Will I ever tire of Africa...?
Twenty-four...or is it thirty? I've forgotten how many service missions have taken me alone or accompanied to Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, South Sudan, & Uganda. The number isn't important, but I'm surprised sometimes that it never gets old. For someone who never exactly wanted to go to Africa, that's puzzling. Yet with each 2- or 3-week trip, after all the preparation & packing, hauling suitcases on & off planes, compensating for "Africa time" (anywhere within 3 hours of a designated meeting time), I return home exhilarated and brimming with gratitude. (And jet lag....)

(For a quick summary of what we're all about, click on the video above)
Each trip is unique; each brings encounters & joys that bring me to my knees. And keep me returning. For instance: We named & delivered 8 high-yield dairy goats at Upendo Village in Naivasha on this trip (see below). Amidst the commotion (you haven't lived 'til you've been surrounded by a flock of frisky young goats!) I saw a crippled woman who could only walk with the help of two wooden staffs. Her shoes were shocking: ill-fitting flip-flops that only slowed her further. I turned to our helper Stephanina: How much would it cost to get her a pair of good sturdy shoes? $20. A couple trips to Starbucks. I handed a bill to Stephanina.  How easy! And how grateful I am to be the "pipeline" between people here who are generous & compassionate & those in need elsewhere! Today I received this email from Stephanina:

Hi Keen, How are you and how is John? I hope that you are fine and that you had a safe journey to the US. Here in Naivasha Kenya we are very fine though very cold we are going on with our services to our people.

Thank you very much for your support that you have continually giving Upendo Village. In fact your help has been felt by thousands. i therefore take this opportunity to thank you on their be half. We bought two pairs of shoes with the money that you left and Irine is very happy and she prayed that God keep her and you safe so that you may see her wearing the shoes. For sure she was over joyed to an extent of shedding tears. May the Almighty God keep and bless you together with John and all your friends. Greetings from Upendo Village. Regards from Stephanina Kuria
Stephanina on left, Irine on right
Mission accomplished
But let me back up.... Earlier this year I was approached by friend & neighbor Shelley Titzer. "I've decided it's time to go to Africa." That's all it took. Her teenage son Sam wanted to accompany her. She started a GOFUNDME campaign to raise $2,500 for projects & wrote to Thomas Nyawir (our Board member in Kenya) to identify special needs. In June we headed off & hit the ground running. Here's a summary of our fast-paced, intense, & immensely rewarding visit: Sunday : Mass & tea at Nyumbani Orphanage, then visit to Hekima Place home for girls & our buddy Kate Fletcher. Monday : A long drive to Nyumbani Village in Kitui, an ecologically-designed community where grandparents raise their orphaned grandchildren. Tuesday : Sam--St. Aloysius Gonzaga School, educating slum children, Shelley--Global 1 Primary School in Kibera. Wednesday : Drive to Upendo Village in Naivasha, where we distributed & named dairy goats, chickens, & solar lanterns. Thursday : A nice break to visit the elephant orphanage & giraffe farm. Friday : Langata Women's Prison, where Shelley read stories to little ones in the day care center & we gave out donated baby clothes & brown dolls. Saturday : free medical clinic at a mosque in Kibera, sponsored by us but organized by our Grow A Doc & Grow A Nurse graduates & students. Sunday : Safari for us & our supported students, who've never seen the incredible wildlife in their country. Sad farewell to Shelley & Sam, heading home. Monday : Thika School for the Blind. Tuesday: To the U.S. for us. (Whew!)
First, Hekima Place  home for girls, founded by Kate Fletcher, a gal from Pittsburgh who fell in love with Kenya while volunteering there some years back. She went home after 2 years, sold everything & came back to Kenya to open a home for girls needing help: abandoned babies, girls forced into marriage or about to undergo FGM (female circumcision). The home is thriving & she's now building a school. We all had a great time & Shelley left books, chess sets, & a big chunk of her heart at Hekima Place.
Arriving at Hekima Place
No question who's in charge here!
Chess club in the making!
Sam & baby
Books from Shelley
On Monday, halfway to Nyumbani Village we stop in Machakos for mendazis, a scrumptious donut-like treat that's worth the trip to Africa! Devoured fresh from the cook-stove, you'll think you've died & gone to heaven.
At Nyumbani Village, grandparents live together & raise orphaned grandchildren.
Grandmothers (shu-shus) weave exotic traditional kiondos & we purchase many of them to bring home.
Yup, African beehives safely ensconced in treetops for protection from badgers & other animals (including humans!) These are the source of the delicious honey we bring back for sale, with a unique flavor because the bees use flowers not seen here in the U.S.
Shelley & Sam are intent on starting chess clubs clear across Kenya
Two schools in the Village. We visited the high school
waiting for lunch
Tuesday : To St. Al's, extraordinary Jesuit high school for vulnerable kids from Kibera. More chess sets (they'll be champs) & loads of laughter as we distributed bras generously donated by Bra Recyclers. Sam stayed behind with a student new friend as Shelley set out for a lesson at Global 1 School for kids who can't afford even minimal costs of public school. Are you a teacher who can donate a summer month to teach there? Call me!
This is what a teacher has to work with in the classroom. 'Make you feel lucky?
Teacher resource room. The only resource we saw was an inspirational quote.
We brought brown dolls & cars
for the class & promised to bring more for the entire school on our next visit. The children said a lovely "thank you"-- click above for video
Shelley worked in the classroom of Breanna Winters, summer volunteer at Global 1. Shelley brought books, supplies, & a cash donation. Breanna wrote today "Because of donations from people like Shelley, we were able to put a new roof over half of the orphanage school & completely redo the bathrooms, but there is still a lot of ongoing need." ARE YOU MOVED TO HELP? Visit our website & push the DONATE button. My hat is off to Breanna--a perfect model of youthful idealism put into action.
Wednesday : A glorious ride north up the Rift Valley to Upendo Village in Naivasha. Dairy goats to name & give, along with solar lanterns & dozens of chickens. THIS IS YOUR DOING, DEAR DONORS! We also brought meds to the clinic & paid a visit to the shamba (farm) home of one of Upendo Village's clients.
We wouldn't get far without the help of this guy. Thanks, John!
Meds to Dr. Mbasa--our GROW A DOC grad at Upendo Clinic
Home visit with Stephanina, indispensable at Upendo
Chickens & more chickens! A pair ($15 donation) can give a family a new lease on life.
A solar lantern ($30) allows kids to study after dark, gives security & a phone charger. Thanks, Shelley, for donating bunches of those lanterns!
Meet MARY & PATSY, high- yield dairy goats provided by Shelley's GOFUNDME campaign
We named & gave out 6 more goats: Richard, Lisa, James, Dan, (thanks, Cousin Tom!) Dorothy, & Tilly. And here's a story I'll never forget : Our friend Dom donated a goat in honor of his wife Dorothy, an extraordinary woman who positively impacted the lives of countless people & who died unexpectedly. Then Dom gave another goat to be named Tilly, for their new granddaughter. You should know that when you get a bunch of goats together in a new & strange place with lots of people milling around, they get pretty jittery. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten tangled in a goat rope and knocked to the ground. This time, something happened that has never occurred before, not in the hundreds of times we've given a goat. Stephanina walked over with Dorothy. This little goat looked up at me with a Zen-like smile. Captivated, I dropped to one knee. Dorothy put her face into my my outstretched hands. I stroked her head. She snuggled close to me. I patted her head again & she snuggled closer. I looked up to see Stephanina with Tilly. Dorothy stepped over to Tilly & began nuzzling her; they had a sweet little tete-a-tete to get acquainted. Now, I am quite skeptical of "woo-woo" stories, but this was as near a holy moment as I've ever experienced. So, dear Dorothy, who engendered so much good while on this earth, continues helping people 6,000 miles across the world, I am certain.
Dorothy & friends
Dorothy & Tilly get acquainted
Thursda y: Time for some R&R. Off to visit baby elephants at the elephant orphanage. There are about 19 here, mothers killed by poachers or died of starvation during drought. They're well cared for & gradually reintroduced to the wild. And they're funny!
Come with us next time & see for yourself. And get to feed giraffes up close.
Friday : Ever been to a maximum security prison? We have!

We visit Langata Women's Prison to give out baby items & brown dolls & cars. Permission was arranged through our friend & board member Thomas Nyawir.
Talking with the Assistant Warden, we learn that the death penalty was abolished in Kenya many years ago, even for capital crime. Children stay with their mothers until they're four years old, cared for in a center on site. We loved giving out the dolls & cars, but for Shelley the high point was reading to the little ones. Thanks to those who helped us with diapers, toys & baby clothes--much needed & appreciated.
Mwangaza Jesuit Center
Friday evening we enjoyed another treat: Dinner with our friend Terry Charlton, S.J. & his fellow Jesuits. We toured the Mwangaza grounds & especially liked the unusual chapel graced with exquisite figures, appropriately depicted as Africans. Hint : They hold religious retreats at Mwangaza; wouldn't it be fab for our Christian friends to combine a service mission in Kenya with a weekend retreat here?! And...Father Terry will be in Chicago in September. Let's have a party so you all can meet this extra- ordinary guy & hear his stories.
We serendipitously encountered the St. Cecilia singers & drummers & thrilled to their joyous performance. What an appetizer! Click above for goosebumps.

NOTE: Harambee is not a faith-based non-profit, but we work with every group we can, including religious, secular, & government organizations. This inclusive practice is common in Africa.
Saturday we again headed to Kibera to participate in the free one-day clinic, an inspiring culmination of efforts & demonstration of our values: cooperation, generosity, service, ecumenism. Our GROW A DOC/GROW A NURSE grads & students organized this (the third clinic so far). Festus Muthai, Harambee nursing student at the Univ. of Nairobi, approached Munawar Mosque & they donated rooms for our use. We are grateful for their interfaith respect & solidarity. Ushirika Clinic helped with extra staff & equipment. Matanya's Hope, another Chicago nonprofit, run by Michelle Stark, sent a group of student docs & nurses to volunteer (and to join the student organization YHPSA, Young Healthcare Providers & Students Association). Harambee provided meds (your donations again!). Total cost for the day was less than $400, providing blood pressure, dental, & cancer screening, HIV testing & counseling, family planning, & many other services, all at no cost to patients. Photos below show just a part of the day's activities. After the clinic there was a YHPSA meeting welcoming new members & our newest GROW A DOC student, Emmah Njeri. And we thank Nyumbani dental student volunteers from Columbia University, Roger & Julianna. Their willing hands & medical training contributed to the day's success. John & I didn't do much "hands-on" work. These special activities are great photo op's! And it's uplifting just to watch our people give so willingly of themselves. We all left tuckered out, but feeling high!
clinic registration
wrong clinic, guys!
waiting for baby checkup
Thanks, Roger & Julianna
Killion babysitting while
mom gets examined
fun in the 'hood
Our newest GROW A DOC student, Emmah Njeri,from Naivasha,begins medical studies this month at Kirinyaga University . She brings our supported student number to 10. A special shout-out to Karen Claeys for her help.
Even a tiny toy gift brings lots of joy

On Sunday, up before dawn to see the animals while they're still out & about. Here's just a sample of what we saw.
All mamas with babies are cute, but baboons can be pesky, dads downright outrageous. During our picnic (below), Dad ran up to our table, grabbed a sandwich from a student's hand & ran off with an entire loaf of bread!

No one should visit Africa without experiencing safari. We always bring some of the GROW A DOC/NURSE students along. They've never seen the splendid wildlife in their country. And at day's end, we bid Shelley & Sam a fond but sad farewell.

Monday : John & I head off to Thika School for the Blind. This time we have a keyboard for the high school, donated in memory of Kevin,
son of dear friend Anne Wairimu. He experienced complications from HIV meds & unexpectedly died in February at age 18.
Thanks again to Deb for all those musical instruments. You'll see them live in action before long. We brought a warm jacket for Patrick, the little boy you're helping.
We were treated to a beautiful rendition of the school's motto song:

click above for video
We found that our sponsored child Veronica is gifted with a voice that won a district competition. Lots to smile about: Her velvet -topped new dress was a Goodwill find at $4. (We squeeze every penny til Lincoln gets a nosebleed. )
You may think I'm trying to rival Tolstoy in the length of this report. Our work is so diverse & we have many to thank...I hate to omit anything. So if I haven't lost you yet, here are a few other doings....
TWENTY-SEVEN little girls from Kibera will be "all dolled up for Jesus" on their First Communion Day thanks to the generosity of a group of Chicago women who donated all these dresses. Thanks, Kathy Lape, for introducing me to them!
Nature calls...
...and we still get surprises...
...and giggles....
We bring memory cards of those who have died. Families gain a bit of consolation knowing that others around the globe hold them in prayer.
At Nyumbani Orphanage, our home in Kenya. Thanks, Sister Mary. Thanks, Sister Julie! Thanks, all you great cooks & helpers!
A common sight
On Tuesday we prepare for our own 24-hour journey back home. The bags are packed with beautiful items purchased from our crafts women, available to anyone interested. Their lives & work could fill another entire book (especially Waithira, who showed us where her grandmother hid rifles for the Mau Mau during the 1950's fight for independence). I am filled with thanks for our safety & the success of our many activities; filled equally with sadness at the many unfilled serious needs we encountered. We do what we can; one drop in the bucket is better than no drop in the bucket. Biggest gratitude is to good people who respond to the needs & enable us to be instruments of their generosity. Please visit our website or our Facebook page (Project Harambee, NFP--the one with the icon of the African mother & baby) for more information & to contact us.

And remember...we give slideshow talks & look for opportunities to market crafts & our alternative gift cards ( better than Heifer, Int.--we have no overhead, so 100% of your donation goes to Africa) . We always need help.