# Home under Covid
Despite the restrictions life has been going on and management and staff have borne up to the challenge remarkably well
I thought you would like to know how the children and staff have been getting along under Covid shutdown. I have therefore selected some photographs which I think illustrate what has been happening.
Despite the restrictions life has been going on and management and staff have borne up to the challenge remarkably well.
added on Aug 4
The Government acted quickly in March to close down the Country as soon as the first cases were identified. You know Gillian was by the grace of God able to return to NI at the end of March. During that period we equipped the homes with sanitizer and masks and issued guidance to them to reduce the risk of transmission. Schools were closed and we re-employed most of our teachers as tutors as we replaced school with Home tuition. We could not, for the sake of their health and general discipline have so many children idle.
Previous reports describe hardships being experienced by many and the action we took in one situation.
In the homes we have organised some special activities for the children. We have had a birthday celebration for everyone in each home. Many children are unaware of the date of their birthdays so a general celebration was organised. Team sports have been a feature for the older children at Wamba.
Of course all the normal things have continued and this has included hospital visits for those ill and two children obtained long awaited surgery. Management has been reporting to us here formally on a monthly basis although hardly a day goes past without some contact thanks to Whats App and Messenger. Routine maintenance continues along with monthly shopping although we have taken steps to pay bills electronically and pay many staff to their telephones to avoid the need for visits to Isiolo the County town.
We give thanks for Raphael and Bosco two of our local Trustees who have helped management with advice and guidance on the ground. We also thank the local Government administration which after some initial confusion has rowed in behind our management with support.
# Update on Pamela and Ken’s visit November 19 to March 20
It was a remarkably busy trip for Pamela as she dealt with a few management issues and oversaw the preparations for Christmas
The purpose of this short article is to bring you up to date with Kindfund’s children’s work in Northern Kenya and a recent visit to Ethiopia
In November 2019 Pamela travelled to Kindfund Kenya to be with the children at Christmas. She
was joined at the beginning of December by Lea a teenage Austrian girl keen to share some of her year helping needy children in Africa, before going to University. During her stay at Ngaremara and Wamba Lea made an immense contribution to the work; having come to Kenya well prepared with material and ideas to engage with and spend quality time with the children You can read more about Lea and her experience in the previous News blogs.
added on Jun 14
It was a remarkably busy trip for Pamela as she dealt with a few management issues and oversaw the preparations for Christmas ensuring that every one of our 125 children received an appropriate Christmas gift. In this she was supported by Esther and other staff members and some of our teenage children. All went well and the children all received a small gift and a selection of items in their ‘Christmas stocking.’
Pamela was keen to share with all our children so a few days before Christmas, accompanied by Lea they visited our most remote home at Ndikir, in Marsabit County and 180kms North of Isiolo. The children were pleased to see them. They shared together and the children sang some hymns and repeated memory versus they had been learning. Lea’s creativity was appreciated as the children learnt new craft skills and each one received a gift from Lea of a pair of sunglasses.
Returning to be at Wamba for Christmas Pamela encouraged the staff and children to prepare a drama of the nativity which they were able to perform on Christmas day. It was a high point for Pamela, and she was so thrilled to witness the response of the teenage children as they discussed and rehearsed the drama. It was a time for bonding with the children in the home and appreciating the several older young adults who visited her at the home to share how they were getting along outside in the wider world. Here at Wamba as at Ngaremara Lea quickly settled to a routine with the children introducing them to new and constructive activities and songs.
After Christmas they returned to the home at Ngaremara to share more time with the younger children before Pamela travelled 110 kms South to Nanyuki on the Equator to await my arrival on New Year’s Day.
Travelling over the year end proved to be a good decision as my ticket was upgraded and I enjoyed a little luxury on the flight from Amsterdam. It was good to be with Pamela again after being apart for 6 weeks. We stayed 2 nights at Nanyuki before returning to Ngaremara to prepare for a Kindfund Team Management meeting on 4th. A good opportunity for us to be updated on the work and issues at each home and for me to touch on key management themes in relation to our policies – child protection, education, and employment contracts etc. Bosco one of our local trustees, had attended a conference and AGM of the Children’s Homes Association of which we are a member. He updated us on their work and areas where they could assist.
Before leaving our home in N Ireland I had booked a visit to Ethiopia from 5th to 12th January as something of a surprise break for Pamela (this year is our 50th wedding anniversary) but also to meet a good friend of ours who had been inviting us to come and help him to start a work in rural Ethiopia. The Ethiopian calendar is 14 days behind our Western calendar so by travelling on 5th we would get to spend Christmas with our friend Mattewos (for 16 years a brother in Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity) and his family(wife and child). I will write further about that visit but in the meantime I would like to ask you to pray for direction in connection with Mattewos’ proposal to us to begin a work with orphans and poor children (something he is very experienced with from his earlier background), in a rural setting 250kms South of the capital Addis Abba.
Returning to Kenya we were busy as Pamela tackled many issues aimed at upgrading our children’s Kindfund experience. As many of you will have seen from sponsorship photos the children continue to thrive physically and we could see first-hand the benefits of a caring and loving environment for their development. Of course, like any large family we have problems with a few, and these require specific attention. The beginning of the calendar year heralds a new school year with all the activity around children moving up a year and transferring from nursery to primary to secondary and to polytechnic. This year was no exception with two teenagers to Secondary and four to Polytechnic.
Having been absent most of 2019 through some health issues I tackled a backlog of small projects which were aimed at upgrading our facilities. Managing three fairly large children’s homes, nursery and primary schools with sites running to c.30 acres in total requires a constant programme of maintenance and investment and I like to achieve as much as possible when in Kenya to reduce the risk of things going wrong. The result was we were on the road a lot between Ngaremara, Wamba and Ndikir.
One incident of interest was the car breaking down at a very remote spot on the road to Wamba. Of course, no telephone reception so I immediately started back towards the last village we had passed about 3 kms down the road, leaving Lea and Pamela to wait. I was soon able to stop a vehicle and obtain a lift to the point where the telephone would work. I called back to Archer’s Post to ask Mike the local mechanic to rescue us – something he has had to do on several occasions over the years.
One hour later, in the heat of the early afternoon, at the side of the road a matatu on the way to Wamba stopped and out stepped Mike. After a brief chat room was somehow made for me to ride back up to where I had left the car and Pamela and Lea – well almost. You can see Pamela having a go engaging front axle to four- wheel drive in the photo. Lea was amazed as this almost 73 yr old granny had started the car, turned it round and now needed four-wheel drive to get out of the sand to drive down to meet me. We dismissed the mechanic with thanks after he had checked around. The car continued for the next week until we returned to Isiolo and I had the clutch stripped out. The plate was in pieces and only a miracle had kept it on the road.
Time arrived for Lea to leave at the end of January and we travelled with her to Nanyuki from where we parted as she travelled on with Joseph, our good friend and taxi to the airport in Nairobi. A remarkable young lady who made a valued contribution punching well above her weight.
Just a week later it was time for Pamela to leave. Arriving home, she had time for a final week with her last aunt and cousins. Aunt Winnie at 90+ had in her own words, ‘Fought the good fight, kept the faith and finished the course.’ We will miss her.
In my last month I rushed to finish the work started while treating a chest infection which would not move despite a second antibiotic. At the same time news of the oncoming Covid 19 was beginning to occupy my mind. Despite this I managed to fit in a trip to the Samburu Safari park with our teenage boys organised by our friend John Doherty a world expert on the reticulated giraffe.
At the beginning of March, we welcomed Gillian while wondering about the gathering cloud of the virus which had not yet hit Africa. Some of you will have read Gillian’s blog on her experience. We give thanks that she was able at short notice three weeks later to return to N Ireland on 24th, the day Kenya was closing to protect the country from Covid 19.
However at this stage in early March we were still planning to bring our Primary School principal, Shalline over to Northern Ireland at the end of March, as part of an exchange with Dunclug Primary in Ballymena, and as I took my leave of the children, staff and Gillian, Shalline travelled with me to Nairobi to visit the British Council and present herself and visa application documentation. However, it was not to be as Covid 19 took over world affairs.
I flew back to Ireland on 12th March the day the first Covid 19 case was detected in Kenya and to a rapidly changing world which demanded immediate action in Kenya to protect our children. I will write more on that later.
# Early Departure - Gillian
I’m not sure how I would have coped or if the small ones would have understood why I had stopped greeting them with a great big hug
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1 v 9
Life for us all has changed dramatically in the last wee while. Things that we did before without thinking we now cannot do, for example, giving someone a simple hug! When I arrived in Kenya at the beginning of March, I had so many wee arms round me and smiling faces.
What a welcome, and though l miss them terribly since leaving, I’m not sure how I would have coped or if the small ones would have understood why I had stopped greeting them with a great big hug. There are many things we as adults don’t understand but a child coming from a background of rejection or abuse seeing me withhold the arm around the shoulder I once gave and being too young to understand I was doing it for their own welfare, it must be very confusing. Maybe even that feeling of rejection all over again and there is nothing I could do about it. Heart breaking, and this is only one example.
added on May 10
The verse above from Joshua 1 is a verse that is close to my heart. It was the confirmation of God’s leading me to Kenya in the first place and as this story of my miracle journey back to Northern Ireland will show, it is God’s confirmation that He keeps His promises and is very much still with us in all the drama this world throws at us.
It was so good to be back and see our kids again. They seemed to have missed me!! I had missed them. We laughed, played, talked, sang (well they did the singing!), visited the older children at polytechnic, the car broke down, problem with solar electricity, an unwelcome visit from an awfully long snake etc etc. Just the usual first week but that is where normal ended.
My visit of two months ended up being just over three weeks. With the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nairobi confirmed the government acted quickly and closed schools. Our older kids at secondary school and polytech returned home to us and we immediately started to put in place measures to keep everyone safe. Isolating the homes, no visitors, restricting travel to essentials (food etc) purchasing gloves, sanitisers etc. This meant that I was not able to see our children in our other two homes as travelling to them was not an option.
In all this preparation, hearing news of how the situation in Northern Ireland was moving fast, knowing Kenya had already stopped foreign travel in to the country around the same time as they closed the schools, I never once thought I’d need to make a decision about leaving. Naïve or just busy? I do not know, but when I heard that Kenya were going to close the airport in three days I was left with a dilemma and not much time to solve it. Should I stay or go? I spent the next few hours walking around the Home, praying about it. If it were right for me to leave, God would make a way. The next three days were tough but as I look back, it was in these days that I felt the Lord renew His promise to be with me wherever I go.
I went to town in search of Wifi the next morning to see if I could change my flight. Wifi was a bit slow and intermittent but worked. However, I could neither change my flight online, contact the airline or even book a separate new flight as there were none available in the days left before the airport closed. Next, I tried British Embassy Nairobi office. A few numbers were out of service but eventually I got through. They took my details and said they would contact me the next day. This was a problem, because if they contacted me the next day and said, we have a flight going in two hours’ time, it would have been no good to me because I was nearly six hours away by car. I would not make it. I had no choice but to pack and head for the airport early the next morning in faith that I would get a flight. This had all happened so quickly the kids did not know I was leaving until that morning. It was so emotional, and just the beginning of a very emotional day.
Two hours into the journey I received a message telling me of something that happened after I left. I very nearly turned in the road and returned to our kids. But I had to go on and trust them to God as well as the decision to go to the airport. I arrived at the airport just before 3pm. In the carpark as I was getting my bags the phone rang. The girl from the Embassy asked where I was and then told me that there were still no flights to Belfast or Dublin available. I went on into the airport to check with various airlines. Quite a few had already stopped flights. I nearly ended up in quarantine at this point before airport security realised, I had come from Northern Kenya and not just arrived on a plane! This was when I met the first person that God put in my path. I was with this lady for nearly 5 hours that afternoon. She worked with a travel agency at the airport and set about looking for any available flights before the airport closed the next day. She could find none. This was an exceedingly difficult moment, as I was now at the airport and potentially at risk of picking up coronavirus I could not return to the children without a period of isolation if I did not get a flight. And then, I heard a shout from the office. I have a flight! A flight from Nairobi-Doha-London-Dublin the next day, one hour before the airport closed. a few minutes later I received a phone call from the British Embassy telling me she was sorry but there were still no flights available before the airport closed! A miracle. On one hand I was being told there are no flights and on the other, here I was with a flight. The next issue was paying for it. My bank card did not work. Long story cut short, the flight was paid for but with my bank card blocked, little cash left and me being absolutely exhausted and an emotional wreck who had hardly eaten anything all day I was planning on finding a spot in the airport for the night as my flight wasn’t until 11pm the next day.
This was when the second person that God put in my path appeared. I was curled up with my bags on a hard chair crying to myself when a commotion started at one of the check-in desks. There were people being turned away from a flight. I got chatting to this guy, airport staff I presumed. He explained to me what was going on and told me people were being sent to a hotel for the night as their flights were being rearranged for the next day. He insisted I go to the desk and check on mine. As usual, being a bit backward and at this point, wiped out, I was hanging around at the back of the group of people when he came up to me again and insisted I go forward to the desk and enquire. The result being, I got a hotel room for the night and was able to get on the flight the next day well rested and fed. A flight that I could not get checked in online and that was not even listed on the departure board right up to take off. And that was not all. As well as getting near the last flight out of Nairobi, when I got to Dublin, I got the last bus to Enniskillen. That service was being temporarily stopped the next day.
Incredible, God had made a way and given me the strength to make the journey and deal with all the obstacles that appeared. Now that I am back in Northern Ireland and struggling at times with leaving the children in such a difficult time I still need to look to Joshua 1 v 9 “……Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” We trust and pray continually that God will be with the children and with us as we do what we can from NI to help them.