Kenya Project Trip - PART I of III

My most recent project trip was to Nakuru, Kenya to help design a new orphanage project for a ministry called Miracle House. Miracle House was started by Deanna Bjork and her husband Dan (from Breckinridge, Colorado) in response to the huge need for orphan care found in the slums in Kenya. About 5 years ago, God spoke to Deanna's heart the message, "How about an orphanage here?" Though she had been on many missions trips before with other organizations, she had never entertained the idea of starting her own orphanage. A message she heard early on in the process remains at the heart of their ministry. She was told by someone to “not be motivated by the needs of the people, but be motivated by the heart of God.” That really resonated with me, as I realized that that statement is the reason eMi exists as well, and it’s an important distinction to make and remain cognizant of.
Miracle House (MH) began with a day-only care house in Limiru (just outside of Nairobi) where children could come and be fed and educated during the daytime. A couple years later MH opened another such facility in the western Kenyan town of Webuye. Over the past few years, God has continued to confirm and provide for this vision, and earlier this year they completed the purchase of a 10-acre site near Nakuru where they plan to transition the existing 50+ children to full-time boarded care. The eMi team was asked to come help them master plan the new site and provide design information for the buildings and utilities on the site.
Coming into the project, we were aware that a water survey had been performed at the site and that MH had been told that there was no water to drill for. Obviously, this was going to be a major constraint for the design team and could possibly severely restrict what the ministry could do with the land.
Our team consisted of 8 design professionals: Elisa Wheeler (civil engineer) and Roger Glick (agricultural engineer) flew in from the states directly to Nairobi, where MH picked them up and drove them 2 hours to Nakuru; Casey Snell (architect), my friend from Medford Jason Prins (structural engineer), Jill Eckloff (eMiEA long-term volunteer architect), eMi-EA interns Travis Greiman (civil engineering) and Jaclyn Miller (architecture) and I drove in a van from Kampala 10 1/2 hours to get to Nakuru. The van we rented was driven by Farouq, a driver we’ve used a number of times and one of the nicest people on the planet.

Our driver Farouq, doing what he does so well. He is a very safe driver and never complains about early starts (4am) or long days (10 1/2 hours).

The drive to Nakuru was long! The roads in Uganda (the first 3 1/2 to 4 hours) were good, but that changed at the border. The roads had been resurfaced in the not too distant past (5-7 years), but the subgrade was done poorly so there are huge ruts from the truck tires that pass through. These ruts were 12 inches deep in some areas! There are a ton of trucks on this particular road since it is the main route from the shipping port in Mombasa to Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali (Rwanda), the Congo and other East African cities.

This is the view we had for much of the trip! (Note the painted slogan on the bumper, "Don't mess up with Texe's!" Classic!)
There are also a lot of speed bumps, which I can’t figure out why in the world they were installed on a major highway (can you imagine I-5 having speed bumps sporadically throughout California?!).
We stopped at the day-care facility in Webuye for a couple of hours, and then continued on to Nakuru, arriving at the guesthouse a little before dinner.

At the existing day-care facility in Webuye mid-way through the trip to Nakuru. The children had prepared a presentation of reciting bible memory verses and singing us some songs. It was great to see some of the children who will live in the homes we'll be designing.
We were met by 4 people from the ministry: Deanna and Dan, their friend Andy, and Pastor Sammy, a Kenyan pastor who has become a part of Miracle House. It was a nice place with a homey feel that was just down the street from the entrance to the Lake Nakuru National park (home to 4 of the ‘big 5’ safari animals and a bazillion flamingoes on the lake).
The next morning the scratchy throat that had started on the trip turned into a terrible sore throat. We went to a local church, which was very unusual in that it very much followed a typical western format and style – no dancing in the aisles, and no 3-hour long service. Afterwards, we drove to the site (about 20 minutes out of town) and walked around as Deanna shared the vision and history of MH.

The team hearing the vision from Deanna of Miracle house, on the site.

Much of the 10-acre site was cleared, which would make the survey much easier. You can see how dry it is - the area surrounding Nakuru is currently in a very bad drought. All the corn crops around town are half-grown and dead. Pretty sad to see knowing that this represents a lot of people's food and livlihood.

The team near the site entrance - a great tree-lined path that will remain in the new master plan layout.
After returning to the guesthouse, we went through the opening programming meeting where the team asks all the questions necessary to move forward with the design. The vision was big, so the architects had their work cut out for them to fit it all on the site: an orphanage for up to 200 children, a pre-school, a guesthouse for up to 50 people short-term mission trips, a babies home, a chapel, a multi-purpose hall for conferences, a dining hall and kitchen facility, vocational training center where things like welding, sewing, and ag and animal husbandry can by taught, and then as much agricultural land as possible!

The team in the workroom at our guesthouse in Nakuru. After the opening meeting we had a time of worship. The ministry joined us for all of our devotional and worship times during the week, which was a nice twist.
On Monday and Tuesday, as my sore throat turned into a terrible head cold, my friend Jason and I spent the days on the site surveying the land. Though I wasn’t feeling that great, it was fun and my first time actually running a survey on a project. Since the land was cleared and pretty uniform in slope, we were able to do all 10 (actually 10.9) acres in a day and a half. While we did that, the civil engineers dug boreholes to check the soil for wastewater seepage, the Ag engineer did a bunch of research with the locals and neighbors to find out about water options, and the architects stayed back at the guesthouse working on the master plan. By the end of day 2, a master plan was relatively set, some building floor plans were laid out, and some Google sketch-up models had been created (Google sketch-up is a 3D modeling program that is simple to use, free to download, and produces a nice 3D vision of buildings, layouts or even the whole site if you have the time).

Me, running the instrument. It was fun to have another role on this trip...I may just do this again on future trips!

My friend Jason Prins, the "rodman". Jason probably logged a few miles of walking while taking all of the topo and locating shots on the site.

The architectural team, working their magic in developing the preliminary master plan to review with the ministry.

The architects reviewing the master plan with Deanna and Dan after a day of work. It's amazing to me how fast the architects on eMi trips are able to take the spoken vision of the ministry and put it down on paper in the form of a master plan. After one day, 90% of what would end up being the master plan was in place. Very cool.

By the way, they not only had a master plan to review with MH after day 1, they had three different options for them to consider! Impressive!
Looming large was the water issue, as the number of people on site during phase 1 alone could require nearly 7000 liters/day. After talking to the neighbor, we discovered that he plans to drill a borehole at a spot about 5 kilometers away where water is supposed to be, and then pump it to his property. He is willing to either share the cost of that process with MH or to install it himself and then sell water to MH. We also learned that a different neighbor had purchased a water truck and trucks water to their site to fill their storage tanks. They too are willing to sell MH water. The last major consideration the team began looking into was rainfall collection – especially for the agricultural land. The ministry hasn’t fully given up hope on finding water on their site too. They have had several people pray over the land and they feel like they may have identified a spot where they feel God is telling them to drill. But since the water in that area is supposed to be 250 meters or more deep, it could cost close to $20,000 to do an exploratory drilling!

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