Focus on a Helping Hand – What a Difference a Year Makes!

Ron and I spent 8 days at the project in November 2008 and we were privileged to return this November for 3 weeks. We could not believe our eyes when we got back this year. There were so many changes.

The first major change was the hostel all along the right side. Last year this area was occupied by a church and some tenants. The church section was the low-point of the property and on rainy days the church would fill with water. No matter how hard they bailed the water out,

it only came back. There was just no drainage from that area. Now there is a whole line of brightly painted HHF buildings with a concrete sidewalk all along, with built-out sections of closet to give storage and a little privacy between the boys’ and girls’ hostel. There are a couple dozen beds in the hostel but they are only full when the boarding school kids come home for holidays. They keep the area really clean and tidy and there is a well-used lounge area when you first walk in.

Another major improvement over the last year was the addition of electricity. They can now use children’s’ music tapes and CDs in the tiny tots program. The hostel kids can read and do homework after sunset. Nairobi is very close to the equator so sunset is around 6:30pm all the year. Hand in hand with the electricity come the computers. Ted and Hanne brought 2 laptops with them last year and 2 more this year. Ron and I took 2 this year and someone else donated a desk-top computer with a printer for the office. One of my jobs this year was to get Picasa, Word, Excel and the Encarta encyclopedia programs loaded on all these computers. They can do homework on Word and they will surf Encarta for as long as they are able. With Encarta they start out looking for something like a history fact and then follow the links to all sorts of interesting things, like we do on the internet, but without actually being connected. This past week some of the older kids compiled some get well messages for Ron and then had the staff send it as an email. They have 2 digital cameras and a number of them can edit the photos in Picasa and send them to sponsors and the HHF blog.

Ron and I are the only mzungus (white people) that actually eat at the project when we are there volunteering. I like most of the rice and bean dishes but I’m not so fond of the ugali (thick solid corn paste). Last year Hanne worked with the cooks to improve the nutritional level of the meals and Ron and I could tell the difference. There are more greens and carrots added to the sukuma wiki (like a vegetable stir-fry) and most days more than a dozen tomatoes were also added. The tiny tots get a piece of fruit with their ugi (millet porridge) before they head home for the night.

A number of the older kids are now finished high school. It is now their turn to give back to the project. They will work for the next year and these young men and women should become valuable staff members passing on their knowledge to the youngsters. Dismas, Duncan, Simon and Kennedy were a great help to Ron when he was building the office shelving.

It might sound like these are not great accomplishments but some of the activities that we would do at home in an hour take a day or 2 or 3 to get done in Africa. Hours and hours of work have gone into all these changes. Hanne and Ted can be so proud of all their children. You should have seen the project come alive when Hanne arrived this year! Singing and dancing and lots of hugs and tears of joy.  It is truly an amazing place.

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