Posts Tagged 'Kenya'

The Second 2 Weeks: Kisumu

Joe Sabia and Raffy Marty visit the Mama Hope projects in Kenya and Tanzania. Here is the first hike of many with partner project OLPS Director Anastasia Juma.

Jane Kanango harvests tomatos at the Mama Rita Rose Garden in Kisumu, Kenya. The garden provides nutrition to over 800 people living in the community.

Anastasia and Paul give us a lesson in bow and arrow garden defense.

Joe makes a friend named Phien.

Raffy's impromptu travel log with Helen, a member of the Mama Hope sponsored Woman's Micro-finance Group.

Dorcas, another member of the Woman's Micro-Finance Group, shows us her sewing business in Kisumu, Kenya.

Wherever we go, children tend to follow. We're a little like the Pided Pipper.

Mullen, Program Director of OLPS, gives a tour of the Children's Rescue Center in Kisumu, Kenya. Mama Hope is currently raising funds to complete this community initiated project.

Raffy does his best to help out with the Children's Rescue Center bricks. He later admits he has no clue how the rock working crew manages it day in and out.

A Mama Hope induced stampede at Nyomonge Primary School (aka a game of Mr. Fox).

The longest congo line in the history of East Africa.

Joe teaches geography and American slang.

Raffy plays netball with the Mama Rita Rose Garden women. Netball is basically basketball without dribbling.

... and with a soccer ball.

Nyomonge community meeting. Their most pressing need: water.

Amy dancing with the women of Nyomonge (a continuing theme).

Bryce getting down at the Mama Hope house party with with OLPS and project beneficiaries on our last night in Kisumu, Kenya.

Joe and Nyla editing on the way to Moshi, Tanzania. Total bus time: 30 hours in 4 weeks.


Arriving in Africa

Arriving in Africa: By Nyla Rodgers

Dancing with the women of our partner community in Kambi Garba, Kenya.

A week before leaving on this trip to Africa my best friend’s mother told me, “When all the other little girls were make believing they were princesses your were busy pretending you were in Africa.” After hearing this I started to think back and realized that I always had a fascination with Africa.  I remembered that I wrote my first grade essay about Kenya. I remember using my grandpa’s atlas to trace the outline of the country and drawing the mane of a lion like a sun with an orange crayon.  And in 1986 when I was 7 years old and Paul Simon came out with “Graceland” I would belt out the song “Under African Skies” and imagine all those stars and think “someday I will see them.”  So it was no surprise to me that 20 years later when I first stepped off the plane in Nairobi,  I felt like I had returned home.
This is my 6th trip to Africa and ever since that first trip in 2006 I continue to fall deeper in love with the culture of this incredibly beautiful continent and people.  I feel like each year my heart must expand so that it can fit all the love I receive and give as we travel to all our different partner communities.
This year I am traveling with Amy Vaninetti, Mama Hope’s Operations Director and Bryce Yukio Adolphson, Mama Hope’s Visual Journalist  and so far we are having an amazing time.  During the next two months we will be visiting all of Mama Hope’s seven partner communities across Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana.

Playing with the students at Ngeya Primary

This is Amy’s second trip with me  and it is so fun to be traveling with her again. She is constantly glowing and bringing warmth to everyone she meets.  She feels like I do that a part of her heart has always been here in Africa.
We are also traveling with Bryce who is on his 5th trip here documenting Mama Hope’s projects.  Everyone knows him and his camera.  His Swahili is almost perfect and when we arrive to a community immediately people are calling his name.   He will be busy documenting all of our adventures with his beautiful photos and video.

Bryce in action with partner Rocky Muuri in Maai Mahiu, Kenya.

For the next two months, each of us will take turns writing on the blog.  We are not just going to be sharing project updates we will be posting our personal stories, funny times and crazy adventures.  So stay tuned because as we’ve learned  the unexpected is always expected.

Where it all began

Bernard and I, 2006

This originally is a letter that I sent out to my friends and family but I have been urged to share it on the blog as well.


As I write to you I am sitting on the porch of my hotel in Kisumu. This is the same hotel that in April of 2006, I shared a dinner with Bernard and talked about his dreams for the future. So much has changed since then. First, Bernard is no longer a boy but a man whose dreams are now within his grasp. Second, this is now my fourth time in Kenya and instead of it just being 3 months after my mother passed away it has been years. And it is only now that I am truly starting to understand how I ended up here in the first place.

I am here in Kisumu. Where it all began. Where 3 months after my mother died I came here to meet Bernard, the orphan that she sponsored. Not really knowing why but just following my instinct that when I got here things would fall into place. And they did to a certain extent. I met Bernard, learned about the project that my mother funded at OLPS-Neema that helped hundreds of women and out of this experience sparked the inspiration for Mama Hope. But what I have learned now is that this really is just the surface story. There is actually so much more.

A couple days ago, while driving with Bernard and Anastasia, the founder of OLPS-Neema, I asked her to tell me a little bit more about how my mother contacted her. She said one day in 2003 she just got a call from my mother and in true Stephanie Moore fashion, she just launched into her pitch. “Hi, I am Stephanie Moore. I am Bernard Olando’s sponsor. I want to help the young women in your community who are losing their parents to AIDS to become self sufficient? I saw a special about this on TV about how these women end up needing to take up prostitution to support their siblings and I want to help prevent this. You see I have a daughter and I hope that if anything happened to me she would be able to be self sufficient…and so on…and so on…..etc.” Once Anastasia could get a word in she told my mother that it was her dream “to start a program to teach these women how to run their own businesses.” Then she told my mom how much she needed to raise to start it. She said that my mother answered confidently, “Give me two weeks!” And so began a wonderful relationship where my mother would call Anastasia, ask her what she needed, then raise the money from her friends and send the funds to Kenya to help these young women.

Time went on and at the end of 2005 Anastasia got a very different call, “Anastasia, I have some bad news. I am very sick and I don’t think I will be around much longer. But I have a daughter and I promise that she will not abandon you and Bernard.” This was the very last time they spoke.

Anastasia told me that she had a beautiful picture of my mother who she said looked like a very young woman and so she thought for sure that the daughter must still be a young girl. She said that after that call she just prayed for the girl; that her whole community prayed that she would be alright. She told me that she wished to bring that girl into her home and care for her.

So four months later when I called her she thought it was a miracle. And a few weeks later when I showed up at her door in Kenya to meet Bernard she was so shocked to see a young woman who looked so similar to her picture of Stephanie Moore. She told me, “you know when you arrived and you were crying, and my whole staff was crying too. It was tears of joy because we knew that you had made it home.”

I want to point out that up until now I KNEW NONE OF THIS. My mother never told me of her promise to Anastasia. I didn’t go to Kenya to fulfill some destiny. I just saw it as an opportunity to meet Bernard and escape from my life in California and everything that reminded me of my terrible loss. Little did I know that what I was escaping to would eventually be the thing that healed my grief.

I remember now how I felt when I showed up; totally defeated and hopeless. The day before I met Anastasia and Bernard for the first time I was sitting on the porch of this very same hotel by myself. Cursing the universe. Asking why the hell I was in Kenya? How could my mother’s death ever have any meaning? How was I ever really to have faith again? I did not know that it would be renewed the very next day by meeting the people that my mother helped and inspiring me to create something so special in her absence.


The Women's group during a drip irrigation training in 2009

So today, I am meeting with Anastasia to launch a garden in her community to honor another mother, named Rita Rose. Through Mama Hope a young girl named Mimi Rose contacted me who also lost her young beautiful mother to cancer and decided to fundraise in her memory. The Rita Rose Garden is going to help 100 women, (the very same women my mother helped, who are no longer girls but now mother’s themselves) have a sustainable source of nutrition for their children.

And in two weeks Bernard begins Medical Training College. We were so excited when he got the call with us on Saturday and learned that he was the only student accepted from his high school and that he also got a $1,000 scholarship. I know my mother is beaming with pride!

Bernard and I, 2009

I have no idea why I woke up this morning to write this to you. I think I just wanted to share that the universe works in strange ways. People might leave us but it seems that love is something that can connect us beyond the boundaries of death in the most miraculous ways and that sometimes when you think you are completely lost you are just on another path home.

Kids Singing in the Kitchen

This is a pretty common occurrence in the kitchen at Wind of Hope. The three girls (each waiting to be placed with a family) Miriam, Bushi, and Amina started out by studying their English with words like rock, flour and car. They eventually moved to their favorite pop songs. I don’t think I could have managed to memorize “Hips Don’t Lie.” …but they did. To the right is our founding director, Nyla, peeling tomatoes and humming along.

– Bryce

Salim Dancing

This is Salim. He is a four year old orphan at Wind of Hope in Isiolo, Kenya. The day after we arrived at the project the youth had a dance party where Salim started showing off his moves. We were quite impressed.

– Bryce

Busy with the World


Traveling again. I’m racing along the tarmac in a taxi with James, a 17 year old back at Pepo for a break from Secondary school. To my right is Goolo, the cab driver. Not a word had been spoken in 20 minutes. We all know the deal. We’re headed to Kambi Garba.

Part of what I’m doing at Pepo La Tumaini is helping to fill in the gaps in their capacity. In this case they need photos. APHIA II EASTERN, the East Africa branch of USAID, has required photos for all the children they give Antiretroviral Aids medicine to. A seemingly small demand, except Pepo doesn’t have a camera. Nor do any of these 899 children have photos available. 28 are registered in Kambi Garba. Not bad I thought.

This is my third trip to Kambi Garba in four days. It’s a small dusty dry village with nomadic tribes. Thorns tangle around dirt yards, hiding dilapidated shacks and the occasional camel. Residents are largely Borana, Somali, and Turkana. None of whom have the friendliest history toward one another.

The first journey resulted in five photos of registered children and 15 photos of children who have been orphaned since the registration list was made. Some street kids threw rocks at us while we got a tour of the local water sources.

“Trash water” Sarafina Kamaro calls it. She’s a community Elder and our contact in Kambi Garba, “Look, it’s full of trash.”

It is. Isiolo river travels through a military base, several villages, then town before here. The water has a stink to it.

“We drink the water, then we get sick. Stomach aches.” She goes on.

“You don’t’ boil it?”

“No,” she answers looking back at the mile walk to her home.

She takes us to a small spring in the side of the river. It’s tucked away in a rocky hole only small enough for a small water bottle. A young girl of about 8 sticks her hand in the hole fills the bottle and empties it into a 10 liter jerry can weighing about 30 pounds when full. It takes awhile.

A day later, the second trip resulted in four photos. Only one of them from the register.
I’m remembering all this when the cab swerves to avoid a herd of goats. Goolo doesn’t flinch. He just turns up the radio. Somali music, I’m thinking.

About 30 minutes after leaving Isiolo town we arrive at the end of the tarmac. This is where the road ends in Kenya. From here it’s dirt roads all the way to Somalia. Small buses shoot like bullets out of the desert leaving dust like vapor trails.

It reminds me of a friend in the U.S., a Somali refugee. He told me with a chuckle, “After the soldiers had killed my family I walked to Kenya. Then they told us to leave. So I walked to Ethiopia. When it got bad there, I walked back to Kenya. You can never take a car! You’ll get shot!” He had the biggest grin on his face.

But the present is different here and construction has begun again on the tarmac. Large hills of gravel and sand loom over a newly leveled path fading into the distance. Children wave from atop the mounds. The Kenyan government is extending the road to some nearby tourist destinations, safari parks and the like. For a while longer, the road still ends in Isiolo.

James and I get out of the taxi and pay Goolo. He nods and speeds away.

We go down some small dirt paths off the main road. They wind to and fro. The thorn fences rise and create a tunnel over us. We have to walk in single file.

“They are called Panya routes. We are panya here!” James lets out with a smile.

“Panya?” I ask.

“Rats! We are rats.”

A tattered looking woman stands roadside as if waiting for us. We ask her for directions and she takes us the rest of the way. Sarafina’s home is a bit of an orphanage. Five women saunter about doing various chores and tending to children. There are near 20 children in various states of disarray. A good number of the Kambi Garba youth are in school, but these children are simply around. They range from 6 months to 10 years. We exchange greetings and start going over who is left on the list.

Selina Nawatan: Nomads School
Shadrak Ekidor: Moved to a different district
Zainabu: Lives in Shambani
Christine Engngiri: Lives in Shambani
Lokale Goko: New Life School
Akuta Ngoko: Has gone on a journey
Kebo Akwara : unknown…

10 more are living in Shambani, a small village just across the river.

“Can we go?” I ask.

The yard erupts with chatter. Women with babies on their backs and hips, old grandmas who can barley walk, a drunken woman from the street jumps in the fray.

“They will not take us,” James translates. “They say the people there are so much for money. They say to forget the children there and just take care of the ones here.”

As I surmise and later confirm with the Chief of the area, Kambi Garba and Shambani have a long standing grudge. No one is clear why, but I’ve grown to suspect water issues. Whatever the problem, they’re not taking or letting us go there.

After taking about 10 photos, we hear yelling from a group running down a road 100 feet off.

“Wait here,” Sarafina lets out then runs off leaving us with a drunk woman demanding I take her photo.

James and I guess it’s another illegal alcohol raid. Walking through Isiolo town this morning, we caught glimpses of some police raids at some local changa huts. Changa being the Kenyan equivalent of moonshine. It’s cheap and poisonous. I know of at least one person who used it to commit suicide.

We eventually make our way to the confusion. Someones cut a camel with a machete. A Turkana man has slashed the leg of an eight-foot camel. There is an angry crowd and some official looking individuals. The camel sits on the ground bleeding. Another stands by its side chewing lethargically. Three weeks later I find out the man who slashed the camel meant to feed his family with it.

A child from the list is at the scene. Another picture taken and name crossed out.

Half an hour later, James and I are walking down the tarmac. We’re heading to New Life. A primary school a kilometer outside of Kambi Garba. We need a photo of a single attending student. The sun beats down and we share a water bottle.

“So what are you doing after school?” I ask.

“Where or what?” James responds.


“I’d like to be… a doctor or a journalist. Yes, I’d very much like to be a journalist!”

My ears perk.

“Yes. I’m even secretary in the journalist club at school. I love it very much. …I’m very interested in people from everywhere. Ai, those journalists get to know things. They are always so very busy with the world!”

A police wagon roars down the tarmac. It’s carrying several of the people from the camel incident. It kicks up dust and we’re alone again.

After another ten minutes we reach New Life School. The gate is chained. Dried plants line the fence. Inside it’s a ghost town. Dusty and empty.

“You. Is the school open?” James calls out to a child milling about near the road.

“Closed,” the kid responds.

“Closed for everything?” I ask.

James gives a questioning shrug, looking a little hopeless. We stand there for a moment soaking in the sun then head back to Kambi Garba.

Sarafina explains she’ll arrange with the child later. We then find out the ride we expected isn’t coming. And we haven’t enough for a taxi or bus. It’s about a eight kilometer walk back to town. We’ve hitchhiked before, but it’s just police and army vehicles today. Not ideal.

A little ways down the road a hulking tour bus rolls by. It’s a 12 wheel, 20 foot high, yellow and green vehicle. More commonly used to help the army traverse rivers. The tired looking tourists look down from a high.

20 photos down 879 to go. I know I’m not going to finish taking the pictures. And I know Pepo won’t either. The occasional volunteer might have the camera and the time. Each of the 899 children need a daily activity report as well. That’s 899 pages a day from a largely illiterate community.

James and I walk past the construction at the end of the road and back towards town. We spend most of our time talking and dreaming of cool milk or water. We go back and forth about whether soda is good for quenching thirst. But neither of us really care what we’re going find in town. Really anything would do.

The Final


On July 29th the Pepo La Tumaini ECD (Early Childhood Development) preschool tackled their year-end final with the same intensity of a bar exam. Children ranging from 3-5 years old sat through hours of tests deemed essential by the Kenyan Ministry of Education.

“Do you think you’ll pass?” Project Coordinator Khadija Rama asked Abdallah Mohamed.

“I don’t know. Only the teacher knows.” The 4-year-old sternly answered.

The student’s tests began at 8am and lasted, interspersed with recess, until 12:30pm. Their tests ranged from animal identification in English and Kiswahili to math and science.

Ashu Abubakar, is one of the few students unable to get a desk for the tests.

Frankline Murithi was one of the first finished and with only one wrong answer.

Denis Mutrtuia (left) and Samwel Kithinji were witnessed plagiarizing each other’s papers, but escaped authoritative detection.

Fidy Ntinyari and ECD teacher, Albina Ngugi, discuss the final.

Ngugi has been teaching at the ECD for three years and often makes the class decorations using whatever resources are available.

During the math test, students were asked to complete problems such as 4+3 and complete numerical sequences 21, 22, __, 24.
Answers varied.

Brenda Gakili was one of 54 students taking the test who would rather be at recess.

As the day wears on many students got the chance for extended recesses, while others stewed in class.

Shouting, “Finished?! Finished?!, “ a group of students help/harass Antony Kimathi with his final.

Antony: last man standing.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 23 other followers