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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!