Parties and playing

The internet has been an elusive
creature for the last week or so… power outages seem to magically
time themselves precisely for my arrival in internet cafes. It’s
downright uncanny. That said, I have a lot of exciting news (and, as
always, adorable photos) to share.
One of Mama Pendo’s oldest with one
of the youngest!
Last Saturday we had a real treat – a
local community development class graduated and held their ceremony
at the orphanage. They provided a HUGE meal, and thanks to your
donations, we were able to supply transportation for a number of
older kids to come back to Nkoaranga from the places they are
currently living. We had a group from USA River Academy (the kids who
are enrolled with TFFT), as well as a group from SOS Children’s
Villages, which included Farajah and Aroni! We also had some kids
from SOS who had been at Nkoaranga 16, 18, or even 20 years ago, when
the orphanage had JUST gotten started, and was mostly just Mama Pendo
in a small building next to the mortuary trying to take care of a few
abandoned kids! Needless to say, it was fantastic to see them all
back – and SO much fun to see the reunited kids playing together.
It reminds you how much they really have grown up as siblings –
being separated is difficult for them, and they are thrilled to be
back together. Zawadi in particular jumped on Farajah and refused to
be moved for most of the rest of the afternoon, even to come to me!
She missed her “little mama.” All the kids also loved the cake –
especially Neema, who ate four or five pieces!

Neema blissed out on cake 
Mama Cantate with Wema, Farajah, Pendo, and Aroni
Stevie with the memory book I made for him
with the help of many former volunteers’ photos!

Ericki with his memory book 
The USA River Academy kids performing 

Overall, the day was wonderful – a pleasure to see all the kids, to see their excitement at the improvements in the orphanage (especially the playground!), and to see Mama Pendo honored for her many years of hard work.

Adam with Loveness
(top) and Baracka
Riz and Simoni
Adam and Riz have both arrived, and the
micro-grants project is in full swing. In the last two days they’ve
already done eight interviews, and are off today to (hopefully!)
polish off the rest. Although many families just want chickens or
other basic livestock, a few have really creative ideas – and we’re
hoping that bringing these families together will allow them to
collaborate and share ideas and resources. The first class is later today – we will keep you updated on how it goes!
Adam and Neema
Of course, not all the time is
dedicated to work on the grants project… Adam and Riz have also
been loving their time with the kids, and vice versa! The kids are
always so excited to meet new people, and especially when those
people are “cool guys” – they don’t have much exposure to
positive male role models, so we are thrilled to give them a few. If
nothing else, they love being thrown, flipped, and turned upside down
– and the guys have been happy to oblige, and tire a little slower
than I do!
Shujah and Peace are working on
crawling, although they are currently most talented at spinning in
circles on their tummies. Ebenezer and Neema are growing and
thriving, and are now both sharing their beautiful smiles with us!
Poor Ebeni was a little off this morning, and he seems to generally
struggle a bit with digestion – we are hoping that the gentle
preemie formula coming over with Claire, Dorothy and Patty on Sunday
will help soothe him a bit! Neema continues to be a little stunner
and captivate everyone when she bats those big brown eyes.
Filipo took his first steps last week, which was incredibly exciting. We had all been trying to coax him towards it for a while – but of course, it was Mama Pendo who finally got him to make the move. I swear she has baby magic. As soon as he got up, he hasn’t looked back! Frankie is now all alone sitting on the floor – although even he took a few steps last week. Unlike Filipo, however, that hasn’t tempted him towards full-time walking. He still prefers to be carried everywhere, and bawl loudly if that desire isn’t immediately satisfied!
Mama Marie and Frankie

It’s also been a huge pleasure to hang out with Marie and her mom – their donations have and continue to be thrilling and hugely helpful. Special thanks to the big, beautiful box of gorgeous organic kids’ clothing from . As you can see, the kids also enjoyed just playing in the bags it was brought over in! They’ve also taken on the very exciting project of rebuilding and expanding the chicken coop – it is about half done and will be fully finished soon, allowing the kids to eat meat at least once, often twice a week! Huge progress.

Marie and Neema
Mama Pendo, Marie and the clothes donation
Ebeni and Frankie playing in the suitcase
Half finished new chicken coop

 And now, just a few of my favorite shots from the last week, because why not?
Beautiful Ebenezer
Me and my baby girl!

Coming up: A Wednesday kids’ safari to the Arusha snake park and Mount Meru Game lodge, the arrival of Dorothy, Patty, and Claire, and a report from the first grants class. Stay tuned!