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In Kenya

Today marks me being in Kenya for 1 year. 

One year ago, I arrived in Kenya pretty terrified, but excited for the year to come. It has flown by, while Kitale has slowly become my home. It’s going to be really hard to leave, but I leave knowing that this has been the best year of my life, an amazing staff is sticking behind to take things on their own and I have much to come back for, hopefully soon.

Only 11 days left. Time to make the most of it


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 11, 12, & 13.5

Christmas Day! in Kenya 

We didn’t quite finish the paint job the day before, so we made another trip to the ASH Wamuini Community Center on Christmas morning to finish.

 

Then, we took lunch at Dr. Lydia’s home, which was another amazing home-cooked Kenyan meal. Then, we finished off the home visits at Zach’s place. His wife couldn’t resist, and made us Kenyan style pancakes even though we had told her we’ve been overly stuffed for the past day and a half. But it was a great visit! My family got to meet Zach’s and we gave his children (Michelle and Nathan) some Christmas presents. It was like my Kenyan family meeting my American family haha  

Then we finally rested back at the compound to enjoy what was left of Christmas. We prepared Christmas dinner and gave Hannah, Manu, and Juliet (Rwandans who live at the compound with me) their Christmas gifts   

Then I gave my family my gift to them (made by our sewing students) 

That pretty much wrapped up our trip. The last day and a half was just travelling back to Nairobi, purchasing last minute gifts for people back home, and sadly saying goodbye as my family flew back to the states and I flew off to Rwanda…

Thanks for following! .. coming soon are posts on my trip to Rwanda and Uganda


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 10

Our first full day in good ‘ol Kitale began with an early start as the plans for the day were jam packed!

It all began with a visit to the ASH Wamuini Community Center, where I’ve spent my working days for the past year. My family got to meet most of our wonderful staff, including Mama Sarah. Mama Sarah is the one who donated the buildings and grounds to ASH, and has been an amazing partner in this community endeavor. She prepared a small snack and Kenyan tea for us, and I was so happy my family caught a glimpse of her incredible heart and warm hospitality. 

But my family didn’t come to just meet people and kick back. I brought them to work! haha They helped paint our sewing classroom and sewing/tailoring shop room to give a nice and needed facelift. Just a couple coats of white paint really made the difference. They did a great job! Thanks family

We had plans for the rest of the day, so we said our goodbyes to the ASH Wamuini staff and snapped our photos. Everyone was really glad they got to meet Baba and Mama Kyle, and brother Derek.

 

Then, we headed out to Sister Ejira’s (nurse) home for a late lunch. She had been preparing for this day for weeks now and was so precious in her planning. She kept asking me what they like to eat, if they would take tea with milk, whether the fruit should be mixed as a salad or just kept separate, etc. She prepared an amazing spread of delicious homemade Kenyan food. I don’t think any of us could have stuffed any more food into our bellies. It was a very nice time for my family to sit and relax and chat with Sister Ejira and Zach (managing director), and really get to know a part of my life in Kitale/Kenya. 

After a long day, we went back to the compound to rest, and try and make some room for dinner. We walked just around the block to Karibuni Lodge for a beautiful dinner. Their compound is located perfectly that you can sit out on the patio while looking out at views of Mt. Elgon. They also prepare great food and the ambience was perfect for a peaceful, relaxing end to the day.

It wasn’t until my family arrived in Kitale that I really felt like they were here, in Kenya. It was a huge blessing to have been able to have them here, see where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing for this past year. I’m so thankful that they made it

> Coming up: finishing up paint work at ASH Wamuini Community Center, lunch at Dr. Lydia’s, afternoon snack at Zach’s, Christmas dinner, and gift giving


ASH Wamuini Holiday Party

Invitation. 

Yesterday, we threw a holiday party for our ASH Wamuini staff and board members. I stressed over it pretty hard, trying to make sure they were properly appreciated for the amazing dedication they’ve committed to ASH over this past year.

I put together gifts for each them - homemade cookies (don’t laugh), CD of Christmas and Christian songs, and a card with greetings from our ASH America core team 

Since the event was for our staff and board members, I was basically forced to be MC. yaaay… I really suck at it. But I pulled it off by asking some of our staff, board members, and family members to share about what ASH means to them and how ASH has impacted their lives.

It was a great time with the Kenyans I love and, of course, the best part was the food!! 


Meet Christine

Christine was referred to the ASH vocational training program (sewing/tailoring course, and basic income management paired with entrepreneurial training) by the area Chief, who knew just where to send her when she heard of Christine’s tough situation.

Both of Christine’s parents fell ill a few years ago and sadly passed away, leaving Christine to fend for herself with almost no money, on top of caring for her 8-year-old sister. To make circumstances more difficult, Christine became pregnant after basically being used for sex by a man who took off before he even knew a child was on the way.

A star student from the beginning, Christine picked up each lesson with ease and quickly rose as one of the most skilled students in the class. Not to mention, she was supervising and preparing porridge for the Early Child Development (ECD) class, brewing tea for community center staff, helping with daily health center cleaning and prep, and picking up tasks randomly asked of her… all to cover her school fees. She couldn’t monetarily pay for the small amount of required course fees, so she “paid” through lending a hand around the community center. To top it all off, Christine is the sweetest and most hardworking person I’ve yet to meet in Kenya. She’s just one of those people you look at, and can’t help to be crazy inspired.

Well, Christine’s hard work paid off. The day after graduating from our program, she landed a job at a sewing/tailoring shop owned by a local boarding school. Benefits include: commission-based salary (which is much better for Christine b/c she’s quick and efficient), stable work orders, free housing, and a location near town.

As we helped move Christine and the small amount of possessions she had at her previous, tiny home, I couldn’t help but to tear up thinking about how proud I was of her and that what we’re trying to do through ASH is actually working and making a difference. I hadn’t had my “super motivational” moment yet… until Christine. But it’s much more than just motivation for me, it’s strong proof that the ASH model works. Provide the foundation for someone living in poverty to lift themselves to a higher standard, and they will! We don’t have to rely on the old way of charity anymore – giving free handouts, pouring in money from Western countries, etc. Create sustainable opportunities for empowerment, and watch holistic improvement in health and living thrive. 


ASH Community Day (sewing class graduation) tomorrow! BIG DAY! I’m nervous. 
Please pray for a rain-free, happy and smooth production. If anything, I’m so proud of our 15 graduates and even more thankful to our instructor. Empowerment, sustainable change is definitely the way to go. View Larger

ASH Community Day (sewing class graduation) tomorrow! BIG DAY! I’m nervous. 

Please pray for a rain-free, happy and smooth production. If anything, I’m so proud of our 15 graduates and even more thankful to our instructor. Empowerment, sustainable change is definitely the way to go.


3 More Months

Drove for 1.5 hrs today from Kitale…

to Eldoret… 

to renew my visa for the last 3 months I have left in Kenya.

I was worried about getting my visa renewed since the immigration guy at the Nairobi Airport told me, “I saw that you extended your visa last time. Just don’t do that this time.” .. buuut, I have too much to do in only 3 months. I need the 6.. and my family is coming in 4th month (Dec). So… ? 

But this renewal was easier than last time. I handed my passport to the immigration person and she barely looked at my visa before stamping the renewal. Eh, cool.

So 3 more months. Crazy how fast time flew. Much to do before I leave. Let’s make the most of the 3. (and by “let’s”, I mean me)


Strenffh of my arms lenffh

Some background info:

  • Our health center is currently staffed with 1 nurse, 1 lab tech, and 1 nurse aid. If we are unable to effectively diagnose or treat a patient, our policy is to refer patients to more resourced facilities.
  • Mama Sarah is the wonderful woman who donated the buildings and land, which is now the ASH Wamuini Community Center. She also owns the building next to us and rents out rooms as homesteads.
  • ASH is an organization that’s rethinking how the world traditionally does healthcare and charity. We are here to empower impoverished communities to lift themselves up to better health and opportunity. 

A woman came to our health center needing treatment for her daughter who had a swollen face and body pains. This woman, however, had absolutely no money and very little possessions. She had only recently moved into a home when Mama Sarah offered her a room free of charge.

Our lab tech ran all possible tests, while our nurse gathered as much information as she could from the girl’s mother. After doing all we could, we decided she needed to be sent to a health facility with more resources. 

Our nurse came to Zach (managing director) and I asking what we should do. How would this woman pay for the services at another health facility, if she could even get there?

Our hearts sank as we could only come up with semi-decent options for her. I felt pressure and temptation to fall back into traditional charity - just financially take care of her myself and make decisions for her.

But through the advice of our brilliant founder/CEO, we asked the woman what she wanted to do. She told us she wanted to go to Sister Freda’s Hospital (a local ASH partner). She had delivered her child there, enjoyed their services, and knew Sister Freda on a personal level. She also expressed sentiments about not wanting free handouts or bothering Mama Sarah with any other problems because “it’s just not right”. She already believes and lives out what ASH advocates. She already had it figured out. How foolish and stupidly presumptuous was I?

Everyday, I’m amazed at Kenyans, how resilient and hard working they are. Today is no exception. I was taken aback by this woman’s insight and strength. I have MUCH to learn from individuals like her. She is a prime example for our community, and ASH is here to partner with people like her. I am SO blessed to be here and learn from people like her.

(*gold star for who can tell what the title is from)


Happy Health, Happy Living

"happy health, happy living" - this was the mantra our lab tech had the students of St. Joseph’s Primary say throughout yesterday’s school health talk. 

We learned about proper washing of hands, brushing teeth, clothes cleanliness, food preparation, and vaccinations. One thing I took away from the talk: eat only 1 egg per serving and only 3 eggs within a week because too much protein leads to diarrhea which leads to dehydration and other health complications. (plus, for Americans, it increases the chance of cholesterol related problems)

I get nervous before each of these because primary school age kids are most likely to make fun of the mzungu (foreigner/white person) trying to speak Swahili, and they do, but it always ends up being a great time with the students. I love their enthusiasm for learning, participating, and of course - seeing a mzungu up close and personal. They also have great jokes. 

Wash your hands after every visit to the choo (toilet) for happy health, happy living. Brush your teeth for 2 minutes after every meal for happy health, happy living. Clean your clothes at least 3 times a week for happy health, happy living. Boil water before you drink it for happy health, happy living. And make sure you’re up-to-date on all vaccinations for happy health, happy living.


Day in the life of the ASH Field Ambassador

This is my attempt, for the few months I have left in Kenya, to connect you to what I’ve had the privilege of experiencing in this beautiful place. I’ve been through the spectrum from “I hate it here, I want to go home” to “I could stay here forever”, and I plan to share enough to cover that spread. I also hope to share beyond myself, venturing into Kenya’s past and current events, issues plaguing the community ASH is fighting to empower, and anything else interesting that comes along.

I’ll begin this new initiative with an effort to show what a typical day looks like for me, a glimpse at what I’ve been able to experience.

I wake up at the compound I’ve been living in for about a month. This is the Kenyan home for the mission teams coming out of Saddleback Church and for friends like me.               (I live in the building on the left)

Currently living with me here are: the Biemeck Family (here til Dec.), Sammy (here til June), and the Rwandans [Hannah, Juliet, and Emanuel] (living here permanently).      (btw, the Biemeck’s & Rwandans only dressed this way for a fun photo shoot)

I get ready for the day, eat breakfast, pick up Zach (ASH Wamuini community center managing director), and take care of any necessary business in town, like depositing/withdrawing money at the bank, purchasing more paint for renovations, or finding out answers/info about local micro-finance programs. 

Then we head to the ASH Wamuini Community Center, about 10 minutes out of town. 

Here you’ll find our Early Childhood Development class (similar to pre-school/kindergarten) in session, sewing/tailoring class also going on, a few patients being diagnosed and receiving treatment at our health center, and the rest of the community going about their business.    

Zach and I will take care of finances, any issues arising that day, plan for upcoming projects or events, you know.. whatever comes up, with a tea & bread lunch break in between. Then towards the end of the day, we might head over to a nearby school to give a health talk. Finally, we close the community center doors at 5pm, head home, eat dinner and rest up for a new day tomorrow. 

*Most photos courtesy of Michelle Chang, Danielle Lee, and Junhee Chung