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Saturday, October 2, 2010

September Update

Hello my Canadian friends and family,

October is here already! Yikes!
I am not sure where to start for the month of September. It really flew by. I said goodbye to some good friends who came to visit in the first week and welcomed another. My good friend Leah Terry is here for 2 months to volunteer as a nurse for the community here. She has been a wonderful asset to the organization and a great support and friend to me.
Our Home Based care visits have brought some wonderful surprises and joy. I have mentioned in past emails about Halima, one of our HBC clients. She has been very sick for a long time and towards the end of June, beginning of July I was expecting every Tuesday to walk into her compound to learn that she had died.
Last week we entered the compound and a lady was standing looking at me and smiled. Smiling, she said ‘Wanjiku, how are you?” in Kikuyu. At first I didn’t recognize her. She was a healthy and happy lady. After a moment I realized that it was Halima. She had put on weight and looked radiant. Only months ago she had been so sick and emaciated that it was hard to even look at her. God is so good! Through the centre’s counseling on a proper diet, medication use and hygiene Halima has many solid years ahead of her.
After seeing Halima so happy and healthy it was hard to wipe the smile from my face...
I’d like to tell you about another one of the Home Based care clients, Moses. I have come to love and care for all of the clients as my friends but Moses in particular has taken my heart. He is a very sick middle-aged man who lives alone. His home is in the worst condition of the group and he has a hard time walking due to an opportunistic infection in his legs. I look forward every week to sitting with him for a while and talking. He is a very smart man and has also stolen the heart of the community. Every time I’ve visited him he always has someone else there to see him. Last week we came in to his compound and he was sitting out in the sun enjoying the warmth. Even he looked like he was improving. Moses is not from the Kikuyu tribe but is a Turkana. He is very far from home and yet people love him like he was one of the munyengi (locals). It is wonderful to see people of all tribes working together to care for one another.
One day a few months ago when my mother was here we went to see Moses and found him surrounded by a crowd of people. He was in a great deal of pain and the community had come to literally carry him up the treacherous terrain to the hospital. Old ladies with their canes were coming to carry this man to the hospital. Amazing! After praying for him we called a cab and he was comfortably escorted to and from the hospital surrounded by loving women.
The beginning of October has come rather unexpectedly to be honest. I find myself getting more and more anxious as the days move towards my departure. I will be ending my time with Shauri Yako on October 29th, do a few days of travelling and then return at the beginning of November to say my goodbyes and finish things off. The conflicted feelings are strengthened only when I see amazing people like Halima and Moses. Their lives will continue as I return home as will mine. I could never forget them. Their lives and courage have taught me strength beyond anything I have ever seen in human nature to date. I am forever grateful that they have let me be a witness to their stories.
Many of you may be wondering what I will be doing when I get back in November. At this point I am going to leave you in suspense until I get some confirmation but I know that God wants me around Canada, at least for a little while.
Just a quick update on Mwangi. Myself, Leah and another friend from Canada took him to the doctor’s office to get a physical and check-up. I think he quite enjoyed having 3 white people fuss and worry over him. I gave him some money to get his hair cut and he took quite some time. I remembered someone telling me that street kids often try to run away from structured environments when given the chance since they are not used to discipline. I began to worry and considered over whether or not to go look for him. After about 45 minutes he came sauntering around the corner in typical teenaged style. I remember smiling to myself and trying to fight back my tears because he had truly changed and was really committed to working for a better life. He is a happy and healthy 16 year old boy whose desires to be a surgeon were only strengthened by this day’s adventures.
Leah and I will be travelling to Uganda this week to visit a friend. Please pray for our safe travels and that we can be an encouragement and support there.

Peace and love,

Margaret

Summer Update

It has been well over 2 months now since my last email update to you all. I did purposely choose not to update you during the summer months as I know how busy most people get during that time.
These past 2 months have been a whirlwind of adventure and working. The music program has really taken off as people seem to really be interested. I am teaching a class at a local Presbyterian church and I even have one of my first students helping me teach. It is so amazing to see the students as they progress and grow in determination to learn.
I have also started working with a local children’s home doing sports and music related programs. The story of how I got involved with them is a good one and I would like to share it with you.
One morning a few months ago I was walking through town. It was a particularly cold and miserable day and I was feeling much the same. I walked by a group of street boys who called out to me and greeted me with the typical ‘Mzungu nipe kumi!’ which means “White person give me 10 shillings.” I smiled and told them that I could not do that. My reasons are for my own personal safety. If I give to one I must give to all and there are just too many of them if something were to happen. I walked on up the street but one particular boy felt it was necessary to continue the conversation with me. He walked up beside me and we walked silently for a few seconds before he looked at me and said ‘MZUNGU.’ As I mentioned above I wasn’t in a humorous mood so I looked at him and said ‘Maafrican’ which means African person. He looked at me startled and then laughed. After a good laugh together I explained to him that I have a name and that it is not mzungu. He and I came to a decision that I would call him by his name and he would call me by mine. His name is Jerald Mwangi.
We got to talking and I asked him how long he had been on the streets. He told me that he had been beaten by his uncle and his grandmother could not feed him anymore so she kicked him out over a year ago. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He told me that he wanted to be a surgeon. After a while he began to get a bit uncomfortable as if he wanted to ask me something. I knew that he would probably ask for either money for food. He looked at me and said “Margaret can you help me?’ Startled by a question I was not expecting, I stood there for a long time thinking over my options. I remembered that I had met a man named Francis through a friend that runs a children’s home outside of town. I called him up and asked if we could come in for a meeting. After a long conversation about expectations and rules for Mwangi and a quick trip to the market for supplies he rested for the first time in over a year inside a house with a belly full of food.
On Monday Mwangi began school again in grade 7. He is happy and healthy and glue-free. I spoke to Francis yesterday and heard positive things.
I go back to visit him often and we have created a deep bond between each other. He now addresses me as his mom.
These past 2 months have also been filled with blessings of family and friends visiting. My mom was here in July and we had a blast together. We laughed and cried over the things we saw. She and I went on a safari which was my first and got to see so may beautiful creatures God created.
On the second day she was here we made the 2.5 hour trip to Nyeri. Now as some of you know, traffic in this country and in many others is just chaos. Well, add on top of that construction and you are bound to encounter some interesting circumstances. We hit a particularly bad patch of road and we were bumper to bumper. Our matatu driver decided that he was going to have none of it and was going to make his own road. It had just been leveled out by the workers to be paved. We drove on this for a while until we hit a road block where a particularly angry Asian man (obviously supervising the construction) came up and began screaming in Mandarin. The matatu driver simply ignored him and proceeded to drive on. The next thing we know we hit a huge bang and look behind us to see the Asian man attacking our car with his shovel. My mom and I sat there howling with laughter. Eventually we made our way back to the steady flow of traffic, not having made any difference at all.
It was hard to say goodbye but the encouragement and support from her was priceless.
Next adventure was one for the books. A friend of mine convinced me to go with her to a Camel derby. I had no idea what to expect. Myself and a bunch of other friends made the 5 hour drive up country to Maralal. The camel derby was a 10 km race. It was the most unpleasant and uncomfortable 10 km of my life. I had spoken to my handler, the man running alongside my camel for the race, and said to him that I had no intention of winning but that I just wanted to finish. I thought I had made myself clear but when the race began we set off running. After 2 mins I was asking them to let me off, which of course he did not. At one point a big lorry truck came rumbling behind me and spooked my camel. He took off like lightning and I began to say my prayers to depart this world. I will say this. It was a ONCE in a lifetime opportunity… never to be experienced again!
On Monday I saw 2 friends off at the airport who came to visit me for 10 days. We jam-packed our time with work visits, hippo watching, waterfall sightseeing, whitewater rafting, markets, and close encounters with baby elephants and giraffes. It was such a wonderful time with them. They really got into the culture here and they even helped me with some of my music classes and sports at the children’s centre.
It is now the beginning of September and there is only about 2 months left to my time here. As the days pass a growing sense of importance arises. I love Kenya and the people but I also miss my home terribly which will make for my departure to be extremely painful and joyful at the same time.
Another friend of mine from university will be arriving here on Monday to volunteer with my organization as a nurse for 1 month. Please pray for her safe travels and time here as she serves the people with her skills and love.
One last bit of exciting news. I FINALLY received my work permit. I no longer have that weight on my shoulders so I thank God and your prayers for that.
Please pray with me over these last 2 months that I would finish and accomplish all that God has called me to do here and continue to grow and strengthen the relationships that have been made here.
I am looking forward to seeing you all very soon!

Much Love and Blessings,

Margaret

p.s. for those of you who do not have facebook I have attached a public link to a few albums including my mom's visit and the Camel Derby
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2553775&id=58003928&l=e59401ab93
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2553776&id=58003928&l=d1950b20fa