I guess the best place to start is with the round of home visits we did during Nele and I’s first month. We spent the better part of three weeks visiting two homes a day until we made it to 15 of our 16 Member Homes (one of our homes is located 4 hours outside of Nairobi so we have yet to make the full day trip that visit would require).
It was so amazing to go back to these homes, nearly all of which I had only visited one time in 2010 when I arrived on their doorstep notebook and needs assessment survey in hand, relying on the generosity of the director to share an hour of their time with me. Of the 50 or so surveys I ended up conducting among Nairobi children’s homes, I selected the 20 that stood out to me most – either because of the intense need the home had, or because of how well it was functioning. Across the board, however, I was impressed by the dedication and graciousness of the leaders; that was ultimately what determined if they were a good fit for our program. Over the past 12 months our Member Home list has settled at 16 – four homes were not able to participate for various reasons, but the relationship we have developed with these 16 homes is something I am proud to be a part of.
I was extremely moved and flattered when I was recognized by nearly all of the directors of the homes. I had spent literally 45 minutes sitting in their living room over a year ago, asking them a list of questions and talking about the yet-to-be created Oasis Program and all that it would be able to offer them. While Frannie has obviously talked about me to the members over the past year, the fact that they recognized me in person was astonishing. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that nearly every director commented on how “different” I looked from last year. By this, they were comparing the bright yellow FLYING KITES t-shirt, dirty jeans and sneakers I showed up in last year to the more pulled together and, ahem, clean outfits I arrived in this year. One director, who shall remain nameless, commented that I looked “bulky.” Upon consultation with several Kenyans, we have determined that this was NOT a compliment! Needless to say, I have not worn that flowy, hippie shirt since. 🙂
The first post I started back in June spoke to the incredible changes and improvements I saw at virtually all of our homes. While I won’t go into the details of every home, suffice it to say I was literally brought to the point of tears several times during my visits. Those that don’t yet have it are diligently working towards their CCI registration (charitable children’s institution), which often requires massive construction and infrastructure improvement projects and de-cluttering of dorms (inevitably an expensive task), which is great because it means several of our homes have either built new dorms or are actually working to reintegrate some of their children back with their families and supporting them financially. While the Oasis Program can not take credit for most of these improvements and changes, I’d like to think that some of the resources we’ve connected them with have somehow brought them to the point they’re at today.
Perhaps our most important contribution we’ve made to these homes (aside from an influx of volunteers) is providing them with a 4-day financial training seminar during which time they were able to learn the basics of accounting and keeping financial records so that they will be prepared to submit for a formal audit – another CCI requirement.
I will simply say that I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised at the wonderful work they are doing, both with us and on their own. I’m also really excited because we are weeks away from getting their websites up and running, a goal that’s been on the Oasis agenda from the start, but with one web designer and one staff member on the ground collecting information, it’s been slow-going to say the least. The three of us here this summer has allowed us to get a jump start on all of these projects.
Please enjoy a few more pictures from our days visiting the children and directors of Oasis Member Homes.