But one thing is certain, love will lead me back, writes Elizabeth Gomm.
This is my second family, I am their Auntie Libby and it is my great joy to be able to watch our children growing up and to be a part of their lives.
Mama Sue and Papa Dave are my dearest friends. Mama and I think alike (often thinking the same thing at the same time), whilst also knowing and respecting each other’s unique strengths. I say it myself, confident she will agree, that we make a good team.
In almost five weeks here, I have again seen how hard Mama works and how much has been achieved since my last visit.
Our lower schools have been built on a site just a short walk from Happy House, and how beautiful they, and the secondary school is build is on the way. We are hopeful that we will finish it by our January deadline and have raised the money to furnish and resource it and to pay teachers for the first year.
Our older kids have beautiful new bedrooms upstairs, with more privacy and more responsibilities which they take on gladly.
I have had time to get to know the children who have come to us since I was last here, each one a life that will be changed forever by being a Happy House kid. And how lovely it has been to get to cuddle our Elizabeth Anne, the beautiful child Mama has given the my name and that of my late sister, Anne.
I have shared some lovely, special, moments with some of those I have known, in their timeline, forever – Harry, David, Brian, and Esther.
Since coming to us as newborns, they have grown into beautiful children, our first four little Haywards. Harry has a stubborn streak and loves to be tickled, Brian is talkative and likes to dance, Esther is a catwalk queen, full of energy and fun. I remember just how hard it was to get her walking, how much work was put into helping get her on her feet, now she never stops running!
David will always be one on his own. Down Syndrome, or whatever his special need, he is coming on in leaps and bounds. He has walked home from school with me most days, running and joining in with the all the boyish antics of his brothers.
He is trying so hard to talk and some words are really clear – Mama Sue, Papa Dave, Uncle Billy and even Auntie Libby. At songtime he does his best to sing, in la-las, but he knows all the actions to every song.
These little foundlings, who are lucky to have survived the first days of life, personify the magic of our Happy House.
Where would they have been without Mama’s vision, dedication and determination?
Raising a family of 108 is far from easy. Each one is an individual who has endured much, some of the older ones come with heavy baggage of sorrow, pain or hunger, Mama Sue, Papa Dave, our wonderful social worker Uncle Billy and his assistant Uncle Ronnie turn these lives around. With some children it is a much slower process than it is for others.
Mama loves her children, unconditionally. She is has always told them that her Happy House runs on love, that no one will ever be beaten (as so many kids in this country are). Mama has a policy of positive discipline. The children know that good behaviour will bring its own rewards.
They have routine, respect, responsibility, consistency and endless love.
Working in Kenya is not easy, things are done differently here and routine matters are often protracted and difficult.
Papa Dave is a one-off, a constant source of encouragement and love to Mama, he is always on the go and plays a very important role in sourcing materials, tradesmen etc – always at the best price.
The love he and Mama have for each other has seen them through both good times and bad. They are an inspiration to the whole family, and adored by the children.
I am so proud to have them as my friends, to be a part of Happy House life and to be so loved.
Mama and I believe that we were brought together for a reason.
These children and our Happy House are that reason.
As I leave Kenya to return to the UK, it will be with an inevitable sadness, but also with a renewed sense of purpose as I strive to find more and new ways of making new friends and raising the vital funds we need to maintain and develop this wonderful family.
Despite my aching heart, I will look on the bright side, go ahead with optimism and think of the words of every child’s favourite bear, Winnie the Pooh“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard!”