In Africa we see giraffes this close up, & even closer if you're very brave. Lions (not so close), baby elephants, zebras, crocodiles, rhinos, & warthogs. (Yes, warthogs really do have faces only a mother could love!)
But the real adventure, the one that leaves you forever changed, comes when we visit the people of Africa--strangers with whom we share, our brothers & sisters in Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Sudan. We bring them messages of care & support from unseen friends here in the U.S., those who thirst for justice & step up to the plate when asked. Only because of YOU are we able to share our abundance to feed & educate the poor, give a hand-up for economic independence, provide hope & a future for those with no resources.
This year's trip included Kenya & Ethiopia & spanned nearly a month, April into May. Two new friends accompanied us & contributed immeasurably to the work of HARAMBEE.
Tonda Hayden (left)
& Dee Davis (right), celebrating with new friends in Kitui
Not only did Dee & Tonda collect many thousands of dollars in help from supporters in their Virginia hometown, but they were real troopers as side by side we worked at a free medical camp (clinic) organized by GROW A DOC volunteers in Kenya, attended a wedding of one of our graduates, visited a women's prison, trekked through Kibera slum to distribute supplies at a school for the poorest of the poor, handed out goats & chickens to subsistence farmers, visited a school for the blind, gave brown dolls & toys to children at a cancer recovery home, offered scarves & encouragement to Ethiopian women undergoing cancer treatment.
Tired yet? Wait, there's more! And both are back home already stocking up on donations for Dee Davis' return in December!
It's a good thing that a picture is worth a thousand words, because it'd take an encyclopedia to relate all our experiences. I'll begin instead with photos.
We hit the ground running, (amidst an earth-shaking thunderstorm) & on arrival in Kenya we immediately headed to the town of Kitui, where Harambee's GROW A DOC volunteers awaited us. They'd spent weeks preparing for a 2-day free medical camp (clinic).
Organizing to serve patients--this is how graduates & students in our programs give back & "pay it forward" for the help they've received. (See our website for more on PLANT A SEED, GROW A DOC & PLANT A SEED, GROW A NURSE.)
Hundreds of patients attended, screened for heart disease, cancer, HIV, & other disorders.
Education is an important component of the medical camp. We share information about nutrition & oral rehydration therapy-- a genuine lifesaver-- to prevent deaths from diarrhea.
When our student Festus Muthui wrote me that he was marrying, I felt some maternal angst & wondered who is this chippy girl inserting herself into the big heart & life of this fine young man?! Then I met her...and WOW, every worry dissolved. Martha is just as fabulous as he is, & together they'll change the world!
Festus wedding dance
Weddings in Kenya are a very big deal, with months of planning & fundraising efforts including family, friends, & well-wishers. A joy for us, as we witnessed customs not usually seen at home. The ceremony was performed by Festus' brother, Deacon Antony & followed by a lovely dance by Festus & his bride performed at the altar.
Festus wedding 1
Festus wedding dinner
The wedding dinner

right: A revered guest was Festus' grand- mother, arriving with a very traditional wedding gift: a live chicken.
Festus wedding chicken
After all the celebrating we enjoyed a good night's sleep & headed out to see our friends at Nyumbani Village, a planned community where grandparents raise their orphaned grandchildren. The grandmothers ( shu shus) weave exotic baskets ( kiondos), which we purchase & market here in the U.S. There's also a large farm, dairy goats (YAY!), & many, many beehives. The honey is exquisite, as it's made from pollen of flowers that don't grow here in the U.S.
And here it is!
Organic, freshly extracted, jarred & labelled, we bring back a suitcase full. Contact me if you'd like to try some.
Exotic kiondos, all sizes & shapes. We had a great time selecting them. They make wonderful planters, Easter baskets, & utensil holders. One of the shu shus comes to help us settle up our bill with the accountant Jane.
Nyumbani Village goats
Some Nyumbani Village dairy goats, contributed by HARAMBEE through your donations.
Waiting to collect milk in the morning: Shu shus & one babu (grandfather).
We drove out to see all the beehives in the field. Maybe a mistake after heavy rain, as the truck got royally mired in the mud & we couldn't move.
All the Village kids came to watch & help. They thought it was a riot of fun, but still couldn't get us unstuck.
We finally had to call for help & have a tractor come with a big chain to haul us free. Whew!
Eventually did see the beehives, though! A great many of them, hung from trees for protection from destructive honey badgers.
On Monday, off to Nairobi & more adventures. First, to Langata women's prison. We came with books, dolls, musical toys, & cars kindly donated by TOYS FOR GOD'S KIDS. You may remember that this is a model prison system, & children remain with their mothers 'til they're 4 years old. Beautiful day care center. Dee & Tonda loved it & the children clearly loved them. Such good photos...hard to choose, because they all tell a story. This is beginning to look like a book! Come join us & write your chapter! Easier than you think.
Yes, there are guards in the day care center, too.
But they aren't unkind, & everyone loves those children!

Dee & Tonda met
with social workers and with lots of
sweet little ones!

Thomas Nyawir, our board member in Kenya, arranged our prison visit & wanted to join in the fun. I've never met a Kenyan who didn't love children--everyone's children.
When we asked the mothers about their needs, not one asked for herself. Every last mother asked only for something for her child.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Kibera
Father Terry Charlton with our newest GROW A DOC student, Isaac Mwangi. One more doc on the way to serve in Kenya! (We have several new Grow A Nurse students, too.) Fr. Terry will be at St. Giles (gym), Oak Park, September 22, noon. Come join us for slides, stories, & food.
St. Al's students rarely (if ever) have brand new clothing. Thanks to Vicki M., Jack L., St. Giles Family Mass Community, & Bra Recyclers for changing that. We ALL are grateful.
Chess club at St. Al's-- grown a lot since it was begun last year by volunteers Shelley & Sam Titzer, who donated many chess sets there & elsewhere.
Global 1 School, Kibera
This grammar school cares for the poorest of the poor. Look at these children. Are they any different, less deserving than our own? Of all our visits, I have a hunch that Global 1 was the favorite of both Dee and Tonda, who worked tirelessly to raise funds for books & supplies, purchasing these items from local suppliers in Kibera & helping the local economy. They also brought a bazillion friendship bracelets, making fast friends with each child. We gave donated small instruments for music, but there are no funds for a teacher. Will you help bring music into the lives of these children? Visit our website to donate or volunteer.
Tonda's easygoing personality & sense of humor brought lots of smiles.
Two national languages in Kenya: English & Swahili. Dee & Tonda got thanked in both for their gifts.
Pretty cool sign.

'Think I'll post it in my kitchen. Hm...maybe I'll rent a billboard!
Dee fell in love (any wonder?!), and will be returning to Kenya & Global 1 in December to work with Thomas on several projects for the school. Teachers or wellwishers: want to help her? Contact me & I'll tell you how.
On to Upendo Village, where we have worked with Sister Florence since 2004. Your donations of goats, chickens, solar stoves & lanterns, & non-prescription meds have reversed the downward spiral of hopelessness in this area.
First, more shirts. Thanks, Rudnicks & others. Half the people in Kenya will be asking about St. Giles Family Mass.
We're delightfully surprised by a visit from our friend Daniel Mutinda, handicapped artist, with his helper.
Solar lanterns are among the items transforming this community. They allow students to study after dark (6 p.m. on the Equator) & afford safety when walking at night. YOUR donations have made this possible!
Remember Irene, the handicapped woman with no shoes? Remember that $20 bill you slipped into my pocket & said "Use it where it's needed"? It bought 2 pairs of sturdy shoes for her & she showed up to say thanks.

right: Yes, we still manage to frighten small children. More scared of us than of squawking chickens. Sheesh!
More meds donated by the McGlean family, vitamins & pain relievers.
Now for one of my favorite tasks: naming & handing over high-yield dairy goats. This was a banner year, with more than 50 donated! Fortunately, the new helper at Upendo Village, Patricia Mwaura, is fully organized & all went smoothly. I wish you could see the benefits these goats bring to families: children are healthier, school fees are paid, a new roof on a house, a bicycle so a mom can speedily bring her vegetables to market. And because one baby goat is returned to the project, community is strengthened & friendships are forged.
TULIP, given in memory of a departed classmate by Lourdes H.S. class of '63.
Given to Phyllis Wanjiru, who has 9 children. Their lives are changed forever, & Bernie's legacy will live always.
Another "in memoriam" dairy goat, given to Beatrice Muthoni. She has 5 children, and TRACY will never be forgotten! Her influence will continue in this family & in many others.
top left: Veronica , given by the Davidson family. Joel D's heart is as big as Texas: He donated TWENTY dairy goats this year, along with lots of pigs & chickens. He's famous here!!

We have goats named Daisy, Billy, Moosh, Virginia, Lomita, Gianni, Nolan, Zachary, Justin , Dream, Hope, Beto, Grace, Vasco, & so many more that I get dizzy thinking of them. And, dear readers, keeping track of them all & reporting back to donors is a big reason why this progress report has been delayed so long. It's impossible to convey to you the impact of your kindness. Know that the entire town of Naivasha holds you all in prayer. They have your photos & will never forget you.

Next, a longer road trip to Keringoya, visiting our supported co-op farm project in Ngungu, managed by Philip Kabiru. More goats, beehives, an eco school, and delivering supplies generously donated by (once again) Dee & Tonda. They really are super heroes!
MORE GOATS! But what a boon for our friends there.
And they are just so darn photogenic....
left: A gift for Eunice, Philip's wife. above: Victor is ecstatic: gifts from U.S. penpal Alex.
So many beehives! We have alternative gift cards for you to donate a hive in Kenya with a name on it. Perfect gift for someone who has everything.
We visited two schools, with more supplies & books from Dee & Tonda. They're out to change the world.
below : high-schoolers thank us for much needed books.

below: And the entire grammar school turned out for a concert. The instruments are handmade.
A quick visit to one more school...a unique eco-school where students participate in building, farmwork, animal care, and conservation. A great model.
Still with me? A final happy task in Kenya: visiting the school for the blind in Thika to see Teacher John and our sponsored children, Patrick Martin & Elizabeth. We brought more small instruments for the children & were treated to a song & music. Their school motto:
Soft gifts for Elizabeth. Patrick Martin was away, & we left a gift for him.

We wouldn't leave Kenya without meeting with Sister Mary Owen, our host at Nyumbani Orphanage, our home away from home. We left memory cards from those who have died here the past year. They all will be kept in prayer.

And a shout-out to Sister Julie, who always makes our stay very comfortable.
After 2 weeks, lots of travel, endless plates of traditional Kenyan food (with an occasional pizza break) , a safari, and ALL THOSE GOATS, you'd think we'd be pretty tired. But there's something very energizing about this work. Surely the friendliness & warmth of those we meet in Kenya play a part. And I've not mentioned meeting with our crafting friends, nor the suitcases of exotic jewelry, Christmas items, & other things we will be marketing. However, while John headed for the U.S. to tend the homefront, Dee & Tonda & I flew to Ethiopia for more adventures. But if I don't finish this report soon, it'll be time for our next service trip. So...I'll try to speed travel you through Addis Ababa, Lalibela, & Axum. I encourage you to come see these wonders for yourself. You'll never be sorry, & you'll never be the same.
Just to keep your interest, how's this for starters? Yup, it's not all work & no fun for us, though I'm not sure where riding a camel falls on the "fun" spectrum. Getting on and off is easy--it's what happens in between that's worrisome. When he stands up on his front legs you pitch dangerously backward, then forward, without much to hang onto. But it worked: no broken bones & one great photo for home.
Following is a brief rundown of our activities, with photos. Please contact us for more details. Impossible to relate all our stories, including a few mishaps, unexpected treasures, & the indescribable kindness & hospitality of all those we met. Not all went as planned (we didn't all travel together), but changes only led to other rich opportunities. Museums, rides in tuk-tuks (miniature cars--like a motorcycle with a canopy), exotic food & drink, & new causes to embrace. In Addis Ababa, Dr. Yared Tilahun took us to 2 facilities helping cancer patients: One, a safe & comfortable home for women undergoing treatment. (They come from remote areas with no resources.) And a home for children undergoing cancer treatment, where they stay with a parent. I had the joy of meeting a nursing professor with whom my daughter worked in Atlanta & exchanged gifts from the U.S., bringing home Ethiopian coffee (the best!). On to Lalibela & Taja, visiting two schools in the north mountains. Dee & Tonda's generosity came with us & calculators, books, & other supplies were left. A temporary fix, but all we could do. Photos speak for themselves, I hope. The city of Axum held other surprises: we encountered a graduate student from Northwestern University who is piecing together Ethiopia's ancient history.
These courageous women have found friends in Tonda & Dee.
Despite challenges, smiles come from gifts of scarves.

Yes, that's a baby in bed being cared for by her very ill mother.
Teenagers are too young
for this illness. Anyone is too young for cancer!
Everywhere, the hospitality of bunna, Ethiopian coffee ceremony, was extended to us.
Tattooing, a common cultural practice.

Want one? I have them. We're also collecting pajamas for the women. For more information, email Dee Davis:
Tesfa Addis Parents Childhood Cancer Organization (TAPCCO)
Confronting the harsh reality of childhood malignancy. These children are loved & well cared for. Dr. Yared Tilahun & his colleagues support this respite home. What could we do? Not much, but there were happy moments as children chose toys we brought. THANKS for all those brown dolls, & toTOYS FOR GOD'S KIDS for cars.

Walls were decorated with children's art work.
Mothers & others make & sell baskets to support the home. Yes, we purchased many & have them for sale.
Time for a break, & I head north to the mountain towns of Lalibela & Taja, where we've been asked to help more schools.
I open suitcases & recall loaves & fishes...always more! Dee & Tonda remain in Addis & they'll have to write their own book! (I hope they do.)
But this is perhaps the most colorful part of my journey & I think you'll see I want to be a photographer when I grow up.

Yup, always more.
Her name is Wakati Weta Utafika & I remember her from last year in the market at Lalibela. Today I sit & we talk. She knows no English & I know 3 words of Amharic. A passerby stops & interprets as she prepares coffee for me. We part BFF.
I'll be back.
Two hours further into the hillls we reach Taja, where teachers await us. Parents have organized & convinced government to build a high school here, but there is no electricity & few supplies.
Not only books & calculators, but more friendship bracelets.

Director of
the primary school.
WOW, they teach grammar here the way I learned it!
USAID reaches this far
High school curriculum--rigorous, I'd say. left: the new lab
Back to Lalibela, then a flight to Axum for a day of R&R. The ruins of this ancient city are glorious, including the Queen of Sheba's palace & bath. More interesting is a chance meeting with a honeymooning couple & an archeogy graduate student. And that camel....
Has only a month passed since leaving home? Am I ready for the culture shock of returning to the U.S.? Are the plants still alive? Is John? There's lots to do. I hope the camel isn't jealous, but we're planning a new project with alternative gift cards for Christmas this year:

Stay tuned for more. This is going to be lots of fun.
On the flight to Chicago, someone asked about this work and who pays my salary. Salary? I thought a minute and answered " You shouldn't do for money what should be done for love."

And that's that.

So, my friends, I end with deep gratitude for all your help, material and otherwise, in making the world a little more fair for us all. This work is a gift and a privilege. Come along and see for yourself.