Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Welcome home!

Yesterday, I was blessed to once again be a part of a life-changing day in 15 children's lives as I was asked to be the driver for the next, big, gathering of children for the Kipkaren Children's Home.

Since the leaders knew that some of the kids were from very remote villages with only footpaths leading to their homes, they recruited my Land Rover and I to come and assist...

Click on the picture to see more photos of yesterday's journey.

And so around 10 yesterday morning, we set out with Rop (the headmaster) and Daniel (the social worker). Over the hills (literally, we were at the very top of the Nandi Hills) and through the forest (Nandi Forest) we went, excited to bring "around 10" children home.

In two cases, kids who were left behind (friends/family?) cried hysterically. They, too, wanted to come with us! We literally had to coax one kid out of the car as he slipped in with his friend! Fortunately I noticed, else we would've had to return him... :)

As the last time, there were no hugs from family and no tears. Some families hardly said good-bye. Others promised the kids over and over, "We'll come to visit!" They'll find changed children when they do come and visit in a year's time!

It was fun to observe how they befriended one another as the group in the back of my car grew. Nicolas "tested" we every so often on everyone's names, but they simply couldn't remember mine. Every time I'd say my Kalinjin name (Jebiwott), they cracked up. They also broke out laughing every time we drove over a bump in the road (the roads here have many, many bumps!) and they bounced on their seats... What really cracked them up is when I had to drive through a puddle (again, many!) and the muddy water would shower the car. "It's raining!" they'd shout.

For many, it was their first trip in a vehicle, ever. And so, once I had 10 kids in the car (3 were picked up very close to the home), I asked them if they would sing me some songs they knew. Ten-year-old Caroline started and they all joined in singing a Swahili chorus, "God, we're surrounded by water. Lead us through this sea..." and then, "At Galillee, Jesus walked on water..."

It was minutes before 3 pm when we finally hit the gravel road to Kipkaren Children's Home. One more stop to pick up four siblings. Only one problem: There were only three... Then I saw the littlest one (about 3 years old) running away. He didn't want to leave his grandmother. Phoebe (a Kenyan colleague who was in a second vehicle that picked up kids closer to home) called him and assured him that he'll be OK. (He's the kid in the blue and white T-shirt in the picture.) I'm glad that his grandma lives just a short walk from the home and will be able to visit him more often!

As we got closer to the home, we started honking and the kids' eyes grew big. All 14 filed out of my car plus 10 more from the other vehicle, and they lined up to be welcomed into the Home.

It was wonderful to see the "old" kids now standing in front to welcome the new ones, handing each one of them a gift of flowers, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Then they shook hands with everyone.

Probably the most moving sight was to see their new parents hugging these little ones and dads picking up little boys to hug them. That's not a very Kenyan thing to do at all! But these parents have been praying for these kids for months, looking forward to their arrival.

As their new brothers and sisters took them to a gazebo to have lunch, one dad took out his guitar and sang worship songs. "Oh, how the love of Christ compels..." Juli commented as we watched the little ones get acquainted with one another.

Yesterday was an especially moving day for Juli and the staff of home-based care ministry. They had walked the path with many of the families as the parents were diagnosed with AIDS. They took them to get their medications every week, and they finally saw them pass away. To be able to witness their children being in a good place, a safe haven where they are loved and cared for, is pure joy!

The total number of children at that home now stands at 55. Maximum capacity is 96, and many applications are already being reviewed.

Thank you for being a part of this life-changing journey for each of these young ones.

Admission/On-going Contact
1. Guardians (friends, family, neighbors) approach ELI and fill out an application form for children to be taken to the children's home.
2. ELI's social worker meets with the guardian to discuss the case and determine if the children are true orphans.
3. Guardians submit child(ren)'s birth certificate(s) as well as death certificates of the parents.
4. Social worker visits the home.
5. Children are brought to the Children's Home.
6. Guardians are able to visit annually during Guardians' Day.
7. When the children are 14, they will be sent to visit their guardians during school holidays in order to maintain contact with "village life" and to have a home as a young adult.

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