Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kenya Trip - Post 3: The Ministry (June 4-5)

One of my favorite team photos of all time - with ministry
director Jane Gravis and several of the IAA kids.
The ministry we’re working with is an Orphanage called ‘Into Abbas Arms’. The founder, Jane Gravis, came on a medical missions trip in 1997 as a dental hygienist, but ended up serving as the dentist due to the needs encountered. She was struck by the number of children without families/homes, so she came back and started an orphanage in 1999, intending to get things started before leaving it to others to continue forward. Sixteen years later and still serving as the ministry director, she lives in Texas full-time, traveling back to Kenya several each year.

Alisha hanging out with some of her students at the pre-school.
Currently, they have 43 children (the 43rd, a 5 year old girl, arrived while we were on site). The stories of how the children come to the orphanage are as varied as the kids themselves, but many were dramatic, ranging from being left for dead on the street at birth, to the newest little girl’s story of having a mentally ill mother who would lock her in a dark closet for hours at a time for no reason. Consequently, her 21 year old brother had been caring for her full-time.

Alisha with Christine, the 5-year old who arrived at the home
during our visit. What a cheerful little girl, especially given
all life's thrown at her.
The ministry supports the children on-site up until ‘high school’ (similar to our middle school, which begins around age 12 here), when they send them to a boarding school. After high school they support them through college. Exit plans are almost always a major challenge for orphanages here in Africa, as few opportunities for jobs exist in the country. Many of the kids end up wanting to come back to work at the orphanage, which is obviously not a sustainable solution. One of the oldest two boys is currently studying engineering at a university here and is transferring to a community college in Houston, Texas, next month. After he graduates, their plan is to try to help him find a job. Part of the future plans we’re including on the site will allow for a small number of children to return to work for the orphanage in various support roles.

With John-Joe, who hopes to intern
with EMI in our Uganda office in
the coming years.