Wednesday, March 17, 2010

News from Kenya!

Jane Stephens, the founder and director of The Amani Children's Foundation, recently returned from a trip to Kenya! Below is her update, with news from Open Day, a celebration of the children of the New Life Homes and the families created through the New Life Homes! Be sure to check out the Picasa album of pictures!

Dear All,

I’m just back from 10 days in Kenya. The highlight of our week was Open Day, an annual picnic at the Nairobi home for parents and their NLH kids to come back and celebrate. It was fun to see so many faces of children we’ve known as babies in the various home, but, even more, it was overwhelmingly moving see the collective “face” of New Life Home’s impact on so many families. Here’s a link from the day.

I've included shots of the entertainment in (from the NLH toddlers, to gospel singers to acrobats), because my kids loved seeing them, and I thought yours might as well. 500 people were there—mostly Kenyan families, but also a few Americans and a host of new Dutch families. Over the last few years, 80 % of the NLH adoptions have been by Kenyans.

One of the most remarkable things about the day was seeing Kenyan dads throwing themselves into the excitement of it all. Many of them arrived with the same “this was her idea” look on their faces I’ve often seen on the shy couples who come to NLH to talk about adoption, but as the day went on, they stepped into the spirit of it--posing for pictures, carrying their new children in the races, and chatting away about the details of their children’s teeth, diapers and habits with the same pride of any T-ball dad in the US!

The number of adoptions from New Life Homes during the last few months has been astonishing--100 overall in 2009 and 20 already in 2010. In a time when so much of our world (both in developed and in developing nations) has failed to take the importance of children’s rights and documentation seriously, these Kenyan families have taken complex and expensive measures to adopt their children in the high courts of Kenya. This is a radical phenomenon. No other African country has Kenya’s record for legal adoptions by nationals, and nothing insures security, status, and legacy for a child like a forever family with permanent legal status, inheritance, and family legacy. Open Day was more than an hilarious picnic, it was the collective “Whew!” of a group of people who have done well by and for their children against all odds.

After Open Day, we travelled to other New Life Homes at Kisumu, Nakuru, and Nyeri. The Mombasa home had to be closed for lack of funding, but the total number of children cared for by the homes is higher than ever, so every home is more than full. And with so many adoptions, there has been room for lots of new babies. I’m attaching pictures of twin boys, Thomas and Titus, who were found on a church pew wrapped together in a single blanket and brought to the Kisumu home last month--together they weighed less than 8 pounds. And of a little girl who arrived at the Nyeri home in horrifying condition. As you can see, they’re thriving. They've found everything a baby needs at their new homes—except parents. And, if the adoptions continue as they have for the last months, they’ll find them soon.

Of course, there are a number of older New Life Home kids who haven’t been adopted (25 HIV kids, 12 special needs kids, and a few others who simply were the wrong age or gender when visitors arrived). Those children have become a part of New Life Home’s family homes. And all of us who visit them find them to be as happy a family as any of us can imagine. They will be cared for by New Life Home and Amani until they are adults—and what great adults they promise to be. I’m attaching a picture of Bethel home in Nakuru as well. Our hope is to build a permanent home for them on the grounds of the Nakuru NLH, as they are currently in a rental house nearby.

2009 was such a challenging year for everyone, and New Life Home was hit by every aspect of the financial tsunami with many of their resources from churches and businesses falling through. The resourcefulness with which they've addressed their growing needs and the leadership that they've developed in these challenging times is inspiring. The lessons we brought home from last week were, of course, lessons of faithfulness, compassion, and love, but they were also lessons about hope and resourcefulness and high expectations. We came home stretched and inspired by having spent time with a real family. A great family in which the grown-ups seem truly wise and the children are truly loved. It was as good as it gets.

Thank you for your part in helping this family to thrive!

Yours for the Amani Board and the New Life Home Staff,

Jane Stephens

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