CAMP 2015 – PURE JOY!

It is OUR joy to bring smiles, learning, swimming, worship, play, creativeness and bring them a few days of JOY!  Joy creates and helps us hold on to Hope.

 

hope these pictures speak for themselves.  Perhaps bring you some Joy and Hope for your day!  Thank you to all who helped make 2015 Starfish Progamme Camp a success.  We are very grateful.  :)

 


 

Our team this year was made up of 7 women doing ordinary things with Great Love.  But there are many sponsors who gave gifts and funds, team member’s friends and family who sponsored these young lives to attend, people who couldn’t go but worked behind the scenes and those who prayed.  God was present.

 

teresa

 

Home Visits

TEAM 2015

Our 2015 team is now in Uganda with our partners at Youth for Christ Uganda, Starfish staff and all our mums and children in the programme.  Camp starts tomorrow so last minute preparations are in full swing.

Many home visits took place. For everyone one in the Starfish Programme, life is hard – some moreso than others. It is always refreshing to spend time and get to know recipient families more – and bring a staple box of food and supplies.  The gratitude is immense, our time is always too short…

These pictures speak more effectively than any words we could write.  It is a priceless reunion orchestrated by God and treasured in their hearts for a lifetime. Their usual greetings to us are a big hug and “you are welcome here”.  :)

k22Our time in Kenya has come to an end. Some beautiful moments mixed with hard things – most not measurable or tangible… Our last day was spent with 10 of the Taraja boys at the KYFC center. Slowly but surely they arrived from their various home communities, through rain and a variety of transport avenues… The closest one, Michael, took one hour to get here.  Benjamin arrived last as he had a long journey, and wisely came in high rubber boots (a luxury in this rainy season!).
k24Bev and I got to spend time chatting and joking with them as well as asking them two questions:  What do you praise God for?  and what is a challenge that needs prayer?…  I won’t share the intimate details, but I will say that more than one boy said they praised God for their life. That they are alive…as so many they know around them have died. Sobering….  The prayers for several were that they could be reunited with family members. Their longing is deep. Our human desires to be loved and connected are stronger than that for food and bread (paraphrased from Mother Teresa).  As a mom and grandmother, my heart aches for them.  Some of them will meet or reunite with family in the future, and I’m sad to say, they will likely be disappointed. That mother or father that has been missing or absent, is deeply troubled/addicted/ill or simply without compassion for the one who longs for them…
k9Life is hard. Truth is often hard, but at the same time healing. Once one’s mind can see the truth, it can move on to receive God’s mercy and grace. There are things that only He can fill – for all of us – not just these boys…
I took a piece of paper and divided it into 3 columns and wrote: Let Go — Wait — Move forward.    I told them that I, myself, have been working on things in life and have put my thought in these 3 categories.
Some things, people or circumstances we need to just let go. They are not meant to be in our lives and do not make us better people…
Think about these things… Write them and then cut off that section and tear it to bits!
k2The last 2 categories should be prioritized. Some things God has shown us:  This is what you can do.  This is what you need to wait on.  Live in the present – do what you can, do not worry about what you cannot at this time…. Move forward with what you are able to!  And fold that paper so that the ‘wait’ is on the backside.  It will come – the timing is not now – trust – and go on….
k3Then we broke for tea and bread. Duncan – a true leader – was not afraid to ask us to serve them. I smiled, we were happy to serve. (I think in part he wasn’t sure what they were supposed to do or how much to take, but truly, that is our call ‘to serve one another in love’)…. Ravished, the boys did not hesitate to partake!  For some – or likely all – I know they had likely been without food for some time and it was a blessing to watch them eat…

Sponsor gifts were next and it is always fun to see the boys open simple thing like books, flashlights, deodorant, etc., and have such wide smiles. Each also got a cap – and this was big news for many. John owino’s was a Rockies cap – brand new. Bev offered to pull the plastic hook on top off for him and he refused. he grinned and said, “NO- this shows i have something NEW!”  A rare thing in his life. I imagine it will still be there next time we see him.  😀   In addition, they were given some shillings for basic needs from sponsors…oh the joy and wide eyes…
That said by far, the favorite things are the personal letters and photographs….a sense of belonging….a sense that someone has not forgotten me…
k5Bev and I left them to counsel with Robert while we had lunch with our friend Grace.   A beautiful setting and company – yes the differences were vast – but that is life. Relationships are important and valued, regardless of status, age, gender, etc.  Grace has been a mentor and heroine to me over the years so this lunch and time was priceless… Loss is no respecter of age or status either. I was sad to hear that she had lost a brother and a sister within days of each other just before Easter.  Her grief was evident. I grieve with her – and also hope that I brought some joy and love – just as I receive from others in seasons that are hard….  k25Not to miss small side joys, I showed Grace the “shamrocks’ growing wild in her flower bed..  how they were a big part of my family growing up. She showed us that they were something they, too enjoy because they are edible!  What?!!  I was hesitant but Bev was not – her response had me follow quickly – so surprising that these leaves taste like sour apples (ok, kind of)!  I honestly don’t know if it is the same as we have at home, but willing to see….!
We were supposed to do 3 more home visits. I am sorry to say due to time and rain we were not able – but we commit to next time!  Very hard for me as I knew a few of the visits would’ve made a big difference and impact for these guys…
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But instead we decided to go grocery shopping for each one. Michael was chosen to come with us. (He is strong – and in need of community after a particularly hard season in life.)
k7In no time, Bev, Director Robert, social worker Lois and Michael had big bags of ugali, rice, beans, sugar, vaseline, soap, laundry detergent, etc., for each boy…it filled my heart just watching them (and counting the cost)  :) As the shosho (grandmother), I had to add apple flavored gum for each at the checkout – and also because there was just enough money left for it!
k26I love these guys – and what Robert has worked hard to do in their lives. It is clearly not easy; there are no magic formulas.  There are many ups, downs and arounds and it takes many hands and hearts…. But to see a transformation in just one….or many….is well worth it!
If you would like to help Taraja through prayer or giving, please email:  tarajaproject@gmail.com
Asanti sana,
teresa

The Road to Alfred                                                                      4/28/15

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He was born 2/2/1998 to a 16 year old mother in rural Kenya. She tells us she did not even know how to hold a baby when he was born…The father left soon after and Regina struggled to raise her quiet, but strong son.

11200626_1095896130425489_473199346360065081_nAs he grew, Alfred did fairly well in school, but was extremely introverted. To this day he is an observer (I’ve observed!). While he liked school, he was often chased away or sent home as there was no money for uniforms or lunches. (Even if education is free, these things must be paid for by family or guardians.) Worse yet, he was teased upon return each time. This bothered Alfred and eventually caught up with his emotions. By 13 he had found others who were also chased away and rebellion slowly sunk in… The friends made a plan to seek a better life and one day left their homes without a word.

For four days they walked, essentially without stopping. On the 5th day they found themselves in Nairobi – the golden end of their perceived desires. Not long after, they were rounded up by police and put in Bahati – a social hall for abandoned boys.

alfred 5Alfred spent a year there before joining the others at Taraja Home in Athi River. I met him on a visit in 2012. He was painfully quiet. I took his photo and said I would try to find a sponsor for him…  The right heart eventually came along, a special woman who has been moved by his letters and circumstances…  This quiet guy has a lot to say underneath it all and is so grateful to be connected!

alfred 11All boys return to home communities during holidays (as reintegration is the goal after education is completed). It took a long time to find and reconnect with his mother – but it has now happened. We met Alfred several kilometers from their home so he could guide us in… he waited patiently in the cold and fog, but could hardly contain himself when we finally arrived – Beverly noticed a boy chasing alongside us – it was Alfred! We finally reached his home community. He was only too happy to carry the supplies we brought and after greeting neighbor children, we met a very happy young woman.

11204930_1095892103759225_3034992985010685704_n“Regina” is a sweet, quiet lady with much love for her son… She was not able to provide well for him when he was small, but she never truly understood why he left. She says she prayed every day – and one night had a vision – God was telling her – he was OK.  So she waited…
alfred 1I was so moved to see how tenderly these two look at each other. They alone, know the extent of pain and grief along the way…Alfred has a 10 year old sister and 7 year old brother. The four of them live in a humble mud home in a small community outside Nakuru, Kenya. The surroundings are majestic – breathtaking at times. The way the fog weaves in and out of the valley is mesmerizing. Roaming zebras along the way add a sense of awe to it all…

Beautiful things and hard things exist together…
Regina talked fondly about Alfred and how he helps her and others when he is home with no complaining. “Even when I know he is very hungry, he does not complain”, she says. I gather this is often. There was no food to be seen anywhere. She does not work except for occasional selling of vegetables. alfred 6The box of rice/beans/ugali/sugar and soap could not have been more timely. Alfred also was so “Alfredly” excited to hear from his sponsor. She had sent several things including a journal – a perfect gift for a wonderfully quiet young man who loves to write! Taraja Director Robert and social worker Lois were happy to look on and see this boy’s joy…

alfred 5
When it came time to leave, Alfred asked Robert if he could come back with us. As much as he loves his mother and home, he desired to be at Taraja…the oasis that transitioned him back to life…It was not possible, as Taraja is closed during holidays and many decisions are being made about the future. But Alfred will not have to wait too long to leave¸ he made good marks in school and will soon join Nairobi Senior Secondary boarding school to begin a new chapter in life. There has been a slight delay in joining as there is no record of him being born and he will need a certificate to continue. It WILL happen though and I believe this boy WILL be a writer!

11169810_1095891610425941_4116454755234460753_nOur day was long yesterday. The drive was 7 hours round-trip. An accident in the fog on the way home did not help matters as the road was jammed for miles… But, we would do it again. Alfred – like all the Taraja boys – matters. He is worth effort. I’m quite sure the memory for him will fuel him for a long time. I smile as I picture him doing the Wordsearch his sponsor gave with the “magic booklight” to read in the dark…:D

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Step by step…one at a time…

teresa

4/26/15                                                                                      Is God Enough?

FACTS & INFORMATION ABOUT KIBERA
There are approx 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the Nairobi population, occupying just 6% of the land. Kibera houses almost 1 Million of these people. Kibera is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world.

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There are many opinions and varying reports and facts about Kibera Slums. I won’t add to reports, I will only say from my experience in one small corner…

My first visit to Kibera was 12 years ago – to a school called Anajali. Wellington was the headmaster at the time and all I could do was to match he and his wife with Prayer Partners from my church back in Colorado. They were appreciative. I did what I could.  I was moved by the Joy in the midst of the extreme conditions and poverty. Twelve years later it is still11118988_10206949403402195_5353100428663727698_n extreme and I am still moved.

Now we visit ‘Angaza Kids’ zealously led by Popo who believes in every last one if them! The joy and laughter even had Bev and I playing ridiculously fast paced games (as if we were 12 again)!

Yesterday we spent the whole day with our Kenya Youth for Christ friends in Kibera. The center is an oasis of sorts (relatively speaking of course). Leaders John and Collins live nearby and their hearts for the children is undeniable.

10985865_10206949385961759_3486019939654960019_nThrough the years it has grown to accommodate nearly 100 kids on a Saturday who come for songs, dance,
teaching, tea and a meal. It feels good to be in the midst – it feels safe in a place that is not. Throughout the week students come for after school studying and small group teachings. They are happy to be together. The leaders are incredible and committed, understanding firsthand the challenges these kids face…

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We 11168531_1095127543835681_7446042311433338928_n (1)have been lucky to play a small role over the years.

Bringing laptops to help with a small computer lab, clothes for kids, school supplies and books – balls and jerseys this year!

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La11174370_10206949407482297_1949076383150820860_ost November two team members laid tile in the gathering hall – BIG news for all – and a healthy alternative to the old  cement that had open dirt holes and cracks throughout…Ben and Mike (who came from Portland to lay the tile) were likely more moved by the experience than the weight of the tile itself!

11179950_10206949404362219_304699007015580922_nYesterday the tile was covered with little feet and lots of Joy. The kids barely noticed us as they are enamored with the YFC leaders and the chance to learn and grow. Collins was teaching them the Golden Rule and they were all ears!  I got the chance to do some teaching with the help of “batting at balloons” and it invited squeals of delight and yes, a bit of chaos.  😀

The children are often taught songs and sayings as these are the tools they have – no fancy props or books to take home – only what they can hold in their minds and hearts… One song that Collins had them sing was about the challenges of being sad and lonely and hungry…and what “can I do?”  “I can talk to God – I can talk to God”…
11066819_10206949410162364_6090425601647338949_nMakes one wonder: Is God enough?  The Joy in these kids suggests yes, God is enough…they hold more of His love in their little beings than entire churches back home…It’s true, Jesus loves the little children…all little children of the world…He hears their prayers.

11017049_1095127967168972_8916779633975814157_n (2)He sends quality leaders and basic necessities to surround them…Those leaders need leaders and necessities…

We all need to answer the call to whatever life or lives are put before us – no matter where you are – it may be just around your corner! You may have a messy life, but still something that someone else needs. It’s a give and take. God only knows who is being blessed more….just ask anyone from th11167680_1095128303835605_4876668694002399441_n (2)e outside who has stepped inside the YFC Center in Kibera Slums…!

teresa

Taraja.   never forget…                                                                      April 25, 2015

Home Visit to John Murwa

John Murwa…an amazing kid

He grew up in the slums – third born of five. More often than not food was scarce –  nor was there a place to lay his head at night. Like many, he roamed… At a young age, John found himself rounded up by police with other boys on the street. All scared, many hardened and rebellious, but John and a handful of others carried hope – and Taraja Director Robert saw it. For several years they lived at Youth for Christ’s Taraja Home – a transitional orphanage outside of Athi River, Kenya. The younger boys would attend school during the day nearly 10 miles from the home. When the van would break down, the boys walked, leaving well before dawn and arriving home well after it was dark…

Among them was John. He realized early on he was being given an opportunity and he did not take it for granted.  When he graduated from P8 he tested well and was taken to Jericho High School to board. We (how101) matched him with a sponsor who was a son of a doctor. This inspired John and drove him to study even harder. When we visited him at school in 2012 he was all smiles, even through the nerves!  The headmaster applauded him for his work ethic and encouraged him to work even harder as his goal was to become a physician. At the time John was pulling A’s and B’s and promised to study even harder to achieve more…

The bridge over ....
The bridge over

During holidays Taraja boys return to the home communities – which for most – is the slum.  This is for the hope of reintegrating as a self-sustaining leader one day, but also mandated by Kenya’s government to keep connections with family ties.

4John is the only hope in his family. Today we visited his mother and siblings in their meager home in Kingston near Murkuru slum. Last night’s rain made this a bit tricky. As with most slum areas, the dirt and open sewage system becomes mud and 8sludge.  Trying to slip down back allies, truly becomes a slippery slope! We were aided in navigation by John and two friends from Taraja – Michael and Duncan. It was a sweet reunion for these 3 boys. All destined to be leaders – all with challenges beyond measure. 

Michael, John Murwa & Duncan
Michael, John Murwa & Duncan

As for me, my heart swells each time I see them as I’m so proud of their perseverance, tenacity and growth! 

carrying food to John's home
carrying food to John’s home

We stopped at Nakumatt to get a big bag of rice, beans, sugar and other staples… John was so pleased to give to his mother. This will alleviate him from working the rest of his holiday break…

John and mum Beatrice
John and mum Beatrice

However, today was bittersweet. When we finally reach the home of John’s mother, we hear the truth. This place, like most others, is likely temporary as she is not able to keep up with rent. While fairly new, the room is probably 8 feet by 10 feet. The floor is dirt, there is one old small couch, a covered shelf and a curtain that separates the single bed behind it. John’s mom Beatrice shares this bed with her 13 year old daughter Ruth and younger brother David.

Sister Ruth and brother David
Sister Ruth and brother David

What we know is that when John is home on holiday, there is no room for him here…He is a good son. He comes back to do odd jobs, such as fetching water or any labor possible to earn a few shillings so his mom and siblings can eat. He, himself stays in another place where his 2 older brothers have camped in. They do not work. His mother is disabled and cannot work. John is the only hope….and yet John wakes up each morning hungry and after caring for others, spends time trying to get food for himself..

Robert, Bev, Lois, John
Robert, Bev, Lois, John

Beverly and I sat and listened while John and his mom shared silent tears… I asked John if he feels the pressure and he nods that it is unbearable. Taraja Director Robert spent a good amount of time yesterday counselling and advising him. Telling him he must get A’s and find the strength to carry on and succeed, so that he may be able to return one day to care for his family completely.  It is a Catch 22. At this time John is getting B’s – in a difficult course of study. When asked how others are getting A’s, he explains that they are able to go in to the school from 8-4 each day during the school holidays. They are all “candidates” so they are helping one another study to succeed. John has not been able to join them, he is looking for food for himself and his family…

Teresa and John
Teresa and John

John’s sponsor recently changed course and can no longer send funds. We were able to get him a new one, but the monthly fees are not enough to cover all needs. This is true for most of the boys in higher education. In John’s case, it’s urgent.  I promised him that we would not let him be hungry during holidays. We will be depositing funds to help he and the other Taraja boys tomorrow. We are so grateful for a generous friend of how101 who watches from a distance and occasionally sends funds. Funds that are greatly needed and will be used to bless many… Here is the problem, those funds will run out…

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Taraja is in need of committed monthly donors and prayer partners – beyond school fees.  And while there are literally thousands of more street boys waiting to come to a place like Taraja, more cannot be taken in until those in the program are truly taken care of… To run the home it takes $1000/month…

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The land surrounding it is fertile and progress is being made to grow crops for income. We are so grateful for funds raised to erect a second greenhouse last December.  But, for years it has been one step forward two steps backwards. The most recent catastrophe was that all taraja 07crops that were ready to be harvested, died 3 days before gathering… One dilemma after another, has caused us all to shake our head and ask…WHY?

taraja 2Please consider helping through prayer and/or finances. Both are badly needed. For more information, email tarajaproject@gmail.com  Each boy is special and holds promise – we do not forget…

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teresa

Post 2 of 2.

:)

:)

Lake Victoria (near Entebbe) Uganda (post 1 of 2)

:)