Saturday, July 31, 2010

Another Week Another Home?

What an amazing week it has been at the Johabeto site here in Kitale! Being the largest group, team 3 arrived on the scene with trowels blazing, and mortar flowing like a waterfalls out of the wheelbarrows.

In about three days this team has gotten all the exterior walls up to tie beam height on the second home.

If that's not enough of an accomplishment about 3,000 bricks have been laid on the interior walls and are around chest height.

The tie beam has been formed using lumber and poured with concrete all the way around the outside of building one. Getting the concrete up was done one pan at a time.
All of the walls in the first building have reached the tie beam level with the exception of just a few blocks.

The windows have all been set on building one this week, along with one of the two side doors. There was a slight mix up with one of the front windows to the right of the front door, it was set but it swung open the wrong way. After removed and replacing it with the correct window it opened in the proper direction.

Robert had to leave at noon to catch his flight back home today, but he wouldn't put his tools down until the very last minute. He came to the work site with his bags packed and worked till noon, commendable dedication for sure.

After such a great week, we called it a day at 4pm so the team could get back to the compound shower, and walk to town to have a nice celebration dinner. We at the Pinewood restaurant and after about two or three hours of waiting for our food all 19 of us had been served. It was a great time and great food and at a very reasonable price! It was a perfect way to end such a great work week.

Thank God for the strength that he has given us and the accomplishments he has provided this week. The glory is always Gods may we work in accordance to his will. God bless everyone involved and following this project.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 5-Matt's Birthday

Day 5 was another wonderfully progress-filled day. We started off the morning with a suprise visit from a monkey who decided to check out the compost pile at the compound. By the end of the day we had poured more of the concrete on top of the walls of Building One, and almost finished all of the interior walls. Building Two has all the exterior walls basically ready to have the ring beam poured as well.

A few windows were set, as well as one of the doors. Ruth came into the building and when we asked her whether she has seen the windows, she smiled broadly, and said, "I am even planning the curtains." With that, she took off her outter skirt/wrap,and held it up high, as if it were the curtain. She keeps grinning and saying, "I have so much joy because we are going from the mud house to the permanent house."

We enjoyed the delicious food and hospitality once again from Ruth. Every other day she and her helpers make a delicious lunch for the crew. Today she brought us Ugale, a cornmeal-based dish, which some of us found appealing and others didn't even try.

We have developed great relationships with the Kenyan workers. They are hard-working, cheerful, and extremely willing to help. They are also great teachers, and we have learned to say Thank you in Swahili: Asante. or Shukran.

Unfortunately, I (Ethan) found out today that I was keeping productivity down by 30 percent when Bill stated they had to stop several times today for mortar to come. Little did they know the reason they were waiting is because the mortar mixers were trying to teach me new words.

The day finished up with a chicken noodle soup dish and a birthday cake for Pastor Matt. Lucky him- he was given a Rungu which is a glorified name for a club used for protection and to herd cattle.

Tutaonana (See you later).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Taco Thursday!!

Hello! After much cajoling I finally succumbed to writing tonight's blog. I will start off with a fun fact: taco in Swahili means butt. Therefore, we were not advised to tell any Kenyans that we were eating tacos for dinner tonight. It was difficult for me to contain my excitement, though, and I did let the word slip at least once. On another note, the construction is progressing well. The outside walls on the second dorm are very close to being completely finished, and interior walls are on their way up! Unfortunately, we did lose a tool to the depths of the outhouse. I have carried so many bricks that I am positive my biceps will be twice their current size when I return home. In fact, as a way of erasing doubt from the minds of some foolish men, I demonstrated my strength tonight by performing thirty push-ups in front of the entire team. I must say, it was amazing. =] Now I must be off because these long work days have me exhausted quite early. Enjoy these pictures!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Team Three - Day Three

Day three for Team Three. There must be something special about that. It was another good day; good progress, no injuries and no illness. We have all adjusted to the squat outhouse at the construction site, although not everyone is using the supply of old cement sacks left for toilet paper. We continue to focus on brick laying. The outside walls of the second dorm are within a day of completion and the ring beam on the first building is more than half way poured. There are some challenges since this is construction in Africa. We don't have a ladder and all the scaffolding is improvised. We had a pile of 20 foot Eucalyptus trees delivered today. Tomorrow they will become scaffolding for the high brick work. When the new supply of brick arrived last night we discovered that they were a half inch higher than the original supply. We improvised so we could complete the walls we had started by reducing the number of courses on each wall to allow us to arrive at our finished window height. Problem solved, until we had used half of that supply and the next truck arrived. These were just like the originals, warped, out of square and somewhat random in size. But the project is looking great. You can walk around in the first dorm and it feels like a home already. I walked through it with Ruth Shikuku, mother to the 36 children, today. It was the first time she had been in it. I asked her what she thought. She responded, "I think that it is a dream come true." It is for all of us here as well, and I am sure it is for many of you reading this. Bill

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Photo update

Greetings from Kitale! Today is a photo update. So if a picture's worth a thousand words, today I'm sending you 7,000 words. Hope you can read it all in one sitting!

Matt Drew

Monday, July 26, 2010

Construction Day One for Team 3

After a wonderful breakfast of homemade pancakes, we headed off in the Matatu and taxi to the job site, half an hour away over v-e-r-y pot holed roads which the rain the night before had not improved. Bill assigned jobs to each of us, and most of us had a steep learning curve about how to lay blocks and bricks. The Kenyans far outpaced us as they began in earnest on building two. At this point we are not even considering starting work on building 3, the kitchen/dining hall. I must admit, seeing the buildings in person made the plans on paper come alive - much bigger than we could imagine. Bill and I (Carolyn) were blessed by the visit of a pastor and his wife and son who we met 30 years ago when we spent 6 weeks in Kitui. Pastor Stanley is now retired and his son, who was a year old at that time, is now pastoring a church in Nairobi. They drove 6 hours each way to spend a couple hours with us, and gave us lovely gifts. I was overwhelmed! You cannot out-give a Kenyan! We're off to a good start, and have a long way to go, but our team is enjoying bonding, joking, and trying to learn some Swahili. Bill and Adam didn't make any of us tear down any rows that we laid, so I guess that says something!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Deborah, Shannon and Courteny with their hair done.

Team 3

Hmmmm, where to begin?
I arrived in with team 3 on Saturday July 24th. Very thankful that my first trip out of the U.S. was with a seasoned traveller(our team leader Bill Pollock). Even though we have not started work yet,I have had an amazing experience already.
I have met wonderful people.Our team consist of 6 women and 8 men,half I have never met before. Each I am glad to have come on this trip with. I am amazed at how friendly the Kenyan people are. Most touching was meeting the children we are helping to build the home for. Such beautiful children who have so little and yet shared so much with us. We american girl all had children who put braids in our hair.
Church was a great experience and was a lot different than a typical american service but God was there and that is what is important.
Food, oh gracious, I don't even know how to describe what I have eaten. Just good doesn't even do it justice.
I am looking forward to beginning our work tomorrow but if nothing else, I have discovered that I have soooo much. I am blessed beyond and have much more than I need!!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Another Team has left, but its hardly goodbye!

After two weeks of hard work today was a time for team 2 to clean up their living quarters and get ready for their departure. They refused to say that it was a goodbye, but insisted they will be coming back. A piece of them will be left here forever and they will carry Kitale with them everywhere they go from this day on. It is sure that their lives have been profoundly changed, never to be the same.

The team had moved piles of bricks from one end of the site to get them closer to the building where they would be built into walls.

The walls went up both on the inside and out. The exterior ones have reached the height of 7 feet. At this heights there will be an 8 inch beam of poured concrete with steal reinforcing rods which will hold everything together, and is known as a ring beam or tie beam.

The inside walls have been going up and a few of them are at tie beam height and the rest will surely be there soon.

Also there has been one section of floor slab poured in this building that the small office wall and toilet room wall off of the master bed room will be built.

some of the windows and doors have been delivered to the sight and will be installed after the tie beam is poured.

The lower building the footers have all been completed and the floor has been leveled. Walls are set-up and have started to go up. Things are being done a little differently in this building, so 5 of the 18 sections of the floor slab have been poured.

We thank God for giving the team the strength to work, and for keeping everyone safe. May he watch over the following two teams and receive the glory of everything accomplished.

Friday, July 23, 2010

As team two entered the final stretch, everyone worked at tieing up loose ends to get ready for the next team. Two more sections of floor slabs were poured which means we now have 5/18 of the floor completed in building two. The bricklayers, considerably more experienced than they were two weeks ago, made an admiral start on several walls of building two. In building one, most of the interior walls are now up to ringbeam height. One again, Ruth and Martin brought us a hot meal which we enjoyed while sitting on cement blocks. The atmosphere was more subdued today as many reflected on the significance of their work, the friendships made, and the inevitable termination of our time here. Soon enough, the end of the work day arrived, group photos were taken, many handshakes and well wishes were made, and yes, we fought to hold back tears as our matatu struggled to get us through the muddy roads.

Back at the TI compound, we enjoyed a good hamburger supper with many condiments. Then many of us donated our old work clothes to the TI staff, to be washed and distributed to needy folks in the area. Many team members volunteered to carry locally made crafts back to the states. These will be sold to raise funds for the many worthy projects TI is involved with. Team two, may you all be richly blessed for your service to mankind.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting closer 7/21/10

Today part of our team went to visit The Veronica House, Instep, and Daniel Jumas orphanage, and The Street girls program. It sounded very positive about all the programs. Some sad stories. Their "normal "is so different from our "normal" in the states. With these programs in place now the children will get such an awesome chance at a new life with healthy food,safe housing and people that really care about their wellbeing. May God continue to shower His grace, mercy, and peace on the TI organization. On the site today we now have all of the exterior walls of bldg. one up to the ringbeam height. The interior walls are coming along nicely. All of the underground plumbing is in. We also got the study poured today. In bldg. two two more sections were framed for the slab as well as continuing with backfill for the slabs.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday July 20, 2010 And the walls go higher

The exterior walls continue to rise. Scaffolding is limited. We make do with 55 gallon barrels and planks. The Kenyan masons improvised additional scaffolding using extra concrete well rings. These have no reinforcing so have little strength when they are turned on their side, but it is easier to move them on their side since they can be rolled. So they used the rings turned on their side. They made it through the morning before one broke. Fortunately no one got hurt.

We continue to make good progress. The exterior walls should all be completed to the top of the windows by tomorrow. The interior walls are going up quickly.

Part of the crew spent the day hauling dirt and leveling the floor in building 2. They set forms and got ready to do the first pour of the concrete floors tomorrow. We want to do the floors before we build the walls on the lower end of this building because there is so much fill. The wire mesh and reinforcing bars in the floor slab will do a lot to strengthen the building.

All of the work is being done by hand with no power tools. We have a battery powered drill and saw, but have been unable to recharge the batteries. We hope to get a generator on the site tomorrow so we can drill the building columns and tie them into the ring beam at the top of the windows. Other tools are limited too, but we continue figure out a way to get the job done. That is part of what continues to make the job interesting.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Week 2 for Team 2

Work today continued on the project and the walls - interior and exterior - are really progressing. We can see real shape to the building we've been working on and that is exciting. Volunteers come to help each day and we are still learning new Somali words and making new friends. Our bodies are hanging in there although we all have a new appreciation for brick layers :) Mixing mortar, laying brick, using trowels, using strickers (make the pretty lines in the mortar between the bricks). We've learned a lot - although our hands and backs are feeling the pain :). Needless to say the living room in the morning and evenings are full of us sprawled on the floor stretching.

We finished the back brick wall of one building and the scaffolding consisted of 2 pieces of plywood laying on 2 big barrels. A little wobbly at times but amazing the amount of weight it could hold!!!

Today was the hottest day we have had so far during our time in Kenya - all I can say is WOW! to the heat. Having electrolyte tablets to drop in your water is definitely the answer. We were praying for our afternoon rain which we have had pretty much everyday, but no, the rain didn't come until just before we left at about 6;15pm. About 4-6 hours late :). It is amazing how much the temperature drops before the rain comes and the sky is breathtaking!!!!

We sang songs to entertain ourselves as we worked and had some laughs and good chats. All in all - a good workday to start the week!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Martin and Ruth Revisited

Today we returned to visit Ruth and Martin and the children that will eventually live in the structures we are building. I think that this experience makes it much more apparent why we are carrying and moving and lifting and hauling.
Its hard to admit, because all of these children need so much love, but I think each of us found a 'favorite' or two that court our special attachments. My two guys are James Obama and Moses, both of whom have a wisdom and personality that hides deep in their eyes. We communicate mostly by sign language... James knows how the digital camera works and has already figured out which buttons to push to take pictures and to view them... and knows how to ask for a 'snap' to be taken of himself.
Moses was found four years ago as a 4 year old at a restaurant where he had been left by his parents. He is 8, but looks like he is five at the oldest. He had been sitting alone but joined James Obama and I, and I carried them from the church service to the family's compound of 5 or 6 buildings... where the 40+ children sleep elbow to elbow on dirt floors. Cooking is done over an open fire. for 40 children at a time.
As we walked, Moses talked to James Obama in small coo's of wispers... I have no idea exactly what they were talking about, but it was nice to such a close observer of their conversation...
James has no shoes. He walks over stones and dirt and rocks and sticks without looking at the ground. I think there is no running water.
Another of my favorites, Faith, sat next to us in church. She and her friend spent their time cleaning under my fingernails with a stick that they had found on the floor. It was very kind... grooming... caring... I was reminded of the washing of feet in the Bible... All the children are fascinated with our skin... that it changes colors when you push on it... that our veins are visible and blue, that I have hair that is soft on my arms. The young girls enjoyed the long hair of some of our team members... braids were tied and united...
I learned this day that my feet are soft. My hands are well protected. My belly is full, and my intestines are probably weak. My heart likes singing, and my head is quieter when there are a chorus of voices singing, even if I dont know any of the words.

Day 7: Bugs

After 5 days of moving and laying bricks, Team 2 got a break and had the bus pick us up an hour later. The extra hour of sleep was helpful in energizing the team. One team member returned back to the US today (Eugene) and had another member join us in his place (Dave). We are very excited to have Dave join us and bring some fresh energy to the work site. Good luck to Eugene on his travels back home!

The day started off with some excitement. Apparently, there are caterpillars all over the world that shed tiny needles when a predator brushes against them and causes itchiness and pain. There is such a caterpillar in Kenya that is black. Ga-Young brushed against one with her hand upon arriving at the work site, and ran to the closest Kenyan for help. The Kenyan immediately grabbed her hand and rubbed the affected areas against his head and hair. The coarse, curly hair of Kenyans grabs the caterpillar needles and pulls them out!

We had another day of bricklaying today, and made some good progress. The team laying bricks was paired up with Kenyan masons today, and it was fun to share information with each other. The women on the team had an interesting exchange with one of the masons about how Kenyan men are allowed to have more than one wife but how Kenyan women cannot marry more than on. As much as he had a difficult time understanding that American men cannot marry more than wife legally, we had a difficult time grasping the idea that women and men in Kenya are not considered equals. We learn new things everyday!

At the day's end, we put up enough brick where the team will have to uses scaffolding to continue building the walls. It is satisfying to see the fruits of our labor.

Tomorrow, we're heading back to see Ruth and Martin's children. We're all looking forward to seeing the children again.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Team 2 Day 5

The days are beginning to blend together as much of the work is repetitive. However, we can see progress. In building 1,the walls are now high enough to reach window level. In building 2, about 90% of the footers are done and floors in 4 rooms are pretty well levelled out. To accomplish this, many blocks have been moved from the pile to the building and much dirt has been shoveled into the higher end of the building. Because the building is built on a slope, the floor at one end will be about 3 feet above ground level. The blocks here are not hollow and quite heavy. The slippery mud makes it difficult to move more than 3 at a time in a wheelbarrow. We were rewarded with another delicious dinner by Ruth Shikuku. As if taking care of 40 orphans isn't enough, she brought the dinner out to the work site with utensils, plates, and all. It makes one wonder who is it that's being served.

For entertainment during the ride home, we passed the time seeing who could tell the stupidest jokes. It's amazing that some people's taste in jokes hasn't gone beyond the 3rd grade level. Oh well, as long as the work is getting done.....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 4: Seeing daylight but not tomorrow

Today we continued laying bricks - some might say we're even getting...better at it. The second building has footers, and we've started laying bricks in there as well. We're hoping to pour floors in the first building tomorrow or Saturday. We got a lovely surprise from the neighbor behind the site, Pheobe - she brought us mandazzis (sp?), which are these tasty fried doughy goodness, and some coffee. We continue to be entertained by the Kenyan workers' singing, coupled with some of our own (which is not nearly as good!) Tonight was Taco Thursday - complete with chipatis! The food has been fantastic every day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Team 2 Day three

The gift of another day. Today was a very busy and long day. We completed pouring the footings in building two and started the block work on the low end to hold back the fill dirt that will be going in to bring the insidedirt level to just below finished floor. Building one continued installing the vapor barrier and more brick on the exterior walls. All of the interior walls are have one course of block on them. Everbodies newly found skills are improving. The doors are layed out and ready for preparation of slab base. We have been blessed with the the addition of three local bricklayers that will help give us the extra push we need to stay on track. There have also been some local voluteers helping with this hard work. Everybody's spirits remain high despite the aches and pains.The laughter and joking are a good medicine.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Second day on the job for team 2

While yesterday was a test of physical stamina and patience for members of team two - moving bricks and waiting for building materials that never arrived, today was a day of learning new skills and new accomplishments. Under the patient instruction of master mason, Greg Hull, we learned to butter a brick with cement and properly place it with the help of a line.

While part of the group was getting their training in masonry, others prepared the footers of the second building in anticipation of the arrival of trucks with gravel and cement. Both had arrived by mid morning and so this group was able to begin mixing concrete and pouring the footers. Aside from a few cave-ins where there was loose fill dirt, this group made good progress and by the end of the day had about a third of the footers complete.

All left the site in good spirits. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the drive back to Kitale. It was a perfect evening to sit out side and share stories.

We are truely blessed to be able to spend some time in such a beautiful place.

Monday, July 12, 2010

First Day of Work for Team 2!

Team 2 started our first work day together bright and early before the sun was up, had a nice breakfast of eggs and toast, gathered our things and hopped in the van en route to the site. The first day of really hard work like this with a new team has the potential to be quite challenging, but I think we all adjusted well and worked well together. And boy did we work! We moved approximately 4000 bricks today by hand, measured out the exterior walls with folks learning new skills about what goes into the building process, and started putting down the beginnings of the exterior walls, among many other things. We are quite lucky to have several members who have experience in construction, masonry, and design.

We, however, were not alone in our work today. There were some hired Kenyans assisting with the digging on the second building and preparing it for concrete. There was Ruth, the mother of the orphanage we are building for, who was helping us with the bricks, teaching us songs in Swahili and overall making our brick moving so much more fun! She has a smile and a soul that sings and is infectious. We learned over the course of the day that many of the other helpers were neighbors or friends of hers, the man who gave the sermon the day before when we visited the orphanage, and a young man who came from the next town over simply to help out, named Alfred. He shared a beautiful poem during service on Sunday when we went to visit the children and he has both a strong and gentle heart. There were many more that we worked side by side with, many without shoes, and we were moved by the sense of community, love, and selfless giving that they exemplified.

The site is surrounded by cornfields, which is beautiful and leaves one with a sense of peace. We also have several "pets" around the site: the sheep that belong to the neighbors and are quite funny when they are vocal, a small dog, a cow and we can't forget the chickens which entertained us by jumping in and out of the trenchs that had been dug for the second building. We had rain in the afternoon which was both a blessing and a curse: blessing in that we had a break but curse when we all tried to get up and start moving again :). Needless to say, we have a very sore Team 2 after day one! Overall, a great first day out. I found this prayer and it stuck with me, particularly being here in Kenya, and I'll leave this as the closing thought for Day 1.

"As often as you can, take a trip out to the fields to pray . . . All the grasses will join you. They will enter your prayers and give you strength to sing praises to God."

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Start of Team Two: Week Three Begins

Greetings from Kenya! Team Two arrived on Saturday and at least got 15 minutes of 'download' from Team One. We met our hosts, traveled into town, enjoyed a Kenyan meal in the 'balcony' restaurant, and later a delicious dinner of Tomato and Rice soup.
Today (Sunday) was the true beginning of our adventure, we went to the town of Soy, the location of the home where Martin and Ruth and our new Kenyan family, including the 40+ children, currently live. We travelled by 'MaTaTu' (sp?)... the local form of public transportation, which is a beat up toyota minivan, painted yellow, and with new tires we understand, because of a flat last week. The roads are semi-paved, and semi-pot holed, and semi-bad for the van suspension system! They contain many a 'police check point', where we understand are sometimes the location of a safety and registration check, and sometimes a place for a couple hundred shillings to change hands.
Once we arrived in Soy, we danced and sang, part in English, part in Swahili, for a morning church service, and I was moved for one of the first times in a long time. A chorus of African children can do that, I guess. We took pictures with our digital cameras, and the children all loved to see their pictures on the little bright screens.
We made the walk over red stones and rain water streams to the main compound where Martin and the rest of the family currently live. We were treated to a wonderful traditional meal, cooked over an open flame on the floor of a kitchen that was probably as big as a Starbucks Bathroom. I think I can say for all of us that we got a real sense of why we are here. Martin and Ruth's story of how they came to be caring for these children runs through many hardships too numerous to explain, and proves the strength of the human character and the strong faith of this family.
Next we visited the new building location where Team One has left us a site 'ripe-for-the-buildin'... poured concrete footings under metal rooves are ready to receive the home-made mud brick and poured concrete floors. All material for the project has to be brought through numerous corn fields, on the same semi-paved and dirt roads to the site. There is no back hoe to dig the footings, or move the concrete well liners that have dislodged out of place... all of this will be done by hand or by simple mechanical labor. The one helpful tool on site is the brick molding machine, that makes the bricks for the interior walls.
By the end of our stay, our goal is to build the exterior walls and hopefully the interior walls, layed brick by brick, to get the skeleton of the buildings together. And hopefully to graft onto ourselves just a bit of the joy of these wonderful people.

"I have been placed by the water... I feel no thirst... I feel no need"
-Martin's daughter, at the church service...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

New beginnings

With the first segment completed Team 1 has accomplished a monumental task by the grace of God. Starting with little more than an open field with a few bricks on it and a pile of metal, to having three structures standing with completed rooves.

The team also moved massive amounts of earth leveling what will be the floor base and 100s of tons more in the preparation of the footers/foundation.

As of yesterday the team finished pouring concrete in all but two little sections for all of the footers for the northern dormitory.

The team pushed themselves possibly further then they thought possible, overcoming the exhaustion of 12 hour work days to give a great new beginning for the second team whom arrived in Kitale today.

Yesterday was an amazing farewell from all of the locals at the work site. They had a tree for every member of team that we all planted one by one as the sung and danced and lifted us up showing their joy and appreciation for all the work that everyone had done.

Today team 1 cleaned up their living quarters to prepare for Team 2s arrival. There was a brief overlaps of the two teams, about half an hour, just long enough to meet and give a few little words of wisdom. As team 1 headed for the airstrip in the faithful matatu (van/bus)

team 2 headed out on foot to town with the hope that I could remember the way, and get them to the restaurant. which was a step in faith since it was 3pm and most had not eaten all day and been traveling. Getting to town wasn't as much of a problem as finding the restaurant which looked so much different two weeks ago while half in a daze from the whirlwind tour of Egypt. however after doing a little grocery shopping for the week at Transmatt we were able to find the restaurant and get some prepared food.

here is where the kids of the kingdom are currently staying

and after the johabeto project they will live under these rooves
but before that walls and windows and doors all to come in the next few weeks...

We would like to thank everyone for their contributions, both financial and spiritually through prayer. Without them this project would be impossible, as some of the team members have said we have set unrealistic goals; but God has blessed every part of this project and everyone involved both here and abroad and with faith mountains can be moved and unrealistic goals can be met, Glory be to God!