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Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's A Different World During the Holidays Too!

As I have maybe mentioned to several folks, it’s a bit hard to get into the holiday spirit here in Kenya, for us, at least, since we have no family here aside from ourselves…plus the weather is so not wintery I keep forgetting it is even December. I realize of course that people live in places with weather like this and celebrate Christmas and it really has nothing to do with the weather, but since I’m a Midwesterner, the weather does set some tone for the holiday season. Otherwise, the holidays are usually all about family and close friends; spending time together, baking cookies, singing, decorating our tree, and taking walks on our property in wintery weather. We have managed to decorate a teeny bit this year and I have baked some cookies, but I’d say it’s a bit minimalist….which is fine, actually.
In fact, our holiday attention has been focused on providing some joy to orphans and others with almost nothing. I have spent several weeks recently decorating 3000 cookies, and packing 800 gift bags for the various orphanages that are recipients of kids from Sally Test Pediatric Center, where I volunteer. We are delivering them on Monday. I can't wait to see the kids' faces! We decided as a family that we would  spend this Christmas day at the Kitale Children’s Home, which we and our church in Columbus, have been supporting in various ways,  for about 6 years. Thanks to the generous donations of the UU Congregation of Columbus,IN and a few others, we are going to bring the 15 or so orphans  who are left there for the holidays some gifts and treats, all things that they never get (new clothes, new dictionaries, new pens and some homemade cookies). We are looking very forward to it and are very grateful for the donations and good will.
Last year at this time, I posted some “alternative gift ideas” and some thoughts on sharing with folks who really need it. There are folks and organizations round the world who have great needs, and like everyone, we are being bombarded by requests for help/donations. However, since we are here, and the needs are great, we are going to make our donations here. We feel blessed and lucky to have this opportunity here in Kenya and believe that the least we can do is to make some children’s Christmas day  a bit brighter. 
On an ongoing basis, there is a ton of need here in Kenya. Over this past year, we have focused in on a few ways for people at home to help with various projects that we are involved in. In fact, we have been working on setting up a nonprofit, with 501 © 3 status, but we have not yet accomplished that, for various reasons. We do have an account set up in Columbus, but we have not yet received our status approval from the IRS. Our company, EcoSource Sustainable Initiatives, is focused for the time being on helping individuals and organizations here in Kenya become more sustainable.
The Kitale Children’s Home is one of our recipients because they need help making their farm more sustainable and getting more of their kids into school. This past year we (again with the help from our Unitarian Universalist Congregation at home) were able to purchase them a bunch of fruit trees and some water tanks for collecting water, and we had their pump fixed. This will enable them  to grow more of their own food to feed the children (mangoes, papayas, passion fruit, guavas, and avocadoes do well here) and also they will not have to pump so much water up their hill in order to water the trees, gardens, and animals , saving them fuel costs. We plan to provide them with fencing for protecting their trees from their cows, and some more trees once we get a few more funds. They have been very grateful for all of our help. Theirs is a long term need situation. This couple started this orphanage with little help at the height of the AIDS crisis. They used to have two…one in a Nairobi slum, and one in the countryside in western Kenya.  Without an ongoing financial sponsor, they are in a constant state of need. They don’t just need trees and fencing, however. They have 70 children whom they are trying to educate and several who need sponsors. To us, this is all part of their mission and our efforts to help them keep them going and able to help the kids. Please consider sponsoring a child who is ready for High School. The fees are about $800/yr (paid in 3 parts).
 Aside from the Kitale Children’s home, we want to provide urban gardens and edible forests for families here in Eldoret who don’t have the means to get them set up. For $100 we can buy a lot of trees and employ someone (always a good thing) to plant them, plus a little fencing to protect them.  We are in the process of helping a guy that we met who is a polio victim, has no use of his legs, but has a family and a small place to live that someone donated to him. We are planting a garden, putting in some trees and fencing, and trying to help them find a water source.
Another pet project is the reforestation of the Pambo Sabor Forest near Eldoret. 90% of Kenya was deforested and thankfully there are groups here hard at work to reforest, but there will never be enough trees and habitat for all the wildlife, birds, and pollinators. This country has one of the highest levels of biologic diversity in the world, but due to fuel and cooking needs, trees are still being cut down all over the rural areas. Our goal is to help reforest this one small swath of “highlands rainforest” nearby.
It has taken us awhile to hone in on how we could contribute here because  there is so much need it’s almost overwhelming some days. So, we decided to go about it this way.  We welcome anyone’s help or thoughts on any of these projects. We feel pretty passionate about them and strongly that through reforestation, education and sustainability efforts, we can actually help the folks who need help in a real sustaining  way.   Please let us know if you’d like to make a donation and we will send you our PO Box in Columbus. Your donation will be tax deductible in 2014. Sorry for the delay but some things are out of our hands (many, in fact!). WE plan to pursue other sources of funding as well but for now, we have to do this little by little, drop by drop, and every little drop counts! Thank you if you have already supported our efforts here financially. It really means a lot to us and is quite heartwarming. Be safe and have great holidays. Happy New Year!