#24 Last Evening in Mji Wa Neema

Leaving is always hard, especially since I hate packing so much. However, virtually everything is in a suitcase or my big metal box of stuff that stays here. Tomorrow just the last minute things, the shampoo, tooth brushes, etc. It makes me nervous to think I am so far along in the process—surely there is something big that I’ve forgotten.

While Catherine Wanjohi (Life Bloom) was still in the US, we planned she would come to visit me on Monday night (last night). First thing I knew was that Louis, her class 8 son was at my door, along with an older boy, son of Catherine’s friend Rosemary. Catherine and Rosemary are still talking in the car, but I know what Louis wants—a grilled cheese sandwich. Years ago when Louis and his sister Laura came to visit at lunchtime, I made the usual—butter on outside of bread, sharp cheddar cheese slices melted on inside. They LOVED it and ever after I must make GCS for them. Only, I that day was almost out of cheese and these are teenaged boys. I made each of them 1, but about that time the 2 moms appeared and darned if they didn’t eat ½ of the boys’ treats. Oh well, Louis knows how to make them now and I explained to Rosemary, so they can do their own.

When Rosemary and the boys left, Catherine, still majorly jet-lagged, pleaded for a nap. I had packing to do, so agreed, but 1 ½ hours later I woke her for dinner, fearing if she slept too long she waken, starving in the middle of the night. I had just enough mince meat (aka hamburger) and a bit of cheese for make yummy hamburgers, complete with pickles (but I swear, I’m bringing a bottle of dill pickles next year. Gherkins just don’t do it!)

As always we talked past midnight, as I sat in admiration of all the incredible things that have come to her. She had been in Minneapolis to speak at an international community development conference. Her presentation was so well received that the president of the host organization sought her out for a 2-hour conversation, ultimately offering her the position of Kenyan representative of that group—big honor, nice recognition. There is a chance that Life Bloom may get some funding from a UN agency (can’t remember which one), which would finally put them on a solid financial base. That very morning representatives had visited the LB head-quarters site and were amazed and full of praise for the thoroughness of the organization, book-keeping, and sound corporate management they found. Pray, everyone. If ever an organization was ready for and needful of dependable financial support it is LB!

Tuesday morning I went to SFG with Fr. Ngaruiya to see how the painting is coming on. He’s using the colors of the uniform, blue doors, white trim and red under the windows. I wished so much I could see it, but they had just begun. All I saw was the white undercoat.

There is a great deal of deferred maintenance, but Fr. N is determined to make it look as good as it did under Fr. Kiriti. The initial contractor turned out to be a dud, so many things need to be corrected. Here are some examples.

#1 Painting SFG 2016#2 damaged wall 2016

This wall in the staff room was damaged by a leaking pipe. It will need sealing, then repainting. Below is the blackboard in the staff room. It was painted before the base material was thoroughly dry. Another BB in the biology lab was the same. FYI, the motto is “We must become the change we want to see.”

#3 Staff Rm b:bd 2016

I can’t wait to get back next June to see all that has been done. Fr N, like Fr. Kiriti could perhaps be renamed Fr. Winchester—he never stops working on the buildings!

Way back in 2010 Judy took a really cute picture of Toleo and Michael. Toleo was 5 and I think Michael was 7 or 8. It’s one of my favorite pictures, so when they were both as Mji Wa Neema for the reunion, we did a re-enactment.

#4 Toleo and Michael 2010


Michael has been adopted by Catherine. He’s now in class 7 and doing very well. Toleo was adopted by Fr. Kiriti and his family. She’s in class 5. Both are very tall and skinny, the way growing kids are in the pre-teen years.

#5 Toleo:Michael 2016

I was so well organized on Tuesday that I took some time to visit my friend, Minalyn, about whom I’ve written. I tutored her daughter, Sandy (see # 13). Minalyn has a warm heart for the down-trodden. She fosters a boy whose mother could not raise him, but the mother is welcome to see him any time, and does. Here are 2 shots of the workroom

#6 Minalyn wk:shop 1 2016#7 Minalyn wk:shp 3 2016

Driving back into the parish compound I encountered Fr. N again. “Do you want to go see how the painting is coming now?” “Sure, hop in.” and off we drove to SFG. It’s looking better, but still just the undercoat.

Tuesday was Lucas’ final visit to the dentist. He now has 8 top front teeth capped and beautifully white. They look a bit big right now, but he will grow into them.  He came to see me before I left on Wednesday. He’s still very shy, although I can see already his level of confidence has risen as a result of this change in his appearance. All the kids who have “Naivasha teeth”, stained, misshapen and weak from too much fluoride are extremely self-conscious about their teeth. Several have now asked me to take them to the dentist to have their teeth redone. Alas, I can’t do that—our work is educating kids. Lucas’ sponsor has been good enough to see that his teeth were exceptionally bad and needed to be repaired before he lost them. Here are before and after shots.


#8 Lucas teeth#9 Lucas new teeth 2016


When he came in Wednesday morning, he said “Thank you for transforming my life!” Wow! What a statement. I told him the way he could show his appreciation was to do his very best on the KCPE in November. He’s a very bright guy and is spending most of his free time in his August break studying. We are hoping he will qualify for one of the very good national schools.

Wednesday was the usual whirlwind of finalizing the packing up my house, my checked luggage, my carry on bag and my “purse”, which is a backpack. All morning people dropped by to say goodbye, I kept finding things that had to go in the trunk that I leave in Naivasha, Fr. Kiriti arrived to drive me to the airport (and was hungry—so we found some few items in my refrigerator), Fr. Ngaruiya arrived to wish me well, as did Hiliary from Empower the World. And there was Julia, tearful, as was I to leave for another 9 ½ months.

Here is my farewell committee: Hiliary, Lucas, Simon, Ruth, David Wekesa (front), “big” Patrick and Julia.

#10 Farewell 2016 - Version 2

The “boot” was filled to capacity with my things, but we had also to take Toleo and her cousin Sarah, back to Fr. Kiriti’s family compound in Mai Mahui, on our way. But even more, his brother, Michael, had been hospitalized with an infection and was to be released, so we had to take Michael and his wife, Margaret, as well. Michael has advanced cancer of the spine, so is in major pain. He sat in front, while Margaret, Toleo, Sarah and I, along with their “stuff” sat in back. Needless to say, it was cozy!

The road into the Kiriti compound is another typical Kenyan road, but the RAV4 withstood the weight, the ruts and the bumps well. The beautiful car wash the boys had given it earlier was totally obliterated, of course.

Finally we got everyone delivered, Michael settled, and were on our way for the 1-hour + drive to Nairobi over Fr. Kiriti’s favorite road and my least favorite road. It climbs out of the Rift Valley over perhaps 10 miles of narrow curves and is the designated road for trucks. This was not the day to be on it. Somewhere there had been an accident. The 1-hour + drive turned out to be 3-hours +. Then we missed a turnoff to the place we’d planned to eat. That took another almost 1 hour. But we arrived at the restaurant just in time to see the Olympic races, in which Kenyan runners excelled. That was the important thing—all was right with the world after all.

Fr. K dropped me at the airport about 7 for a flight that left at 10:45. It was fine, the wait wasn’t bad and I’m used to it by now.

(Next day, from somewhere over the North Pole)

Another wonderful year has ended. I’ll land at SFO in about 5 hours. I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it. From time to time I may write a short report on happenings and send pix of the completing painting job. In the meantime, thank you for being a reader and especially I thank all those who took the time to write. I do need that connection with my other home!


2016 – #23 The Reunion

Yesterday was the big day and what a day it was. Most of the current and former Mji Wa Neema residents were here. I can’t really call them children because some of them are in their 20’s. Those who didn’t make it were largely kids who have finished their educations at some level and have established their own lives.

#1 mass, 2016 reunion

The day was to begin with mass at 10 am. However, the goats had to be slaughtered at an official place to check for anthrax. That’s a government law. No anthrax. By the time the meat was brought back, it was 11 o’clock, but it was a very brief mass, with Patrick masterfully leading the singing, and young Patrick and Marion servering. Fr. Joseph, who prefers Fr. Jeff was the celebrant. Fr. Kiriti arrived about ½-way through, bringing Toleo and her cousin, Sarah.

#2 Lucy, Cecilia and Joseph 2016

A big surprise attendee was Lucy, who left the home at a very young age, not interested in school or much else except boys. At age 21 she now has 3 children, the oldest of whom is hospitalized with ulcers. Fortunately her paternal grandmother works in a small private hospital in town, so Lucy is staying with her there. Julia and I visited her on Thursday. When she heard my voice she came running out of her room and flung herself at me, almost knocking me over. The last time I saw her was when this child, now 5, was born. As you can see, Lucy is still as cute as a button. The child on the left is Cecilia and the small boy is Joseph (14 months).   Like most children, they were shy with me at first, but soon smiling and giving hi-5’s. Lucy was really excited to be invited to the reunion and arranged for the grandmother to stay with Cecilia so she could come to join us. She has had a very hard time since leaving the home and now sees the mistakes she has made. She had begun a salon course, but had to drop out when she became pregnant with #2. She wants very much to complete that course. I’m hoping our donations will be enough to permit that. Pic taken with Julia’s phone, sorry it’s so blurred. Our meeting was so poignant as she asked me several times whether I could forgive her. I assured her I had not been angry with her, but I could see she felt very guilty. I told her she needed to forgive herself.

#3 cooking goat 2016 reunion

Fr. Jeff had announced the previous day that he was supervising the goat cooking and true to his word, as soon as mass was over, he, the older boys and Fr. Kiriti were busily building 2 fire pits and getting the charcoal fire just right. Here is Fr. Jeff with a large paddle, Fr. Kiriti and David Mungai.

Antony, one of the founders of the home, donated a very large bag of smokeless charcoal and has now promised to provide a bag a week to the home.

I could see this is just like many American picnics, the women are in the kitchen preparing all the go-with food and the men are out by the BBQ. The only difference was there was no beer. I was very interested in the process, so I brought out my new plastic picnic chairs and settled in to record it step-by-step.

#4 Michael and Wekesa pry off the screen

First the pieces were boiled in a large vat to tenderize the meat, then placed on a large screen the served as the grill. Michael and David Wekesa had borrowed my hammer to pry off pieces of screen from the goat pen (no longer necessary). I noticed this morning the screen was back on the pens (minus the goats). As soon as the coals were right, big hunks of ribs and legs got lifted out of the boiling water and onto the screen. I swear, Kenyans have asbestos fingertips. I’d have dropped that leg right in the dust and gone screaming for the aloe vera.

#5 Patrick tends to the roasting#6 Kiriti and Antony chat

Patrick was the most attentive to turning over the pieces, again lifting and turning with bare fingers. Fr. Kiriti couldn’t stay very long, but it was clear, he wanted his share of goat. He took a big knife and just carved off a big hunk. He loves hanging out with the kids, whom he helped Julia raise for 9 years. Here he is having a long chat with Antony, whom he hired early in his career in Naivasha to supervise the establishment of the home. Evidently he saw something in a raw, inexperienced young man. Now Antony’s smokeless charcoal business sells 4000 bags a week! Fr. was impressed with 2 lorries and the success. Antony is a really nice man who is part of trying to get the home recertified so more children can be taken in.

#7 Paul carves w Fr Jeff

At last Supervisor Fr. Jeff announced the meat was perfect. Paul, the catechist appeared out of nowhere to begin carving, again with help from Fr. Jeff. That’s Michael in the foreground.

Soon we were all chomping away on pieces of rather tough goat, but it was very tasty. Just ask Monica, who was very glamorous in her beautiful blue dress. Her coiffeur isn’t evident from this shot, but she is a real beauty.

#8 Monica has a taste

Suddenly the home was flooded with party-crashers, youth who had been involved in something outside the Mji Wa Neema security wall. They gathered around the table and began grabbing meat. I was the bouncer, telling them this was an event for residents only (and select invited guests). Most left quietly. Here is Sr. Karen with Fr. Jeff and Antony. Note the people leaving at the gate.

#9 Fr. Jeff, Sr. Karen, Antony

Later I wondered whether I had overstepped my authority, but Julia assured me I had not and she thanked me for getting rid of the intruders. The truth is people come into our compound as if they owned it. It bothers me a lot and I tell them sometimes that this is a home and is to be respected as such.

#10 Mji Kids enjoying meal

About an hour after I was stuffed with goat, the real meal was served with ugali, goat stew and vegetables. I could hardly eat anything, but the kids have enormous appetites—of course, they’re teenagers. Hiliary is at the left. He’s the social worker for Empower the World, on the job now for about 3 months. Part of his duties are to pay fees to the various schools our kids attend, so he came to get acquainted. He’s so nice and very thorough at his job.

Much later we had ice cream and biscuits (pronounced bisquits). I had bought lots of each. After all, this is a big deal to have them reunited. We all rolled out of the dining hall, unable to swallow one more bite. The left over ice cream attests to that.

In the evening the kids were out in the yard doing goofy things that kids do. Who would imagine that a smart-phone camera would be such a great toy!!!! They took all sorts of pix of themselves in silly poses and funny faces. What fun they all had! Or as my family was wont to say, “A good time was had by all!”

This morning it was so fun to see them all around the compound, sitting in the sun, chatting with each other and Julia, reading the paper, seeing friends—just being kids. By tomorrow most of the older ones, those in university, will have gone back, but the high school kids will be here until schools open again at the end of August.

It was a perfect ending of a great summer for me!



2016 – #22 The Wind-Down Begins

Today was the last day of un-tuitioning, with 57 kids, if I counted correctly. Felicitas, the math/chemistry teacher from Ndingi couldn’t come, so Patrick took the 3’s and 4’s. Evidently he does a great job, b/c the kids seemed very happy.

1 Felicitas and Johnson 2016

Here is Felicitas taking a break yesterday, playing with 2-year old Johnson, son of Esther (older one—there are 2). Johnson screamed when he saw me the first time, terrified, and again the 2nd time, but somewhere along the line he must have decided I wasn’t a ghost, because he gave me a tentative smile and before I knew it we were shaking hands and high-5ing. He’s a darling little guy, very comfortable with the kids here, although, of course he doesn’t live here.

Below that is today’s class with Patrick at the rear, watching a student explain a problem.

2 Last tuitioning 2016

I taught 17 1’s and 2’s today. They are not nearly as motivated as the 3’s and 4’s. Particularly the 4’s are suddenly aware that this is the last mile. This is not a test, it’s the real thing in 3 months.

Yesterday I received a text from Regina (former Ndingi math teacher) telling me that Dominic was to be ordained deacon today. I had met Dominic in 2005 when I interviewed 6 students who were being sent home for non-payment of fees and (according to Regina) would not be coming back because the parents couldn’t pay. I asked each of them what were their dreams for the future. Dominic wanted to be a priest. We found a sponsor for him (other 5 too) and he joined the seminary right out of high school. Here he is 11 years ago.

Digital StillCamera
Digital StillCamera

So today I closed up shop early and drove off to Kabati with small Esther (not Johnson’s mom) to show me the way. She warned me about a detour for a bridge repair, but she failed to tell me about the 60° grade into the creek and back up the other side! ARGH! Good thing it’s a RAV4 and very tough.

We arrived late, but it didn’t matter, the event began even later. As I looked at the program, complete with picture and name of the candidate I thought, “This isn’t Dominic,” but Dominic was in the procession. Mmm, Curious. It was well into 4 hours of understanding not one word of Kiswahili that I figured out it was Dominic’s brother who was making his final vows to become a brother. Dominic will be ordained a priest in 3 years! This is the parents presenting their son to the bishop, with Dominic behind (right).

4 parents with ordainee 2016

It was cold despite being a bright, sunny day. As I sat trying to ignore my purple toes peeking out my sandals, I spotted a small piece of trash about 1 meter away from where I was sitting. It was right at the edge of the tent shadow. I didn’t know which way the sun was moving, but I was hoping it was coming around so eventually my toes would be in it (as well as the rest of my cold self). Sure enough, soon the trash was totally in the sun and the shadow edge was creeping toward me, but glacially.

I confess that when I’m in a non-comprehension experience my brain goes to all sorts of thoughts and calculations. I wondered how many people were there (LOTS), so I estimated how many under the tent directly across. Hmmmm, 8 people in a row, at least 8 rows, about 60+ people. Four such tents, and many people beyond. My side the same, except there were many more beyond the tents. Conclusion: about 800 +people there. Pretty impressive for this small church very far from Naivasha.

The ceremony was very formal, with blessings, prayers, speeches, incense, candles and of course several opportunities to drop some shillings into a donation baske. At the time the candidate was to prostrate himself before the altar, a mattress was brought out, complete with its plastic covering, tags and labels. After he made his vows and signed a document, there was much celebrating, with each member of the order hugging him, back slapping and general merryiment, except the mother looked like she had just given away her son, which she had!

As I said, it was 4 hours. The sun arrived to warm my toes about 3 ¾ hours into it and eventually I forgot I was cold (so maybe I wasn’t anymore).

There were 2 choirs, each in uniform. Kenyans love having everyone in identical garb. In a way it eliminates the best-dressed contest, which is good, but not every body looks good in the same style/color. Here are the 2 groups.

5 Choir 16 choir 2

They both sang beautifully, often accompanying the dancing children that are part of nearly every celebration.

7 Bishop 2016

The bishop was resplendent in his full regalia. Notice the lace. He spoke at great length but of course I have no idea what he said. Everyone else seemed captivated by his homily

I had hoped to slip away right after the mass ended, but Dominic grabbed my hand, telling me I was to join the big shots in the rectory for lunch. As we walked across the grass, I stopped to greet the bishop and the parish priest, whom I knew from 2006 and 2007 when he as Fr. Kiriti’s assistant. I hadn’t realized who he was until he had walked to the microphone and I recognized his kind of swaggering body language. He was very surprised to see me and greeted me warmly. (Judy, is was Fr. James) There were other clergy I knew I’d met at some point, but ARGH!!! I can’t remember names after so many years.

As Esther and I entered the living room I was greeted by a tall and substantially build priest, who asked whether I remembered him. That’s the dreaded question, because the answer is usually NO. “Remind me,” is my regular response. “Think about it.” Oh dear! “Osesso!” He said. “Osesso!?” I wouldn’t have recognized him, but I know well who he is. He was in Syracuse, NY for 9 years. He came to visit me in Menlo Park. Good friend of Fr. Kiriti. It’s really embarrassing when I can’t place people nor dredge up names. I think I should wear a permanent sign, “Don’t expect me to remember, I’m 80, you know.”—-except I often failed at names well before I reached 80.

The lunch was a great spread and I was given the “Ladies first” courtesy, right behind the bishop. There was a traditional dish, a mix of mashed potatoes, green peas and maise, rice, stew (probably goat), salad, cabbage chicken, chipattis, all in abundance. Outside the rest of the folks waited in long lines for their food. It’s nice to be considered an honored guest, but it does make me uncomfortable.

Again I tried to slip away, having said my good-byes, but Dominic grabbed me again. I had to meet his parents, who are lovely people, and then Regina, who was responsible for me being there. All the while I’m trying to work my way up the sloping grass to the gate. Regina reminded me that I knew her mother (yes, I did recognize her) and another lady (a teacher) and another lady (another teacher) and ….. Finally I said we needed to go and we hopped in the car, conveniently just outside the gate. The bumpy rutted road was full of people walking back home, so the going was slow. I was anxious to get back, as Julia and I had planned to shop for tomorrow’s food (Mji Wa Neema reunion.)

Off we went to the big outdoor produce market—always an adventure. Fortunately Julia had brought Esther and Mungai along to tote our purchases—4 watermelons, many onions, garlic, ginger, celantro (ugh!) avocado, big bag of cabbages, green peppers, and more. Julia really knows her vendors and sailed through the crowd, with the 3 of us trailing behind.

8 watermelon sellers 2016

Mungai and Esther made 3 trips to the car, which was loaded! And then we had to go to Naivas for “just a few things”. $40 later we came out with 3 large tubs of ice cream, milk, “smokies” for the kid’s breakfast, bread, biscuits (aka cookies), rice and a copy of The Saturday Nation. We almost had no space for us in the car!

Tired and ready for a rest, I climbed onto my bed with the paper, ready for the Sudoku, when my phone rang. ARGH! I’d forgotten that Charity’s mother had called in the middle of class this morning and I’d promised to call later. (When was I going to do that????) She was just outside the gate and could she come visit?

9 Mama Charity 2016

Charity was sponsored at SFG, graduating in 2011 (I think). Fr. Kiriti had spotted her when she was young and invited her to train to be an altar girl, back when that was a new thing. She was #1 in her class and is about to complete university in geo-spacial technology (huh?) She has had an attachment (internship) with KenGen (geothermal energy) and hopes to get hired there. Mama Charity (mothers are identified by their daughters in this way) has really struggled to raise her 3 children. I think the father died, but I can’t remember (!) for sure. In any event she finally left Naivasha and moved to Narok where her family had given her a small plot. She does subsistence farming, selling some produce in the market and at least has food. Judy and I used to buy our chickens from her, when she still lived here. She looks great and says she is very happy on her own piece of land. She just wanted to thank Kenya Help for taking her daughter to high school. Because Charity had done so well on the KCSE she qualified for a government student loan. The Kenyan government charges no interest and begins an automatic deduction (not too painfully large) when the student gets a job. Everyone who works has to have a national ID card, so everyone pays back the loan, whether they want to or not. It’s such a humane system. I wish we had it in the US. In our system, the killer is the interest. Kenyans repay over a long period of time, but payments are not back-breaking.

Tomorrow the reunion!



#21 Worst Nightmare/Greatest Dream Revisited

Today we had at least as many as yesterday, but not sure exactly how many b/c we split the group.  I taught forms 1 & 2 this morning, with about 35, but some of them were 3 and 4 who sneaked in.  At 10:30 a young math teacher, Felicitas, from Ndingi came to help out.  She taught the 3’s and 4’s while I took the 1’s and 2’s to  another building in the compound—the only one I know of with a blackboard.  My horoscoe for this week said something about thinking big, but never did I think this big!  It could turn out to be the beginning of something even bigger for next year.  The idea of free tuitioning is popular.  Most of the kids are from Mji Wa Neema or are from Mary Fry’s group of kids from a very poor area.  These are kids who could never afford private tuitioning like the more affluent kids get.  So I feel really good about leveling the playing field a bit.  Having the Ndingi teacher come may encourage more of them to join in next year.  Who knows what we’ll have!

Below is David Mungai’s bio group, meeting in the old kitchen, now used for a study room.  It was so full I couldn’t get over to the other side where the light would have been better.

2016-21 Mungais bio group

Below is Patrick (right) and his 4 form 4 physics students.  These are smaller groups, which is better for teaching.

2016-21 Patricks physics guys

Felicitas also teaches chemistry, which the kids had also asked for.  This is like another miracle.  I found people to cover every subject I wanted—namely math and science, which is where the kids really struggle.  You know when 50 kids voluntarily give u a week of vacation that it is important to them!

This afternoon Lucas finished his exams just in time for his next dental appointment.  You never, ever saw anyone eager to visit the dentist like that boy was today.  He was dancing!  It took a long time, but below are the before and afters.  Actually what you see are the temporary caps.  The permanent ones are being made by the lab and will be installed next week.  Nonetheless he couldn’t stop smiling when he got back.

Lucas teethLucas new teeth 2016

They only put temp caps on the 2 front teeth.  In all they will cap 8 top teeth.  Perhaps in time he can have the bottom ones done too, but they don’t really show.

Long time readers many remember Jecinta, our beloved social worker, who passed away 3 years ago (or was it 2?)  She had a daughter named Marion who spent a lot of time with the Mji Wa Neema kids when she was small (and so were they).  She became best friends with a girl whose name was also Jecinta and eventually mom Jecinta adopted child Jecinta.  Mom had scrimped and saved for years to “put up” a house, which she got to live in for maybe 2 yeears.  Now the grandmother (Jecinta’s mom) lives there with the 2 girls.  Marion goes to SFG, but Jecinta is a reluctant student and didn’t qualify.  Both girls are now staying at SFG (thanks to a conversation Julia had with the grandmother) and are attending the tuitioning.  That’s a first, but even more amazing is they came to my kitchen table last night for individual help.  Clearly it’s something in the water or the air!  Jecinta is on the left, Marion on the right

Jecinta and Marion 2016

The latest “old girl” to pay a visit was Teresia, from the pioneer class.  She has finished university (sponsored by Kenya Help) and is in that very uncomfortable time of trying to get established with a good job.  It’s a real struggle here.  Jobs are scarce and hard to get.  She studied tourism and should be able to get something at this time of year, but….  However like most graduates, she is very entrepreneurial.  Because I had to pick up some purses I’d ordered from Damaris, I took her along.  She loved Damaris’ bags (see pic in # 17) and she loved Damaris.  The are discussing having Teresia market the bags in Nairobi—which Mary Sangok will be doing as well.  Teresia and Mary are good friends, so perhaps they will join forces.  Who knows maybe someday they’ll have Mary and Teri Bags.

Teresia 2016

She came looking every bit as gorgeous as she did last year.  I hate to suggest she could get a job on her looks, because she was #2 in her graduating class from SFG—smart, hard-working and beautiful.  Great combo!

Julia and I are planning the Mji Wa Neema reunion, which is Saturday.  Almost all the children who ever lived here will attend, although we’re not sure about Kamau and Josephat who attend St. Joseph’s in Nakuru.  Julia believes the SJ students are to be kept for 2 weeks of tuitioning, although the education minister has outlawed such activities.  The only reason I can get by with it is because it isn’t tuitioning (no one pays tuition!!).  You’ll remember I bought 2 goats for the event, which may have over 50 people, including the 3 priests here, plug Fr. Kiriti, various notables from the parish, like my buddy, Simon Peter Mungai and others.  Catherine, who adopted Michael from here about 4 or 5 years ago, will be back from her US trip in time to bring him and Fr. Kiriti will be Toleo (aka Mercy).  When they were here, Michael and Mercy were very close.  He was the big brother who watched over her.  This is one of my favorite pictures of all times.

Toleo and Michael 2010

2016 – #20 The Social Butterfly

We’ve finally held the joint meeting of Empower the World (ETW) and Kenya Help (represented by me). The 9 am meeting began at 11 am, due to a very unusual circumstance—Fr. Kiriti was late. You must understand that generally you could set the clock by his arrival, but somehow he was detained. It turned out we had a conflict with a festival of performances by members of the small Christian communities, so some of our members couldn’t make the meeting. Nonetheless, we sorted out a number of issues, priorities, plans for the future, with or without Margo. No I’m not planning to quit, but the future is looming. Who knows what? The discussion included how to get young people who have either been sponsored, or who have attended my tuitioning classes through the years so step up to the plate to help those coming up now. Stay tuned for further activity on that score.

ETW BD mtg 2016

The meeting adjourned at 1, after which we reconvened at Joyce’s restaurant, which is becoming the in-place to meet. Sorry the pic is so dark, but the whole country had a blackout that day! ARGH!

Fr. Ngaruyia joined us and gave his assessment of SFG, what’s good, what needs to be done (painting and fixing up, tightening up purchasing etc). He has been in the parish only 3 months, but already he has put his stamp on it, beginning with painting the church, which was beginning to look a bit ratty, now looks natty, laying gravel in the driveway (really reduces the dust) and taking a very hands-on approach to the schools, SFG and Ndingi. By next year the whole place will be transformed.

Late that afternoon I was visited by Antony Ng’angn’a, who was in my very first tuitioning group back in 2006. He has now completed university and told me an amazing tale of finding a great job, but first working as a printer repair tech (for which he was promised, but never paid). He worked extra hard, made himself known to the customers and eventually was hired by one of them. He now is in charge of systems (whatever that means), loves his job and is still working extra hard.

He’s a very positive, idealistic guy who hopes to become a mentor for high school kids in his spare time—perhaps even a motivational speaker. He has really thought through what teenagers need to do to make the best of their lives, regardless of circumstances. He had some help from a KH donor for university, but he still struggled, scrambling for odd jobs and learning how to take care of what little money he had. We talked, (well, he mostly talked), for maybe 3 or 4 hours about his dreams for “paying it forward” in appreciation for what he has received. He promised to be one of the folks who will donate to ETW to help other kids. Way to go Antony!!!


Today came Regina, my old Ndingi math teacher buddy and her daughter, Jenny, who, at age 14 still says virtually nothing to me. Can’t figure out why she is so shy. They came at Jenny’s request b/c she wanted to see me. Or maybe it was the peanut butter toast I always give her. I also tried to make Kenyan tea but my milk was just on the edge of turning and when I heated it, it became a curdled mess. UGH! Only other milk was frozen solid.

Regina and I always chat about how her kids are doing. She’s a cracker-jack math/physics teacher who cracks the whip, but she’s stuck in a rural school with kids who are pretty far down academically. She’s still enthusiastic about teaching and very positive.

Later came Mithlet, who knows Regina from Ndingi. Mithlet was in the last class that had girls. We did a lot of reminiscing “do you remember XXXXX?” Mithlet knows a lot of those Ndingi kids and as we talked, she offered to form a group that would support ETW. We found names of virtually all the sponsored kids from the very beginning (all my compulsive making XL spread sheets has paid off!) Regina offered to help as much as she could and we worked out some initial plans, which included a reunion during my 2017 visit here.

Mithlet worked for some years after Ndingi, partly in the Catholic Bookstore here in town. She was an excellent worker, while trying to go to night school to learn accounting, but the school wasn’t very good. Finally Fr. Kiriti nominated her to be a scholarship recipient. She attended Strathmore University (a really good school) and is now working in her first post-graduation job. Like everyone else, she’s had to take a rinky-dink job (the Kenyan equivalent of flipping burgers) just to pay the rent and feed herself, although she is helping a niece and nephew go to school too. She was in that first tuitioning group, along with Antony, whom she remembered after we found a picture of the group. In those days she rarely smiled. I often wondered why she was so angry. She later told me she wasn’t angry, she just had a hard time understanding my accent. Yet she attended every session for 2 years. Near the end of the second session I was taking pix of the kids and I got her to smile. She’s been smiling ever since.

Jenny, Margo Mithlet, Regina 2016

I walked down to the gate with them and on the way back encountered Fr. Ngaruyia and my buddy Simon Peter Mungai, great math teacher and chairman of the parish council (also big booster to get Mji Wa Neema filled up with more kids). We chatted about that and I reminded Fr. N that he owed me a dinner for all the marking of math papers I did for him. “Why don’t you come tonight?” “OK, what time?” About ½ hour later I trotted down to the rectory with some cookies (aka biscuits), my camera and my old backpacking head lamp, which is the only flashlight I have. As it turned out the other 2 priests had gone off to Nakuru (Monday is their off day) so we had a nice dinner, with lots of time to talk about SFG, Mji Wa Neema, math teaching, and share a bit of personal history. He’s very personable, open, positive and energetic—a different personality from Fr. Kiriti but sharing that same ethic and passion for his work. They are good friends.

Fr Nguruyia

I mentioned that I couldn’t figure out a vector question on the mock math exam the form 4’s just finished, so when I left he walked back up to my “house” so he could see the question. (Also reminding me that I’d promised to leave my head lamp for him on my departure) He said he’d work my problem and let me know the answers, but it’s now well after 11 pm and I’ve not heard from him, so maybe it really is a hard question, or maybe he just got tired. He puts in a very long day, especially on Sunday.

Here he is in the newly painted living room of the rectory. It was fun to be back there. Long-time readers will remember I stayed in the rectory for the first 3 summers I was here, until Fr. K moved me out to the children’s home. At the time I thought I was being banished, but it has turned out very well. I love my own little house here.

Tomorrow is Monday and I’m wondering whether all 31 will show up again—maybe more. That’s what always happens. In the meantime I’ve recruited 2 of the older Mji Wa Neema boys to help out. Patrick is in his first year of university, majoring in math and physics. He has agreed to do some physics tutoring. David Mungai (just finished training as a community health worker—almost an MD, but not quite) will do some biology. I had bought some “revision” books for physics and bio for the girls, so Patrick and David will have something to work with. I’m very pleased how this is working out. More tomorrow.