Monday, April 30, 2012

From Kenya, With Love

   I had to share with you the letter that arrived in my mailbox today from Elizabeth, my eight year old Compassion girl from Kenya. Having just met her about a month ago, she told me then that she had just sent a letter to me before being told that I was coming all the way from America to see her. So I've been expecting this one!
   Here are a few of the highlights:
   Elizabeth says that she loves getting my letters and that it is always nice to hear from me. She prays that I would never lack in anything. (Amen to that one!)
   She says that she loves school very much and she loves her teachers, too! She considers herself "blessed to have such an opportunity to study." She was promoted to grade three and she says, "I promise to work very hard." (I always encourage her to give school her best effort.)  Elizabeth asks me to pray that she will always understand what her teachers are teaching her.
   In my last letter I had sent her pictures and stories about penguins. So she said, "It was so interesting to read about the penguins. They are lovely creatures. We have a lot of wild animals in my country's game reserves. Have you ever seen hippos, giraffes, lions and gazelles?"
   "You have always been a blessing to me and my family!"
   She writes incredibly well for an eight year old with only a few mistakes highlighted by the translator. And of course it is written in English, so no translation was necessary. 

   The best part was yet to come. Stapled inside of a separate sheet of paper were four photos of Elizabeth and her family. 

This one is of Elizabeth in an adorable dress holding something that I can't identify. 
This one is of her with one of her cousins who lives with her.
Here she is showing me what she was able to purchase with a family gift I sent to her. A new school bag, several blankets, new shoes and a mattress!

  And my favorite picture of all. Elizabeth with another cousin and her grandparents! I love it! The girl's smiles make their eyes sparkle and the old man with his cane and grandma with her skirt and matching head wrap make the photo extra special.

Extra photos are always treasured from our Compassion children as they offer us a real glimpse into their lives and their families. These pictures, for me, are worth more than anything and are the best gift I could ever hope to receive. Thank you, Elizabeth!


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Two Girls and One Hundred Dresses

   I'm drinking Kenyan coffee to inspire my writing today. For once, I feel like I  have too much to say and all that I saw and experienced in Kenya is creating a log jam of epic proportions in my brain. When I try to sit down and write, all of it comes to the front wanting immediate attention and publication, which then causes me to shoulder the door closed and retreat to more manageable tasks, like spring cleaning the house from top to bottom.
    I had the huge honor while at KE214, of meeting two girls who are sponsored by friends of mine through Our Compassion, a website similar to Facebook set up for anyone who sponsors a child through Compassion International. 
   I had no time to prearrange a meeting with these girls as I only found out I was headed for their particular project a few weeks in advance. All I had was the girl's  name and ID number along with their sponsor's name and number written in the notebook that I carried with me everywhere. Risper Murugi and Doreen Wawira, ages 15 and 5. I really did not think the staff at KE214 would go out of their way to track these girls down. And I was wrong.
   Shortly after our team arrived at the project, I chased down an important looking staff member of KE214 and showed her my notebook. She looked at the names and said she would return with the children.
   Really? Return with the children?
    She went for them herself. Risper was "down the road" attending the local high school, and during my stay in Kenya I learned how to translate "down the road" and "not too far". Believe's far. Doreen was closer but was in the opposite direction attending her school.
   So now I was officially nervous knowing that the kids were being taken out of school and rushed to my side. I wasn't prepared for this and you know my obsession with being prepared!! I had no gifts for them, no questions scribbled in my trusty notebook to ask them and no idea how a 15 year old and a 5 year old would respond to this incredibly white, white woman.
   Risper came first and after formal introductions, they left me alone with her and trusted we would become fast friends over Kenyan tea and a stack of sliced bread.
   She was a beautiful girl with a stunning smile and she was about as nervous as I was. We attempted to communicate, and while we both spoke English, her accent and my accent made most of our words a mystery to each other. We did a lot of smiling and nodding until one of the male staff came along with little Doreen in tow. He told me that Risper was one of their brightest students and that her grades and performance were excellent. She ducked her head at his praise and concentrated heavily on her tea.
   She did venture a few questions about her sponsor and then asked how we in America manage when it snows and how do we stay warm? At that moment I was melting in the African sun and this girl had a sweater on!
   I learned that her mother had died and while in Kenya, whenever I asked how a particular death occured, the answer was always, "They took sick and died." Maybe sometimes there is no way to determine how someone dies in these areas of poverty. In America, we do autopsy's or have a diagnosis of some sort to detail exactly why our loved one died. In Africa, they simply take sick and die.
   I was saddened to imagine this young girl without her mother, but they explained that she was very close to her 17 year old sister and they comforted and supported each other.
   Doreen was led to a chair beside me and was handed a plate of boiled potatoes, bread, sweet potatoes and a cup of steaming hot tea. It seemed like a lot of food for one little girl. A project worker warned her in Kiswahili to be careful and wait for it to cool.
   I first noticed Doreen's huge, sad eyes and the dust that covered her from head to toe. But dust and dirt are part of life there in the dry months of Kenya's climate. The kids literally roll in it in their play and keeping that fresh washed look is not an option nor a concern.

   She was so precious, sitting there beside me with her legs swinging back and forth as she ate away at her plate of food. She ate a lot, but not too quickly, and I suppose this was her one substantial meal for the day. They rarely eat breakfast, and supper is unheard of as well. I wanted to stuff her dress pockets with my remaining potatoes, but she did look healthy and she thoroughly  enjoyed the granola bar I offered her from my bag.

   Her mother and baby brother were fetched from Lord only knows where, and we sat together under some shade trees, communicating as best we could. She explained that her eye condition was improving with the right medication. 
   Aaaaand, notice anything different about Doreen in this picture?
   My friend Gina, another amazing sponsor on Our Compassion, hand sews dresses by the hundreds to send with people traveling to areas of poverty. These dresses are very simple in design which makes them easier to fit on a multitude of sizes and shapes. But they are also adorned with the sweetest accents of ribbon, buttons, dainty pockets and frilly hems.
   Gina generously sent me with 100 of these dresses and KE214 is where the majority of them were handed out. The girls loved them and the mothers lined up to get a dress for their daughters. Between the balloons, bracelets and dresses being handed out, the compound was soon transformed into the scene from Wizard of Oz where the picture changes from black and white to a dazzling display of moving color.

   Thank you Gina, for sewing your heart out and for using your time so unselfishly in order to bless and enrich those in need!

Here's a super short video of Doreen. Don't blink!

This is my final report on KE214. As you can see, the total monies raised for the little library has steadily been growing! Risper and Doreen will be some of the children to use the books you have purchased. Can't you just picture it? I am so grateful to all of you for pitching in and sharing with them from your own pockets. Martin has promised to take pictures for me whenever the library has all the books in place. You know I will share them with you when they come in!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Select This Child"

  ****Emmaculate has a new sponsor! Thank you Scott, for taking this step to change a little girl's life!***

 Another little girl on the Compassion website has my full attention. And once again, there is nothing in particular that stands out on this child, except that I keep coming back to her. That little face interrupts my sleep at night and then during the day her name persistently travels across the landscape of my thoughts.


    She is seven years old. Born in Kenya on September 17th, she lives with her mother and father and two siblings. She helps her mother in the kitchen and delights in playing ball games. She lives in the mountainous community of Ngusishi where the monthly wage is around 25 dollars. Her diet consists of maize and beans and she most likely sleeps on a dirt floor.
    My photo is not very clear, but you can follow this link and see her full profile on the Compassion website. From there you can "Select This Child" and begin a relationship with her that will change her story in so many ways.....including the story of her parents, siblings and even extended family members. Your sponsorship enables Compassion to provide for her physical, emotional, spiritual and educational needs. It's 38 dollars a month. I spend that much on Walmart brand coffee and creamer....easily. Sometimes it helps, to not think about an extra monthly bill, but to recognize how easily we spend money on simple comforts.
   I pray that she captures someone's heart soon. And I know that I have followed God's leading to offer her here on Come To My Rescue.



Saturday, April 21, 2012

Compassion Delivers

  It is so exciting to see the donations roll in for the Compassion library at KE214 in Kenya! Thank you for sharing with them in such a way that they will be able to fill their empty shelves with textbooks, resource books and grade level readers for the children and teens enrolled there. I love your generous hearts and I hope you realize how valuable these books will be to them.
   If you are new here, you might want to scroll down and read the previous post on my day at KE214 and their efforts in building and stocking this library.

  This particular Compassion project is also home to a Child Survival Program.
  The Child Survival Program helps save the lives of babies and mothers living in poverty utilizing the local church to assist mothers of at-risk infants and toddlers. Mothers can give their children a fighting chance for healthy development with supplies and training which includes:

Prenatal care
Nutritious food and supplements
Ongoing health care
Spiritual guidance and education
The loving support of a local church

   These are some of the babies and toddlers we were privileged to meet, hold and play with during our day there. The mothers were obviously proud of their healthy little bundles and delighted in the attention we lavished on them.

   The home visits for this project took groups of us to one of the humble dwellings of the mothers enrolled in the Child Survival program. I gained a clear understanding of just how much these women learn from the training Compassion gives them in caring for themselves and their new babies.      

   This woman welcomed us with a  song and led us proudly into her compound. She talked almost non-stop, eagerly explaining all of the ways she was implementing what Compassion had taught her to do.
   Here she demonstrated the process of hand washing, after using the "choo", with the water and soap perched on the left. It's something that we are taught to do before we can even speak and it's hard to imagine that in developing countries, hand washing after visiting the latrine is an unheard of practice.

   I followed this woman around her little compound with admiration; for her determination to do the very best with what she had to work with, and for Compassion's success in carrying out what they preach and promote from home. You can read about Compassion's programs and promises and agree that they sound like wonderful interventions and methods of rescue. But when you step into the world of one woman's story and see it all with your own eyes, everything changes. My resolve to partner with Compassion in releasing children from poverty went to a whole new level that day.

   In addition to the hand washing after using the latrine, she explained that Compassion taught her to wash her hands before preparing food (the picture reveals her "kitchen") and before handling and breast feeding her baby. We were led into the area where her little boy sleeps which was covered by a hanging mosquito net and with a newly cut window for ventilation.

   She demonstrated the process she goes through to grow, harvest and grind the different grains she uses to mix with milk from their goat. The end result is a soupy porridge that she feeds to her family and also sells by the roadside to people walking to work in the mornings.
   Her roadside stand also offered different beans and grains Compassion helped her start, as well as handmade soap and eggs from her chickens. She told us the eggs were useful for her own child in providing him with needed protein. (Another score for Compassion!)

   I have so many more pictures and stories from this one home visit. This woman and her husband were living testaments to Compassion's success on every level.  I was reminded that Compassion's goal is not to make these people like us, with our carpeted homes and closets full of shoes and clothes, two kids and a white, picket fence around our miracle grow, green grass yards.
   Compassion's motto is this: The opposite of poverty is enough
   Not only was this once splintered family, due to alcohol abuse by dad, reunited and thriving, they were also exuding contentment and hope. It was a beautiful sight. One that I am sure is not fully conveyed in these few paragraphs.
   I am still not done reporting on KE214. I met two very special girls on this visit, Risper and Doreen, and I was blessed to hand out many, little, handmade dresses sewn by my good friend Gina. Those stories are up next!

   I am still in pursuit of your gifts towards the remarkable little library housed at this very project. The chip-in button on the right is a simple way to buy a few books and leave your own footprint in Kenya. These resources will be well used and treasured, I can promise you that.
   This effort will remain in place until May 31st. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to those who have given already!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TWO Opportunities!

*****Nthiga Has A Sponsor! His Story Is About To Change! Thank You Carrie! *******

***Thank You To All Who Have Donated So Far To The Library! ***

  I lean heavily towards being organized and having my ducks lined up in a nice little row. So I am definitely veering off track here to bring you the next installment of my adventures in Kenya. I should be posting about our day in Dandora, one of Nairobi's largest slums, as this was our next stop following the day we spent with the Maassi. But instead I need to jump ahead a few days. You will understand why if you stick with me till the end of today's entry.

   On Friday, March 23rd, our six van loads of Compassion sponsors and advocates pulled into ACK Karangare Child Development Center and Child Survival Program. It was a short ride from the hotel, but we entered quickly into a desolate, barren area littered with leaning shanties and bustling, crowded streets.
We were welcomed by a crowd of beaming, branch waving mothers who led us in a parade towards the center's gates while singing in Kiswahili, "You've traveled by airplane to get here, now we'll carry you on our backs the rest of the way." (Thanks Chris)
   KE214 is an oasis compared with the squalor surrounding it, and these beautiful children brightened the landscape even more.

   Eager staff proudly led us on a tour of the project and I was incredibly impressed with what they have accomplished through ingenuity, hard work and the training and starter funds offered by Compassion.
   I forget which income generating  business they started first, but each one led to a profit, which in turn provided funds to start another. They had a fish pond which the fathers tended, raising and selling talipia.

   And then around the corner was a rabbit farm, multiple chicken houses and a cow, all fed and cared for by the parents and children registered at this project.

   The project had earned and saved enough money to add a computer room for the teens registered there and my favorite new addition of all was the library! The room was a simple concrete structure with lots of sturdy metal shelving, but not a whole lot of books.
   Standing there in that humble little library, God spoke to my heart very clearly and said, "This is it. This is where I want you to invest some of the money you were given for this trip. Go buy some books."
   It was so clear on what He wanted me to do, there was no second guessing and wondering if I'd heard Him right. On the last day of my stay in Kenya, I took a taxi with Martin, one of the Kenya Compassion Staff, and went straight to the Textbook Store in Nairobi. With Martin as my guide, we purchased a "trolley" full of textbooks, charts and resource books for KE214.
The photo shows only a fraction of the books we were able to purchase.
   Very few children living in poverty have any access to books like these. A library, which we expect to find in every little town here in America, is unheard of in the poor areas of Kenya.
   Kenyans know the value of an education and will take every opportunity to study and learn. The Compassion children who will use these books have no electricity in their little homes made of sticks and mud, but the project now has a place for them to stay after school and grow in knowledge to their heart's content. I think that is worthy of a standing ovation for the Compassion Staff of KE214 who have worked so hard to enrich the lives of the children in their care.

  This brings me to TWO opportunities for you to get involved. Some people have expressed an interest in donating money towards the purchase of more books for this growing and well used library. And I say, YES! Welcome aboard! Can you imagine the impact of even more books being delivered to this small but thriving Compassion project?
   I have created a chip-in button on the right for those of you who would like to put their hand in on this worthy cause. I am leaving this up until May 31st. Thank you!

I also want to tell you about Nthiga (pronounced THEE-ga), who is a fifteen year old boy there at KE214 in desperate need of a loving sponsor. For 38 dollars a month, you can Change His Story.
Nthiga has been registered at KE214 since 2001, when he was five years old, but has been dropped unexpectedly by three different sponsors. In those eleven years he has received only four letters. His last letter was in 2007. This is very sad and moves me to plead for someone to step into this boy's life and begin a relationship with him. He has several years left in the program and I am asking for someone here to be his hero. Yes, Compassion has taken care of his physical, spiritual and educational needs over the years, but he is missing a crucial part of the care.
 Someone to tell him that he matters and that you consider him worthy of the time and effort a letter takes. And of course your sponsorship will equip Compassion to continue to provide for his needs in so many ways.
You can leave a comment here on my blog if you are interested in sponsoring Nthiga. Or you can email me at
I only have until the 16th of April to advocate for this boy. And this is why KE214 had to be pushed to the front of my orderly line up of days in Kenya.

I have a lot more to tell you about this day's visit. So stay tuned for the rest of the story! Meanwhile, I will be excited to see who jumps in to stock the shelves of our little library, AND to hear from Nthiga's new sponsor.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A World Away....Happy Birthday!

    Meeting Mary in Kenya just last week gave me boat loads of insight into her personality and what makes her tick. She was the most hesitant of the three girls to approach me freely and she was so much smaller that what her Compassion photo let on.

    Here she is at age seven when I first "found" her on the website. An orphan, living with her grandmother, I knew immediately that she was "mine"

    Her photo updated several months ago to a now nine year old Mary.

    Today she turned ten and she is loved so much.

     This bag of markers, pens and pencils was her favorite gift from me. She was completely fascinated and looked at each one individually. She sniffed them, felt them and even wrote on her arm with them! We had to coax her to move on and finish opening the rest of her gifts. I am not sure why these were her favorite, but maybe it has to do with the fact that she wants to be a teacher. She also loved the school books I gave her, so maybe she recognized these gifts to be important to reaching her dreams.
    I asked her if there was anything her family needed, thinking that when I returned to the States, I would send a family gift through Compassion and specify the money go towards whatever she suggested.....maybe a goat, or food, or bedding. But Mary, in her barely a whisper voice, said she would like to have a "Form Five" English textbook, a Social Studies textbook and a composition book, since these were her most difficult subjects.
    Before leaving Kenya, you know what I did. I went straight to the textbook store by taxi and bought her the books she requested as well as an encyclopedia. I left them with a Compassion staff worker and he was to deliver them to her as soon as he could. I am an educator myself and I will do everything I can to encourage her to follow her dream of being a teacher.
                           Happy Birthday, Mary Monica!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


   I finally feel like I can walk a straight line again after five days of being sick. I do believe that the last two days of feeling unwell and exhausted was because of simple dehydration. Once I smartened up and started downing some water, I felt much better within an hour.

Maassi Land  KE823

   This was our first full day in Kenya as a team of about thirty sponsors and Advocates from all over the United States. I was the only one representing Maryland. We filled six vans after being briefed on our upcoming day with the Maassi. This was to be the first time that a Compassion sponsor team was welcomed into their community and we were enlightened on how to greet men (depending on your age and their age), women (clasp their hand) and children (place your hand on top of their head).
   As our caravan pulled into our destination, we were welcomed by a throng of singing, chanting Maassi women with babies strapped to their backs and some men as well. See the video here.
   Stepping out onto the dry, dusty soil, my gaze went immediately to one solitary child standing off to the side. She was wearing a purple school uniform and as I explained in a previous post, the sight of her nearly stopped my heart, as she was the poster child of my heart's desire and God's "yes" on the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I was so grateful and honored and blessed to just stand there and take it all in. I think I could have stood there transfixed all day long.

   Their clothes and beaded jewelery were stunning, especially against the backdrop of the desolate land we were surrounded by. I was told that the Maassi had cut and burned all of the trees in the area for cooking fuel, but that Compassion had organized the planting of over 200 trees to replenish the area with shade and beauty.

In Kenya you are always welcomed with tea. They call it "taking tea" and it is done mid-morning whether they have visitors or not. The first order of business is to wash your hands over a bowl as a Maassi woman pours the water for you. Tea consists of steaming hot milk with a tea bag and some sugar if you'd like. Obviously you don't need to add any milk since the entire cup is all milk and no water. Some sort of bread is served with the tea and the type of bread varied with each project we visited.

As we all took part in this ritual, I wandered outside to attempt connections with some of the women and children. One Maassi mother promptly handed me her baby. I looked down at the little fellow and saw flies gathered in the corners of his eyes. As many times as I've seen photos of African children with those maddening flies lighting on them, I finally had the opportunity to brush them away for the little boy in my arms.

The photo album I carried with me containing pictures of my own family was a quick way to bridge the cultural and language gaps. I was soon surrounded by children and mothers all jockeying for a position to see my baby pictures, Moses in Zachary's arms and Caleb zipped up in a snow suit. The Maassi had a distinctive smell.....a combination of wood smoke, sweat and animal dung. Moses (my dog) quickly confirmed this upon my arrival back home when he took great delight in rolling in a scarf  that one of the women there had given to me. I do wonder what I smelled like to them. Maybe a combination of coconuts (Bath and Body Works), pineapple (from breakfast) and sweat masked by baby powder scented deodorant. They are probably still talking about me.

It was incredibly hot there and rain is a rare occurrence for these people. The women walk nine miles one way every day for a container of water for their daily needs. The wind was kicking up clouds of dust and my teeth were grinding sand for a few days afterward.

  Our team broke up into six groups and we headed out for individual home visits. We pulled in to the family's compound and were welcomed with handshakes and smiles. Their home was constructed of mud and sticks and was about the size of my living room. This housed the mother and father, several children plus a daughter-in-law and her baby. A total of eleven people. The parents spoke through a translator and expressed how Compassion has helped them as their young daughter was enrolled in the project. They proudly displayed all of the letters she had received from her sponsor

 They also posed with great pride amongst the small herd of goats they owned. For the Maassi, owning goats gives them status and standing among their people. All of the goats were bought with money sent by their daughter's sponsor and they were very grateful indeed. When you sponsor a child through Compassion, your 38 dollars a month supports the child AND their entire family in many ways. You also have the option to send extra financial gifts through Compassion and 100 percent of these gifts go directly to the family to use towards their most pressing needs.

I thought this young girl was the teenage daughter holding her baby sister, but was told that she was their son's wife and the baby belonged to her. The Maassi have a cultural practice of circumcising their young girls and then marrying them off very early. Compassion has been making progress in teaching the Maassi about the dangers of female circumcision  and the benefits of letting the girls remain children. This is not an attempt to manhandle the Maassi way of life, but to educate them on the true dangers of these practices. I was impressed with Compassion's gentle yet persistent way in dealing with this problem.

I presented the family with a big bag of food from all of us and they in turn hung a strand of Maassi beads around my neck.

When we returned to the project, the women and children performed some amazing traditional dances and songs for us. The women were clearly worshiping God and the children had no fear and were not self-conscious at all. Even with this huge group of white Americans watching them. See the video here

Lunch involved more hand washing and helpings of various vegetables, rice and meat. I never ate the meat at most of our field visits simply because I like to know what kind of beast I am consuming. If it's unidentified, it stays in the pot. There were plenty of other food choices anyways and no one seemed to notice my vegetarian ways. (Well, now that the picture is loaded, I see that I did indeed put meat on my plate. But that was the last time.....

Later in the afternoon the women set up their handmade jewelry and crafts and we all moved in to do some serious shopping. It was a delight to buy from them, knowing that we were supporting their families with some well deserved income.

I will leave you with a few more snapshots of my memorable first day in Kenya.

I had the packet of a little girl named Tampet from this very project whom I was going to post on here in an attempt to find her sponsor. She had been waiting for over eight months, but her wait is over thanks to Shaina.
Thank you!
 I know Tampet and her family will be so excited and encouraged to receive this good news. She is a beauty, don't you think?