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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 7 – Skates, Trees and School Uniforms

We made the most of our final day at Happy Life by setting the alarm early and getting up ahead of the kids. Breakfast for Steve was some freshly baked sweetbread from the on-site bakery with a some PB&J. Sharon opted for the more healthy cereal.

The older kids start their day with their chores and its great to see them all pitching in to help the Mamas. We headed over to the Shamma house where Leah lives. Mama Mary looks after the 28 girls in the house, the oldest of whom is 15. It’s incredibly calm as they all have toast and tea and Mary explains that’s because they are girls. They delight in seeing the videos we’ve taken showing Leah skating. She’s the only one that knows how having learnt over in Kasarani before transferring across. They decide they want to record a short hello to everyone.

               

 

We take some time with Leah to visit the field behind the school where they have planted a few trees and we hope to support them with a ‘plant a tree’ campaign in 2020.

On our way out of the house we find one of the staff making school uniforms. We ask him how many he has to do – he smiles and tells us ‘only fifteen more to go’. He’s making school shirts from sheets of white material and plaid skirts too on a foot pump sewing machine.

The school supports over 400 children now. 91 from Happy Life itself, and more than three hundred from the local community. The secondary school will be housed in the new building for two terms whilst they build the new secondary school 5km down the road. The new school will start off mixed but as it grows will split into two schools, boys and girls which we are told is the trend now in Kenya. Leash wanted to show us her classroom and her desk.

We grab a few minutes to record a quick video tour which is very enlightening watching it back as so much has changed since our last visit a year ago.

 

             

 

One of the kids needs to visit the hospital so we have a couple of extra passengers on the way to the airport and stop off at Kasarani to drop them off.

A quiet evening meal at the airport hotel to see the new year in as we have to check in for our flight around 8am in the morning for Rwanda and the Nairobi roads are not for navigating at that time of day.

It’s been a wonderful visit – already looking forward to the next visit.

 

Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2020 in Adoption, Uncategorized

 

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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 6 – Bad Roads, Soccer and PingPong

It’s time to head over to the Happy Life location over in Juja Farm. As you can see from the map below, this is in theory a journey of less than an hour – barely 32km in distance.

However, once you reach Juja, the final  11km stretch is on the Juja Farm road which should have been tarmacked by now. When there have been rains (like now) the team don’t like to attempt the road in the small buses so today we’re traveling in the Happy Life pickup truck – which means loading up the truck with as much as possible.

               

 

In 2019 we introduced video conferencing to Happy Life through our wonderful sponsors Zoom – and its begun to transform things for the team. Firstly, pastor Peter explains that he used to have to make the three hour round trip to Juja Farm twice a week – now he has video meetings and has reduced his trips to once a week. Over the year that’s a saving of 150+ hours and thousands of dollars in fuel. The team have also begun to use Zoom for fundraising and operational calls with donors around the world – especially the USA.

 

It’s great fun to spend time with the older kids and the place has changed a lot in a year – not least the completion of the second school building (above) which was just a plan when we were here last December. The oldest kid here is Daniel at seventeen and he’s now outgrown Steve by a couple of inches. He leads the school both academically and as a big brother to the other kids. A few years ago we had a fundraiser to bring two table tennis tables to Juja Farm and Daniel explains that with the new school building they are adding a dedicated table tennis room and music room.

 

               

 

Steve spends the afternoon playing soccer with the kids. The best position for him is goalkeeper as it keeps him (mostly) out of trouble – when he can remember not to dive for the ball on the concrete surface. Sharon manages to convince Leah to dig out her skates which we brought a few years back.

 

The evening is nice and clear and the sound of the Kenyan wilderness, crickets and birds, is the perfect soundtrack to finish off the day.

 

 

Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized

 

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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 5 – Midwife, Geese and Swimming

One of the highlights of this trip has been meeting Erin, one of the daughters in the group from Dubai. Erin is thirteen and wants to be a midwife and has been helping out at the Jesse Kay Children’s hospital (part of Happy Life Kasarani) during the trip. We caught up with her on the ward.

 

               

 

Visiting projects like Happy Life is a wonderful life experience for teenagers to give them a sense of perspective and appreciation for how fortunate they are in their lives in the West.

We were at a bit of a loss as to where to take Leah and Teresiah for the last day here and took a chance on visiting Idyllic Mistley Gardens as they claimed to have a swimming pool which is a real treat for the kids.

 

It turned out to be a wonderful peaceful place with only a few people (the staff tell us its extremely busy normally at the weekends). We had another lemon and ginger tea which has become our go to drink this trip. The only slightly noisy residents were the geese but only for a few minutes.

Once again Leah looked after Teresiah. Great to see in a teenager.

 

Trip there and back in our $3 Ubers were uneventful (the smaller Ubers are called ‘Chap Chap’) until the last stretch on the way back when what I thought was a goat ran straight out in front of the car – we hit it pretty hard but it jumped up and ran off. “Tough goat” I said. “No. Sheep are stupid, so that was a sheep. Goats are too clever to run out in front of cars” said our driver Kamau. Can’t argue with that.

 

Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized

 

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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 4 – Power Cuts, GoPro and Candfloss

The team from Dubai has been over at Juja Farm for the last few days and Craig has a GoPro and has created some neat videos. We’re excited to be heading over there on Monday. Until then, here’s a link to one of the videos;

 (GoPro Video from Craig – Fellowship Dubai)

 

Over here at Kasarani we had another split day of feeding (Sharon infants, Steve toddlers). One of the really sweet kids is Charity who loves to dance and with a bit of encouragement Steve managed to get her dancing with Melissa. With fifteen toddlers to keep happy and only two hands getting the kids to play with each other is an important tactic.

 

We decided on a closer lunch out with a quick Uber across to the Garden City Mall. Whilst very close, the walk would be across the very large Thikka highway so not suitable to attempt with the kids. Leah decided to bring one of the youngsters along – Theresa and it was delightful to see her acting like big sister.

They have a sand based play area there and they managed a decent amount of fun before the next thunderstorm had us all rushing into the main building. The big excitement for the kids was Candy Floss which they took as a choice over ice cream.

The evening brought a neighbourhood wide power cut. Now that we have the hospital here, there is a backup generator but it wasn’t kicking in. So we had about an hour blackout right at the time the sun went down and the mamas were doing the evening meal – trying to navigate by a small torch. Imagine their surprise when Steve lent them his cap with built in LEDs!

With the generator fixed it was another movie night with Despicable Me 3 the film of choice. We sure get our kids movie quota filled on our trips.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized

 

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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 3 – Local Community, Zen and Thunderstorms

One of the highlights of visiting Happy Life is definitely the infant feeding but as Steve has a head cold whilst Sharon has the angelic babies, he has the challenging toddlers. Whatever clothes you wear to feed the toddlers (about fifteen) will end up in the washing pile. Try as he might Steve couldn’t get Melissa to smile for the camera (she smiled plenty during feeding of course….).

Over Christmas there are lots of local families that come to donate food in particular and its wonderful to see how three generations of this family came long to visit Happy Life (grandmother took the picture).

The weather has finally turned into the thunderstorms that the weather app was promising. Rain plays havoc with the roads that haven’t been tarmacked making getting around a muddy affair.

So the visit to Karura forest was out but we jumped in an Uber and headed down with Leah for lunch at a place called the Zen Garden. You don’t have to go far in Nairobi to find amazing trees.

New to us but one of the team had recommended it and it didn’t disappoint with very tranquil gardens in amongst the hustle and bustle of the Westlands area – not too far from Karura in fact. They have their own flower shop from the amazing range they have in the gardens – our personal favourite too ‘Birds of Paradise’.

Leah had her second milkshake of the week and was very pleased that both our Uber drivers – James and Perez – had pink/black seat covers in the car matching her tracksuit she’d asked us to bring from the UK. Uber drivers are a huge font of knowledge of what’s going on in the country and the thirty minutes each way to Zen Garden were a great chance to catch up on the latest news. One big subject was the $3bn railway project from Nairobi to Mombasa on the coast. Many government officials have been arrested over allegations they bought land along the route which they knew would receive large compensation – a story big enough for even the NY Times covered it.

More time with the babies and toddlers and then Leah’s choice of evening movie was Jumanji. Slightly surreal sitting in the children’s home with the kids watching ‘The Rock’ running around a mysterious island but the kids enjoyed it.

 

Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized

 

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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 2 – Planning and Milkshakes

Another hot and humid day in Kasarani and a morning of meetings with the key people at Happy Life. First up is the wonderful Sarah who is the head administrator. One of the favourite tasks of the year is sitting with Sarah and handing over all the donations. This year this included proceeds from events, donations from several authors and friends and family.

We then had a great hour with Bishop Peter and his wife Faith to get an update on the latest plans for Happy Life in 2020. The main goals are surrounding the new high school. Happy Life has managed to buy a plot of land near Juja Farm (about 5km away) that will be the site of the new school. For the first year, the new school block at Juja Farm will house the high school and the team have already recruited four teachers ready to start in January.

(Right – Peter & Faith from Nairobi, Left Jim and Sharon from Delaware)

The evolution of Happy Life can partly be charted by the age of the children that have not been adopted and stayed with the home. Founded in 2002, the initial priorities were housing, health, food, and clothing. Within ten years a big focus became education and prompted the building of the school. Now the project is 17 years old (and so are the oldest children) a high school is needed.

We discussed a lot of great fundraising ideas for 2020 and we wanted to share one here – a very nice idea from one of our authors Tim Symonds. Tim has written many Sherlock Holmes books and also lived for many years in Kenya. He’s been one of the most active supporters of Happy Life donating items and funds each year. He wondered if Happy Life would like to create a plant-a-tree project that the children can get involved with. The timing is perfect and Peter and Faith loved the idea. So, from January we’ll be launching a new programme where for every book bought on the mxpublishing.com site we’ll plant a tree at the new Happy Life location. More about the other ideas soon.

Lunchtime and a chance to get involved with feeding the younger kids. Sharon headed to the infants for baby feeding – Steve to the toddlers as with a head cold not allowed in with the infants.

 

(Pepper Pig features heavily amongst the cuddly toys this year for some reason)

The afternoon was spent with our sponsored kid, Leah. We first met Leah at the age of six when she inspired us so much we chose her to be on the front cover of The Happy Life Story Book. At that tender age she was already behaving like a big sister to the younger kids and spending much of her free time helping the mamas and feeding the babies. Now at thirteen one of the pastors describes her perfectly as ‘a future leader’ working hard at school and supporting the other children. She’s transferred over here to spend time with us and will head back home to Juja Farm with us when we visit there on the 30th.

 

 

For the last two years Leah tends to bring one of her friends with her on our days out. Today Nelly came along for milkshakes, the entertainment area of the mall and a trip around the large supermarket (popcorn and crisps a once a year treat). Leah is on the left in the picture.

 

 

Tomorrow we hope to get further afield but it will depend on the weather – thunderstorms are possible.

 

Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized

 

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Christmas at Happy Life – Day 1 – Christmas Day

We arrived in Nairobi just before midnight after the 8 hour flight from London and awoke to the humid and noisy neighbourhood of Kasarani where Happy Life Children’s Home is based.

For those new to Happy Life you can read more here – Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

The children’s home is always busy and vibrant – with sixty children under the age of four, twenty of them infants below six months – there’s always something happening. For three of our seven years coming here we had been the only volunteers over Christmas, but this year we were in for a pleasant surprise. There are eleven volunteers over from Dubai from a church called the Fellowship – all ex-pat British. Two families from a group of thirty-six that visited Happy Life back in April coming back for another visit.

Their visit had proved very timely. A week before we arrived the library at Juja Farm burnt down (electrical fault) and the kids faced Christmas with a very depressing sight.

The team from Dubai leapt into action and not only renovated the damaged library but also overhauled one of the classrooms as well.

The end results were so good that the kids have asked that when the team comes back next year they’d like the other classrooms done!

To give the ‘mamas’ (the affectionate term for the female staff at the home) a break, the goal for the afternoon was to occupy the older toddlers.

What to do with fifteen toddlers on Christmas Day? Well, one of the Dubai team suggested taking them for ice cream – which may sound simple, but the mall is a substantial walk along the pedestrian unfriendly roads of Kasarani. We all took charge of one or two kids (I had Gideon and Emma) and headed out. Things went ok but we didn’t go down too well with the security guards at the mall when we staged an impromptu sit-in with the kids to eat their ice creams.

One particular complication was that for most of the kids this was the first time they had eaten ice-cream which for some, as they wrestled with the cold vs sweet taste, ended up being very messy. Thankfully one of the team made a dash to the supermarket for cleansing wipes and we returned back to Happy Life with the correct number of children ( we think they were the right ones!) – some needed carrying down the last stretch.

(Gideon has fun with his ice cream)

The most regular job for volunteers is the baby feeding. Happy Life is ‘full’ – ie. every bed and cot is taken so its going to be a busy visit in terms of feeding. However, Christmas Day is one of the most popular days for visitors from the local community to come along and donate – which means plenty of extra pairs of hands for feeding time.

We lasted through until about 9.30pm hoping for a quieter night in the 25C humidity.

 

Sharon and Steve

Co-founders MX Publishing and proud ambassadors for Happy Life

(more info on Happy Life……..Five Ways You Can Help Us Change Lives This Holiday Period)

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2019 in Adoption, Uncategorized

 

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