, Javier, Alex, Alexa, and Dallas).  I must admit that the highlight of my weekend was having running water for a shower instead of bathing out of a large bowl at LDO.  But I wish the children could have that luxury as well.  Perhaps one day they can.  Together we can make that happen.

God Bless and much love to my family, friends, and wonderful supporters!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We went into town after breakfast to do the Internet cafe thing, then went by the supermarket in town, Nakumatt, and did some shopping.  Alex and I had woken up that morning feeling quite crampy and we both took our Cipro, a pill to help deter any bad reaction we might have to the food here.  I took mine a little too late, it seems. By the time we got back to town, I was ready to drop, so I went to lie down until dinner time.  Once dinnertime came around, I decided to join the others and have some ginger tea.  Bad idea.  I had my very first missionary experience with projectile vomiting outside the room where we eat.  Some of the kids were fascinated and came by to inquire on the nature of my crouching beside the building.  The team did a good job of supporting me as I spewed, so I feel especially blessed to be with these good people.

The stomach issues continued through the night and well into Saturday.  Alex got better but poor Kristina got sick in the middle of the night and hurt her back on top of it all.  Moises has been having stomach issues but is recovering nicely.  Hopefully this will be the last time we get sick, but I can't say what God has in store for us for the rest of our time here.  But we can pray!

The KDPL (Kenya Deaf  Prayer and Leadership) conference took place at Sam's Place, another orphanage for deaf children about 15 minutes away from LDO.  I wanted to go, so I did.  Moises stayed behind with Kristina. We got the pleasure of seeing the grounds of Sam's Place, which is far larger and more established.  A large number of deaf Kenyans showed up for the conference which was a wonderful opportunity for us to interact with the locals.  I got in some socialization but started feeling quite bad again.  Moises and Kristina showed up at lunchtime and after the local Kenyans took turns singing their version of Christian songs, which are AWESOME, the ODO group (with the exception of Kristina and I) gave performances related to bible stories and morals.  Kristina and I decided to leave shortly after to go back and get some rest.

I look forward to Sunday because I'll actually have a chance to really focus on the orphans at LDO.  All week, we've been focusing on projects and shopping for projects and have had little time with the children :(  But come Monday, we officially start camp!  From there on, it'll be all about the kids and I'm really looking forward to that.  I know the others are too.

Awesome, awesome day today!  I finally got to spend nearly the entire day with the children.  We hosted church service for everyone this morning and it was wonderful, especially under the pavilion the ODO team built instead of cramming into one of the 12 ft by 12 ft classrooms like the children usually do.  Javier gave a sermon focusing on kindness, patience, love, self control, peace, etc. since the children have issues in some of those areas.   I have to say that I'm absolutely in love with the Kenyan way of singing songs about Jesus, God, anything Christianity-related.  The songs are simple and the message they send are simple as well but the dancing and the joy they put behind the songs are captivating.

Javier's sermon seems to have gotten through to most of the children because every time they started to misbehave, we reminded them of what they learned this morning and they mostly obeyed.  :)  But we rarely ever have to reprimand them, they're such good kids.

After the sermon, the kids did their chores and we did some of our own errands before going over to Nakumatt and doing some shopping.  We were back before lunch, as were Alex and  Dallas (they went to the 2nd day of the KDPL conference while the rest stayed behind).  Then it was..... PLAYTIME!

While the boys played soccer in the small field they have in the back of the property, I had a blast playing various games with the girls.  They absolutely love jumping rope, playing volleyball, and Pickle.  While it was all fun, I kept feeling bad that the only place the girls have to play is near the front entrance, between the cow and the bathroom (I call it the squat room because thats what we do in 'em...squat).   It made it worse when Twitchy the cow took a liking to me and kept following me around to get its ears scratched and its nose nuzzled.

After playtime, we did some work before the storm hit (it rains nearly every evening here). The tarp pavilion didn't survive the wind, unfortunately.  We're rethinking the design and will redo it since it has made such a big difference to this place what with providing shade against the sun and a place to gather.  Pray for that and please continue to donate to Alex and Alexa's fundraiser for projects around here!

They desperately need and wanted a bigger property when they bought this one but funds didn't allow for it.  Hopefully we can raise enough money once we go back to America to get a bigger property and build better accommodations for them.  There's so much we want to do for them but funds are limited.  I have faith that in the long run, we'll be able to do so much more for them with your help. It is amazing how just 100 USD goes such a long way here.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hello all! So far it has only been one week since our arrival at Lance's Deaf Orphanage/School for the Deaf but it feels like we've been here for weeks.  I'm typing this out on my little iPad, so please bear with me as I try to give you a general account of what we've been up to thus far.

Friday I arrived at 9:30pm after over 30 hours spent in the air and wandering around terminals in Tallahassee, North Carolina, NYC, and Paris.  The flight from NYC to Paris wasn't the most pleasant flight, what with being crammed into economy class with the air conditioning on the fritz and a woman intent on elbowing me in every part of my body.  But I survived and got the entire aisle all to myself on a deliciously cold jet from Paris to Nairobi.  Score.

Once I got out of the airport, I was greeted warmly by the entire ODO team and our two Kenyan team leaders, William and Winston. William is an interpreter and Winston is a deaf pastor, both of whom work closely with LDO and have done so for years.  Not much happened after that.  Just checked into the hotel, had an frigid shower, ate beans with hominy (they call it maize here), and then passed out. Saturday We did some errands and finished our big-city business before heading over to the bus station, where we waited for hours for our rental van to pick us up at 2pm.  Then it took three men to cram all 14 of our luggages and 9 of us into the van for a long but beautiful ride through the countryside to Kisii. We got to enjoy the views of Rift Valley and a herd of zebras grazing on the roadside.  No lions or any other large, vicious mammals.  We got to LDO past the children's bedtime, so naturally we were disappointed.  But after the men pushed the van out of the mud bath it was intent on taking in the middle of the road, we walked up the road into an ambush.  All the children were awake and waiting for us by the road.  It was the best feeling in the world to see their smiling faces and to shake their hands and warmed our hearts after a long and tiring trip.  A fantastic, blessed start to our stay here in Africa.

We were given two rooms with brand new beds, sheets, and mosquito nettings, all thanks to Lance McWilliams (yes, that Lance) and his team.  You can scroll down to an older blog to see pictures of the rooms.  I was put into a room with the married couples (Abenchuchan/Arteaga) and the two single guys (Javiar Reyes and Dallas Brock) took the other room.  The accommodations are basic but they fulfill our needs to our satisfaction.   The entire orphanage consists of two long buildings, an outhouse, a separate kitchen, and a rabbit cage.  In each of the buildings are several small rooms- bedrooms for the children, the staff, three classrooms, an office, and two guest rooms (which we're staying in).  There are generations of rabbits living on the grounds, a kitten, and a cow.

Sunday: We woke up a little late and walked out of our bedrooms to find the children waiting for us at our door.  I got into a game of Pickle with the girls and William, and that was when I learned they aren't at all fragile, timid, or afraid to test their strength. The girls (and the occasional boy) all have vicious throwing arms.  Fortunately, they play with a hacky sack so whenever I got hit, no bones were broken.  We spent the majority of the morning playing with the kids and getting to know them. Then after lunch, Alex led a short sermon on how Jesus loves all and we got to play name games to help us get to know one another.  Then we headed into Kisii to get some much-needed supplies for the orphans and drinking water for us.  We got to travel Africa-style, (public transportation) crammed tightly into a 8-seater van with maybe 8 other people.  At least I got to sit by a window.  With my head and half of my upper body hanging out, I didn't have any issues with the body odor steaming up the van.  It.....was.......FUN!  No, I'm not kidding, it was! Totally awesome. At the store, we were able to buy 10 new mattresses, sheets, and blankets for the children.  Also a new water tank for the orphanage- their only source of clean water is rainwater collected by gutters leading into a tank.  If it doesn't rain for a while, they don't have water.  This way, they can have more water in storage. We also got some seeds and trowels to start a garden for them, some chairs, and a large tarp for a pavilion we're planning to build between the two buildings. These items had to be delivered the following day as we didn't have a way to haul them all back to LDO (they do not have a vehicle).  All these things we bought were made possible by the donations of wonderful people back home.  Thank you - your donation has made a huge difference already, on the first day. We wrapped up the day with the kids, trying to memorize each other's names.  I've never seen a more well-mannered and cheerful group of kids before.  Their energy and smiles are contagious and warms my heart.  It is evident that God watches over these kids and has given them a wonderful group of teachers and staff at LDO (ALL VOLUNTEERS).

Monday: After breakfast, while the children were in school, we had a lesson in Kenyan Sign Language from Daniel Ogembo, the Director of the orphanage.  Alex and William went back to town to ensure the delivery of the things we bought the day before.  Once the things arrived, we spent the rest of the time before lunch hauling out the old mattresses, putting in the new ones and putting on the sheets and blankets.  When the kids got out of school for their lunch, we all started playing on the old mattresses piled up high in the area between the two buildings.  Dallas showed the kids how to flip up side down onto the mattresses and then there was no stopping them.  I had a go several times myself on the mattresses.  Fun funfunfun.  We also gave out the clothes and toys that our friends and families donated back in America.  The excitement of the kids were overwhelming. They've been playing with their toys every chance they get since then. We spent much of the day discussing projects we need to do for the children's benefit and ended up with a long list.  Sadly we had to edit the list so we wouldn't go over the budget ODO has for projects.   Which brings me to this- please donate so we can have some more money for projects!  To donate for this specific reason, go to the ODO website and make a donation to Alex and Alexa's ODO fundraiser.

Tuesday: We spent most of the day in town buying supplies, which was no easy feat since they don't have one-stop stores here like Lowe's or Home Depot.  We got back after dark, so we weren't able to see the orphans for very long.  Once the kids went to bed, I manually washed my clothes using three plastic bins: one for the wash cycle, one for the rinse cycle, and the last for the extra rinse and spin cycle. This is how the kids wash their clothes too.  Only they hang their clothes to dry on the barbed wire fence that surrounds the property. 

Wednesday: I went into town with Kristina, Alex, William, and Winston to finish buying supplies for the building projects we had and to rent a lorry to haul all of our purchases from the previous day to the orphanage.  A lorry is a large truck that resembles an army cargo truck. Moises and Kristina had someone donate 200 USD for them to buy shoes for the children, so we were able to get three pairs of shoes for them all.   Alex, Kristina, and I rode in the back of the lorry with the supplies.  Bouncy fun funfunfun.  We got back to the orphanage before dark and were able to socialize with the children some.  The children got their shoes that evening and it was wonderful to see them running around in shoes that doesn't have large holes and chunks missing from them.

Thursday: We spent all day on two projects.  We broke ground for the garden we're going to put in and worked on erecting the massive pavilion that now stretches from one building to another.  The pavilion will provide relief for the children during hot days and rainy days as well.  Hopefully the garden will provide extra food for the children.

Friday: We're in town for to update our blogs, but will go back and continue to work on the garden and other projects. Camp officially starts on Monday! Pray for us and the people at LDO.   I'm getting addicted to the Kenyan way of life!  Everything's so much simpler here, but the poverty that surrounds us is heart breaking. The children are starting to show their personalities more and more now and we're starting to know them better now. Once the pavilion was erected, the children had great fun playing under it.  I want to thank God for making all this possible because without God, we wouldn't have been able to do anything.  Also, if you want to, I'm still asking for donations to help cover my living expenses while I'm here.  Since my arrival, a few additional expenses has come up (transportation, interpreter, team leader, supplies, food) so any donations are appreciated.  You can still donate via the ODO website, just follow instructions on the "How To Donate" page above.   God has definitely blessed us in this trip.  We're the lucky ones, to get to meet these wonderful children and people of LDO.  I know my life will be far richer for having known these kids.

Stay tuned for my next update! God Bless, Kat

P.S.- I met Rolling Stones drummer Chuck Levell's brother, Billy, on Thursday! He's deaf too and has been to Kenya multiple times to work with the deaf people.  This mention is for you, Daddy. :)