"Either write something worth doing or do something worth writing."
-Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, April 10, 2014

32 Orphans Later

The story of how I came to call 32 orphans that I've never met my friends. Here is goes.

About a year ago, some ladies in my church congregation were casually talking about their local friend named Rosefina that was from Kenya. Apparently she worked 3 jobs to support "her orphans," 32 children living in her Kenyan home. I asked in surprise if any nonprofit was helping her and the responses were:

"no, this is something she takes a lot of personal pride in."

"She treats these kids like they are her own."

"She doesn't have those kind of connections."

Cami, me, Rosefina
Right then and there I knew I would have to meet her and hear her story.

I've always been passionate about international development and especially situations that deal with impoverishment, education, and orphans. Since helping start Project Educate in Brazil, Kaiizen trips to Mexican orphanages, working with Millennial Challenge Corporation, and my mission experience, I've contracted the international aid bug.

Long story short I met Rosefina, became fast friends, and fell in love with her "orphans."

Rosefina told me that 12 years ago she started building a house in which to one day retire in Kitale, Kenya with her mom and sister.

Orphans kept approaching their unfinished house asking for food and a place to stay.

They couldn't turn away the children.

32 orphans later, her sister Jeska runs the house because she feels as though it is her calling in life. She spends 24 hours a day caring for these kids, no income, no stipend, and they call her "Mama G."

The orphanage is know named "The Asande House" because kids continually said "Asande" when they were provided a warm place to stay and a bite of food, which is slang swahili for "thank you."

Rosefina and I wanted other people to connect with and support the orphans. As volunteers ourselves, we wanted to make sure that 100% of contributions to the orphanage went directly to the kids. No overhead costs. No payment to us.

We decided to join forces with my friend Josh and his nonprofit (501c3) Kaiizen whose initiative is to help kids worldwide. Josh immediately got on board. I first envisioned getting all of the orphans stories told. Who were they? Where did they come from? What dreams did they have for the future? Then helping connect their lives with the lives of Americans, Canadians, Europeans. Anyone that wanted to give. Then, a person or family could choose which child they wanted to sponsor, and maintain a special relationship with the kid.

$40/monthly sponsorship meant a kid received food and attended school.

Teaming with genius volunteer friends, we launched our web site, kenya.kaiizen.org after months of research, surveys, and compiling data. Just one short month later, all of the 32 kids were sponsored.


It was truly a Christmas miracle. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of people.

Not only that, but within a week people from all over donated enough one-time donations to get new beds, mattresses, shoes, and blankets for every single orphan.  A Merry Christmas for everyone indeed.

The kids made a video for the sponsors and anyone that has donated to help them. Every time I watch it I smile. This grateful, happy, Jesus-loving Asande House family has expanded their circle of love. So many people have stepped up from everywhere to help this orphanage.


The kids write the sponsors. The sponsors write the kids. Many sponsors have told me their orphan's picture hangs on their fridge.

And the orphans feel as though their sponsors are their family.

9-year-old Ryan wrote to his sponsor family, "Your snap I have placed it on the head of my bed when I wake up I first look at you and before I sleep I just know you are there for me."

Another child wrote, "I have never had in my life no one has sent me a Christmas card. I am so glad it was someone so special..."

Read the orphans's stories. Meet orphans here. They will remind you of your blessings and give you perspective of what really brings happiness.

The sponsors get quarterly newsletters updating them on the achievements of the orphans and any news from the orphanage.

Now that we know the kids will be fed and educated, we are focusing on helping their lives be more comfortable and helping the college-bound orphans fulfill their dreams. New latrines are needed. The old ones are overflowing. Their milking cow lacks the proper care and medicines. A security fence is needed. An orphan was kidnapped 2 years ago. And some of the college-bound kids are waiting to save enough money to go. Their dreams are high. Their ambitions fed by a loving environment are currently on hold.

Rosefina told me in a rather joking way, "now that the children have more food than their systems are used to, the latrines are running over!" Really though, their latrines are holes in the ground. Here is a current picture of their "latrine."

We'd like to provide them with 6 of these, with a safe and sanitary piping system that will last up to 10 years. As you can see, funding-wise, we have a ways to go.
Want to donate to provide them with better sanitation? Click here 

Their sweet milking cow needs help. She needs monthly deworming medicine, the proper nutrients, and care to keep providing milk for the 34 people of the Asande House. Costs about $73/month. Help out and Click here.

The security guard watches over everything at the orphanage, but he can't be everywhere at once. Last month, their calf was stabbed in the stomach by a malicious neighbor. Their dishes often go missing, and worse, an orphan was kidnapped two years ago from the house. They are in need of a security fence to protect the kids and the home. Want to donate? Click here.

Lastly, 5 bright kids want to graduate college and escape the cycle of poverty handed to them at birth. We've got a college fund you can donate to. Click here.

Winnie is already done with her degree in June and will walk in Nov. She needs the money to pay for graduation exams and then will be obtaining a job in airport operations. The orphanage is so proud of her, and looks to her as an example. She's paid for college mainly through the graces of the community and Rosefina. Now she needs some extra help to raise about $700 to pay off all debt before June.

Be apart of Winnie's support team: click here to donate.

Jeska and Rosefina have given their lives to the kids. It's incredible really. Watching the videos you can see how much Jeska loves them. Have a five minute conversation with Rosefina and you will be convinced she loves them like her own children.

Part of Rosefina's Interview from our blog.

Why do you help? I have always loved children, and I know that they are perfect gift and creation of God given to us. Whether they are my own or my friends or my neighbors, I love them the same. I feel that every child deserve a chance in life, if I had a way to help all children around the world, I will do so. For now this is what I can do, it’s the reason I live to help the kids. I feel that it’s everyone’s responsibility to help the needy kids around the world, and I am just doing my part. I believe that I get blessing from God. I was born like that, maybe just like my mother, she was amazing woman with beautiful heart, they called her a true daughter of God.
How has the Asande House changed you? I see the world different than most people, i,e., material things here on earth doesn’t matter much to me. The love and beauty of the world, including children, matter most to me. This made me a very strong person for what I believe in.
What sacrifices have you made? I have sacrificed my fun time to work so I can earn money to help the children with food and education.
What do the kids need the most? Food and education.
What are your favorite experiences visiting Kenya? I visit the Asande House for a month every summer. Just interacting with the kids and seeing them happy gets me excited. It gives me lots of energy to get back to the United States and work harder to help them more.
What is your favorite experience with one of the kids? I have lots of experience with most of them but if I have to pick one, it will be Sylvia. When she came to us she was not talking at all because she had been abused by one of her relatives. Now, she can talk and has beautiful smile that melts my heart.
Why should other people help? Because it’s the right thing to do.
Can people come to Kenya to visit? I encourage anyone helping the children to go visit them and see for yourself. Maybe you will understand better the reason why I help them.

Part of Jeska, "Mama G's" Interview  from our blog.

What is your role? Mother of two and head caretaker to all 32 children at the Asande House.
What is your favorite thing to do? To take care of the children.
What is your favorite food? Ugali with fish
What is your favorite song? Gospel songs
What are your ambitions for the orphanage? Build a school for them and finish their home.
What is the greatest challenge you face? We have so many orphans suffering, but I cannot take more than the number of children I have because I don’t have space and food for them.
How did you come to take care of them? I came here to care for my sick mother and the children found me, before long, we decided to start an orphanage.
What are you most proud of? Installing running water for my children.
What do you like to do for fun? Storytelling, playing with kids, singing and dancing.
What are you goals? To make sure all of the children are protected and taken care of. To organize and give advice to my friends and my children.
How would someone describe you? I am a very outgoing person and happy. I am a Christian and a loving person.
Jeska hard at work.

If you think are in a position to give, the link for one-time donations is found here.

All donors receive a tax-exempt receipt and updates on the kids.

Want to come to Kenya? 

Something else super exciting is that we are looking for volunteers that want to come to Kenya with us in Dec. 2014. We've already had about a dozen of our sponsors express interest. We hope to finish the orphanage house and do a few other projects to make their lives more comfortable. Moreover, we will spend time getting to know them.

Fill out this survey if interested in getting more details about coming to Kenya.

This whole experience was not something I was trying to find. But so so glad I did. The picture of the Asande House kids hangs on my fridge.

It is a daily reminder of life's struggles, disappointments, rejection, and heartache. But more importantly, it is a reminder of what matters in life.

The Asande House inspires me to be better. To love deeper. To step outside of myself and ask what I can do for others. To have faith in God. My mom's favorite quote has stuck with me and is a call to action for all of us.

"If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain."

-Emily Dickinson

To learn more about how to get involved, e-mail me. Kaiizen.projectkenya@gmail.com