Greetings from everyone, including the girls who we sponsor to attend secondary school. They have returned home for their school break between their second and third terms. After a somewhat gloomy last post, I want to update everyone with only great news today! Two major happenings here are worth writing about - Thomas Mogaka and pigs. Let's start with Thomas Mogaka. For this, I would like to quote Jason's telling of the story: "While my time in Kenya is rapidly coming to an end, over the course of the past five weeks I’ve learned that the work here in Kenya and in other developing countries is truly just getting started. Soon I will elaborate on the whole experience of volunteering for Arrive in Kenya in a dedicated post, but first, I have some EXCITING news to share! Thanks to your help, tomorrow one less child will wake up hungry, cold, filthy, and utterly hopeless on the streets of Kisii.
I would like you all to meet Mogaka. He is around 12 years old, has completed through the third grade in school, and has had to fend for himself on the streets for an unimaginable five years. Tonight however, he will join the 35 other former street-kids and orphans who call the Reumba Children’s Home, home. Tonight, for the first time in five years, Mogaka will fall asleep in clean clothes, in a warm bed that he can call his own, with a full stomach.
The first picture shows the scene when we came upon Mogaka this morning. It’s no exaggeration to say that the first thing we had to do was check to make sure he was breathing. Hundreds of other street-kids in Kisii live in similar conditions, and cope with the suffering by huffing toxic glue from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep. Unfortunately, huffing glue is the rule and not the exception among street kids, and if the photos are unconvincing, I hope that you will take my word that these children are doing this to numb unimaginable pain, not to have fun. If Mogaka’s life were to continue down its previous path, he probably wouldn’t live to become an adult.
It could take Mogaka up to a year to get the glue out of his system and become completely sober, but today was an amazing first step in the right direction. The word “makeover” doesn’t serve justice to what happened today, what we witnessed was nothing short of a complete transformation. Brian, who has done this many times before, led us around the city from place to place in expert fashion so that we could buy the things that Mogaka needed. The first stop was at the supermarket for de-wormer and a quick bite to eat, then a haircut (the first he had in at least a year), next to buy a single change of clothes so we could ditch his old outfit, then to the bus station to take a nice long hot shower, and then finally we made our way to the local market at Keumbu to buy everything else he needed like shoes, clothes, a mattress, a plate, a cup, a locker, blankets, a belt, etc.
Seeing Mogaka have “things” for the first time in many years was a moving experience. In a matter of hours he went from appearing to be barely human, to being just like any other kid who has a bright future ahead filled with hopes and dreams. Seeing all of this with my own eyes was heart wrenching and inspiring at the same time, and I’m not ashamed in the least to say I cried for the first time in a long while on a few separate occasions today. Thanks to your support, financial and otherwise, along with the unbelievable dedication of Brian Ash and the Nyamwange family, it was possible to save a kids life. It was an honor to be involved."
Thomas Mogaka has improved everyday since joining the Arrive family and continues to relive the childhood he was robbed of. The second "good news" of this update is our new pig pen! Due to the hard work and fundraising our volunteer Matthew, he and a team of locals built, from the ground up, a state of the art pig pen. In his own words, Matthew "wanted to give the gift of bacon to the kids here." Besides the delicious meat, pig farming teaches the kids valuable lessons about tending to pigs. While our farm has goats, sheep, hens, roosters, rabbits, cows, and more, pigs are a valuable addition. Lastly, at the rate at which pigs reproduce, this has the potential to be a profit-generating venture for the childrens home, effectively reducing operating costs and enabling Arrive to becom more sustainable.
This small project turned huge when instead of just a small shack, Matthew decided to build a brick structure: foundation, bricks, cement and all. With plumbing, electricity, and different pens for different purposes, Matthew learned various new skills (both in pig farming and architecture) very quickly! The pen was finished yesterday after a week of sweat, intense work, ergonomically efficient planning, and many hours of labor, we were ready for last night.
Last night was an exciting night for all! After Matthew had attended the closest pig farm (which is at least a two hour walk away) last week to negotiate prices, we went as a family to the farm to pick out our pigs. Matthew bought two sows and six 35-40 kg pigs. The two sows will each give birth in less than one month and the six other pigs are growing larger. After the stress of a long walk home, the pigs have settled into their new environment.
I can only begin to explain to you the complexity of this new pig pen. The kids are excited, Matthew is thrilled, and we will only become happier when we slaughter our first pig and the kids try bacon for the first time!
Right now, the whole Arrive family is back, volunteers are here, and we are hosting two PHD students doing field research regarding the colony collapse of honey bees. Duty calls for me to engage with everyone in a giant sharing of knowledge and recent stories. My next blog, if all goes well, will be written on my computer charged by solar energy! Plans are in place to install solar energy at Arrive's Keumbu Rehema Childrens Home, very, very, very soon. But... you'll need to wait until my next blog to see the scorching hot (pun intended) progress!