Friday, 30 September 2011

Fw: Making music

Here comes the music man … and his name is Mr Charles!
Earlier this week we were discussing how we must employ a properly qualified primary teacher, who can also teach music or computers, to work in the nursery school and the first primary classes which will be opening soon.
Anyone so qualified his hard to find in this area and Sue and I knew that even to hope we would find someone who could teach both music AND computers would be an unattainable dream.
Not so. As I have seen happen so often with the Happy House, we have an idea, word goes out and the very first person who comes along is exactly right for the job. 
That old Happy House magic , with some divine intervention maybe, works in such mysterious ways.
Mr Charles presented himself for interview yesterday morning. Thanks to Kevin at Primavolta Music school, in Blackpool, we already had questions which would indcate to us his skills when it comes to teaching music and taking it into other subject areas too.
Mr Charles' main instruments are piano, clarinet and voice. He can also teach guitar to the level which we would require and  is fully able to teach computer at nursery and primary level.
He performed exceptionally well in an impromptu music class.
Now we need more resources for him. First music books for children (he teaces up to Grade 8 to internationally recognised standards similar to our own) and more musical instruments. We would love a guitar ( but because of transportation difficulties would probably need to buy it here) plus more recorders  and other wind and percussion instruments instruments. So any help would be much appreciated, as always.
He is so eager to start and will be with us on Monday.  Then the Happy House will be even more like an African Von Trapp family… alive to the Sound of Music!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Magic moments

Can you imagine what it must be like to receive your very first present?
It was a moment of pure magic for Sauma when she was presented with her birthday gifts at Kidz Club.
Until February, when she and four of her siblings were rescued from the worst kind of neglect, she was being looked after by her older sister Mariam, nine.
They were filthy, unschooled and hungry. Every meal was a luxury, they were being given food by kindly neighbours who reported their case, their mother only going back to their shack in a Malindi slum for one or two days at most.
At the Happy House they are all in school, learning fast, well fed, happy and safe.
A close-knit unit, they know they are loved and cherished.
So they were all rejoicing when Sauma was named as this week's birthday child.
There were cards and gifts from her UK sponsor family… the elephant she is holding in the picture was sent by Myra Boyle's little grandson Max, who is on his way toward his own fourth birthday!
I was trying to choke back the tears as I watched this gorgeous little girl, still slightly shy, enjoy being centre of attention as the whole family sang and clapped for her, the elder of our family's two Saumas.
Also taking centre stage and revelling in every moment was our Star of the Week … Harry.
Our miracle baby Harry, 15 months, who, as a very prem newborn, discarded on a rubbish tip, fought so hard to survive is now a strong, healthy almost-toddler!
And it was the efforts he is making to walk that won him the Star of the Week. He is trying so hard and is so determined. He toddles around confidently pushing a baby walker until a palm tree gets in his way. Then he just plonks down on his bottom and waits for someone to steer him round it. He'll soon be off.
Watch this space and we'll let you know when he takes his first solo steps.
Like my close friend Mama Sue I feel so proud every time one of our children achieves another milestone.  As proud as if they were my own flesh and blood.
How fortunate and privileged we all are to be able to play our part, however small, in helping transform little lives like those of Harry, Sauma and all all their Happy House brothers and 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A child's right

All I need is a blue badge and an umbrella, as I am, for now, official tour guide  at the Happy House.
The tourist season is heading towards the busiest time of the year which also, thankfully, brings us many visitors.
And how they love to see what Sue has created here, a real home, family for our children plus an excellent school.
Bryan Nichol (Tyneside), Janice Gillespie (Edinburgh), Jenny Emms (Kent) and Anthony Stephen (Liverpool) were first to arrive and thoroughly enjoyed looking around and meeting our children.
Christina Kamester and Samy Kamel, from Northolt,  arrived soon after our first party had left and again were delighted with all they saw.
People are amazed and delighted at the very high standards we are providing here for our family, unlike anything they expect to see in an African orphanage.
Sue's intention has always been to raise the bar, to show how it can and should be done.
We cannot cut corners or compromise on a child's life.
All we are doing is giving our children, who have experienced the worst kind of hardship or neglect, what every parent should want for their offspring and what every child, world over, is entitled to… a happy childhood.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Another busy day

It's Tuesday and we've just arrived at the Happy House. The babies are having breakfast in the banda and upstairs, in nursery school, I can hear the children singing at morning assembly.
It's just after eight and the day is already in full swing. I'm trying to get this written and posted before our first set of visitors arrive at 9am.
Anthony Stephen, who I have been in touch with by email in the UK, is staying at a hotel nearby and has very kindly brought over some of the vitamins I still needed to get here.
Yesterday was busy, Jackie Fineman and Emma had a lovely morning helping in school and Agnes and Brian Crighton went along with Billy to take David to see the paediatrician.
Agnes has worked as a paediatric nurse and after hearing about David's problems wondered if he may have a food intolerance. He is now to have further tests to try to establish why he is not developing as fast as he should be.
More parcels arrived for our children, new clothes and other things which are being put into Santa's store cupboard ready for Christmas when we hope each child will be able to have a new outfit (top of their wish list) and one other gift.
At the Happy House, time flies. Sue is constantly busy with meetings, administration, sorting out problems and dealing with whatever crisis may crop up during the day - an inevitability in a family as large as ours.
Another visitor Simon Brazier, from Richmond, was so impressed with all we are doing that he will be back on Friday to help in school. He commented on how smoothly it all ran here and how happy and bright our children are ….and on their very neat handwriting too!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Mad Monday

It's Monday morning at the Happy House … "mad Monday" Sue and her team call it.
Every new week starts with a frenzy of activity which, I know from experience, isn't confined to Monday and will most likely last right through to Friday night or into Saturday!
I'd only been at the Happy House for half an hour or so on Friday when Lanson our trusty handyman walked past me and into reception and put down my desk … just where it had been when I was here in March. 
Now I can't wait to get started on the mountain of work that Sue has earmarked for me.
It's lovely to be writing this looking out at the well ordered grounds, bougainvillea cascading down the walls and flowers, grown from the seed you have sent, adding random splashes of colour.
I remember standing in this spot on my first visit to Kenya, in 2008, when our building was nothing but a shell and looking out through a hole which is now a window.
Even though it was nine months away from opening, I could see the children playing and hear their laughter echoing through the rustling casarina trees.
Sue, too, had seen them and heard them. Spirit children, we told each other.
I wrote then it was as if this land, once bush, had been standing idle, for thousands of years,  just waiting for our Happy House and for our children to become its life force.
Three years on it is transformed, bursting with love and life,  know that I was right.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Party time

After the warmest welcome in the world on Friday, it was party time yesterday.
Our VIP guests were our family's very good friends and sponsors Agnes and Brian Crighton and Jackie Fineman and her daughter Emma.
Agnes and Brian sponsor baby Harry who they first met last year while Jackie and her family sponsor Charity and Stevie, who they were meeting for the very first time.
Our kids , all wearing their Happy House tee-shirts, were there to greet them and ready to party. The flags flying in the banda, the cakes baked in the kitchen and Evans assigned to the task of do.
Listening to the kids singing is always emotional and all our visitors were on the edge of tears.
All our sponsors are family to our children and we want them to know how very welcome they are when they travel so far, and at such expense, to visit us.
Jackie, Agnes and I were given the impossible task of judging the dance competition… now we know how it must feel to be XFactor judges!
All the kids are so talented and natural dancers, but of course there could only be one winner of every category and learning to lose gracefully is a lesson in life we all must learn.
Our kids are so generous and good natured that they all took in good fun, crowding round congratulating the winners!
Then it was time for us all to get up and join in the party, eating cake made by cook Roger, and dancing. The kids dissolved in fits of giggles at our efforts as we wiggled our hips  alongside the gardeners, kitchen staff, teachers, mums, Papa Dave and Mama Sue!
What fun we all had. Thank you, our Happy House kids!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Magic moments

I feel at home the minute I arrive on Kenyan soil - the sounds, the scents, the spirit and the people of this incredible country have become integral to my life.
But it is our Happy House family that draws back time and time again… it has a piece of my heart which is the magnet that draws me back.
Coming back to this, my second home,  is always so special that I think it can't get and better. But it can. And yesterday, it did.
First a joyful and surprise reunion with Sue at the airport…she had told me she was sending driver, not that she was coming too.
We talked non-stop for the 90 minute ride to back to Watamu, my heart beating faster with every mile.
She called Rose when we were a few minutes away, and as we drove through the gates there was our family, all the children waving Kenyan flags they'd made themselves and singing Welcome, welcome at the top of their little voices.
Every little face beamed up at me with such love and affection as they clamoured to greet me, to be picked up or hugged.
Harry, our own Happy House miracle, grinned as Sue passed him to me. His dimples ever more delicious, strong, healthy and very heavy!
My  Pendo, my very special and much loved sponsor child, stood silently, wearing solemn expression, as if waiting to see if I would spot her. Which of course I had from the minute I arrived.
She's only four and can't understand what sponsorship means, but she does know that I have a role to play in her life.  She doesn't hold back as I reach down to pick her up and snuggles in close to me. 
Is there anything more precious than being loved and trusted by a small child?
I don't think so. To be trusted and loved by Pendo and all her Happy House "brothers and sisters" makes me feel truly blessed.
It is their love and trust, their total innocence, and their right to a happy childhood,  which is  my driving force.
They are the reason why I will work as hard as I can to raise money and awareness , moving heaven and earth if I have to, ensure that my dear friends, their Mama Sue and Papa Dave, who founded our charity and created this wonderful family, will have all they need to take it forward.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Santa special

Your parcels for Christmas have started to arrive at the Happy House and everything is being quickly hidden, away from the cute and curious,  ready for Santa to fill his sack.
Santa needs his little helpers and at the Happy House they are our band of toddlers, who really get into the spirit by ripping off the paper to see what's inside.
They are, of course, sworn to secrecy and won't give their older brothers and sisters even a hint of what treats are in store on Christmas day!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Going up

The three poly-tunnel greenhouses donated son kindly by Carol and Steve Driver and family are on their way up.
They arrived earlier this week, to great excitement, and each section unloaded carefully ready for construction which started yesterday.
What a difference they are going to make to our food production, Papa Dave and the gardeners are so excited and have been planning what to plant, and when, to bring the most effective crops to feed our family.
These greenhouses are a huge bonus and we are so grateful to all the Driver family for their wonderful gesture of kindness.

Single release helps family

Virtuoso guitarist Jon Gomm, talented son of our own Elizabeth, is helping the Happy House with the release, on September 28, of his pay-what-you-want single download, Passionflower .. with 10 per cent of each payment going to our family.
And by helping in this way Jon, who has fans across the the world, is also helping to raise vital awareness of our work at the Happy House.
"I know how much the Happy House means to my mum (she leaves today to help out there for three weeks),  and Natasha and I hope to visit there sometime in the future," said Jon, whose international tours have generated a huge cult following.
Regarded as one of the world's most talented and innovative guitarists, his videos are watched thousands of times within days of appearing on Youtube, and his home-recorded debut album "Hypertension" sold over 10,000 copies with no industry backing. The next, Don't Panic,  sold out on Amazon within 5 days.
Now, with a nod to the early days of recorded popular music, when people just loved one song at a time, or before that when they bought the sheet music and learnt it for themselves, Jon is releasing a set of five singles, beginning with Passionflower - a beautifully uplifting track, inspired by a plant took over the whole of his little backyard in inner-city Leeds, with blues and folk inflected vocals and percussive cracks and bangs created on the body of his well worn guitar, Wilma.
"People say the internet has killed albums. Well I thought about that, and actually I love the idea of a return to the early days of recorded popular music, when people just loved one song at a time, really intensely. Or even to a time before that, when they had to buy the sheet music and learn to play it for themselves.
"So, I've made some singles to be released in a series this Autumn, available by only as downloads (no CDs this time), only from, and on a Pay What You Want basis – each song will cost you zero pence, or a million dollars, or anywhere in between! You can listen to it first for free, then choose how much you think it's worth / what you can afford.
"Or you can receive the song by post, in the form of a specially designed, hand-addressed postcard which will have a unique code allowing you to download the tune.
"10% of your payment will go to The Happy House .
"I'm also transcribing the guitar tab for each song so you can learn to play it yourself if you like."
His Domestic Science Singles Tour is now underway and he has an extensive gig list in the UK and Europe. This weekend he is in the north west playing Fleetwood tomorrow and Bolton on Saturday. Find out more at


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Fund rays-ing dive

Travel rep Hailey Aspinall Ellis is bringing a ray of sunshine to our Happy House family after taking the plunge in a tank full of rays.
Hailey, from Blackpool, is working as a KidsWorld rep for Thomas Cook in the Majorcan resort of Alcudia, and saw the opportunity to swim with rays and raise money for her favourite charity too good to miss, so she set up a sponsored dive at the Palma Aquarium.
"After visiting there and seeing you can swim with stingrays, I was toying with the idea of doing a dive in the tank.
Although the stings have been taken out of these rays, I felt a bit too scared to swim alongside creature that are potentially deadly."
But Hailey who spent a month volunteering with our family last year changed her mind.
"I then thought of doing it as a sponsored event to raise money for the HH, and this gave me the motivation to be daring enough. Hailey spent an hour this week swimming with the rays and absolutely loved it.  "It was totally awesome."
Hailey who did the dive with her friend Jamie Hodson hopes it will bring in £250 in sponsorship towards a £500 donation she aims to make to the Happy House when she goes back to volunteer next year and to visit her fmily's sponsor children, Charity and Stevie..
"Once it opened in March last year we sponsored a child Charity and I went out to volunteer. I fell in love with all the kids but specially with one little boy, Stevie, who arrived the same day as I did.
"He had lots of problems at first but now he's fine and thriving. We have been sponsoring him, too, ever since I came back."
Hailey's mum, Jackie Ellis-Fineman , who lives Blackpool, and her little sister Emma,10, are visiting the Happy House this month.
"They are off to see our extended family and I can't wait to go back next year to see how all the kids have grown both as individuals and as one big family."
To sponsor Hailey


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Wild about Harry

Agnes and Brian Crighton first saw baby Harry last year when he was such a little dot.
Our miracle boy, found on a rubbish dump, newborn and eight week premature, was then three months old and was so tiny and sleeping so soundly, that  he melted their hearts from the moment they saw him.
Agnes, a nurse, didn't even get a chance to give him a cuddle.
The couple from Perthshire intended their holiday in Kenya to be a "one-off" but,  guess what, the Happy House cast a spell on them and now they are back.
Since becoming members of Harry's sponsor family they have done so much to help us, raising both money and awareness. They have also sent vitamin drops and other things that we need for Harry and our babies and have been so kind.
So it is very special for them to be back at the Happy House to see what a difference a year makes.
Harry is no longer a fragile little mite - the Happy House magic has been working on him too - and he's a big, healthy boy with a captivating smile and eight teeth to show off.
Thank you Agnes and Brian for all you do for us and for coming back to see Harry and all our family.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Harvest of hope

Churches and schools all over the UK are holding harvest thanksgiving services, but it was being asked to provide some words for a special harvest festival being held by Grange Park Open Door Project, Blackpool, on September 28, that got me thinking.
The kind people at Grange Park sponsor our lovely Rose and are enjoying seeing how much her life has changed since she came to the Happy House last year, so I wanted to put together some words that would be appropriate for their occasion and reflecting upon our work at the Happy House in the context of harvest.
This was the result and Sue thinks I should share them with you.
Harvest of hope...
At the Happy House our harvest is about much more than producing crops to feed our family ...  it is also about growing our children.
These vulnerable little souls who come to us with so little, hungry, frightened, fragile and poorly, with few expectations or aspirations.
They are our seedlings, plucked from poorer soil, which we plant in our fertile garden of hope.
We nurse their ills, nourish their bodies, feed their minds and nurture them ,  each as an individual, with love, honesty and respect.
We see them grow and flourish.
Slowly at first, as if shy to break through the hard earth and then, with strength restored and confidence growing, they spring into life, a vibrant force eager to soak  up every opportunity given to them and learning, enthusiastically, every lesson taught.
We watch them blossom.
Their smiles brighter than the Kenyan sun.
As our Happy House grows, with YOUR help, YOUR love and YOUR support,  we can add more classes to our school,  build more greenhouses in our garden, grow more crops, and make room for ever more children in our family.
Only then will we start to gather in our true harvest ... over many, many, years to come.
Our harvest will come from the hope we sow, and which will remain, forever, in our children's hearts.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Lily love

Steph Hill is counting down the days until she meets her sponsor child Lily.
Steph, from Poulton, near Blackpool, is travelling our to Kenya in October with her mum, Bev Higham, her sister Lynsey, who sponsors Harrison, and a friend.
Yesterday Steph (left) and Bev welcomed another member of Lily's sponsor family, Dawn Grant, to their home for lunch.
Dawn and Steph, who have their love for little as a common bond, have become good friends since meeting at a charity night.
Dawn travelled over from her home, in Oldham, to bring a gift for Steph to deliver to their little girl.
Steph, who has raised lots of money for us in the last two and half years, is so excited that she is actually going to meet her little girl at last and we know it will be very special for them both.
How many sleeps now, Steph?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Star treatment

Our John certainly has something to smile about.
He was chosen by the family as the Happy House Star of the Week for being so tidy.
John's locker in his bedroom is so neat that everyone agreed he should step into the limelight to receive the award this week to a round of applause from everyone at Kidz Klub.
Well done, John, and thank you for brightening our day with that wonderful smile!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Doing well

As you know our baby David, who was born prematurely,  has been a cause of concern but he's making progress.
His chest infection has now cleared up, he's taking calcium strengthen his bones as he was showing early signs of rickets.
The housemums are doing regular exercises with him, as were advised and which were so successful with our little miracle Harry who was also very prem.
Sue is also ensuring that he gets the best nourishment by buying Cow&Gate NurtiPrem, a special formula to help build him up. It's much more expensive than usual formula milk but our children's health is our priority.
Weak bones are a legacy of malnutrition and we need to build strong skeletons while we can. We are so grateful to those of you who have promised to send calcium for our children and to David's sponsors who show such an interest in him and his progress.
It's so special to be surrounded by such love and kindness.
* This picture of baby David was taken by Uncle Billy yesterday. He says: "He was just having his lunch at the time!"
Suffolk event
Steve and Kate Robbins from Debenham, a small village near Ipswich, Suffolk, have recently visited the Happy House and liked what they saw.
They were so impressed with the way the Happy House is run now and with our plans for the future that they are helping to raise both funds and awareness.
They have very kindly organised a coffee morning at Dove Cottage, Debenham, on Saturday, October 8.
Writing to Sue they say: "We thought you'd like to know we haven't forgotten you after our visit and are writing to Elizabeth as we would be grateful for flyers and brochures regarding Happy House so we can distribute to those who attend the sale and to tell them more and even attract further support. "
So if you are anywhere near Debenham, please pop along on the 8th to support this fundraiser.
And a special thank you to Steve and Kate from all our family, we look forward to hearing how your event goes.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Going up!

The groundworks are being put in place for the three greenhouse systems so very kindly donated to us by Carol and Steve Driver and family and just what an asset they will be to growing food for our family as it grows in number and size!
The greenhouse we already have, kindly donated earliert this year, and which has been our prototype, is producing fantastic crops because we can control the conditions and our seedlings are not be burnt to a crisp by the sun.
We have all kinds of things growing from courgettes to cabbages, plus tomatoes, beans and much more.
Dave picked our very first cucumber this week and is pictured here with gardener Chris.
Chris is planting some things he has never heard of so is never sure whether he is doing it right!
But Dave steps in to help ... he's "a country boy" you know.
Sue, however, growing up in Manchester doesn't have much of a clue and has to leave it to the man who knows!