We built a new orphanage in a week and a half, finishing on the day of our absolute deadline. It was a crazy time, but everything worked out in God’s plan and I think we all learned a lot along the way. Next came all the details that we had mostly neglected while rushing to finish the dorm buildings. Where will they cook and bathe and play? How do we get everything from the old site to the new one? And so much more…
We rented a truck and moved the kids in on Monday. Everything went as smooth as could be expected. I loaded over 15 of the small children in my car and the rest jumped in the back of the truck with their things. I took a detour on the way to see a herd of zebra which was fun because some of the younger children had never seen one before 🙂 There were even some gazelles and an ostrich among the zebras.
The plan for Tuesday was to transfer 16 of the primary school students to a closer school (some of the kids were able to join boarding at their old school) and then build a kitchen. This all changed when I woke up to a text message saying the toilet block had collapsed into its pit in the night. Thankfully all the children had just finished using in before it was swallowed by the rain soaked ground.
The men on the ground were on top of things, and by the time I got out to the site in the afternoon with supplies, they already had a new hole dug. We salvaged anything we could from the old toilet and had the new one finished by the end of the day.
The primary school that we moved the kids to has the same problem as all the other schools in the area, overcrowded and underfunded. The school was originally planned for 200 students and they now have almost 400. The first grade class had 69 students with one teacher, and the students sit 3-4 pupils to one desk. Primary education is suppose to be government funded, but when the principal asked if we could contribute half a dozen desks and pay the small salary to add a teacher, we thought that was more than reasonable and obliged.
Having to deal with the toilet delayed building the kitchen, so they cooked under the church porch for a couple days. On Friday, we begin building a kitchen and bathing house. I hired one of our pastors, who is also a carpenter, to oversee the construction, but I also stayed and helped. I like working with Pastor Kamau because he is very thorough and takes pride in careful work. It took four days to build the kitchen and bathing houses with 2 rooms for the girls and 2 for the boys. By the end of it, I was longing for a power saw because those four days could have been turned into one if it did not take so long to cut the wood with a single hand saw (the lumber mills here do not dry the wood making it much harder to saw when wet. Sometimes a machete is needed because the saw blade sticks so much that it cannot be used.)
With the buildings complete, we set out to tackle the overgrown grass. The tractor was fixed and we mowed the grass around the home and the soccer field. We also cleared a section for volleyball and are planning to buy posts when time allows so the children at the home can play with kids from the community on the weekends. Beyond being nice for playing, the shorter grass also helps keep the snakes away. They had a large one (I am guessing a giant python by the description) come out of the tall grass and slither through the home a couple days prior to mowing. One of the caretakers who ran in to it spent the rest of the day inside terrified.
One challenge we faced was sorting out what goes and what stays with the former pastor and his children. Honestly, the former pastor kept a lot of things that he knew rightfully belonged to the orphans, but it was not worth the fight to get them back as a smooth transition was better for the wellbeing of the kids. It did mean that the kids had to leave all their toys behind. Also, because the money for the home was being misused and things have been unstable for many months now, a number of the kids lacked proper sweaters, toothbrushes, and other necessities. Abby and I had toys saved up from teams and another missionary, Tracie, donated sweaters that were knitted by a lady from her sending church and new toothbrushes. It was like Christmas in the middle of the year!
We are still working out the even finer details. The water tanks have plenty of water from rain, but we will need to get a second donkey and a cart to carry water from the nearby river during the dry season (one day we hope to have a borehole). I installed a water filter in the kitchen to purify water for drinking instead of having to boil every time. Along with the second donkey, the groundskeeper is looking for a good dairy cow for us to buy. This week, I am researching solar power systems so they can have lights in the rooms at night and the caretakers can charge cell phones. Currently, we are using some solar garden lights to light the path to the toilets at night. It is still a work in progress…