Will you sponsor a child in 2016?

Velma 2010
Me and Velma in February 2010

I met Velma for the first time in February 2010. It was my first trip to Migori, check Kenya, unhealthy and Velma had just arrived there also. I was there serving as a nurse for a week with Kenya Relief. Velma was there as an orphan, visit web shy and unsure of her new surroundings.

Starting right then, I became her sponsor. Every month $75 is drafted from my bank account to cover Velma’s expenses at Brittney’s House. It seems so little to me, but to Velma it is huge. She sends me letters, and I get her report cards. Occasionally when someone I know is going to Kenya, I’ll send a gift along in their suitcase for Velma. It’s a special relationship.

Velma 2014
Me and Anthony with Velma in 2014

In 2014, my husband and I went back to Kenya. I was in tears pulling up to the compound and seeing Velma holding a sign with my name on it. She calls us Momma Stacey and Daddy Anthony. She is so precious and has blossomed into a beautiful young lady and leader at the orphanage. She is a wonderful dancer too.

Velma Awuor
Velma in 2015

This is Velma’s last year at the orphanage. She has done very well in primary school and will be going on to boarding school for secondary education. I am so proud of her.

Please consider sponsoring a child through Kenya Relief. You can be assured that your money is going to a worthy cause. These children are so adorable, and they need your help.

KenyaRelief.org

 

New Year. New beginnings.

 

New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday. I think it’s because I love fresh starts. It’s like a new notebook the first day of school full of blank pages, page endless possibilities, and ideas yet to be thought. halfwaythere2014 was a pretty good year for my family. Anthony and I celebrated our first anniversary in April and started foster parenting classes with The CALL. On Mother’s Day, I was honored to be featured in Listen To Your Mother at The Rep. In June, Anthony and I visited England, Belgium, France and Kenya for 16 days. In September, I was in the delivery room when our baby girl that we’re currently fostering was born — I even cut the cord! All our children are healthy and happy and drive us crazy (as they should). We are definitely blessed.

Paris Tours
But yet, there’s something magical and mysterious about a new year. It’s not like a do-over — I don’t want to erase the events of 2014. It’s more of the anticipation — how is God gonna top this one kind of thing. I know He has great plans for us in 2015.

Of course I have the usual new year’s resolutions: cut back on my sugar intake, get back into daily walks, and build my Le-Vel Thrive business. But mostly I’m looking forward to possibly adding another child to our family legally and permanently, and spending more quality time with my kids and husband.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

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Walking in Kenya (Part 2): Lions, Zebras, and Crocs, Oh My!

347-IMG_4031On my seventh day in Kenya, viagra order we woke way before sunrise, adiposity loaded up in two vans, visit this and started the bumpy trek to the Masai Mara.306-IMG_3710 We slept (or tried to sleep) most of the way. What happened next was reminiscent of a Griswold Vacation movie: Right as the sun was beginning to peak above the horizon, one of our teammates, Kenderick, needed to potty. We pulled over at the edge of a corn field with a house beside it. Anthony opened the van door and Kenderick hopped out and scurried confusedly to the corn to take care of business. What I’m guessing was mid-stream, we hear dogs barking from the house. Then the door to the house opens and three dogs emerge along with a man walking in the dim light of early morning. The entire van is screaming to Kenderick to get back in the van. Kenderick runs to us buckling his pants and jumps in the van. Anthony slams the van door shut just shy of getting mauled by three angry dogs. We all burst in hilarious, pee-in-your-pants laughter. (Literally, I peed on myself.) My description doesn’t even touch it, but for those of you who know the clown-like mannerisms of Kenderick will get it. (Me and Kenderick pictured to the right.)

Masai warriors:

239-IMG_4325We stayed at the most lovely, peaceful hotel — the Mara Serena Safari Lodge. Hotel staff greeted us with hot hand towels and fresh mango juice.
290-IMG_3658The lodge sits along the hillside overlooking the Masai Mara — just breathtaking.
398-IMG_3922Safari may be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. Wildebeests, zebras and more were gathering by the thousands across the plains getting ready for the great migration. They were everywhere. We saw an zebra with a bloody bottom — obviously he managed not to be dinner. We saw some lions eating a wildebeest and the next morning, some lion cubs eating a zebra (perhaps our wounded zebra from the night before?).
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Gifts With Humanity - You Shop We Donate
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437-IMG_3992The team posed one last time before we headed toward the airport. It was so much fun to serve and enjoy God’s creation with these precious people.
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Gifts With Humanity

Walking in Kenya (part 1)

Writing about Kenya is extremely difficult for me. I think it’s because the way I feel when I’m there is indescribable. It’s comforting and heartbreaking at the same time. The people are incredibly kind and welcoming. They are grateful, clinic and yet they have so little. It’s a humbling experience to say the least. Anyway, ampoule I will do my best to tell this tale…

052-IMG_3304On June 20, 2014, Anthony and I flew out of Paris and arrived in Kenya to meet up with the rest of the Kenya Relief team. We flew over the Swiss Alps and the Sahara Desert — beautiful, vast contrasts in landscape.

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I had a bit of a panic attack at the Nairobi airport waiting in line for hours to get through customs. I could see my luggage going round and round on the carousel just on the other side. It was crowded and loud, and I was tired. Of course, the recent violence in the country was always on my mind. But we made it through customs eventually, I got my bags, met team members from Alabama and Michigan, and exchanged my American dollars for Kenyan Shillings. Our drivers picked us up. I was comforted to see the same drivers from my 2010 trip — Francis and Nelson. They escorted us to our hotel, a small, walled compound with heavy security. 006-IMG_3225I think this hotel caters to traveling missionaries. It was safe, but certainly not luxurious. I teased Anthony that I’d seen prison facilities nicer than this. I managed to sleep to prepare for the long journey to Migori the next morning.

 

Women travel clothes
The next morning after breakfast, we traveled the long, bumpy road from Nairobi to Migori in the far southwest corner of Kenya. Along the way we stopped at the Great Rift Valley.

013-IMG_3242We stayed at Brittney Home of Grace, an orphanage started about 12 years ago by Steve James. (story here) The children at the orphanage are precious. We all enjoyed playing with them during our down time. (And they will kick your butt in soccer!) Their carefree innocence in the midst of really hard stuff made my heart smile.
062-IMG_3344One of the highlights of the trip was catching up with Velma, the girl that I met in 2010 and started sponsoring. She calls us Momma Stacey and Daddy Anthony, and she has blossomed into a sweet, beautiful young lady. There are many other kids that need sponsors, so if you would like more information about that, go here. As a sponsor, I help cover the cost of Velma’s room and board at the orphanage. Another sponsor covers her school costs. This trip, we walked to Velma’s grandmother’s house. It was such a thrill to meet her grandmother and her siblings.
072-IMG_4025Unlike the medical team that I did last time, our mission this trip was to hold a Vacation Bible School of sorts in four public schools. Christian education is part of the curriculum in Kenya, so we were welcomed with open arms. Our first school was Kenya Relief Academy where Velma and the other orphans from Brittney’s Home of Grace attend along with kids from around town. It’s a fairly new school and is already the top-performing school in the area.
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Paris Tours

094-IMG_3414115-IMG_3386The other three schools we visited were not as nice, but the children still were adorable and eager to listen to our stories.
137-IMG_3419199-IMG_3490205-IMG_3508206-IMG_3506That Tuesday afternoon, I got to go into town for some shopping. It was unlike any shopping experience I’d ever had. I didn’t want to be an obnoxious “poverty tourist”, so I don’t have photos of it, but picture a farmers market in a shanty town. That’s kind of the feel. I did get permission to take this photo of the beans and grains. I purchased a woven purse, a colorful paper bead necklace and some other things requested by teammates back at the compound. Next we walked to the grocery store to buy toiletries to take the the prison. The grocery store has a “coat check” where all bags must be kept — they are not allowed in the store. I even had to check my purse into a locker. I kept the key as I shopped then retrieved it after I checked out. It was most strange. But the grocery store was pretty close to what you’d expect — shopping carts, aisles of food, soap, etc. — sort of like a large Dollar General.

On that Wednesday afternoon, the entire team visited the local prison in Migori. Anthony preached. It was different.
219-IMG_3518Stay tuned for Part 2 of my story where we go on safari…
Gifts With Humanity

Kenya changes everything

Want to be changed for the better? Wanna be rocked to your core? Then go on a mission trip to Migori, caries Kenya with Kenya Relief. kenya7I had the privilege of traveling to Migori with Kenya Relief in February 2010 as part of a medical team. After traveling almost two full days, approved we pulled up to the orphanage, this and we were weary. But what did we see and hear as we exited the vans — a yard full of school children lined up to greet us. Their smiles are infectious.

Some of the children are shy, but within a day or two they don’t want to leave your side. And you don’t want them to. You wish you could pack them up in your suitcase and take them back to the States with you. But Kenyan children can’t be adopted. The government doesn’t want “brain drain” which is understandable. The children at this orphanage receive wonderful care and education.

kenya3Our first full day in Migori was a Sunday, and we visited a local church. Worshiping with believers from the other side of the globe is so cool. The people live very humbly, yet they are filled with so much light and hope. It hit me hard how spoiled that I am. The pastor at this little church was so grateful for our attendance that he gave us a goat!

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That afternoon, we toured the local hospital. As a nurse myself, I was blown away by the staff here. One nurse will care for like 20 patients. There isn’t a washing machine or dryer at the hospital, so all linens are washed by hand and laid out to dry in the yard. (YUCK) I saw two babies in the same incubator. It was all very depressing.

districthosp3districthospdistricthosp2districthosp4districthosp5Then Steve, the Kenya Relief executive director, took us to see up close and personal how many of the local people live. We arrived at a mud house where a young girl was alone caring for her baby brother. I entered the house, and it was pitch black inside in the middle of the day.

kenya2kenya1I was relieved to arrive back at the orphanage to play with the kids. I was so emotionally exhausted. And this was just day 1.

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Stay tuned for more stories and photos from Kenya later this week.

Kenyan Safari

kenya33In February 2010 I traveled to the Kenya as part of a medical mission trip with Kenya Relief. After several days working in the Kenya Relief clinic in Migori, clinic we traveled to north-central Kenya to the Samburu National Reserve. Kenya is beautiful with diverse topography — our route took us over the mountains lined with tea plantations and past a lake filled with pink flamingos. kenya10We stayed at the lovely Samburu Serena Safari Lodge. (This resort was severely damaged later that year in a flood, more about but reopened in 2012.) I never imagined that I would fall in love with safari like I did. It seriously was the coolest thing that I’ve ever done. EVER.
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