Monday, 2 May 2016

As I leave, a piece of my heart remains

Elizabeth "Auntie Libz" with Sue, Dave and kids.
Each time I leave Happy House, it is harder than the last., writes Elizabeth Gomm..
As I start my journey back to the UK today, my heart will again be missing a piece.
It is held, as it has been since my first visit in 2008, in the safe keeping of Kenya's children and is the talisman that ensures my return.
From the moment I stepped on Kenyan soil I have loved this country - its sights, sounds, colours, climate, and, above all, its children.
I am eternally grateful my job as a journalist led me to meet our charity founder, Sue Hayward and her husband Dave and to discover the extraordinary work they do..
Little did I think that interview, nine years ago, would change my life in the way it has, nor that I would join them on the incredible, if bumpy, road leading to the Happy House.
I have nothing but admiration, and love, for them. To have created and developed the Happy House in way that they have has taken endurance, courage, determination, compassion and love. 
Whatever obstacles have been thrown in their way - and there have been many - they have never given up.
Through the darkest times, physically and emotionally,  their love for each other has kept them going
If they not were not such a strong couple, so content in the company of each other, they would not survive here as they do,
Working and living here is never easy, every little thing seems to be caught up in red tape, transactions that would be done in minutes in the UK, can take days, weeks or months.. Nothing is straightforward or simple.
"It gets curiouser and curiouser," said Alice in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
It does here too. And this is fact, not fantasy. Sue often signs her emails to me "Alice" as we have shared so many strange incidents.  I call myself "White Rabbit".
It's a bit of fun, but it doesn't lessen the tensions caused by the bureaucratic bottlenecks and protracted negotiations she encounters almost daily.
Sue has learnt, often the hard way, how to deal with people. She is clever, capable and, as they find out, a force to be reckoned with.
Dave, too, is a shrewd negotiator and together they are a dynamic duo.
The staff at Happy House love and respect them.
Working for Happy House, either in our home or school,makes them very fortunate indeed.
Sue ensures they are paid on the same day each month, a rare thing here where some employees have months to wait before being paid. They have excellent working conditions, the right tools to do their jobs,  and a considerate, but not soft, management.
Sue is straight talking, people know where they are with her and they know there's no messing about
Staff are learning new ways of doing things to.  Take Esther and Phillis,, our two cooks, who are learning new recipes from Sue, they absolutely love the challenge of trying out something different and discovering new tastes, textures and flavours which they can dish up to an appreciative dining room full of kids.
They had never tasted pizza, but now after three sessions they are cooking up pizzas to make a Neopolitan Mama proud.
In school, she has shown trained teachers methods, new to them, of teaching maths - making times tables and mental arithmetic fun. 
They and their pupilsa have a wonderful library, a laboratory that is the best in the region, a computer room with internet access.  
Sue is constantly looking for ways to enhance the lives of her children, at home and in school,  so they can have an upbringing and education which will give them a future to look forward to. 
Some scholarship kids who live quite a distance from school were leaving home at 5am to walk to school for a 7am start, so she now ensures they get their bus money to and from school issued every day.  Those who don't have electricity at home will be getting solar power lights so they are not at risk from fire or injury caused by kerosene lamps.  Help is to those who need it. For instance, some kids, whose family live in a basic rented room, do not have any power sockets but they do have a single bulb, so they do not need a solar torch.
The kids adore their Mama and Papa.  To all the kids at home, to those who have returned to relatives and are still coming into school on free places,. and the 68 scholarships kids, they are, simply. Mama and Papa.
Sue is always looking for ways to take more needy children in our school - her dream is to have 100 children on free place scholarships, These are kids who come from nothing, who deserve a chance to rise above the poverty they endure every day.
To do this we must have the means to sustain our school, to find more ways of raising the money we need.
As I leave Kenya it will be with an inevitable sadness but also with a renewed impetus to do more to secure new funding and to find more sponsors to make the dream of an education a reality for more kids.
With your help we can make Mama's dream come true.
If anyone deserves it, she does