Helping Orphans When Others Can’t

Helping Orphans When Others Can’t

Here in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, strict regulations have been put in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. In public, everyone is required to wear masks and maintain appropriate social distancing. Benches, floors and walls are plastered with signs reminding everyone of the importance of observing these mandates, and the police have been charged with the task of ensuring compliance. As you can imagine, this made it challenging to preach the gospel and serve the poor, which is what we came here to do.

At the beginning of June, Kenya’s president announced the official loosening of regulations which gave people a bit more freedom to be out and about. Immediately we contacted a friend, who is well connected with those serving the poor here in Nairobi, and asked how we might help the people who are suffering terribly because of the current state of affairs. “Oh, there are many suffering. Where do we begin?” he said. After discussing several options we agreed to start with a nearby orphanage where a small group of nuns care for 81 kids who were born HIV+. Currently there are kids ranging in age from three months to 22 years.

When we visited the orphanage the nuns explained how the current pandemic has affected their support system. Government aid is now albeit non-existent because of the reallocation of funds to address the public health crisis; the missionary organizations which have helped in the past have since returned to their countries of origin; and several of the overseas non-profit groups that have sustained them have apologetically discontinued support.

Here is the front entrance of the orphanage, which is intentionally plain. The nuns work really hard to preserve the dignity of the kids who call this place home and never want them to feel as if their diagnoses somehow define them. On the other side of the gate is a very large field which serves as a natural boundary so that passerbys remain unaware of the facility's identity.

In addition to the gross shortage of financial / material support, the nuns are suffering because of their reduced workforce. Typically there are seminarians, consecrated brothers, and community volunteers who visit the orphanage on a regular basis to help with chores and facility maintenance. These volunteers also assist by facilitating enrichment activities, tutoring the kids, and providing infant care. Because of the nature of coronavirus and the kids’ fragile immune systems, these volunteers are prohibited from entering the orphanage’s compound, which leaves the nuns with a whole lot of work to do on their own.

As if the reduced resources and increased workload isn’t enough, keep in mind that the kids who normally attend school for 8+ hours each day are there at the orphanage all day, every day and have been since the schools here in Kenya closed in March. I’m sure you can imagine the challenges that this presents to the sweet nuns who selflessly continue to give all that they have for these kids who have nobody else to love and care for them.

About 200m off the road there is a cluster of small buildings: dormitories, a mess hall, chapel, kitchen, rec hall, meeting rooms, a barn for their animals, and such. When we were walking around the compound the sisters kept (lovingly) pushing us away and reminding us to model appropriate social distancing for any of the kids who might have been watching us... but this was hard to remember!

Although we wish we could have done more to help ease their burden, we were at least able to buy a large supply of food. When one of the sisters saw what we had brought she said that our gift would sustain them for at least a month…

Following are more photos of the orphanage compound:

Here is a picture of one of the dormitories. I love that there is a grotto out front for our Blessed Mother!
There is a large garden in the compound which provides them with fresh veggies (when things are ripe and ready of course): carrots, corn, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, maize, etc.

To make sure that we got the biggest bang for our buck, we bought the food which we donated to the orphanage from a nearby open market. Following are some photos from our outing:

At the open market there are countless vendors, all desperate to sell their wares. Thankfully we had a Kenyan with us who helped us to find someone honest that would give us fair prices. Little did the vendor know that he'd have to listen to us talk about Jesus for the hour it took us to pick out and pack up all the food for the orphans!
Our pseudo-son, Isaac Dario, has always loved doing ministry with us. He was super thankful to be able to accompany us to the market to buy the food and other supplies for the kids.
Even though Michael felt tired from a "hard day's work" he was excited to help the man pack all the food onto the top of our truck.
I'm SOOOO thankful that my kids have learned NOT to complain about being uncomfortable! Their eagerness to selflessly serve others is truly a gift from God!
What we couldn't buy at the open market we got at the local shopping center: diapers, balls, breakfast cereal, juice and other little treats.

John Wooden is known for saying, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Although it has been challenging to figure out how to preach the gospel and serve the poor during this awful crisis, we’re finding little opportunities here and there. We thank God for providing us with such an amazing team which allows us to help those who are really suffering. Thank you for your loving support!