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Thursday, August 16, 2012

August 16, 2012


Well I have finally booked my return trip to Kenya for next month.  I had not planned on it being a year since my last visit and that year did go by quickly.  At least for me.  I had been searching for quite some time to get a good fare to Nairobi.  My preference was to fly Delta and KLM but I could not find any decent fares out of Philly.  United had what I would consider a good deal out of Newark.  For a five hundred dollar savings I can manage the hour and a half train ride to Newark International.  United sent me a detailed itinerary with a breakdown of the costs.  It floored me that the actual cost of airfare was only 45 percent of the total cost.  Taxes, fees, and service charges amounted to the other 55 percent of the cost.  Let me lay them all out for you.  US Customs User Fee, US Immigration User Fee, US APHIS User Fee, US Federal Transportation Tax, September 11th Security Fee, Belgium Embarkation Tax, Kenya Passenger Airport Charge, Switzerland Airport Passenger/Security Charge, International Surcharge, and US Passenger Facility Charge.  The one that stuck out was the International Surcharge at a whopping four hundred bucks.  I assume that it must be some sort of fuel surcharge, some crazy carbon credit thing or a way for the three airlines I will be traveling on to share the piece of the pie.  There are four eight hour legs on the trip and essentially the cost of the actual airfare portion on each leg is a little over one hundred dollars.  I can see why the airlines need to fill up their seats.  I will be leaving on September 23rd and returning a month later on October 23rd.

So far the only definitive plan is to go back into Uganda to visit Bishop Moses with Freedom Ministries to look at orphanage sites.  My prayer is that we can find someplace either existing or even a place where we can start an orphanage.  Our goal is to create an orphanage that can eventually sustain itself.  We are looking to start out with a place to house fifty to one hundred children.  Hopefully there will be plenty of land to grow food and raise some livestock.  More importantly can we incorporate a crop such as passion fruit or coffee into the operation to completely or almost completely fund the orphanage.  Call me crazy but the other day I was thinking we could have orphanages all over East Africa growing premium coffee beans.  Then we would somehow market the beans here in the states, Europe and the rest of the world as Orphan Beans or some other catchy title.  Of course all of the profits from the sales go directly to supporting the orphans.  If we can do it with orphans then maybe widows too we can call them Widow Beans.  All you Marketing Majors out there give me some ideas on a catchy name.  At least to me it's a decent dream.

I guess we can't have a blog with all good news.  Hezron wrote me the other day on the status of some of the orchards in Kakamega.  It looks like all the orchards planted in Kakamega with the exception of Pastor Ambula's and Melissa Okaba's orchards has died and has been replaced with Maize.  I assume that Kakamega never really recovered from the drought earlier this year.  Pastor Ambula is actually starting to sell his fruit locally.  Out of the nine plots in the Kakamega area only two are surviving.  This is really sad news and I fully understand that the Maize needed to be planted so people could have something to eat and sell to earn some money.  Here are a few pictures of Pastor Ambula's orchard.  What happens when we fall down?  We hope that no one was looking and get back up.

Pastor Ambula's passion fruit orchard

Pastor Ambula inspecting his vines

Pastor Ambula and some more fruit

I am still waiting for Bishop Hezron to report in on the Bungoma area.  We have taken a beating on Mt. Elgon and Kakamega.  We have had mixed results in Busia, Mumias, and Bulimbo.  We have had drought conditions, freezing conditions, and lack of proper care contributing to the loss of the vines.  What to do next?  I don't know but I am sure that God has a plan and there is a lesson in here somewhere.  No matter how much I want to throw in the towel I can still see some hope just by looking at the pictures above.

During my four weeks in Kenya and Uganda next month I will be looking at other projects along with trying to continue with the passion fruit.  Once I am on the ground I will be able to get a better feel for what is going on and possibly a course of action.  I don't really know what more to say other then I am really sad about this and personally feel responsible for not being there to help.  Even though technology has helped reduce the hurdles of communication and distance they both are still formidable barriers to providing the help that is needed.  Even those that are on the ground permanently struggle to help.

Take care and be blessed.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August 7, 2012


Today Hezron e-mailed me with an update on the orchards in Mumias and Melissa Okaba's plot.  He has also sent some pictures from them as well.  A few months ago I was worried that the drought in Western Kenya this last winter took a really heavy toll on the orchards.  Granted we did lose quite a few seedlings and early reports were more then half died.  Out of the seven orchards that Hezron just reported on it looks like we lost between thirty and thirty five percent of the vines.  Some of the seven lost more and some have lost less.  I am not positive of the actual number of seedlings planted at each location.  I allocated each plot the number of seedlings based on the size of the orchard but when it came time to plant the dimensions had changed a bit.

Galilaya church started as a smaller plot and it was increased after the land owner gave some more land to use.  Their allocation was 190 seedlings.  The widow's in Mumias had a larger plot but only half was planted so the land owner could continue to plant maize.  If the passion fruit did well it was planned to expand to the other half.  The widow's in Mumias were allocated 246 seedlings.  The Jerusalem church in Mumias had two small plots and their allocation between the two was 134 seedlings.  The Khabukoshe church on the road to Bungoma is also two plots with an allocation of 156 seedlings.  Melissa Okaba's plot was allocated 250 seedlings.  Hezron tells me that there is many fruit and they are starting to ripen for market.  It is now time to get them to market.  My prayer is that the income generated from each orchard will sustain the maintenance and needs of the orchard.  In addition this should start to provide an income for the stakeholders.  As the income generates and money becomes available the stakeholders are to start repaying the cost of these orchards.  These returned funds then can be used to help finance more projects within the community.

 Galilaya Church Plot

Mumias Widow's Plot


One of the Jerusalem Church Plots

Another of the Jerusalem Plots

One of the Khabukoshe Church Plots

Another of the Khabukoshe Church Plots

Melissa Okaba's Plot 

It's been nine months since the plantings last fall and a few years since my first trip to Kenya.  It has seemed like an eternity since I paid my first visits to this area of Kenya and spoke of coming back to do what I could to help.  In my humble opinion this has taken way too long and I probably should of been fired long ago.  Maybe just maybe we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  There is more to come as Hezron is on the way to report on the other orchards.  Hopefully now I can start to make my return plans to Kenya next month. 

Take care and God bless