Thursday, September 20, 2012

Photos and other good stuff!

Here is the link to our photos:
Basically there is a "Best of Kenya" Album, and then 10 other albums of even more photos on each aspect of the trip. I hope you enjoy them, if you have any questions feel free to ask!

I've come across a number of "good read" articles about poverty in the U.S.:

My favorite excerpt from the second one is at the end:
"Fighting poverty isn’t sexy. There are no ribbon cutting ceremonies that come with infrastructure improvements; no awe-inspiring videos like with the Mars Rover; and, perhaps most detrimental to its cause, no big checks to political coffers for passing legislation.
But by ignoring poverty, it only gets worse. And while we can keep it out of sight and out of mind for a bit longer, Obama is right. Its growth will harm our communities, our nation, and our spirits. Voters need to demand that our candidates discuss poverty, and more importantly, take steps to combat it."

Why did I include these in my post? Well, I think sometimes it's easy to forget about the poor in the United States because we are such a rich nation. And sometimes it's good to put this kind of stuff out there as a reminder that we are all responsible for one another in some way shape or form. So, some may have already asked themselves, why did I go all the way to Kenya to serve the people there when there are so many problems in the U.S.? I don't think I could have phrased my response to that question any better than my husband did:

"Everywhere you look in life there is an opportunity to try to help someone else. With such an abundance of problems who could possibly judge where a particular person is called to help? All that really matters is that an individual is compelled, and then follows through on that calling. To say helping one group over another is better or worse, one would have to judge one recipient as more deserving or needy than another. Or one would have to say that we have a duty or obligation for a particular reason to help one group over another. These are very tricky things to prove, or even argue, and they all distract from the real issue: as a worldwide community of human beings, the lack of people helping others (no matter how or to whom) is the real problem, not misdirected acts of kindness missing the "correct" recipients. So, in my opinion, go to your own communities, go to communities across the world, go to your own family -- it doesn't matter as long as you go, and you go with open, true intentions and a humble heart." 

Things I am grateful for this day:
1) The Vincentian spirit within me that helps me to continually reflect on my day, my actions and my responsibilities as a human being. 
2) Those people in my life willing to ask me challenging questions.
3) For all the fantastic little kids in Kenya who, while I was teaching some of them how to glue or watched them tend to their siblings, showed me how I want to live my life. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


We have officially been back in Buffalo for two weeks. It took me about a week and a half to get my sleep schedule back in order – that was only frustrating when I’d wake up at 3:00 am, wide awake, and wondered if I should get up for the day or just stay in bed. I just stayed in bed.
Going back to work was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, I think because of how energized we were (and still are) coming off of this trip. Everything about it was so positive and I am excited to talk to people about it, and to continue to help in whatever way we can. I think we’ve also been really good about letting things go. Within two days back to work we had a conversation about how impatient drivers around us have been and how instead of letting their negative energy get to us, that we have been adamant about letting it go and just keeping ourselves calm. (Side note – not that we aren’t normally calm, but you know how easy it is to get yourself sucked into anger because some other person is riding your tail or mad you didn’t go through a yellow light, and a million of the other reasons people senselessly get angry on the road). 
The other thing that has come up, a commonly known phrase, are the “first world problems” that we have encountered. I spent an entire month without my cell phone and have definitely not had it in front of my face as often as I did before the trip, but one day last week, I forgot it and left it at home. So from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm I didn’t have access to my phone, and I’ll tell you, it felt awkward at first. The more I had time to think about it though, the more I realized how reliant people are on their phones, to the immediate communication, and how all of us (including myself) are guilty of being angry because someone didn’t respond almost immediately. Once I realized how silly that was, my lack of phone didn’t enter my mind and I responded to my text messages and voicemails when I got home that night. That is just one example of many, but the bottom line is that we have been good about not letting frivolous things get to us.
Every so often, Matt and I will stop mid-thought and just say how much we miss our Chepnyal home and family. When you spend that long in a place, especially for the purpose of integrating yourself into a community to bring about positive change, you can’t help but get attached. Granted, Matt and I entertain each other a lot while we dine, but it doesn't quite compare to sharing a meal with Sr. Pat, Sr. Sharon, Sr. Mary, Sr. Esther, and the other VLM!
Right now we are discussing ways in which we can help the people of Chepnyal with some of the projects we started while there. We were excited to hear from Sr. Sharon over the weekend who informed us that so far five women from Tamugh approached Sr. Esther about starting a business! So, over the next few weeks we are going to formulate a plan with some concrete goals and see what we can do from Buffalo. We also got in touch with the local Daughters of Charity and are going to meet with them in a few weeks to see if there is any way we can assist them here. We are very excited to continue our ministry and hope our efforts are fruitful...we will keep you posted!
 I will leave you with two is the second reading from Mass this past weekend which really got me thinking (James 2:14-18), and the other is an array of photos from the Giraffe Center in Nairobi. (For those of you who may not know, I love giraffes!)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, 
if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear
and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to them,
"Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, "
but you do not give them the necessities of the body,
what good is it?
So also faith of itself,
if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say,
"You have faith and I have works."
Demonstrate your faith to me without works,
and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.


That's a Giraffe femur - and it is super heavy!

Their jaws are a little bit bigger...

Almost learned this lesson the hard way

Kelly our Giraffe friend!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back in Buffalo

We made it back safe and sound. After about 27 hours of either flying or being in airports, we are exhausted but happy to finally be on the ground. I always find international airports to be very interesting, each with it's own special checks, and pushy travelers who irk you just enough to make you think you'll never travel again. We could have easily missed our flight to Buffalo if we didn't hustle through customs like we did, but thankfully we did not, although we were the second last people on the plane.

After many hours to reflect on the plane, (Side note: I cannot sleep on planes, thus why I am struggling to get my schedule least I got about 6 hours of sleep last night...add that to the meager sleep I've got over the past 4 days though, and I am running on empty. Thankfully, I am not cranky, just very dysfunctional in tasks of daily living, so Matt is very entertained :-)) I had a few stories that came back to my mind that I wanted to share:

1) We unfortunately had to leave Chepnyal two short days before a huge celebration that the bishop was coming for. One part of that celebration was the 10th Anniversary of the Daughter's work in Chepnyal. The second was Sr. Pat celebrating her 50th anniversary as a Daughter of Charity! What a blessing to serve God and His people for 50 years! The four of us were so sad we could be there to celebrate with them but we were so grateful to have shared meals and prayed with Sr. Pat, Sr. Mary, Sr. Sharon & Sr. Esther while we were there. Here's a picture of the eight of us on our last night in Chepnyal (it's a photo of a photo, so it's not that clear, I have to get the original from Sr. Sharon)

Nick, Sr. Pat, Liz, Sr. Esther, Matt, Raelynne, Sr. Mary and Sr. Sharon
2) When I was feeding the Giraffes at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, there was a sign that said to be careful because the Giraffes could head-butt you. Well, at one point, I had finished my share of feeding Kelly (each Giraffe had a name and actually would respond to their names) and told Matt to get a quick picture of us. Apparently, they don't like it when you don't feed them, and don't see a need for you to be around so that's when the head-butts ensue. Kelly went for it to get me out of the way, and I just narrowly avoided being the victim of one of the head-butts. The worker simply looked at me and said: no food, no friends, and then handed me another scoop of stuff to feed her. Lesson learned!

3) While we were at the elephant orphanage, they had two sets of elephants come out to feed, the younger group (1 month - 2 years old) and the older group (3+ years old). When the older group was out, the four of us were listening to the man talking about the elephants when we heard this fairly loud noise from an elephant about 15 feet away. Raelynne and I looked at each other, pretty puzzled and wondering if that sound was what we thought it was, until the smell wafted our way. We just burst out laughing couldn't believe how
rotten the smell was and that an elephant just pushed some gas our way. It was definitely potent and took awhile to clear out. What an extra treat for us I'm sure not many people get to experience!

4) While working with the nursery students the first week there, as I have mentioned before, they were probably a little less shy than the older kids, but still really shy. While they were finishing up coloring one day, I noticed that those who had completed their tasks kept staring at me, but turning their heads like they weren't as soon as I caught their eyes. I eventually decided to entertain them and start making silly faces at them. At one point I made a fishy face at them (sucking in my cheeks, puckering your lips) and most of them were then trying to figure out how to make that face. I was showing them how to push their cheeks in and they were trying so hard to do it. One little boy though, had it down! With little effort at all, he fishy faced me right back and I was delighted. Every time I saw him for the rest of the week, if I made a fishy face to him he made it right back. I didn't catch his name by the end of the week, but he was my little fishy face and I knew I'd always remember him for that. Well, it turns out he was one of the kids that lived in town so I ran into him  a handful of times while walking through town and found out his name was Buthia (pronounced Bu-dee-a). As soon as I'd see him, I'd fishy face and and he would return it. The last day we were in Chepnyal, Sr. Sharon said she walked through town and as soon as she saw him, he gave her a fishy face - I wonder if I made him think all muzungus (white people) would want him to do that?
Here's probably my favorite sequence of pictures from our trip:

My little fishy face
I will definitely post our pictures to picasa once we sort through them - there are a lot - so I will put a post when that happens. I am also thinking of having some sort of get-together as well, to show video and talk about our experience in person. I will figure that out in the next week or so and let you know about that as well.

For now, I will say this: I am going to be talking about this experience for years to come. I am going to be talking about the Vincentian Lay Missionaries program and the efforts of the Daughters of Charity for the rest of my life. My only hope is that by hearing our stories, whether they come from Matt, Raelynne, Nick, myself, the other five Kenya VLMs or four Ethiopia VLMs, that your hearts will be touched even a fraction of the amount that ours were. Our mission has not ended, it has merely just begun.

 Things I am grateful for this day:
1) For my awesome family and the fantastic welcome we received by all yesterday.
2) For all the people that have been placed in my path who have encouraged me to do mission work and for my husband who has more than willingly been by my side every step of the way.
3) The power I have as a citizen of a first world country, to truly work to change the lives of others in my own community and around the world.