Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday June 30th


We landed in Heathrow airport, London just 2 hours ago. We are currently on the express train, back from downtown London. We walked to Buckingham palace and back and now are headed to the airport to board the plane back to Chitown. I think you can say...we made the most of our visit to London!

We had an uneventful plane trip last night....;little sleep and now onto Chicago...another 9 hours.

We've had a great trip and have really made a lot of great new friendships.

We are all looking forward to getting home.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday june 29th


We are currently at the Kenya/nairobi airport waiting to board our 11:10 pm flight to London.

We had a wonderful last day at the schools this past Friday. First we went to the primary school and the children put on a program for us that consisted of dancing and singing. They were very happy to see us and we were excited to be with them. Next, we went on to the secondary school. The KDS kids put on a great program for us that included skits, singing and dancing. We were pleasantly surprised when the other schools also got up and performed. The team said their goodbyes to the school and it was very hard to leave. We were able to collect many names so we can keep in touch. Many of the kids gave us some of their possessions to just to remember them by.....it was very touching. They have so little and yet they were willing to give all.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Evening edition, Thurs. June 25

Hello again,

Now that we have our tech. difficulties ironed out, I can write more frequently. Internet access is quite difficult here. If your team member has not written much....you now know why. Sometimes it is 30 or 40 minutes before access is available and frankly, when you are tired...it seems longer.

I'd like to write a little about a typical day in the life of a kenyago dandora student. The day often starts at 3 am. They study and then walk 30 minutes or more to school. They arrive at school at 6:30 to begin their classes. Most have had nothing to eat and are quite hungry. They receive their poridge around 10 or so. I was not tempted to try it.... They later have a lunch which is typically a bean mixture or rice mixture with maize..better known as field corn in the Midwest..that has been ground up. This is the corn that is seen growing in the area in patches and is fertilized by the raw sewage that abounds all over. They finish up at around 5:30. One student (Evelyn)I spoke to then goes to work with her mother until 10 pm. Meanwhile her 10 year old sister (JoAn) is the cook of the family...she made chicken for the family last night.. Eveyln comes home and then studies some more and helps JoAn with her studies until midnight. 3 am comes around pretty quickly. When I spoke to Evelyn she said she was pretty tired but was used to the schedule and said "we must push to get ahead".

A typical house of a student attending this school is the size of an American bathroom. They can house 10 to 12 people in these rooms. The walls are comprised of wood scraps, metal scraps and cloth and the floors are dirt. Most will sleep on a cloth sack for their bed. There is no running water of any kind in the area...they rely on the river nearby for drinking water and bathing and it is very contaminated. There are no bathrooms except the outdoors...sometimes there is a community latrine in the area. They cook on a cauldron of sorts that is low to the floor. They have no refrigeration....so the chicken last night was probably the catch of the day. That said...the markets have meat hanging ...and it is also not refrigerated. The unemployment rate is roughly 75 percent. Needless to say...the parents of these children are really not employed. Evelyn told me that they go to the dump on weekends to find plastics that they can sell. Her mother works to sell some product...I'm not quite sure what it is. She said her father is rarely around because he is out trying to find odd jobs to support them.

Evelyn was quite interested in my life in the US. She said she had just celebrated her birthday on June 11. She was so thrilled when her family surprised her that day and JoAn made sure that she did not have to do any work that day. No presents, no cake, no outing. She was curious to know what we do on birthdays...she was aghast at the description.

For the first time, the school will graduate seniors. Each will have a chance to go to the university....they are estatic at the possibility of elevating themselves and coming back to the community to help. They need sponsors or they will not go...unless they have a very high grade point average. They just love school and are thrilled to study. I was struck by the contrast in the US. For these kids, school has been a means by which they are fed, clothed and medically attended to. The school shuts down for one month at the end of the year...and we are told that they return so malnourished that often the school year is set back academically because the kids need to be brought back nutrition wise before they can concentrate on school.

Today was a particularly rewarding day for us. As relayed earlier, we brought 20 bags of shoes collected and in part funded by my foundation, Feet in Need. We brought them to the school today. Jordan and Tom stayed up until midnight last night and counted and catalogued the shoes! We had 420 pairs. My goal was to bring 500 pairs over (which we had) but it was quickly becoming cost prohibitive so we settled on bringing just 20 bags. With this number we are able to outfit EVERY student in this school and then some. The staff felt a stampede would erupt if we were to fit all with shoes today so a select number (15-20) came to a room and I was able to outfit all with shoes. I cannot adequately describe the state of their shoes or feet....they were mud encrusted and their shoes were falling apart and too small. They were so grateful and so excited to get some of these shoes...mere castoffs of the endurance runner but so valuable to these children. For all those reading...who donated shoes....they will ALL go to these children and thank you. For anyone reading also...we donated a pair of small pink shoes to the little orphan we found outside the school gate and a pair of small velcro tennis shoes to her bigger sister. So..thanks for the little shoes as well.

Tomorrow will be a big day. Our last day at the school. Many of the children are just dreading our leaving because they feel very loved that we came so far to see them and spend time together playing soccer, football, baseball, volleyball....and a myriad of misc games including sharks and minnows (a big favorite because we grab them to catch them which they love), hokey pokey, hide and seek, etc. We will first go to the primary school...they will put on a program for us. Then off to the secondary school for another sendoff program. It will be very bittersweet for us too. You just can't help but love these children....and they love so freely back. We will all miss them very much.

Katy writes:

Our time here has been absolutely amazing. God has really blessed our interactions with the kids as well as our conversations.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thursday June 25


I am very sorry ....weve had tech difficulties again...I am pressed for time also. So I will just get into this. We eat breakfast every day at 6:30 am and leave for dandora school at 7:15...we don't get back until 4:30 or so We eat dinner and have evening devotions....until 9....For most everyone this is a very long day. We are hot, sweaty, tired, physically and emotionally drained.
I have asked for some personal stories from the days....here are just a few.

Randy writes:
Frederick is a budding psychologist everyday he comes to me with cases of people who he has been trying to counsel today i gave him a stack full of handouts on basic counseling skills. we then talked through how he could use the handouts to help his friends. he was so thankful! maybe it was a mirage..because it was a very hot day..but it seemed like he was floating on air. "maybe meeting me was the reason God sent you on this trip", was what he said. Who knows? Maybe it was,.

Emily writes:

On Tues. I had the opportunity to be inside most of the day where praise and worship was going on. The joy all of the children have is overwhelming. Theygenuinely love to worship through singing, clapping, shouting and dancing. One group of girls from one of the other schools particularly stood out to me because of their jubilant and constant dancing. I went over and joined them and we immediately struck up a frinedship, just by jumping around together. Afterwards whn I was talking to them, one of the girls who was probably about 10 years old took my hands and earnestly said "emily please don't forget about us". And i could honestly respond that I will never be able to forget a single one of their beautiful faces. The joyu and love of each child really has touched me in a permanent way that I will always remember.

Kelsey writes:

My experience with the kids has been extremely moving and something I will never forget. I have learned countless things from all of them and continue to learn more each day. It is so amazing and unreal to see these kids who literally have nothing and yet they are so incrediblely joyfull. there is certainly a lessonto be learned from them. How can we just sit back and complain about everything in sight when there are children here who are starving and living on the streets. Today I was talking to this girl Christine and she was explaining how blessed she is to go to the school and have a good family. In many ways I wish I was more like that and I hope that I will be when I return home. Each and every one of them has taught me so much abou life and whaty is really important in it. I will never forget them.

Shelley writes:

Have you ever seen children who were starving? I held two in my arms yesterday. Their mother is gone...sick and the father is with her. They were filthy...caked in mud, eyes crusted. Their clothes....were beyond repair. They would not talk they were so hungry. I cannot begin to describe this adequately. One of the older students....Evelyn took them by the hand and we fed them porridge in the back of the school. I asked Evelyn...if she had ever been in such a situation and she said yes..but for the school, this would also be her lot. They at the school are so incredibly grateful. Tears came to Evelyn's eyes....she said "you people are so generous...we are so grateful...we love you".

More later....we are now tech. sound. I will write later.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June 21, Sunday

Hello again! We've had some major tech. difficulties so I apologize to all followers for our delay in updating this blog.

We had prepared the first blog upon arrival and then half of it was lost....as you may have noticed!!

I will continue from where I left off.

We arrived safely in Nairobi and all are in good health. Let's just get that small detail out of the way right off the bat!!

We got all of the bags checked in at the airport in Chitown with about 5 minutes to spare before boarding. We had 20 bags of shoes and each team member had a bag so we checked 29 bags in all. We boarded British airlines and we all sat together. The flight was very nice and some of us got some sleep but most did not. We arrived in London. It took some time to get all of us through security..l have to say it was a little stricter at this juncture. Again, with about 5 minutes to spare, we were at the gate boarding the plane to Kenya. (Can I just say, I was really impressed with this airline....very friendly staff and great food>>>and for all those who know me as kind of a food person...that is saying quite a bit!)

This time around, a few of us were a bit more tired ..but still no sleep. The first leg was 8 hours and the second leg was also 8 hours. Both flights were completely packed. I watched a couple of movies and was reflecting on the fact that I have not had this much downtime since...well I can't remember. We landed in Nairobi...quite a different experience than our land in London. A bit fewer lights! And the airport was quite different. We arrived around 10 pm only to wait in line for an hour to get our visas. 4 of our bags did not make it...Katie did not get her personal bag and the rest were shoes. Katie is just getting her bag as I write. (she just returned from the airport....no bag yet.....!)

Ginger and Peggy (Kenya Children's Fund) were gracious enough to meet us there with 3 vans and some drivers willing to lug all of those bags. We were very ready to rid of all of those duffel bags. Each weighed just under 50 pounds!

We got to our hotel...Gracia Garden. By Africa std's it is not too bad! I think Kelsey was having a little culture shock....but loves the bed. Jordan, Jesse, Tom and Katie have been here before so they were happy to be back. Linnea (Tom's mom) shared a room with Katie and Emily...which did not have a mirror, sink or window! Jordan (who must be at least 6'5") had to share a bed with Tom....we had a lot of humor around that one. Anyway...the hotel felt bad and they got another bed in that room the next night! Linnea is now in her own room and Emily and katie have a room that has been updated a bit. They definitely aim to please!

So far...I know you are wondering....there have been no critter or bug sitings. Kelsey and I are quite pleased......relieved honestly. We did see a flying thing....I thought it was a bee type thing and knowing that they are not easily crushed I got a towel on it and tried to crush it will heading out the door. Kelsey thought I dropped it and screamed and .....then I screamed....and the staff came running. They were very amused...chuckles all around...when they saw our catch. Oh well... false alarm

Day 2. Saturday June 20.

This day was a day of settling in and starting to get organized for our sports camp. We did a little shopping...had to get that out of the way! We saw a lot of amazing and beautiful things...most hand made by the Africans. We stopped first at a shop where all of the proceeds benefit AIDS in this country. We all felt good about our numerous purchases. We did a little touring as well...we went to a giraffe "refugee" camp where endangered species of giraffes are kept. The Rothschild giraffe..well there are only 300 left. They were very happy to see us and we have lots of blackmail photos of various team members kissing (yes kissing) the giraffes. Well...you'll have to see it to believe it.. I will try to post now that technology is on my side.

We had a nice lunch and then met for a devotion in the evening...and also did some more planning for our camp. We are all trying to adjust to the different time zone. All are in good spirits and everyone is getting along well. This is a very good team...we are all on the same page.

Day 3. June 21, Sunday Today.

Glad to be up to date now...I feel like it's been a week already, so much has happened.
Today we went to church in Dandora at the Primary school run by the Kenya Children Fund. Pastor David gave a tremendous sermon. Before getting into our day, you need to know more about Dandora and the ministry of KCF.

Kenya has about 650,000 homeless children. It has been rated in the top 10 in terms of government corruption. There is a huge kenya mafia presence here...and they are very very dangerous. Dandora is the place where all garbage is dumped in this country...it is a virtual dumping ground and goes far beyond the eye can see. Have you seen Slum Dog millionaire? Well you are starting to get the picture. Kids atop garbage heaps, pigs milling around, and the mafia in charge. They are the poorest of poor in the midst of tremendous crime and tyranny. These children sleep in huts made of tin and paper....they have nothing to eat but what they can pick out of the garbage. There are very small patches of corn (field corn)...we learned that they grow not because of the richness of the soil but because they have no sewer system and the plants grow out of raw sewage. The only water these families have is what they can either buy or get out of the river. There are no government programs offering help....there is no welfare system....they have nothing and no hope of getting help.

KCF started a school in one of the darkest places in this world. They believe that they can change this country by teaching the next generation. They believe that the only way out is by teaching these kids academically and by telling them about salvation through Christ. He is their only hope. The first seniors will graduate this year and many will go on to college. KCF already supports college students. They are making their way out! And they have promised to return to be mentors to the rest of the community and give back through their various professions. KCF is changing this part of the country and now that I've witnessed it myself...I can say it is such a worthy cause.

The children sang for us and after the service, we were bombarded with little hands wanting to hold ours and just dying for a hug. They were obviously impoverished....and also starved for affection to know that someone loves them. They have been waiting for this camp all year ( a testament to the team in 2007!!) ...they are so excited to learn about american sports and to play with the team members. But most of all, our presence gives them hope and encouragement...that they are loved, they are not forgotten and they will succeed in their dreams.

They were very curious about us as well. I think Kelsey had 6 little girls at one time holding her hair...it appeared to be such a novelty. They asked if maybe she had been one of the actresses in a movie called The Beautiful People. A little girl...maybe 2 0r 3 crawled onto Jordan's lamp during the service. Many kids recognized Tom and gave him many hugs. They asked about past team members and I was really surprised that they really remembered Jordan and Jesse and Katie....and of course Tom. Make no mistake, this sports camp is a trememdous outreach to these kids. They know we are there by the grace of God and that we are there to show them the love that God has for them. I must admit....there were few dry eyes throughout the morning. And of course....as God intended....we were perhaps even more blessed by this service than they. There was a simplicity to their service, stripped bare of any need to perform well or say the right things....there was a remarkable spiritual presence in this place. We had to laugh when Pastor David stopped in the middle of his sermon to answer his cell phone...and didn't miss a beat. Must say we've never seen Pastor Brian pull that one! Everyone was so grateful...even though they had so little by most standards in the West. It was a tremedous witness to all of us.

We left with children running after our bus. The roads are extremely rough with potholes...that even Minnesotans wouldn't recognize. We were instructed not to wave as the children might grab on to the bus. It was sad to leave...many did not want us to go.

We went to the Massai market and had some fun bargaining. We bought some jewelry and other things. Jordan has become quite the bargainer....maybe next stop Mexico? We left and had a great meal at the Java House restaurant. Then back to the hotel for a devotion and a meeting about our skit in the morning and how we were going to run the camp.

Basically, we have planned the following. We will have breakfast at 6:30 am and then leave for the secondary school at 7:15. We should arrive at around 8:15. We will have a quick devotion and then start setting up for the camp. Then...the kids will have their poridge. (most of the kids only eat when they are at the school...they have nothing else and rely on the school for their meals). At around 9:30 or so, we will have our skit. We will be preaching about the mustard seed and the good fruit that comes from that which is planted with faith. Kelsey is going to be the mustard seed.....well we are going to have fun with it. Then we will host a worship service and then .....let the games begin! Soccer, volleyball and more. The morning session will end with a small group discussion about our worship message. Many of the kids have seen a lot this past year with the Kenya "elections".....which prevented the team from coming in 2008. Some kids watched family members dismembered or burned alive...there has been great trauma and these kids will likely bring up these situations and more during our groups. Thank God....Randy is in our group. He is trained as a psychologist and is very informed about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)...he did some counseling with his missionary brother in Rwanda. His counsel will be key to helping some of these kids. Weve been asked to provide some life skills sessions during the camp ....and we have decided to do one on conflict resolution and decision making. Randy has been instrumental in formulating these two sessions.....and Pastor David is very pleased with this outreach for these kids at this time. Once the kids have their lunch, we will start all over again in the afternoon with similar activities. During the entire day....half of the kids will be worshiping by singing etc inside and the other half with be outside in the camp. Come afternoon, they will switch places. ......at least if all goes to plan.....which is rare in this part of the world!

By 3:30, we must all be on the bus headed home in part because of the traffic....but more importantly for safety reasons. We are told that a medical team came in and stayed until 5:30....got stuck in traffic and then their van was completely bombarded by people hanging on and hit with rocks.....a very dangerous situation which we will not be in....thanks to the good planning of Ginger and Peggy.

Well....this serves as my update to all of you followers and supporters of this mission. We are all very tired. And my hands are as well.

Oh.....and the shoes....all of those shoes. We have over 500 pairs. Ginger has asked that they be distributed at a later time according to need. We had hoped to hand them out to the children at the camp....but she felt that it would bring on a stampede that would not benefit anyone. We agreed. Whatever is best for these kids.....and make no mistake at all, there is a tremendous need for these shoes and they are very very grateful. Thanks to all of you who gave us shoes..we are eternally grateful. You have given them hope and a leg up....they feel loved.

Signing off....Shelley

Friday, June 19, 2009

June 19, 2009 kenya-finally here

Hello from Kenya!

We are writing at 4:15 pm Chicago time and 12:15 pm Kenya time. We just got into our hotel at this moment! It was a very long