I am thrilled to report that we opened on February 1. We are already home for twelve children.
This has come about as the culmination of years of preparation but it required an incredible, if not miraculous, turn of events over just the past month. I must tell you that 2016 was a difficult year in many ways and I was seriously doubting whether this dream would ever become reality. Our director, Phyllis Agumba, graduated from college in December, and was ready to go. We own a plot of land, but building on it will be expensive and complicated. We were having great difficulty finding reliable allies in the community.
Facing the fact that we needed some help, I approached our host, who is actually a very important person in modern Kenyan history. Knowing that nobody is going to mess with him, I asked him if he would be willing to manage our construction project to keep the contractors in line. I still had no idea where the money would come from.
His response was he would be glad to do that, but then he said that he owns a guest house (hotel) that has been underutilized. Why don't we use that? Almost instantly, we went from dreaming to getting to work. We worked out a lease at an affordable rate. We made some modest repairs.
This building is wonderful for a children's home. It has thirteen guest rooms each with a bathroom and shower, a huge kitchen, a large gathering room downstairs and a large multi-purpose room upstairs. We plan to start with twelve kids and perfect our operations and budgeting, but we can easily accommodate more than two dozen.
While this miracle was unfolding, an even more precious miracle happened. As you know by now, I am always meeting wonderful kids. But some just jump out at me. At a primary school way out in the midst of rice paddies, we met Rosie. This kid looked like a rough street kid out of Les Miserables. She was wearing a ratty red stocking cap that drooped down over her eyes, a tattered t-shirt and a worn out, ill-fitting skirt. But she had a delightful personality, and pushed through the throng of kids to make sure she got to play catch with the white guy. There was just something about her. I gave her a pink bandana. One of my college ladies, Violet, offered to fold and tie the bandana on Rosie's head.
When the kid removed her stocking cap, Violet and I looked at each other, stunned. We both said “Oh my God, she is so beautiful!” Honestly, I think she is the most beautiful child I have ever seen. When that cap came off, the mask of poverty was lifted and the beauty of this child, of these children, of a continent shined through. There is no other way to put it, it was love at first sight. Violet and I immediately knew we are going to change this kid's life. We nicknamed her Violet Junior.
We asked the teacher about Rosie's circumstances. He said she is a good student and a good kid. He promised to pass along my card to the girl's mother, but then failed to do so.
In the meantime, Violet and I could not get Violet Jr off of our minds. That night, we were messaging each other saying my goodness, I can't get that kid off my mind. All week we kept talking about Violet Jr, heartbroken at the very thought that we might never see her again. I asked Phyllis to go out there, with only the name of the school and the kid's first name. Phyllis found out that Rosie had been living with her grandmother, but now she was out of school, which is disastrous for a young girl in a place like Kenya. She had gone off to Mombasa, all the way across the country. But Phyllis has grit, and we don't quit.
Phyllis got the mother's phone number from the granny. It seems the granny is too old to care for the little girl and her house is nearly falling down. The single mom was out of options. Phyllis told the mom that we could sponsor the child to make sure she can complete school. The mom was delighted to hear that. Then she asked Phyllis if she could care for Rosie as she would her own. We were stunned, and still are. We just wanted to make sure this kid could go to school, now all of a sudden she is a member of our family.
We arranged for the mother to bring Rosie on the bus from Mombasa. Phyllis had a chance to get to know the mom a bit. Rosie stayed at Phyllis's house until they moved to the children's home on February 1. Outfitted with new uniforms and all the trimmings, Rosie was back in school within a few days. Phyllis keeps telling me what a great kid Rosie is, and how much fun her sons are having with their new sister. What an incredible start to our journey.
Phyllis returned home from an errand and found Beryl, about seven years old, had been dropped off in front of Humanity Home. That sounds cruel, but someone knew that she would have a better life here. Beryl is beautiful, and very sweet.
This little guy is six. His single mother was forced to leave him and two other siblings in the care of their fifth-grade sister so she could find work as a housemaid in another town and try to earn money to feed the children.
Phyllis is all of the sudden crazy busy. She is elated. She keeps saying “This is a dream. This is awesome!”
It is awesome indeed. The reality is setting in that, like having one's own children, this is an awesome responsibility. And it is going to require some awesome funding. Please help make this happen by donating what you can.