Friday, June 12, 2009


Hello everyone!

Tonight I'm off to join Taryn on this long-awaited adventure to meet and greet and help the kids of Africa! I've been anxiously counting down the hours all week, and I can't believe its FINALLY time!

I wanted to write to thank you all so SO much for your support!!! Through your donations, I've managed to raise $1000, and just right now I finally finished packing a large suitcase stuffed with stuffed animals, art supplies, school supplies, t-shirts, jump ropes, and who knows what else I've managed to squeeze in there! I'm so excited to present all these presents to the kids, have my suitcase explode open in front of them and to see the looks on their faces! I'll make sure to try to photograph and capture that exact moment.

So Taryn tells me that laundry is difficult to manage over there and the way that she describes the dirt and the dirtiness made me rethink my other suitcase which I had previously packed with nice, normal travel clothes. So now this bag only contains disposable outfits, which I will dump out in Africa before I return, and which will make way for more souvenirs to be thrown in to spread around to friends and family here! Good news all around! :)

Thank you a million times over! I promise to be safe, and happy, and safe and happy with T, the other volunteers, and the kids! Take care as well, everybody! Will be back with stories, souvenirs and smiles to share!


Taryn has emailed a couple of stories already which I'm going to try to post here. Unfortunately, although apparently there IS internet service at the place we're staying, it is not possible to get on Blogspot! So I promise to post up fun pictures after our return! Until then, enjoy the below...
Nairobi Day One and Two

I arrived at the airport exhausted….so tired that I felt sick to my stomach and a bit dizzy. I think the combination of sleeping for only one hour and the malaria medicine was having a less than pleasant effect on me. Nonetheless, I made it to passport control and waited in line for about 40 minutes before getting my new fancy stamp. Horray for fancy passport stamps!!

Feeling good about my stamp, I moved on to get my luggage. Ugh…it was a mad house. There were SO many people waiting for their bags! I was shocked at how full and large the plane was…it has stairs inside the plane! Two floors! Anyway, after about a half an hour of watching the same bags go round and round, I started to get a little bit nervous, but there were still so many people waiting that I thought…ok, my bags will come. If they hadn’t gotten theirs yet then that was a good sign. Then, miraculously, one arrived. It was so exciting! I thought that surely the second would be right behind it. No such luck. The baggage claim area was clearing out. There were no new bags being added. I asked around…this was everything - they said.

I went to go file a report and the people behind the desk pointed to another counter across the way. “Go there and file a claim,” they said. It was crowded “over there” but this was my only option so I headed on my way. I decided to take one last glance over to my baggage belt. From a distance I saw…wait… Could it be? It looked like my bag!! I ran over and sure enough…my bag, my bag! Horray! I was so thrilled.

The customs process went quickly and finally, 2 hours after landing…I was out into the crowd looking for a man named Ian, who said he would be holding a sign that said IFRE (my organization). There he was. His wife and her sister were both with him. I have noticed that there is always a welcoming committee in this country. I was happy to meet them all. “Karibu!” they told me. “Welcome!” “Asante sana” I said. “Thank you very much.”

On the way “home” I chatted with Ian’s wife, Edie, in the back seat. She was sweet and we laughed and learned about each other. She asked about my family and I told her that they were all excited for me to be here. They were all surprised that: 1. I had been here before and 2. That I was married. I tried to explain Jason being in Ireland and such. I think they MOSTLY understood me. After a while, I just looked out the window and checked out the scenery. The ride took about one hour so there was lots of time to take in my surroundings. I quickly became grateful that I had been here once before. It really cut down on the shock factor. Things are…so different…so…run down and broken. We passed local hang-outs, restaurants, and stores. When I say “stores” I mean little shacks hand built on the side of the road that sell random things like, “rubber stamps and banners” or chairs or blankets. Half of the “stores” are abandoned, while half were just closed for the night. It was about 10pm at this point.

Finally, after many bumpy, (bumpy is actually quite the understatement) dirt roads, we made a turn on to my new street and through a gate and in to a garage. “Welcome home” they told me. Wow…”home.” For the next month…it certainly will be.

I met Grace and Esther, the two girls that cook and work here. I also met Glory, Ian and Edie’s 5-year old daughter. She was shy, although already she is my new best friend. Today she tested out all of the toys that I brought for the kids in the orphanage. Based on her response, they are going to be a hit. I gave her one of the books that I brought. Her parents seemed to appreciate it. She liked it and smiled really big…this was the beginning of our “friendship.” Kids are so easy. Just give them something and the next thing you know…they are by your side wanting to ask you a million questions and tell you everything that they can possibly think of. It is nice having her around.

So…my “home”…it is basically like a Kenyan B & B. There are about 5 guest rooms (2 down stairs and 3 upstairs) with bunk beds, etc. and one large bedroom where Ian, his wife, and Glory sleep. My room and the family’s room are both upstairs. There is a bathroom on each floor. On the first floor is a large living room with lots of chairs and couches and small tv. There is also a large kitchen and a garden in the front and back.

There are 3 volunteers already here but they are away on safari for the weekend and come back some time today. I am looking forward to meeting them. Also, Ian is picking up two new girls from the airport today. New friends!! Yayyyy!

When I arrived last night, they made me some “chapatti” (Accent is on the last syllable), which is basically like bread. It is almost like the nan that you get with your Indian food. It is delicious! I ate it with some avocado. I was so happy. They kept telling me that there are so many avocados here. I was like…bring it on!! Lord knows, I can NEVER have too many avocados. Anyway, so far, I am eating well.

Last night I went to perform some much needed bathroom activities such as brushing my teeth, when I was informed of “the drought.” There is no running water. They have reserved water for just such an occasion so…that is the good news. I never realized how difficult things could be without water. It is so strange to stand at a sink and not turn the faucet on. Try it. I use a cup of water instead. It is so funny because turning on the faucet when standing at your sink is SO automatic and natural to us that NOT being able to use it becomes the most foreign concept…well, let’s just say this… we should all appreciate our running water more! Also, we need to appreciate being able to go to the bathroom and not have to avoid cockroaches. I swear…last night this guy was the size of my finger. I haven’t seen him today though…I guess they just hang out at night. I tried to walk around him casually but the dude got bugged out (no pun intended) and scurried away to the corner of the wall. He felt comfy there it seemed. I ran by as fast and as lightly as I could so as not to disturb. I was able to avoid him crawling on me and that was really my only goal. Just please Mr. Cockroach, sir, I will respect your space if you respect mine. We seemed to have an understanding cause he didn’t bother me at all when I got up in the middle of the night to go pee and then proceed to not flush.

Today I took a “bath” with a plastic measuring cup and some warm water in a plastic water basin. It wasn’t bad actually. I am clean and that is what matters.

All in all…I love it here. My things are all put away and my mosquito net is around my bed. There isn’t much more I could ask for. I am looking forward to meeting the volunteers and the kids!!

Taryn Belmonte - 1:30pm local time - Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day Two – evening – 9:30pm Sunday

Met my fellow volunteers today. They got back around 5 or so. It was so great to meet them and get the whole scoop about everything! I asked a thousand questions and they happily answered all of them. I was surprised to find out that we were all sent here by different organizations. Two of them are here with an organization called Global Tracker or something like that. Anyway, I also found out a few interesting things. For example:

1. The current volunteers aren’t very happy with the family here. They have been a bit jerked around basically.
They were locked out a few times because they haven’t been given a key; Ian told them that they would have ride all the way home from the safari but instead they had to get a taxi from the city center; They were told that their “fees” included internet service while instead Ian is charging them to use the internet; The little girl, Glory, is cute and sweet but they often feel like built-in babysitters. They work at the orphanage with a bunch of kids all day long and then come “home” and want to relax but Glory is all over them. Then, when they decide to just go in their rooms for some peace and quiet…she bangs on their doors. And finally, the kicker of it all…they inquired to the neighbor, George, whom they have befriended, about the water being turned off because of the “drought”…he says that his water is fine. Typically, when there is a drought, the entire neighborhood goes without water for a while and then it is the next neighborhood’s turn. Anyway, they also asked Esther, the cook, and she said that when the girls are at the orphanage during the day, the water works. So basically, they truly believe that the family is rationing out the water and reserving it for when they are not there. I suppose that is possible. The one girl is really frustrated because she was given the option of living with a host family OR here at this hostel. She opted to pay the extra $100 and stay here at the hostel because here, there was running water, whereas at the host family, there wouldn’t be. She is all kinds of bummed out.
OMG…pause this list to say that…THREE more volunteers just arrived. We are now officially, a BUTTLOAD of white girls. There are 7of us and another girl and two dudes arrive tomorrow. This place is getting packed!!
Well, I am off to bed. More tomorrow after I meet the kids and go in to town with my white girl posse. Love, Taryn

Monday - Wednesday - June 1 - 3, 2009

Things are going so beautifully here! I am just so so happy to be here and be a part of this!

For the record, I am not having any problems with this family at all.
The girls that were here before me had some legitimate beefs but please be assured my dear friends...all is quite well around here. I am enjoying every minute of my time and the family has been nothing but sweet to me. I WILL say...that it DOES seem clear that there is no actual "drought" but instead, the family is conserving the water. Some days it works...for about an hour...most doesn't. No biggie is only temporary. What I didn't realize is just how MUCH water it takes to flush the toilet. It is like...FIVE gallons every time you build up your pee!!! J lol.

So, these last few days have basically blown me away. First of all, our "home" is now quite full of "wazungu" (white people) In the past days we have multiplied from 4 girls to 8 girls and 3 boys. Not all of them are at the same orphanage or even doing orphanage work. One is working on an HIV/AIDS project. Another is teaching English. While yet another is working on microfinance, helping women to get loans to start small businesses here in Kenya.

I can't even describe what it is like to sit among a group of people that all feel the same way that I do...that all share my passion for this continent...that all have the same heart as I do. It is can I put is almost like home (so to speak). It is a comforting relief to be joined with like-minded people...they feel like MY people. Gosh, now I am not sure if I am talking about the other volunteers or about the Kenyans themselves. That sounds silly and maybe a bit of a stretch...but I can honestly say this... my love for this country has grown exponentially in just these few short days.

Here are the names of the gang here at the house. Ashley from Utah, Sarah from Ottawa, and Caitrin from Maryland...they were the three that were here for 2 weeks before I arrived. They have been such great tour guides and sources of information for us newbies! Sunday night Emily from DC, Anna from Colorado, and Jen from California all arrived.
Emily and I share a room and I LOVE HER! I really lucked out on who became my roommate. I am so grateful that it was FAR the coolest one of all!! We actually can't stop commenting on the fact that we couldn't imagine rooming with anyone else. Ahhh...sweet destiny!

On Monday, Lauren from Chicago and the guys arrived which includes, Alexis from Spain and Ray from PA (that is so funny because he keeps saying PA instead of Pennsylvania. Nobody around here knows what he is talking about! He is actually from Mexico but he just moved to PA.) It is nice cause Ray and Alexis can speak Spanish to one another.
Finally, yesterday (Tues), Brent arrived from North Dakota. Such a great group all around!

Now...let me introduce you to my sweet angels...the kids!!!

Monday was a holiday here so the kids didn't have school. Sarah, Ashley, and Caitrin had plans for the kids at the orphanage so Emily, Jen, Anna and I were really excited to go with them and meet the gang.
(For the record, Caitrin, Jen, and Anna are not assigned to the King's Kids Village but since it was a holiday...they came too!)

We woke up early and headed out for our 40 minute walk to King's Kids Village (KKV as it is called). We walked down the red dirt roads through corn, squash, and coffee tree fields past 2 herds of underfed cows and waving overly friendly Kenyan men and finally through a gate on to the long driveway of KKV. When we rounded the corner of the driveway, I was struck by how large the home and grounds were. Outside there was a small playground, a decent-sized soccer field, a pavilion with several picnic tables for eating, having church and meetings, the run down school, the house where the founders/owners live, and the orphanage itself, which is broken up in to 4 apartments. Each apartment (A, B, C, and D) houses 10 kids and has a "mama", a "baba"
(dad), and an "auntie" that care for the little ones as if they were their own. This provides a warm family environment for the kids who have become orphans due to a variety of circumstances. Some were abandoned. Some of their parents died from AIDS. Some of their parents simply could no longer care for them. Either way, this was their home now and they had suddenly adopted 39 new brothers and sisters. Despite their backgrounds, they are the happiest group of children that I have ever known.

We entered one of the apartments and sat on the couches and right away, little Chris who just turned 4 years old, (he had his birthday party today) jumped up on me. Instantly...I was in love. With Chris, with the kids, with this place, with my life right general, for me, this was heaven.

After playing with the kids for a bit in the apartment, watching them perform various gymnastics moves, tickling them, etc, we went outside and played with the whole group. 40 kids were suddenly crowded around ALL of us. They wanted to hold our hands and show us around and sit in our laps and talk to us and play with our hair and ask us a million questions in the best English they could.

Caitrin brought 4 shiny new soccer balls that we took out to the field. We divided in to 5 groups and had small soccer practice. They were obviously a thousand times better than me but I did my best. One of the younger boys, Sifa, (only 3) was SO good at kicking the ball with such power and accuracy that I was completely impressed. After the practice, most of the group went in to a full on game while the rest of us played and hung out with the others. Later, we had lunch where Mama Janet gave us the most touching welcoming speech. She thanked us for being there and told us that we were now part of the family.

Our last activity for the day was a "tooth-brushing workshop." Sarah got 100 toothbrushes donated by her dentist. Now, it is strange because from what I can tell, most of them HAVE toothbrushes but...their teeth are SO dirty! When I say dirty, I mean brown....either spots or an entire tooth is brown/yellow.

We divided in to groups again and showed them the proper way to brush...back and forth...up and down...not forgetting the tongue. We got toothpaste and water (the orphanage has water...just our house does not) and the kids went to town. They brushed and brushed and rinsed and brushed some more. The real highlight for them was the spitting part!
Little 3 year-old Moses, who was new to this brushing activity took a particular liking to the spitting. It was hysterical! When they were finished...I swear...their teeth looked so different! I was shocked at how much whiter their teeth were. They were all very proud of themselves and their new sparkly clean teeth. We all took lots of pictures of their new smiles. Now I just hope that they keep it up. I plan on checking in with them tomorrow and seeing how their tooth brushing is going. I will give them a pearly white tooth check.

At the end of the day, instead of walking home, we decided to head in to town to get some much needed supplies and hit the internet café. We walked for about a mile to the "matatu" stop. Now, a matatu is basically a 10 passenger van that is used as a cheap taxi service and let me tell is ALWAYS an experience! The van, as are all vehicles here, is extremely old, run down, pretty dirty and essentially on its' last legs. Nonetheless, most times it does manage to get you to your destination unscathed. And it only costs about 30 - 50 shillings which is about 25 - 40 cents.

Anyway, the fifth matatu that passed miraculously had room for all 7 of us. I sat on Anna's lap and Caitrin and Jen sat in the front seat and the "conductor" guy that takes your money hung off the side. Rap music and neon lights made this particular matatu...very hip, pimped out, and exciting. I was so strangely thrilled to be squished up with these friendly Kenyans in this broke ass van with my new friends heading in to the big city.

When we got off at our stop, I could feel the stares boring in to me immediately. Oh boy, this was going to be an interesting walk through the city. We stuck out worse than any sore thumb I have ever seen. We could have been naked in the middle of Times Square and gotten less eyes on us. They see white people here...occasionally...but very rarely do they see SO many at one time. It was both fascinating and slightly unnerving at the same time. The walk was filled with loud noises and potent smells. Cars honked, people yelled, exhaust fumes billowed, and garbage reeked. The dust and grit stuck to our sweaty bodies like glue...please oh please let the water be working today when we get home!
We need real showers after this! Incidentally, I DID work when we got back...for about 2 hours...and it was super cold...but we washed the grime of the day off of us and felt like new again. Horray.

Back in Nairobi city center, the streets were PACKED...both with daily commuters and vendors. The sidewalks were difficult to navigate because of the dense amount of pedestrians as well as the wares and goods that lay on tarps all around the edges. You can imagine the challenge in keeping our large group of 7 together and not getting left behind. If your shoelace was untied...TOO BAD...keep going!

On we a line...a "wazungu" parade...toward our goals which included:

1. Get money out of an ATM - thank god I already changed money at the
airport. I hate to get money out in such a crowd.
2. Buy a mobile (pay as you go) phone
3. Get some bottled water
4. Internet café

Missions accomplished, and 2 more miles (throughout the city) of walking later, we hopped a matatu and headed home. Ahhh...sweet relaxing and off to bed. The next day would be my first real day at the orphanage and I wanted to get a good night's sleep.

Day Two at King's Kids (Tues)

The good night's sleep was wishful thinking. For the second night in a row, I woke up at 2am. Luckily for me though, so did Emily. We were wide awake, chatting away, and we stayed like that until the clock mercifully reached 7:00 and it was finally time to get up. Ugh. We were tired...yet we somehow found a way to press on...we had to get back to those adorable kids!

This day was very different than the first and we were grateful because we weren't sure how "up" for the full on kid craze we could be today...our second sleep deprived day.

Essentially, here is the run down of a day in the life at King Kid's Village for a volunteer. You could do any and/or all of the following activities.

1. RUBBING. What the heck is "rubbing" you ask?!? So here is the deal.
The school gets all of their workbooks (called Paces, which are the only things that they use to teach the kids...they are quite nice but filled with Scripture and Jesus stuff...but that is another story for later. I will add thought that even the Math books find a way to include the Christian message. "Judy has 10 bibles. She give 5 to Sue.
How many Bibles does Judy have left?") donated from a local school.
They are written in, in pencil. Our job is to scribble over the answers (called "disguising") and then erase, erase, erase! (here it is called "rubbing") It takes about an hour to rub out one whole book.
It is extremely helpful to them though and there is a constant flow of books coming in that we need to work on. One kid will finish with it and another will need it so we have to erase it quickly. Some of these books have been used 7 times over! Some are fresh and pretty new which is so exciting. The good news is this...if they needed to buy new books for the kids every single would cost them about $11,500 per year. The price of pencils, erasers, white out, etc and buying new books for the preschoolers (because they use crayon so they need to have new ones every year) costs them only $1500. This process saves them $10,000 per year. We are so happy to help with the rubbing! We do this in the morning when we first get there while the kids are in school before lunch. UNLESS...we go to the which case, we...

2. READING/MATH HELP. We sit with individual kids, one at a time and
let them read us a story that the teacher gives them. We make sure that they are reading correctly and that they understand the story. Or we go over some math flash cards. It is so fun and we get a chance to bond with an individual child.

3. TEA TIME. We have tea or coffee at 10:30am. It is a nice little
break. I, of course, just drink water.

4. LUNCH. We have lunch around 12:30. We usually eat at one of the 4
apartments with the "mamas" and kids. Lunch, as are all of the meals in Kenya, is usually one of 4 things. A starch such as rice or spaghetti or "chabati", which is my particular favorite. It is like a bread type thingy. Anyway, the starch is typically topped with some veges, or beans, or lentils, or...that's it really. Meat is rare because it is expensive. I said that I was a vegetarian so that I wouldn't have to eat meat here but really, it isn't a problem because there is so little meat. I have to say that...I am already SO sick of the food here. The most redeeming qualities about it though are...they use a TON of cilantro, which I love, and they have so many avocados that I can just eat with a cracker or something. Not bad. But of course, we don't want to offend our hosts so I have to eat some of the beans and stuff too.

5. PLAYING. At 3:00 the kids are out of school and we play games with
them for an hour or help with school work. On Fridays, they have a half day so we have the entire afternoon after lunch to play! It is the best day, of course. (P.S. Today, when I am writing is Saturday...yesterday was my first Friday and I loved it!!) Anyway, we played Red Rover and Soccer and a game called Mr. Lion yesterday in the soccer field. They had a BALL and we were so exhausted. My legs hurt from running SO hard.

On Wednesdays, they have chapel. This past Wednesdays was quite the experience and I want to tell you ALL about it but I am running out of time to write this long Journal/Email entry.
Next time I will write about the following things.

1. Chapel
2. Birthday celebration
3. Christianity at the orphanage
4. Animals - strays (we have adopted two already)
5. Mama Janet

If you made it this far...THANK YOU sooo much for reading!! I am using this as both my journal and my way to communicate with all of you.
More soon, I promise. Love always, Taryn

Some Notes About the Kids, Etc. THURSDAY - JUNE 4

Note: Molly is the Founding Director's Wife. She and her husband John and there children live at the place and run the entire place. They are both really wonderful people and I have enjoyed getting to know them and their children so much. We spend a decent amount of time with them. Their daughters Kristen (16 years old) and Anna (14) (they have many other kids...they are christians after all...but they are away in college or married, etc) both help out with the kids and go to school with them there at the orphanage. They are SO sweet!!!! I adore them both. Then they have adopted twins, a boy and a girl, named Sarah and Joe. They are 9 years old. Anyway....that was just to give you an idea of who Molly is so that when you read below, you won't be confused............

Today was one of overwhelming information and experiences. I have to write them down now or else I will forget...although...we are leaving shortly to go in to the city for Ashley's birthday. She turns 22 today. God, I am so old around here!! The average age of the volunteers is 22. Two are 18, most are 21, one is 25. Ugh!!!! Anyway...

Today Molly opened up to us about the kids and the conditions in which they came to the orphanage in the first place. She told us about Sifa who was only 3 months but was so malnourished that he was close to death. The same for Muturi who had legs and arms the width of your thumb and a swollen belly. He is doing great now. Both of these kids have HIV. Then she told us of Moses, who is 3 now, and how he was abandoned in a field with people being killed all around him in the pre-election fighting. He was found there screaming. He screamed for 2 months after he got to the orphanage. Lucy came to the orphanage very angry and violent. She used to scratch and kick everyone. Now she is a sweet, lovable girl. Muturi, the one who came with the swollen belly, and his older sister and brother, Nyumbura and Julius, were abandoned when their parents died of AIDS. Muturi was 1 year old and Nyumbura was 6 while Julius was 8. The children were left to take care of the baby. The neighbors would occasionally come by and feed them bread and water but other than that, they were on their own. Nyumbura, being only 6 years old, would try to stop her baby brother from crying but mixing dirt and water in a pot and stirring it up and feeding it to him. It actually filled him for a bit and he would stop crying. The children were close to death. Finally the neighbors called child services and they have been at the orphanage ever since. That was 2 years ago.

Molly said that we would never recognize them if we saw them when they first came in. They have all had to adjust and transition and I will tell you, they are all such amazing kids! They are so smart and so loving. I just adore being around them.

On a more positive note (than their circumstance for becoming orphans), of the 40 kids here, only 8 are HIV positive. Those that ARE positive for the disease are fortunate enough to have medicine. They can still live a long and happy life like this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
There is always so much happening here that it is hard to keep up with writing it all down! Every single day there is a new discovery or notable event. I have decided that I will now be using these emails as a journal for myself as well as an (hopefully) interesting recount of my time in Nairobi for all of you. This is as much for me as it is for you so please… feel free to skim it or read it in increments…or if you don’t have time…don’t feel that you have to read it at all and instead, we can just talk in person when I get home. I know that these things take time to read over and I know that everyone leads very BUSY lives! Nonetheless, for those of you who have a few minutes…here is some more info on the trip so far…
First of all, let me say that I am so in love with this place as you probably already know. But here is why…
1. I love the native Kenyans because they are the most kind and welcoming people I’ve ever met. If we are walking to the orphanage in the morning, coming home in the evening, sitting on a crowded matatu, or bustling through downtown Nairobi, everyone we pass greets us. They say “Sasa! Poa! Jambo! Karibu (welcome)! Hi Hi!” and either shake our hand or hug us or give us a high-five (their second favorite American tradition after Obama). Sometimes they just look at us and shout “Obama!” with a triumphant fist in the air. I smile and say it back to them. It sure feels good to be in such an Obama-loving country…HIS country!
I must say though, that in addition to hearing “Jambo!” and other friendly greetings, we DO get lots of stares. I mean…lots. It is amazing. In a country of 30 million people…I would say that maybe only 1,000 of them are white. Seriously…I NEVER see white people around!!! So far, it appears as though only tourists and volunteers are white. Sometimes I think that we are the FIRST white people that some of them have ever SEEN…in person, that is. On our walk home from the orphanage, we pass several school kids as they are making their way back home and they STARE at us and snicker behind their hands. They like to greet us though. They say “hello” and “how are you” proud of using their English on a real live American. It is so cute! But again…I suspect that we are the first white people to cross their paths.
2. In addition to loving the people, I love the language! Swahili is so fun and makes such great sounds! Every single word ends in a vowel, and there are lots of repeated words and sounds such as “sasa” (Hey, how are ya!” [casual greeting]). Or “wewe” (pronounced “wayway” and it means, “you”) Or “piki piki” (motorcycle). Or
I’m learning a good bit of the language but it is hard. I am trying though and they are so helpful and sweet about my efforts.
3. Beginning and ending my day with a 40-minute walk has been fantastic and rewarding. I go back and forth from being tired and cranky and dreading the walk to laughing and happy and looking FORWARD to the walk. It makes me feel healthy overall so I am grateful for it. As Emily says, “It’s strangely and surprisingly cleansing to be drenched in your own sweat and the dirt of Africa every day. It’s something I’ve dreamed about for SO LONG…and I love it. I love the hot sun and the red dirt and the monsoon-like rain…”
4. I love the children at the orphanage because they are warm and affectionate and so happy to see you every day. They are excited and bubbly and so, so smart. They shout my name and they show me their tricks. They hug me and play with my hair. They show me love every single moment that I am with them and I show it right back! I truly, truly LOVE these kids and I think that it just hit me full force today. For the first week and a half…I thought that they were so sweet and cute. I still think that of course, but today, for some reason, I never wanted to stop hugging them. I wanted to protect them and make sure that they were all going to be ok. In general, these kids are some of the most loving children I have ever known. It is intense.
Now…I WILL go ahead and admit some challenges. No running water is still taking its’ toll. Living in a house full of people has its’ good and bad points to it. You never get a minute to yourself, which I hate and love depending on my mood. The red African soil, while in some ways is just so cool, really is also just soooo dirty. It is always, ALL over us and so hard to get out of our clothes…which brings me to…laundry. Ugh. Hand washing clothes doesn’t nearly have the same effect as a real washer and dryer. Your clothes never truly feel clean. The chaos of Nairobi, people constantly bugging you to buy something, the stares, just the mad house of it all…can get overwhelming and exhausting. Oh, and also the food. I am tired of beans and rice. Tired of rice. Tired. The days here are tiring…but a GOOD kind of tired…a “I worked hard today” kind of tired. It is all worth it. And really, despite these complaints, I am basically, completely in love with my life right now.
Being here, in Kenya, helping these kids, is a dream come true for me. So I want to say thank you to everyone for helping me get here!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm off!

My dear friends, family, neighbors, and fellow grassroots supporters,

You have all been so wonderful and supportive of my volunteer efforts! I wanted to send out a heartfelt and sincere note of gratitude before leaving for my journey to Kenya tomorrow.


Between the "change drive," the yard sales, the raffle, my grant from my church, and some additional generous donations...I have managed to raise nearly $3000!!! I came extremely close to my goal and I can assure you...there are going to be some happy Kenyan kids next week!

I have already sent out a large box of books to the orphanage and I am bringing an entire suitcase full of school supplies, toys, and books that are going to be SO much fun as well as extremely helpful for their small library and school. I can't WAIT to share my stories and photographs with all of you, my kind and dear friends.

This day has been such a long time coming and I can't believe that I am actually really leaving tomorrow! Please take care and I promise to be in touch as soon as possible.

C...if you are reading this, my partner in crime, or my partner in "do-gooding" (if that is a word)...I will see you in two weeks. The kids and I will be anxiously waiting for you! We'll try to make you some welcome (Karibu) cards!

Big hugs to all, Taryn ("T")

Monday, January 12, 2009

Who We Are

Hi Friends! Thank you for reading about our adventures!
We are Christina and Taryn and this is our story.

In the fall of 2005, we met in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar, where we immediately became close friends! Taryn was working as an English instructor with the Berlitz International Language School and Christina was working as a teaching assistant at the satellite campus of her school, Carnegie Mellon University.

While there, we had a two-week break during the Muslim Holiday, Ramadan. It was during this time off that we were able to make our very first trip to Kenya, a place that we had both always dreamed of visiting.

One of the most shocking realities we faced during our trip was the multitude of children supporting themselves on the streets. It was heart-wrenching to see children as young as 5 years old, begging for money and carrying their younger infant siblings with them. We could see the desperation in their faces and right away, we knew that we had to come back as soon as possible. We needed to do something. We wanted to help!

For the past 3 years, we have been brainstorming and researching ways to get ourselves back to Africa. After comparing several different volunteer programs on-line, we decided to apply to the Institute for Field Research Expeditions (IFRE).

IFRE was able to place us in an assignment together, at an orphanage where we would be able to work with children, which was one of our main goals. Compared to many others, this organization was also the most affordable. To see a copy of our proposed budget, then please email Taryn at: and she will gladly send you one.

Where We'll Be

King’s Kids Village is an AIDS-related Group Home Orphanage, where children are growing up in a loving and caring environment. The orphanage was started by a woman named Mama Eleanor Stern in 2002 at the age of 75 years old.

There are currently 35 children living at King’s Kids Village.
The home cares for the children by taking them to the best hospitals and clinics as well as providing a well-balanced diet. The kids also go to school, where they are learning many subjects, including English. The home has a vision of constructing a new, larger, educational facility since the present, temporary structure is being out-grown and also eaten by termites. The dream is to be able to take care of up to 70 children.

What We'll Be Doing

We will be participating in any number of the following activities with the kids, (depending on where they need us most):

  • Coordinating fun, playtime activities such as; games, drawing, coloring, reading, story-telling, singing, etc.
  • Assisting with school-work
  • Helping with every day activities such as: eating, drinking, bathing, brushing teeth, etc.
  • Providing a sense of family and making sure the kids feel loved and appreciated
  • Collecting and donating toys, art supplies, blankets, etc. to the orphanage

Taryn will be spending four weeks at the orphanage from June 1 – 26, 2009. Christina will join Taryn halfway through, from June 15 for two weeks.

How You Can Help

We appreciate all of our dear friends, family members, teachers, colleagues, and caring hearts out there in the world, that we haven’t even met yet! You can help us in any or all of the following ways:

  • Make a financial contribution by clicking on the "Donate" button on the side panel of this site. You can donate through Paypal or by using a credit card if you do not have a Paypal account.
  • Make a financial donation specifically for Taryn by sending a check made out to: Kenyan Volunteering Fund and send to: 5700 Bunkerhill St., #507, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
  • Make a financial donation specifically for Christina by sending a check made out to: Kenyan Volunteering Fund and send to: 231 Eldridge St., Apt. 3, New York, NY 10002
  • Gather any gently used, small and easily transportable, children’s toys, art supplies, games, books, etc (for those of you who live near Taryn or Christina) for us to collect and bring to the orphanage.
  • Attend Taryn's fund raising event. (See side panel for updates to the Events section)
  • Clean out your attic or basement and donate items to Taryn's fundraising yard sale or for her to put on craigslist or ebay. (more info on side)

  • And most importantly...SEND/FORWARD this site to friends and people that you know, so that they may have the opportunity to help out!!!
We thank you for helping Christina and Taryn bring love and care to the children of Kenya, by donating as little or as much as you can. ANY amount will be so appreciated by us, and more importantly, by the kids at the orphanage. $50, $20, even $1 would be amazing!

We promise to bring back small souvenirs to show our appreciation to all who contribute!

Where We'll Go From Here

We both intend to bring lots of love and hope to the children of King’s Kids Village. We will encourage the children to stay in school and make a life for themselves. We will hug, cuddle, laugh, and play with each and every one of them. We hope to remain in contact and keep updated on how the kids are doing long after we leave. We will do anything we can now and in the future to help this group.

And later…after this experience is over…we plan to continue to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than us.

We have BIG dreams! We hope to take this experience to further our future goal of working to better people’s situations in Africa. We look forward to gaining knowledge, contacts, and ideas for setting up our own nonprofit, school, or orphanage some day in the near future!

ALSO - we promise to write updates, post photos, and even videos, during the time that we are there. We have been told that there are internet cafes nearby the orphanage!! So check back to see where your donation dollars went and how you specifically helped!