Saturday, 30 April 2016

New term,. new start for lucky eight

 The start of term on Tuesday will signal a fresh start for eight young people who have been awarded free places at Happy House School.
They will join another 60 kids, living in impoverished circumstances, who have Dr Danwata Scholarships.
Mama Sue named the scheme in honour of Dr  Danwata, consultant oncologist at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and Rosemere Cancer Trust, as a thank you for the amazing care he had given her when she was treated for breast cancer.
The scheme was launched in 2014 with 14 students, they have been followed by other kids who have proven need and ability.
To their great joy, the eight new students passed an entrance examination and, provided they perform well, will have a secure education in our school.
This means the huge burden of educating them will e lifted from their parents all of whom struggle to feed their families. 
Their kids, even though in free Government schools where classes are up to 100+ pupils, were being sent home because they could not pay towards additional teachers or meet the cost of exams.
Mama, Uncle Billy and headteacher Mr Isaac met with the successful pupils and their parents.
With Uncle Billy translating, Mama congratulated them all and said how brilliant it would be for the children and for the parents.
She said the places came with responsibility, and were conditional on attendance and performance. Children were expected to do their very best, and it was each parent's duty to encourage and support their child and to attend any meeting they were called to, promptly.
In no uncertain terms she told them that under no circumstances were they ever to beat their children. If they were having any discipline problems at home with a child they should come to Happy House for advice from our social worker Billy.
 He would be able to suggest other, positive, ways of disciplining a child which are much more effective than controlling a child by fear.
She explained that each child would receive two sets of uniform, shoes, text books, meals and snacks.
Parents should supply exercise books and schoolbags if they could afford to.
Auntie Velma took the new Happy House kids off to see seamstress Lucy to be fitted with uniform from store, or measured if there was none to fit. and the man from Bata was there to measure them, and other Happy House kids, for new school shoes.
The excited kids tried on their smart new shirts, shorts or skirts and with all but two kitted out they went back to their parents. They will be back today for their shoes so that on Tuesday they will  be ready to take their first step on the road out of poverty and on to opportunity offered by our Happy House.
Please can you sponsor a scholarship child? It costs £20 a month to give a child a chance to be educated and make something of their life,  please email elizabethgomm@childrenofwatamu.net for details



Friday, 29 April 2016

Rainy day blessing

 Heavy rain, forecast all week, arrived yesterday.
The much-awaited long rains, called God's blessing here in Kenya, are being slow to arrive.
Everywhere you go, people are planting maize, which forms the staple food here, and every small patch of land - which normally looks like wilderness- is neatly planted in evenly space rows.
Unused to the sudden drop in temperature (25C) caused by the rain, people shiver and wrap up in jumpers or blankets.
While the rain is a blessing it is also a misery for people living in poor conditions in huts where earth floors turn to mud.
At Happy House, the rain brings us precious water for the garden. Puddles the size of lakes have formed by the time we arrived and as soon as the rain eases off, a pump is in place to transfer the water to the greenhouses and garden crops.
Every drop is precious and cannot be allowed to go to waste when there are thirsty crops needing a drink.
Happy House kids, on the last few days of their school holidays, are indoors - the sound of them chattering and laughing echoing through the house.
It's a joy to hear such happy kids.
They are settled in front of television watching cartoons and enjoying every minute. 
Much like any family home on a rainy day in the holidays anywhere in the world!




Thursday, 28 April 2016

A £10 lamp could save a life

Harrison with his solar lamp
Imagine the fear of a teenager, who dropping to sleep reading by the light a kersosene lamp, wakes as she accidentally knocks it over - narrowly avoiding a life-threatening fire and serious burns.
This is what happened to one of our scholarship girls in the last week.
 Most of our scholarship kids live in homes without electricity and when it is dark, it is pitch black.
Many, many,  families rely on kerosene lamps and they, in turn, are the cause of fires causing thousands of deaths or severe burn injuries every year here in Kenya.,
Deeply concerned .Mr Isaac, our deputy head, came to tell Mama as soon as the girl, a very bright and talented pupil, had told him of her narrow escape.
She had been trying to read a school book by the light of a kerosene lamp, had fallen asleep with it burning. 
We try to ensure homework is done after school, at school, but bright kids still want to read outside school and it is important to ensure they can safely do so,  
Mama orderslamps
When this girl, who lives with an aunt, gets home from school or in the holidays  she has to help with chores and to cook for her the family while her aunt is out selling vegetables to make a meagre living.. By the time they have eaten and cleared away night has fallen - it is dark by 7pm. That is the only time she has to settle down with her books.
Mama, horrified by the story, made the instant decision to provide solar powered lamps to every child on a free place who needs one.
"It is small things, like this, that make such a difference. These could save lives," she said.
"I've seen people and kids with terrible scars from burns caused by kersosene lamps."
Each solar-power lamp, with a really strong beam, costs approx £10.
 If you would like to meet the cost of a light for a child  please make a donation online at http://www.justgiving.com/childrenofwatamu/Donate

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The price of poverty

For so many families in Kenya, the high price of poverty is the inability to educate their children.
In free Government schools parents are expected to pay towards the cost of paying additional teachers employed by schools to cater for the huge number of pupils, exam costs etc.
No money, no school. It is as brutal as that.
In the last two days, I have sat alongside Mama and deputy head Isaac as they have interviewed kids for free places at Happy House school.
Parents or guardians arrive with their kids first thing, prepared to wait all day if that is what it takes.Mama and Isaac have three requirements of those who move on to the next step on the road to a scholarship – genuine need, good marks and real desire to learn.
They interview the child first and then their parent or guardian.  Sometimes their stories are wildly different. The child tells Mama what job their father or mother has, while the parent says they are unemployed. Some kids are in fee paying schools, paid for by a parent, so they are eliminated at the first post.
If a person will lie, and worst still coach their child to lie, to get a free place – at the expense of others for whom Happy House is their only hope – this is no place for them.
The genuine cases have poverty etched on their faces. Men and women, old before their time, are worn down by trying to eek out a living to feed their kids. 
 Again and again we hear of women who have been deserted by their husbands who have moved on to another wife.
The women are left to raise the children alone.  They go round house to house to do washing for others, sell mndazi or chapati by the roadside or labour on building sites or farms.
There is the man who goes from bin to bin collecting used plastic bottles to sell for recycling at 3KES a kilo - 1kg of maize flour, which mixed with salt and water makes the staple food ugali, is 100 KES a kilo.
In Kenya, if you don’t have work your family doesn’t eat.
Education is the only way their children will break out of the soul-destroying cycle they are caught in.
Mama and Isaac listen patiently to every story. The  genuine cases are invited to take an exam. Those from Monday, were back yesterday for the exam and they are joined by more as they are selected.
By lunchtime,  17 kids are half way through and they join the Happy House kids to eat. Plates of rice and beans are wolfed down like there is no tomorrow.  It is, most likely, their first meal of the day and there may not be another when they get home. 
Those who pass the exam will get free places on our Dr Danwata Scholarship Scheme which not only assures their education but also books, shoes, uniform and PE kit.
We desperately need money to give these kids, and others a chance. £20 a month will sponsor a scholarship child.
There is no gift greater than an education – wherever they go in life no one will ever be able to take it away
These kids goal is to be educated, it is also Mama's dream. 
YOU can make dreams possible by sponsoring a child or making a one off donation. Please help if you can.
*For details of how to sponsor email: elizabethgomm@childrenofwatamu.net  to make a donation go to
https://www.justgiving.com/childrenofwatamu/Donate

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Saturday fun and oaty snack

Saturday is Mama’s favourite day.
The Happy House office is shut and she and Papa have a chance to relax and enjoy being with the kids.
It was a very quiet start, when we arrived all the children had gone out.
They were on nature walks.
So Mama joined cook Phillis in the kitchen to see how the preparation for the pizzas the kids were having for lunch was going.
In no time at all Mama had it running as smoothly as a well oil machine.
Then it was out to the round banda to sit and have a coffee and wait for the kids coming home.
As they came through the gates, each and every one headed straight to greet Mama, Papa and I.
And it not just a polite hello, they come and they stay filling every available seat with as many little bodies as it will hold.
They settle in, have a bit of a sing song and show off how good they are at their tables.
Mama and Papa throw out some quick fire mental arithmetic questions and the kids love it, rising to the challenge the best they can.
Mama and Papa have biscuits for everyone and promise a special treat next Saturday for every child who can tell them four different tables.
It’s not bribery, just as incentive to learn!
How nice it is to see Mama and Papa, who work so very hard, just chilling out and having fun with their family.
It is precious times like this that make memories to last a lifetime for the kids.

Oats so simple

There was porridge for break yesterday.
After buying some oats to give it a try, Mama showed cook Esther how it should be made with two parts milk to one part water.
It was served warm with a little cold milk and a sprinkle of brown sugar.
It looks and tastes very different from ground maize or millet.
Judging from the speed with which they emptied their dishes, the oaty porridge was a huge hit!
So now it will feature regularly on the break time menu.

Monday, 25 April 2016

The guiding hand by Elizabeth Gomm

Two year old Chesco plonks himself down on the chair next to Mama.
  He leans back, puts his feet up on the wicker table opposite and ,settled comfortably, reaches out a tiny hand and slips it into Mama’s.
 He doesn’t say a word, Mama, who is listening to another of her kids at the time, squeezes gently showing him she knows he is there and he is happy.
 All is well in Chesco’s world.
The scene reminds me of a saying:
Family is not about blood. It's about who is willing to hold your hand when you need the most
The first time I heard it I thought immediately of our Happy House.
But in a single moment Chesco illustrated it perfectly
It is nine years since I met Sue.  That day, as she outlined her Happy House dream, she told me it would be unlike any other children’s home here in Kenya, it would not be an institution, but “a family home.”
Happy House would be a place where children would grow and flourish, nurtured and nourished, and it would put hope into the hearts of kids rescued from the depths of despair.
Musyoka calling
 It was then her dream.  By 2010, it was a reality, she had made it so.  In the six years since  it has been home to scores of children.
 Some have returned to their families,Happy House being the  bridge over troubled waters for a family in crisis, taking a child  or children for just short term care.
 In other cases, kids have been with us for five years or more before circumstances have changed sufficiently for a parent or relative to be reunited with their youngsters. Once they have turned their lives around it’s only right for a family to be together again.
 A few kids have left and come back because things at home have not worked out . They have settled as if they have never been away.
 When I was last here we had more than 100 kids, now there are 60.  The family has changed, as families do, but the solid foundation of love on which the Happy House is built ensures the children adjust to change.
Kids here are resilient and resourceful.
Other kids back home in families  are well and happy. They ring up to say so and to share their news.  
Musyoka, who, with his brother Francis and sister Mwende,  is now with his grandpa way up near Nairobi.
He phoned Mama to say hello and thank you for their Christmas presents, which had taken three months to get there!  He chatted away happily telling her how he, Francis and Mwende had all been top of their classes in their new school.  
Mama asked Musyoka, always a bright spark, if he was headmaster yet. "Not yet", he said as if it's just a matter of time.
They may be back home, but Happy House is now a home away from home to them too. Just the way it should be. 
Mama Sue and Papa Dave will always be their Mama and Papa too.
 As some have left, others have arrived. Happy House is here for children in need, for as long as they need it.
In the space of a few days new arrivals are at home, kicking off their crocs to play barefoot, parading off to school in smart uniform or chattering away with their new brothers and sisters.
Mama calls it the Happy House magic, but who has made this magic happen?
There is only one person who has conjured up this incredible place where, for a child, all things are possible.
It is the woman who would shift heaven and earth to ensure they have a future and she is Mama. 
Just ask Chesco!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Learning photograpy. by Rukia.

Volunteer Gussy Bunbury is a great help in school and as well as helping in class has also been introducing some of the children to photography.
Rukia is one of them.
"Hi My name is Rukia and I am 11 years old, I am in class 6.
At first I didn’t know how to use a camera and then Aunty Gussy came and she taught me a lot.
She took us out of the class and divided us into four main groups. In each group she gave them a camera.
Then later she showed us where to click if  we wanted to take a photograph.
We did as she said and tried to click the button, I took  many photos of my friends and many more things that I wished to. 
That day I was really happy that I never knew how to use the camera before but practice makes perfect.
Later she had a look at all the photos we had taken and she said that they were all good but she had to delete some. 
Thanks Aunty Gussy."

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Fun times learning tables

 Kids x tables=fun!
Take a banda full of eager kids, plus their enthusiastic teachers with Mama and Papa at the helm, and learning times tables became more fun than anyone could have imagined.
With tables marked out from 2 to 12, kids, regardless of ae or class were asked to seat themselves  at the number marking the highest table in their knowledge - knowing that if they sat at table five they could be tested on any times table from two to five and would move back to the point at which they went wrong.
It was like Paddington Station at one point with kids moving backwards and forwards -= depending on how well they did. With lots of clapping and cheering.
If you went back you got a big welcome, and if you moved forward a huge round of applause.
It was good-natured and happy with all the kids and teachers really enjoying themselves.
The older kids who had graduated from table 12 and displayed a good grasp of all their tables then went on to be teaching assistants, coaching the younger ones who were struggling the most.
They made very able assistants, kind and patient as they encouraged the younger ones to keep on trying.
videoMama, Papa and Auntie Libz went round tables to listening to individual children say their tables.
After two and a half hours, the multiplication marathon was rounded off with Mr Isaac, deputy head, telling the children that everyone was a winner for the effort they had put in - and there was juice and biscuits for all.
Those who had excelled received pencil cases and pencils presented by Mama Sue and Auntie Libz

A Royal Birthday Greeting

As the Queen's 90th birthday was celebrated in the UK and around the world, the Happy House marked the occasion by singing the English national anthem
Mama explained that it was a very special birthday for the Queen of England who served her country so well, and as Mama was also English it would nice to sing God Save the Queen  and so we did.`
video

Friday, 22 April 2016

Neckers from Lancashire on parade

Our Happy House scouts are looking the part after being given neckers from Lancashire.
Preston District Scouts are doing their bit to support Scouting in Kenya by donating a colelction of neckers to Happy House.
Our UK coordinator Auntie Libby met Lesley Thomas, district commission for Preston District Scouts, at a recent event and told her about our school's scout group.
She told her how they are taught to parade and raise both the Union and the Kenya flags every Monday at assembly and bring them down on Friday.
Libby said they would be proud to wear neckers and Preston District very kindly organised a collection of neckers from different groups for Libby to bring out to Happy House.
Lesley handed them over to Mama Sue and Libby at our recent coffee morning in Poulton.
Lesley said: "The least we can do is to send over some neckers to raise the esteem of these eager children and make them feel more like Scouts."
Now they have been handed over to our scouts who only needed showing once how to fold them,.
And how smart and how proud they look!



Thursday, 21 April 2016

Stationery stitch up and fun times

 Good friends in the UK have our kids' pencils all stitched up
Pencils are a key resource and, as with all their belongings, Mama insists the children treat them with care and look after them properly.
And having a pencil case makes it so much easier.
So Mama asked Auntie Libz if she knew of anyone who could make drawstring pencil cases, and she found just the right people enlisting the help of Caroline Bramhall's Grace and Favour and the Sewing Sanctuary at Thornton and another good friend of our kids, Barbara Hall, from Blackpool, who just loves sewing.
Between them they have made enough pencil cases for every Happy House kid .
And to the children's delight they were given out at Kidz Club.
Now kids there will be no excuses for lost pencils!
Huge thanks to Barbara and to Caroline Bramhall, who is in Victoria's sponsor family, and her mum Val and Val's grandson who also helped.

Swotting up

Everywhere you go at Happy house kids are swotting up on their tables.
On Monday, they were each given a sheet of multiplication tables ahead of a fun morning of Times Tables tomorrow.
They are all trying their hardest and you spot them on their own or in groups chanting their tables.
Little Brian was straight into Mama's office yesterday to recite his two times table and Rosie too.
They are all embracing Mama's challenge and looking forward to being put to the test tomorrow.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Play pals

When families come to visit, the children soon make themselves at home.
The Happy House kids make them feel welcome and are always eager to play with someone new.
So when Nicola Feay and Rob Marsh, who are in Mariam's sponsor family, called in to say hello and to see how things have changed since their last visit four years ago, their children Jamie, 12, and Amelia, three, soon found themselves among friends.
After a tour of the Happy House the kids were keen to join our children who were playing on the adventure playground, trying out the swings and clambering around the play houses.

It was huge fun for everyone.
Nicola and Rob were so impressed with the way the Happy House has developed and grown.

When they last came,  foundling Esther was a new arrival and a tiny little baby. They were delighted to see her running around a happy, healthy, four year old.
A great friend to our family, and to Mama and Papa personally, Linda Newman is back in Watamu.
Linda, who is in Ashura's sponsor family, came to visit her bringing with her a lovely wall plaque to remind Ashura what a special little girl she is.
Brian also had surprise vsitors, when Damian Davies, general manger at Turtle Bay Hotel and his daughter Maddy called in.
They were playing posties for Catherine Davies and her class, form 7D, at the London School, who are in Brain's sponsor family.
The class had signed a colouring for Brian and sent him gitts - an intricate colouring book plus colouring pens and pencils and a bag full of good-as-new clothes.

Brian is sharing with his brothers at Happy House and the colouring book and pencils he has put in the older kids relaxation rooms so that all the boys and girls who use it can share it too.
He happily posed for pictures for Damian to send straight back for Catherine and her class to see.
Thank you from Brain for being such good friends and to Damian and Maddy for bringing their parcels..
Many thanks also to Wendy Bilton and Andy Jennings from South Buckinghamshire who found room in their luggage for clothes and other necessities for our Happy House kids.
Wendy and Andy were taken on a tour of Happy House and out schools by Auntie Libz.
They were delighted to meet Mama and Papa and were amazed by the very high standard of everything they saw
Wendy and Andy were also pleased to chat with some of our older children and Form One scholarship student, Mercy, told them how much the Happy House had changed her life by giving her education and opportunity.
Andy and Wendy said they would definitely spread the word about our wonderful charity when they go home.
Thank you, we always need new friends.


Potato crunch

Cook Auntie Phillis added another dish to her repertoire yesterday - roast potatoes.
Here, few people have an oven, so anything other than recipes that can be cooked on the open fire or hob is out of the question.
As we have the wood-burning oven lit every day to cook bread, Mama thought it would be a good idea to use it to cook roast potatoes.
Having shown Auntie Phillis how to prepare potatoes for the oven, in the went, and once cooked they came out golden, crisp and crunchy.
They tasted delicious and after now after a successful taster batch, they will be on the menu for all the family later this week.



Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The importance of tables

Janet is tested on her 9x table
 Times tables are a key foundation to learning maths.
And as Papa told the kids, as you go through life you will find yourself using your tables every day - without even realising it.
Mama is insisting that children in Happy House School  learn their tables thoroughly as they hardly figure on the Kenya curriculum.
She explains to the children  that once they have grasped their tables they will find other areas of maths so much easier.
Hussein and Baraka
So during the school break there is a concerted effort to get to grips with tables, making it as much fun for the children as possible.
This week Happy House and scholarship kids are spending their mornings in school and knowing their tables is now their goal.
Lily
Every child has been given a sheet of tables to learn from and teachers have been told to make a real push on tables with their class.
On Friday there will be a Time Tables Morning - with fun activities and prizes.
The kids, keen to learn and win - will be into groups according to the tables they know and will not move on to the next group until they are number perfect.
As we know, practice makes perfect, so with all the efforts being put in they should,  by the start of the new term, be heading up the table to success.
video

Monday, 18 April 2016

It's a pizza cake!

 Esther and Phillis, our two cooks, are a great team and keen to try out new dishes to tickle the tastebuds of our family.
Cooking Kenya staples - rice and beans, ugali and sukums wiki - are second nature to them, but Mama Sue is keen to widen their repertoire and to give the children a chance to taste different foods.
She has taught them how to make shepherd's pie, which the kids love, spaghetti with a rich tomato sauce, curry and much more.
On Saturday, we made our first venture into pizza - making enough to give everyone a slice to try.
They had made the dough for the bases on Friday so we would be ready to make an early start and with all the ingredients for the tomato topping were chopped and cooking by the time Mama, Papa and Auntie Libby arrived.
With the help of two members of staff from school, they soon got going.
The wood burning oven was ablaze and waiting.
A production line  was soon underway -rolling bases, topping, mozzarella (locally made and delicious) and into the oven on specially made pizza spades...
After a hitch when the first one refused to slide off the brand new spade and into the oven, everything went smoothly and by 11.30, there were 13 pizzas sliced into even portions by Papa, ready to taste.
They were a huge hit with kid, teachers and staff all tucking in and every hand went up when Mama asked if they would like to have it again.
There was a big round of applause for Esther, Phillis and team for making pizza that would make an Italian proud!
Well gone girls.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Myself, by Manuela

Manuela first joined our family as a Happy House kid at a time when her dad, who was bringing her up alone, was going through some very troubled times.
As soon as he was back on his feet, Manuela went back home, but has returned to our school as a scholarship student. Here she tells us a little about herself:
My name is Manuela Pendo.
I am 13 years old.
I learn at Happy House primary school.
I am in class seven.
My best subjects are  English, science and maths.
When I grow up I would like to be a doctor.
I like attending church.
My best friends are Amanda and Andrew.

My best meal is chips and chicken.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Arts in action

 It is fantastic for our kids when people with special gifts come to share them with our children.
They learn so much from those who have been born with a talent.
Mark Webster, who is both a musician, drum maker and  artist, came to see us back in August when he brought us a hand-made drum kit which he had created especially for our Happy House and took time to show our children how to use it, has made a return visit 
Mark, who is head of art at Shenley Academy, Birmingham, was on a whirlwind trip to Watamu,  spent a morning with our children teaching and encouraging them to draw.
He also got them to beat out rhythms and helped them with their drum skills.
Mark, who lives in Telford, is
frequent visitor to Kenya and says he hopes to be back in the summer holidays and more workshops at Happy House will be on his list!
Thank you Mark, our kids were thrilled to see you again and look forward to the next time.

Fleetwood Friends

When Mama Sue and Papa Dave visited Fleetwood Rotary Club last month they were given a signed photograph of all the club members plus a water colour, both by Robert Stead.
Now they are back home they have had them framed and they now hang proudly in our reception.
Fleetwood Rotary is so supportive of our family, and a number of Rotarians also sponsor children, so it's lovely for the kids to be able to see their pictures.
Pictured are Stevie, Alex and Lucky.