I am in Kenya volunteering for Agape in Action. Thanks for checking out my blog, feel free to add your comments!

Thursday 17 September 2015

Time to say goodbye again...

I hear the voice calling across the yard and even though that is really not a title I should be responding to at this stage in my life I know they are wanting my attention. I turn and see Tom's face broken into a wide grin. He sees my hands full with things to pack and his face falls. 'Mum... don't leave us!' 
I try to smile at him and tell him not to worry- I will come back! 
Some of the smaller girls gather around and join the catch-cry 'don't go Tabby, don't leave us!'

I walk around the compound going through the motions of packing up my stuff, sorting out clothes to give to the kids and finishing up some random chores.There is a big farewell today and all the kids are hard at work, peeling potatoes, chopping up a goat and rolling out dough for over 100 chapattis, there is such a feeling of camaraderie around the place that it makes leaving so much harder.

Yes Kenya is unthinkably frustrating, there are so many sad things, so many difficult things, so many tears, so much corruption and so much anger... yet there is also so much need, so many people to help, so much good that can be done! 

Once again as I leave here to head home for family weddings, I don't know when I will be here again or what God has planned for me, but I do have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that my feet will be back on Kenya soil in the future. 

Saturday 12 September 2015


Collecting timber.
I have gone with a bunch of the teenage boys to collect timber for a building project. After a brisk walk we arrive at a forest area with some very recently felled trees scattered about. I am quick to partner with one of the stronger boys and we lift the tree onto our shoulders and begin the 3 km walk back. I can’t help but giggle at how my partner is texting on a borrowed phone, the tree casually balanced on his shoulder while I awkwardly shift my end from side to side trying to watch my step on the tiny track through the field whilst not dropping the weighty tree!

This time in Kenya has seen me doing a lot more practical work, building, painting, varnishing, clearing wood and concreting. The building is always heavily complicated by availability and quality of materials- wooden posts in actual fact being whole trees as a prime example! So many times we will stop, look at our work and realise- despite our careful measuring and use of the level and square- things don't quite line up. But at the end of the day, it always works out good enough :) 

Construction of our rabbit cage
The highlight of this has been the animal projects that we have been working on at the coastal children’s home. Zero graze cow shed, sheep and goat pen, rabbit breeding cage and hen house- with the last two being built by just me and Abi (in a stubborn effort to prove that girls can do physical work!).

Our rabbit breeding cage is an awesome learning tool for the kids here- they are required to fetch food for the rabbits and clean out their cages and in return will benefit from their nutritious meat from the offspring of the breeders- a prospect they are all very excited about!
Our finished hen house :)
Maja cleaning out the cages

Before and after- our rabbit breeding program :)

Monday 31 August 2015


Imagine your parents had died. 

You are left alone with your two young sisters.

All three of you are placed in an underfunded orphanage and you receive barely a scrap of food. You sleep on the ground. You hate life, you try not to let your younger sisters see your tears, you try to be strong and yet it seems life is so futile…

Then one day a visitor comes for you. A man you know helps out people, you know he has orphaned kids staying at his house and you beg him to take you with him, you plead and cry and explain how bad the situation is. You see that it affects him and he wants to take you with him, but he can’t. He is not permitted to just take children from the orphanage at a whim.

The kind man leaves with a sad look in his eyes.

You discuss with your sisters and together you scheme, you bide your time and then one day you do it, all three of you run away together. You travel for days, over 70 kms, until you finally reach your destination.

The kind man sees you walk in his gate and he laughs, he giggles and smiles and he welcomes you, as he hasn’t taken you himself there are no repercussions from the orphanage, they don’t even know where you have gone. You now have a safe place to stay. You are asked questions about your background, photos are taken of you, you receive news you are now ‘sponsored’.
This means you now get food everyday, you stay in a comfortable dormitory, you have your own bed, you are surrounded by other people your age, you go to school, you go to Sunday school, you can now live like a 10 year old should be able to, surrounded by security and care.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distressJames 1: 27

Monday 24 August 2015

Wounded :(

I look up into her face and see that her eyes are brimming with tears, yet she doesn't make a sound.

I ask her softly 'unahisi uchungu sana?' (do you feel a lot of pain?). She is quick to respond with a whispered 'yes', her brimming eyes spilling over and tears running down her cheeks. 
She is young, maybe only 7 years of age and yet her resting face is sad, her beautiful chocolate skin marred by a scar across one cheek and a bruise on the other. This girl has dealt with a lot and she is tough. She quickly brushes her tears with a grimy hand and turns her face away. 

I turn my attention back to the large open bleeding gash on her leg and after finishing cleaning it I use butterfly stitches to close it back together and bandage it securely. After a painkiller and a lollypop she is soon smiling and hobbling around with her friends.

Her mother has many children, a mental disability and a quick temper. It had taken this little lass most of the day to wrack up enough courage to come and ask for help- her mother had become rageful this morning and lashed out at her with a kitchen knife, slicing her leg open. 

Why does this kind of thing happen so often? Why do people who clearly can't provide for offspring have so many children that are simply born into a life of poverty and hardship? Why is it ok for the youngest and most vulnerable to be the ones that suffer?

I know that it is not fair. I know that it is not how God designed families to be. I know I will not be able to fix the situation for many of them. 

But I also know I can try with each and every child I come in contact with, I can try to love, to care, to show them there is good in the world. I can be confident that many others I know here are doing the same.

And I can pray that Jesus returns and fixes the world for ALL of them. 

Even so, come Lord Jesus. 

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Are you trained for that?

Unfortunately DIY culture hasn't quite made it to Kenya yet. 

A lot of Kenyans have the attitude of 'if you aren't trained to do it then you can't do it'. 
Abi and I with one of our murals.
From building to baking, painting to plumbing, book-covering to bandaids. 
If you haven't specifically trained to do something skilled there is great shock that you are even attempting it. 
I think it may be partly due to the lack of exposure, if you haven't ever seen a band-aid before, how do you know how it works? If you have never held a paint brush, how do you paint a mural? 

Girls covering books with mosquito net bags
Whatever the reason, it is something I have found both humorous and also at times frustrating. 
I have found myself doing quite a myriad of tasks and the amount of times when in the middle of doing something I have heard a shocked voice 'Madam! You never told us you were a builder/artist/typist/plumber/ tailor/doctor!?"
My favourite one was when digging a trench for a overflow pipe, one of my colleague teachers came up to me in shock 'All this time, you never told us that you are a water engineer!'

Form 2 boys mending their uniforms.
Some of the boys fixing the gutters.
After seeing how tatty some of the students uniforms and schoolbooks were, Abi and I decided to run some after school DIY classes for sewing and book-covering. Initially a lot of students were under the impression that we were going to do it for them, however when they arrived at the classroom they instead found us with a pile of needles and thread, staplers, sticky tape and carefully cut up recycled mosquito net packaging plastic. We instructed them that they were capable and we would show them how they could do it themselves. Much to our delight, the students got their heads around the concept and spent hours and hours carefully stitching their clothes and covering their books. 

Likewise when fixing the school gutters, I wasn't tall enough to reach the down-pipe that needed capping, but when I explained what needed to be done to some of the taller lads, they were only too keen to hang out the two-story window and do the job. On completion, proudly declaring to their classmates 'I am now a plumber!'. 

Friday 14 August 2015

Filling in a form.

Its something that would usually be a simple administrative task.

A form with student data- address, parental contact details, fee paying information etc  for all the students in the school, it is usually done on admission but there are a number missing and hence it is decided that a new form be developed and all students fill it in. 

I am unsure exactly what information is required and so I team up with some local teachers to determine what such forms usually look like in Kenyan schools. 
As we get to the parent particulars, one of the teachers says in a matter of fact way - 'there must be a box to tick, if they are dead or alive'. I nod my agreement and note it down, but inside I feel terrible. The fact that for many of the kids their parent will just be represented by ticking a box labelled DEAD is just horrible. 

When it gets to the students filling out the form there is a whole new set of questions I didn't expect, opening up to me again how difficult the backgrounds of these kids actually are.

A child from the most nuclear family that I know of asks me 'I don't know what my mother or fathers name is?' I am shocked and respond with what I think are her parents names- people who I know well from the ecclesia, she laughs and replies 'he is not my father! I have never met my parents, I think he is maybe my uncle." 

A number of students struggle with the section on their parents...
'Madam, my mother is dead- am I still supposed to fill in her phone number?'

"For my fathers occupation, I guess I just put 'drunkard?'''

"For my mothers level of education, can I write 'zero'?'

Siblings is also an area of confusion for many, one student telling me he is one of seventeen siblings and many others with similar large figures and complicated families... 
"It asks how many brothers I have, is that just from my mother and my father? or from my fathers two other wives as well?"

This 'simple-filling-in-a-form' has once again showed to me how complex Kenya is, it is just so different from the 'normal' at home and the lack of nuclear families is one of the key reasons why life is so difficult in this country. 

Sunday 26 July 2015


Even though it is a warm day he is rugged up in a heavy sweater and uncontrollably shivering. 
His usually cheerful face is creased with pain and instead of a friendly greeting he struggles to talk... 'madam, I am feeling somehow bad".
I sit him down and take his temperature, it is unusually high and so I take some blood and do an in-vitro malaria test. 

It takes less than 2 minutes to show up positive.  

Despite being preventable and easily treated, malaria kills almost 500,000 people in Africa every year. 
It is not uncommon for students here to get malaria but fortunately I have testing facilities, medication is relatively cheap and in most cases, effective.
Malaria medication takes around three days to have full effect and generally the students surprise me with their quick recovery. However, there is something about this case that has me unsettled and I decide to go up to the boys dormitory to checkup on him.

The dormitory is crowded and noisy and it takes me a while to make my way through the morass of bunk-beds to find him. In the very back corner he is curled up on his bed, semi conscious and incoherent. I take his temperature and can't help but gasp when I see the reading of 40.6, his body is literally burning up. I ask some questions to his bedmate and find out that he has vomited all the medicine I have given him and hasn't eaten or drunk all day. 

There is something so alarming about being responsible for someone who is so unwell, has no one to care for them and is unable to help themselves. For the next few hours as I work to bring his temperature down and try a different malaria medication I feel ill myself, tossing up whether I should drive him into hospital but knowing that they will not be able to do much more than I can.

That night I wake up many times stressing about his state and as soon as it is light I race back up to the dormitory to check on him. Fortunately my prayers are answered and he is on the mend although it takes four more days of care before he is back walking around and cheerfully greeting me again. 

Two weeks later, thanks to some donated funds a large parcel arrives and we are able to provide mosquito nets for all the boys in the dormitory, hopefully now this situation does not have to be repeated in the near future.