Thursday, February 28, 2008

good cause and good fun

This is from my sister, feel free to join in!

Nothing like a family filled with people working in the non-profit sector.

Hello my friends and family! I know it seems like it was just yesterday, but it is that time of year again....BOWL FOR KIDS' SAKE time. For those that don't know what this is, it is Big Brothers Big Sisters main fundraising event of the year: a time for our matches to have fun and interact with others from the community, and a time for the community to get involved and learn more about our program and the services we provide.

As usual, I am doing my part for my own BBBS here in Goodland. We are quite honestly struggling financially right now, and this is the best opportunity we have throughout the year to get ahead. I'm asking that each of you take the time to think about our program and try to budget a donation into whatever you set aside for yearly donations. I can tell you that currently our program has 44 matches, with about 35 more children on the waiting list!! The funds raised from this event help us to continue recruitment of volunteers, expansion efforts, provide more training opportunities for our volunteers and more group activities for our matches and children on the waiting list, and carry insurance for each match we have! Trust me, it adds up quickly and we want to be able to continue serving the children in our counties for years to come!

So, if you feel so inclined to bless us with your contribution, you can make a pledge or donation by clicking one of the links next to the picture on my page, which is at This site allows you to actually make a donation online via debit or credit card OR you can make a pledge and select to be BILLED after the event (which is in April). My own personal goal of dollars I hope to raise is $2500 this year! It's a big challenge, but I hope I can reach it...shatter it actually!

Thanks very much for your support, it truly means a lot. Both Big Brothers Big Sisters and I thank you in advance for any support you can give.

Best Wishes,



I apologize upfront for being so long in talking with you all. Life is crazy and can be a bit uncertain in Kenya these days. I want to thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and kind words. I have shared many of them with my coworkers and they are also encouraged and thank you.

Kenyan Presidential elections were held Dec. 27 and Dec. 30th President Kibaki was sworn in for his second five-year term, amidst cries of rigging. There has been turmoil ever since and even leading up to the elections. I am safe and have never felt in danger, perhaps a little fear in moments of uncertainty, but never danger. I do have colleagues however, that have been in danger and had to move from their home. This is to me, a sad situation in Kenya where people no longer trust the neighbors they have had for twenty years. People are hurting and are very angry. Please pray for a great healing in this nation.

At the end of January, I decided to take a mental and emotional break and I went to Tanzania for 6 days. It was such a blessing to be with friends, old and new, and see something different. I was refreshed and renewed and a new person when I returned with fresh roasted coffee and toasted cashews for the office. Part of that refreshment came from ‘talking’ with all of my friends at Calvary CRC back in the Twin Cities. We did a planned skype interview during worship for the kick-off of Missions Emphasis Week. I wish I could have been there. I heard nothing but wonderful things from people I talked with afterwards. I then was able to spend some time on skype calling some family and friends direct to their phones and it was so heart warming to talk instead of email. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly thank God for the blessing of email and such, but there’s nothing quite like hearing the voice of someone you really miss that warms your soul. I was staying somewhere where the wireless was strong enough to be able to make those calls and I can hardly wait for that to happen again.

I have just returned from a week upcountry in Eldoret, one of the hardest hit areas. My job is to work with visitors and volunteers and as CRC was not allowing anyone to come to Kenya for awhile, I was loaned, if you will, to the Relief team.

I went on this trip at the suggestion of my Team Leader/Country Consultant, Davis Omanyo for two reasons: 1. to help relief and 2. so that I could provide a better picture for you of what is happening in Kenya. I am grateful for that encouragement and the welcome I received from the Relief Team of Ben and Chris. I asked many questions because I have no relief experience and they were both gracious and patient in their answers. I have learned so much about relief, the Eldoret region, politics, our partner the Reformed Church of East Africa - RCEA, and hope. I pray that I can adequately share what I have learned with you so that you may see things differently and be changed and encouraged to help in some way the hurting people in Kenya.

I have decided that perhaps the best way to fill you in is just with pictures. I hope that these will provide you a sense of urgency, fear and yet hope that is running throughout the country. If you would like more places to get information here are several news websites and blogs that offer a variety of views.

some blogs
Four - Alida

I have been having problems with my computer for a month so please forgive me if I have not responded to your emails. I hope to catch up shortly but the next three weeks are very full. Please keep writing though, I love hearing from each of you. I also want to thank everyone for the letters and care packages, they are wonderful! I am listening to a little Michael Bublé as I write.

As you look through these photos, the websites and my other pictures online, please pray for Kenya. Pray for the people you see in the photos. I also encourage you to ask me questions and I will post them on my blog with the answers. If one of you has a question, I am sure that several of you do. I want to help you, and me, understand as best as I can.

If you would like to contribute to the work of the Relief Team in the Eldoret Region, I encourage you to do so. I realize that many people don’t like to give to areas in conflict thinking that people got themselves into this mess they can get themselves out. There is a little truth in that, however, many of the people in the pictures were living their lives on land their family paid for and has had for generations. They were living and working with neighbors they had known for years. They were targeted in the violence due to their tribe. It was not so long ago that was happening on a grand scale in the US and while it was awful and painful, there were great people that stood up to the injustice and showed mercy to those around them, preaching love and peace. Without people like you to stand alongside the many Kenyans doing the same to help spread the word in deed of God’s love, justice and mercy, how can these brothers and sisters find peace?

You donations can be made in the following ways:
To donate to the Kenya relief response, mark donations "Kenya Conflict" and mail to CRWRC, 3475 Mainway, PO Box 5070, STN LCD 1, Burlington, ON, L7R 3Y8 or to CRWRC, 2850 Kalamazoo Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI, 49560. Donate online at In Canada, call 1-800-730-3490. In the U.S., call 616-241-1691 or 1-800-55-CRWRC. Email:
For more stories, please keep checking my other blog at I hope to have pictures online shortly, but I have misplaced one memory card that has many pictures from the assessment as well as my trip to Tanzania.

Figure 1: Help is coming from all over. As we were leaving one camp on my first assessment trip in Limuru, staff from Cadbury pulled up. These are some cans of drinking chocolate that they were delivering.
Figure 2: People of every age are affected by the post-election violence. Many have had to desert the only home they have ever known, while some will remember death and fear as some of their first memories.
Figure 3: After visiting with the Red Cross chairman in charge, we were given a tour of the camp in Limuru. This is a shot of some of the clothing lines set up next to the water tank. Sanitation is an issue at all camps, some with more concern than others. The rainy season will begin in a month or two and the sanitation and health concerns will only rise. There is concern of malaria, typhoid and cholera without proper facilities and mosquito nets.
Figure 4: At the Limuru camp this child is able to go to school. However, many of the teachers are university students that are unable to return to class because the universities haven't opened. When the universities open these students will lose many of their teachers and they return to their own studies. The local schools cannot always absorb them and many teachers are themselves displaced. There are school fees to be paid, uniforms to be purchased and sometimes even desks to be found or purchased since area schools are already full.
Figure 5: Alida is holding a three-month old at Bishop Muge camp. The Red Cross mobile clinic was there offering immunizations when we were there visiting. Bishop Muge camp is located at a school campus and at about 9000 feet above sea level. Note all the clothes both Alida and the baby are wearing. It was cold and we felt some freezing rain prior to our departure. Not all of Kenya is hot.
Figure 6: The showground in Eldoret is a huge camp that at one time housed 19,000 people. Many of these children are coming from villages and haven't seen a lot of 'wazungu,' or 'white people.' They followed me like I was Piped Piper, holding my hand, rubbing my skin, gently pulling my arm hair and stroking my hair. “It’s white!” was a comment I heard when they were looking at my hair. I am hoping they were talking about my scalp and not that I have a patch of white hair up there that I cannot see in the mirror. We walked, we marched, we counted in English and Swahili and sang songs. They sang “If you’re happy and you know it” for me and I taught them “Where is Thumbkin.” I was trying to think of an easy song with actions. They seemed to like it. I believe that there is some video footage of that out there somewhere. Watch for me and the kids on the Grammy’s next year!

Figure 7: The Kenya Red Cross has taken the lead for most camps. I believe that there are over 55 camps for IDPs right now. IDP is Internally Displaced People. Estimates of numbers of IDP from the post-election violence range from 300,000 - 600,000. Whenever we arrived at a camp, our first stop was to visit the Red Cross office and those in charge. Before we ever visited a camp, we met with the Red Cross Director at the Red Cross office in Eldoret.
Figure 8: These are photos of the Bishop Muge camp. The camp is quite organized with drainage ditches and orderly lined up camps. People have their cooking areas set up throughout to cook the maize and peas that they receive from Red Cross. Chai is a key part of Kenyan culture. Whenever you visit someone’s home or office, you are offered chai. People drink it several times a day. When I was living with my host family the last thing we did before leaving for work was have chai. The first thing we did when we came home in the evening was have chai and the last thing we did before we went to bed was have chai. That doesn’t include tea time at the office at 10, and sometimes again in the afternoon. Lives are shared around chai, people are equal around chai, love is shared around chai and the community is one around chai. Now, this key part of Kenyan’s diet is missing. Tea, milk and sugar are not part of most relief distributions. So if people do not have money, they cannot have chai that warms the body and the soul.
Figure 9: This is a row of pit latrines under construction. This camp had quite nice facilities and when they are finished they will have doors and roofs, not all do. Here we were seeing how difficult it can be for children to use these pre-fab latrines. You put your feet on the pre-fab feet to balance yourself so you do not trip and fall into the 20-foot hole. Alida and I used ones at a previous camp (with each other serving as guard) so that we could experience a bit of what it might be like to be living at the camp.
Figure 10: This is maize getting prepared to be distributed at the show grounds. Families get only so much maize, yellow peas (from Canada), and cooking oil (sometimes), blankets, mosquito nets, Jeri cans per family. Not every camp gets the same items and no one gets enough of anything. One of the biggest needs is for blankets. These areas are chilly at best at night and will only get colder as the rainy season nears. Blankets are also the most expensive item that we provide.
Figure 11: This is a map of the show grounds camp. (The show grounds are like the State Fair Grounds.) There are five camps within the show grounds and it is housing 13,000 plus people. There is a weekly census taken and there are local committees to help the Red Cross stay on top of who is there and who has left. The camps are set up by when people arrived. Those in Camp A were among the first to arrive at the camp as early as Dec. 30 (the elections were Dec. 27). Camp A is also the lowest part of the show grounds and there will be a lot of issues when rainy season arrives if the people are not moved to higher ground. You will note Red Cross office space on the left and spots for toilets and bathrooms around the perimeter. There are many people in every camp doing nothing. There are some that are close enough to their ‘shamba’ or ‘farm’ that they are able to go to everyday to work their harvest of cabbage and ground nuts. Others have been able to go to town to buy fruits, veggies and sweets to bring back to the camp and sell at a small stand. I bought some mangos from one woman who had mangos of four different sizes and prices, a few avocados, green onions and one or two other fresh foods. The mangos I purchased were about 8 cents each.

My calendar for the next month:

Mar 3-5: Road trip to Kitui area with coworkers, Stephan and Oscar, to visit HIV/AIDS programs with our partners.

Mar 10-12: Visitor from US for work

Mar. 14-15: Road trip to the Mombasa area (coast) with coworkers Stephan and Alida to visit some partner work there.

Mar. 17-20: East Africa Ministry Team meeting and spiritual retreat in Malindi (coast). I pray there is a hammock with my name on it!

Mar. 21: My contract for a second year is due

Mar. 21-24: Easter break – He is Risen, He is Risen INDEED!

Thank you all for your letters and emails filled with prayers and encouragement. It is only the grace of God that gives me people such as you and I thank Him regularly for each of you.

The best way to keep up with me is on my blog but I admit that I am also on myspace and facebook if you want to see me there. I only know how to do the basics and refer people back to my blog for details, but I have been able to keep up mostly with those sites. So if you are there, look me up.

I cannot say it enough. Thank you.

I also cannot offer you the opportunity to support the Kenyan people through our relief work. If you can and are so moved, please help us provide hope and love through things such as blankets and children’s sweaters.

You donations can be made in the following ways:
To donate to the Kenya relief response, mark donations "Kenya Conflict" and mail to CRWRC, 3475 Mainway, PO Box 5070, STN LCD 1, Burlington, ON, L7R 3Y8 or to CRWRC, 2850 Kalamazoo Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI, 49560. Donate online at In Canada, call 1-800-730-3490. In the U.S., call 616-241-1691 or 1-800-55-CRWRC. Email:
For more stories, please keep checking my blog at