Thursday, 12 September 2013

Frankie's field of dreams

Now well into his three months working with our family, volunteer Frankie Asher is certainly making his mark.
Within days of arriving he  noticed  there was one thing missing ... a playing field.
So, in full consulation with Mama Sue and her key staff, he set out to do someting about it, all at his own expense.
Frankie explains: "Mama Sue, her husband Papa Dave and all of the people who work so hard to make the Happy House a place for children to not only live and learn, but also to play, are dloing an incredible job. The only thing the children seem to be without is a “proper” playground or sports field. Despite there being a big TV in the living area I have only seen the kids watching it once when there was torrential rain outside early one evening. They love to be outside regardless, of what they’re doing - helping the gardeners in the greenhouses, playing football, looking after each other, playing catch or just running around.
The house sits on a square shaped compound of roughly ten hectares. The house covers almost the entire south side of the plot and the green houses where so many of the vegetables the children eat are grown in the north and north west. In the north east of the plot, there is an area of ground which is covered in small trees but has two home made football goals about 35 feet apart.
 I watched a group of eight or nine girls and boys play football there, but it more  resembled watching an episode of the Crystal Maze with the children trying to navigate their way around any one of the many trees, instead of a game of football.
I had an idea. 
 I asked Billy and Rose to have a walk around the area with me and proposed my plan. Lets cut all the trees down, level the area, and build the children a sports field.
 The Happy House Sports Field. Despite lacking any sort of creativeness or experience in sport field construction looking at the area as it was right now, I had a very clear image of how it was going to look. Billy and Rose gave me the go ahead immediately, now to start. An hour later, a local builder was with me and I went over the plan with him.
The next day he returned with a quote to do the entire thing. It turned out there was a miscommunication yesterday. He was re-building the London Olympic ground. I think not Papi.
 It then occurred to me it would be so much better to do this with the children helping and doing as much as possible. They would then always know that they had helped to build their own sports field. I thanked the builder for his better than competitive quote but explained we would only require minimal external help.
Thirty minutes later James arrived armed with a chain saw and it started. Fourteen trees and six hours later the area was light. It is big, a lot bigger than I thought. James had cut the trees into big logs, medium logs and small branches.
 After school all of the children helped to stack the wood and clear the area of the thousands of leaves and branches. I got the number of a local soil supplier and on Thursday morning he began delivering thirty-five tons of topsoil.
Whilst it was being delivered Billy took me behind the outside kitchen to show me a huge mound of soil that was the aftermath of one of the wells that had been dug and said we could use it for the field. I grabbed two wheelbarrows, two spades and asked eight of the children to follow me to the pile. I explained that we needed to transfer all of the soil from here to the field. Whilst working out the best route as it was quite a distance I walked behind the small building which serves as the outdoor kitchen, not concentrating and walked into what can only be described as a the worlds biggest spiders web. My two biggest fears in life are impotency and spiders. In that order.
 I started dancing around, instantly taking my t shirt off and shaking my body. The children found this hysterical. Don’t laugh. Help me!!!! “IS IT ON ME??? WHERE IS IT?????” The children could not speak as they were laughing so much. “IS IT ON ME??? WHERE IS IT?????” Musyoka, mid laughter then pointed to the corner of the web to show me the spider wasn’t on me, it was still in the tree. I tilted my head to get a clear view from 15ft. Is that a spider or a pre-historic beast? It was bigger than my fat head. 
I arrived at the house the next day still traumatized from the  spider episode. All of the topsoil had been delivered and it amazed me the difference that had been made in only two days. Watamu is located on the coast of Kenya and the area is known for the fact that so much of the ground is in fact coral. 
This is also why there were so many small rocks in the play area. Part of the new field had three separate raised areas of coral, roughly a foot high which needed to be leveled. 
Another phone call to Peter and four men arrived armed with hammers, chisels and 4 ft steel poles to break it all down. By Friday evening they had done about thirty percent of the leveling and the field continued to take shape. 
The children had no idea why we’re doing all of this clearing, cutting and spreading. Surprisingly not one of them had asked but it highlighted to me how much they just enjoy being outside, helping out, getting involved in activities, keeping busy. I cannot wait to tell them.''