Thursday, 30 June 2011

Smart cookies

Happy House chef Habel and his assistant, Juma, look real smart cookies in their chefs' whites.
The kitchen is open plan and on view to vistors and Habel, who so ably runs the kitchen and stores, and Juma were wearing their own smart clothing to work, with only aprons as protection.
They were absolutely delighted when Sue asked them if they would like a uniform and provided chefs' whites as befits their status.

Glittering prizes

There will be some fabulous goodies up for grabs at Steph Hill's Happy House Charity Night at Poulton Golf Club, Breck Road, Poulton, Lancashire, on Friday, July 8, starting at 7.30pm.
Steph, has lots planned to make it a really fun night - including  buffet, facepainting for kids, Twinkle Toes for big girls, quiz, live music from Elf and Safety, plus DJ Beej will be doing his stuff.
Singing sensation Linda Nolan (pictured with Steph last year) will be helping out on the night and conducting the auction with her usual wit and charm.
Steph, who will be meeting her sponsor child Lily for the first time when she visits the Happy House in October,  has been busy collecting prizes for the raffle and auction and has received some very generous donations including lots of vouchers -tickets to Camelot; The Legends show at the North Pier; Madame Tussauds; five  15 minute fish pedicures at Finspa; entry to The Sandcastle Waterworld; a gift voucher for Barton Grange.
Other beautiful prizes include jewellery, gift sets, Avon products etc.
Among the lots  under the hammer in the auction will be a gorgeous Gok Wan gift set,  and original African sunset with elephant silhouettes painted by  by Jean Taylor and an exclusive, handmade, Swarovski crystal  bracelet.
If you haven't already booked you ticket for this fun evening please give Steph  a call on 07595 339 669. Tickets are just £5 including buffet.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Village kindness

There was a very warm reception for Elizabeth Gomm when she went to tell members of Age UK's Great Eccleston Lunch Club the inspiring story of Sue Hayward and the Happy House.
Everyone was very touched by what they heard and some were moved to tears by the stories of our children and the dreadful circumstances from which they come to us.
At the end of the talk they had a collection which totalled £85.40.
A big thank you from Elizabeth for being such a lovely audience and from all our family for your kindess.

Hurray for Harry!

Our miracle boy Harry isn't likely to remember his very first birthday ... but the treasures in his memory box will leave him in no doubt of how loved he is.
Cards from those in his sponsor family will be stored away safely for him to enjoy when he is older, including this card from Limavady Rotary Club, in Northern Ireland, signed by every member, and also the card and poem sent from his sponsors in Scotland Agnes and Brian Crighton.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A lot going on

Lots of love and good wishes from the Happy House to our friends at Auckley School, near Doncaster, Yorkshire, where they are holding a special celebration with proceeds to our family.

While learning all about Africa last term they put the spotlight on our Happy House. Year 1 and 2 also made jewellery and Modrock animals which sold like hot cakes and in years 3 and 4 children made cookery books and cooked up some of the recipes to sell.

Years 5 and 6 made documentaries about their research.

The culmination is their celebration event today when parents and friends have been invited along.

Our good friend Lesley Pidcock, who sponsors Janet and Natasha and who does so much to help us,  lives nearby and has taken time off to go along to set up an information stand.

So with a special smile from your little Natasha, showing her first tooth, everyone at the Happy House wishes you Lesley and everyone at Auckley a really fun day!

Meanwhile, on the Lancashire side of the Pennines, Elizabeth Gomm will be speaking to a a local organisation in Great Eccleston about Sue inspirational work and life at the Happy House.

If you represent a school or local group interested in having a talk about our work please email Elizabeth at elizabethgomm@childrenofwatamu/net


Monday, 27 June 2011

Top marks and treats

Our older children in their first term at Sawa Sawa Academy are really coming up with the goods.
In their mid-term results they have all gained more than 350 marks out of a possible 500 - Sifa, who always tries so hard, got 364.
Uncle Billy says: "It was so good and we are so proud that Mama decided we should take them into the village for ice-cream and sodas."
And sponsor families, keep an eye on your inboxes, Billy will be sending out your child's results any day now!
Well done to all the kids, we, too, are so proud of you.

In the news

Thank you to The Gazette Blackpool for publishing this article about Papa Dave and our newest Seasiders' fan, baby David. It's already resulted in one call from a local lady so touched by his story that she is sending out a parcel of baby necessities for our littlies.
Blackpool fans Bev and Steve Whittaker, members of David's sponsor family, sent him this baby suit and were absolutely thrilled to see him wearing it when they opened Friday's paper.
If you are a member of a sponsor family and would be happy to talk about the story of your involvement please let me know. I can write the story and get it off to your local newspaper, wherever you may live.  Publicity is so important, we constantly need to raise awareness and YOU can help.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Our miracle Harry is ONE

Today, the Happy House family is celebrating a very special birthday - our Harry is ONE!
A first birthday is always a landmark in life to be hallmarked with joy, but for our beautiful, healthy, Harry it is both a milestone and a miracle.
A year ago to this day, he was just the tiniest scrap of a being, cast away on a rubbish tip in a black plastic bag.
At least eight weeks premature, weighing less than 2kg, Harry was fighting for life when a local woman, Warda Salim, passed by the dump where she heard the tiniest whimper.
Something compelled her to look for the source of the sound and she opened the bag to find a baby.
Compassionate Warda was his Good Samaritan that day, taking him to a straight to a midwife and then on to hospital where he was put into a cot, with a heat lamp above, in the special care unit.
Warda (pictured with Harry where she found him) told me, when it was my privilege to reunite her with our Harry back in March, that within a few minutes of her rescuing him the tip was covered with scavenging dogs. 
"The dogs would have been celebrating. I don't think he would have been here now."
Named Moses by the hospital, as is tradition for all foundlings in Kenya, he was a very poorly baby, with the odds stacked against him, but  Harry had an instinct for survival so strong it was not to be beaten.
Sue was alerted to his plight and stepped in immediately offering to meet the costs of all his medication, to provide formula milk,  clothes, nappies and visits, until he was strong enough to join her Happy House family.
It took exactly eight weeks for the little fighter to reach the required 2.2kg, and be well enough, to go home to the ready-made family of "brothers and sisters" eagerly awaiting his arrival.
His legal guardian, Sue  named him Harry as a tribute to both her own father and Dave's.
"So he's Harry Hayward, a very Kenyan name!" she says. 
His first year has brought health concerns,  fears that he may have had hydrocephalus were thankfully proved unfounded.
Today, he is our happy, healthy, handsome, adorable Harry. 
When his face breaks into a smile, he has the most delightful dimples in the world. He loves to laugh , is quick to learn, and grasps life, as he has from the moment of his birth, with two hands.
Harry's story is the epitome of the philosophy on which Sue has built her Happy House.
Five years ago when, as a journalist, I first went to interview her, she described to me her Happy House. It was just the seed of an idea. She had no land, nor plans, and only a little money. 
The Happy House we have today is exactly as she described  to me that day.
Every child in her family of 51, represents a child's life transformed, in many cases a child's life saved.
It is easy when you look on the blog and see our happy, smiling, children,  to forget that each of them has come from the most dire of situations - poverty, neglect, grief or abuse of the very worst kind.
Since the day I first met Sue I have followed, helping in what small way I can, her road to the Happy House. It's been fraught with worry and anxiety, personal pain and hardship, but she's never lost sight of her motivation and her inspiration - the children.
"If the Happy House had all been just for Harry then I know, in my heart, I would still have achieved," she told me yesterday.
"He was such a fragile little whisp, now, today, when I got to the Happy House there he was was in his baby walker pushing everyone out of the way to see who had come!
"He's laughing and smiling and just scrumptious.
"If I had done it all just for this one little life, Libz, I would have achieved. I know I would."
So today, wherever in the world you may be, be thankful that there are people in like Sue, take a moment to count the blessings in your own life and to wish little Harry - our Happy House miracle - a Happy Birthday.
And, to Mama Sue, on behalf of Harry and  all your Happy House kids now and those to come over many more decades in future:
" Thank you for the love put into our lives."
Poem for Harry:
Agnes and Brian Crighton from Perthshire are members of Harry's sponsor family. He was so small and delicate when they first saw him on a chance visit to the Happy House last autumn. He now has a real place in their hearts.
Agnes has sent him this poem for his birthday - a treasure for his memory box. 
                                                                  Today's your first birthday
Everyone's happy and proud
Lets blow out your candle
And sing happy birthday out loud
    Since the day that you came to The Happy House
We have all watched with joy
Just how much you have grown
You handsome little boy
From far away in Scotland
To your home in the sun
  From your sponsor family Agnes and Brian
 Happy Birthday, Harry, now you are ONE 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Holiday work a blessing

Judith Carson, a friend of Dawn Heather White, looks back on two week volunteering at the Happy House ... she is now looking forward to going back next year.

"When I volunteered to work at the Happy House, I didn't really know what to expect.  I thought that I would be nursing babies all day, and whilst this in itself is such a pleasure, I am more comfortable working with older children.  So it was a real privilege to be able help out in the Baby Class with Madame Rachael  in the morning and then, in the afternoon, with head teacher Madame Rose in KG2 & 3.  It was lovely to work one-to-one with some of the children and see their confidence and learning develop over the two weeks I was there.  Like anywhere, there are some children who are keen to learn and others who take a little coaxing, but the teachers make learning such fun – I loved being back at school!  Though perhaps this was due to cutting up boxes to make wheelbarrows and getting covered in Sellotape!  The children also took turns in teaching me some Swahili - so I am now back home practising for when I go back next year. Yes,I gave up two weeks of my annual leave to work, but what a blessing I got in return - it was worth it!"

Friday, 24 June 2011

Birthday girl

At Kidz Club the children are always eager to know if there's going to be a birthday to celebrate.
Having cards and a present is something new to our kids, most who have grown up not knowing when they would next eat, never mind knowing the date on which they were born.
Sourcing birth certificates is a time-consuming but necessary part of Uncle Billy's job as a social worker, some kids have not even been registered at birth, so he has to be something of a detective, questioning any known family members, clinics and hospitals until he comes up with an answer.
Like all children our Happy House kids soon catch on to something good, and wait with bated breath to see if this week will bring their turn...  and Jedida was the lucky girl, who took centre stage to receive gifts and cards from Mama Sue while all the family sang her the birthday song.
Another young man's special day is also being celebrated, but more of that on Sunday ... his actual birthday.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Lucinda shines

As bright as any star in the sky, Lucinda is the winner of this week's Star of the Week Award.
Lucinda has come so far since she joined our family last year and , at Kidz Club, she received her well-deserved certificate for a good performance at school, gaining 465 marks ourt of 600.
And as an incentive to keep their rooms neat and tidy, there's also a prize for those with the best bedroom ... and this time it was a girls' team who took the top place.
Well done Lucinda and  girls on a top effort.
The family also bid farewell and said a big thank you to Aunty Lynn who will be flying back to the UK tomorrow after three weeks at the Happy House. Time flies, Lynn, and we know it won't be long before you are back again.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Every penny counts!

Sue, as we know, has so many strengths and keeping a tight rein on the purse strings is one of them.
Her ever-watchful eye ensures that every penny raised is a penny well spent.
There is no unnecessary expenditure, nor waste, and keeping the books balanced on such a tight budget is a constant worry for her.
After the wage bill, the two main expenses are food and electricity.  Electricity comes in at £200 a month (the equivalent of 10 sponsorship payments), food also costs £200 - so with the two together 20 monthly sponsorships accounted for before a single wage is paid.
Keeping the costs down and ensuring your money is used to maximum effect is crucial.  Concerned by the rising costs of electricity, Sue called in the Masai askaris, responsible for security, to ask them whether they thought there was anyway of reducing the costs of power used during the hours of darkness.
Delighted to be asked for their opinion, they came to an agreement with Sue that every other outside bulb could be removed and walked round to show her which ones could go without compromising security.
They now patrol with pangas and torches to ensure that everyone can sleep in safety.
When it comes to keeping the food bill down, Papa Dave is a legend. Every shopkeeper in Watamu and every stallholder in Malindi knows that he drives a hard bargain. Why? "It's for the children!".
You also know that they respect him for it.
He's become a haggler of the highest order, always good humoured and fair, and works his socks off to get a few shillings off here and there.
If he's not happy with what he's offered at one stall he'll go to another, bargaining with banter, until the price is right.  It doesn't matter how much hard work or how hot it is,  Determined Dealer Dave does not give in!
But at the end of every week, those shillings saved add up to a considerable amount and his techniques and results impress everyone in the admin team.
Back home at the Happy House , he is equally as vigilant when it comes to getting the best out of the garden - the more we grow the lower our food bill. A greenhouse system would be a  huge outlay, but in the long run, it would bring a massive saving. And you know that when we have raised the money and  are in a position to go ahead and buy one - Papa will ensure that it comes in at a good price, and that every inch of space will be utilised.
A shopping trip with Papa Dave is exhausting, but you come back full of admiration for the man who, just like his Mama Sue, wants only the best for their kids.
So for me, or anyone like me fundraising for the Happy House in the UK, when I am asked "Where does the money go?", I can say, hand on heart, every penny goes to the children.
Our strength is our traceability and our transparency.
What given for our kids, goes to our kids.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Skipping lessons!

No, we don't have any truants at the Happy House nursery - everyone, teachers included, just love being at school.
So skipping lessons is just what it says and, as you can see from the pictures, the teachers join in.
Capturing little minds and imaginations by making learning fun is key to our nursery school's philosphy and it's equally important to ensure that our children get plenty of excercise too, building strong bones in the process.
And that's where skipping lessons comes in ...

Monday, 20 June 2011

All in a day's work

As another week begins volunteer Lynn McCluskey reflects on the non-stop pace of life at the Happy House:
" So much happens on a daily basis to keep this amazing project going that timeflies by!
Although this is my fourth visit, I'm still staggered at the amount  and diversity of things Sue deals with day in day out here - she has to wear so many different hats in a day.
First she start with finances, like a pro she finds out the latest exchange rates, then barters with the bank to get the best rate of exchange before transferring monies from the UK to Kenya, Sue's is always looking out for those extra shillings. Next it's staff meetings, Mama Sue has done a really great job of delegating but , rightly, she insists each department still needs to report back to her, so there's a number of meetings to get through, everyone from the outside ground staff to the nursery school teachers.....
Things are already really busy and a full day planned when a phone call comes in from the local children's office bringing news they have a nine month old baby needing help. Everyone Mama Sue, social worker Uncle Billy and administrator Aunty Rose wait in anticipation of the new arrival. When the group from the children's office arrive with the baby, the story is relayed to Billy and Sue. The baby looks healthy and well cared for and accompanied by the grandmother, after hearing the case and a long discussion between everyone, it's decided that the Happy House can't help in this case.
As hard as this decision is, it's agreed it's the right one. As Sue is always says the Happy House is here to help the most needy children and this child has family fully capable of taking care of it.
then on to the next job, a much more pleasant occasion, Kidz Club, the weekly get together for everyone but by the time it's finished it's 6pm! A long and full day by any ones standard.
The Happy House is a labour of love for Sue and Papa Dave, who of course keeps just as busy outside growing much needed food crops and doing the weekly shop.He's managed to turn the Yorkshire war cry of " How much ?" into the Kenya shopkeepers war cry of " We know, we know, Papa it's for the children".
Dave  barters like a local, getting the very lowest price he can, knowing how important those shillings saved each week are to the finely balanced finances here."

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Growing concern

Baby David lets everyone know when he's at baby clinic.
He doesn't like being stripped off and put on the scales for a regular weigh-in.
But keeping a check on their progress, ensuring that there ticks are in the right boxes, is a vital part of checking the development of all our little ones.
So protest as he may, for us it's splendid news, the Happy House magic continues to work and he's doing fine!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Top Marks, Madam Lynn!

Volunteer Lynn McCluskey added another hat to her wardrobe of talents yesterday ... when she stood in for headteacher Madam Rose.
While Madam Rose headed off for a headteachers' meeting in Gede, "Aunty" Lynn was became "Madam" Lynn when she took over in Kg1.
And by the looks of it everyone, especially the teacher, had lots of fun getting creative making play dough models.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Greenhouse appeal

Reaping a good harvest of fruit and vegetables is crucial to the future of the Happy House and to the health of our kids.
Growing our own, in the long term, will mean a huge reduction in food bills ... but, without the right equipment, it's always going to be hit or miss.
Sue explains: "Our outside growing is doing well, but we cannot grow peas, as the sun burnt them all the other day, it was a shame as  they were doing well, Chris the gardener was mortified, as he had never seen peas growing before!
"If we were to have a greenhouse, with a controlled environment,  this wouldn't have happened and we would be able to grow a much wider variety of crops - garlic, peppers, carrots, cabbages, tomatoes and so much more."
She and Dave have been looking at the best ways of improving the yield and have discovered an award-winning company, Amiran Kenya Limited,  which sells custom-made Farmers' Kits which include greenhouse, plus irrigation system,  seeds, fertilisers pesticides, and, importantly , training.
The kit was created with the aim of allowing small scale farmers affordable access to modern agricultural technologies, methods and inputs of the highest standard.  Each is tailored to meet the needs of the specific farmer or group of farmers by adapting the components to suit the climate, terrain, and agricultural experience of the farmer.
Sue adds:" Dave went to see one in Malindi yesterday and he says they are brilliant. It was used for tomatoes and Dave said they were growing so well and huge! "
He was so impressed he took some back for Sue to see and try.  Now been to see another project using Amiran products and was equally impressed.
At the Happy House, the outside staff have created covered areas using sticks and palms to try to protect seedlings from the intense rays of the sun... but theya re far from ideal.
 Sue adds: "Dave & Chris the gardener went to Malindi yesterday to buy some strong netting to cover our homemade greenhouse but goodness me, it was so expensive, it would have cost £800 pounds just for net for the top, so that was not an option. A greenhouse is definitely a much better option."
It would cost £1,700 for a kit with greenhouse measuring 8mx24m... the Happy House grounds is big enough for three!
So many of you have so generously supported our appeal for seeds - our gardeners are pictured with packets which arrived from Linzi  and Lilian Crossley, who sponsor Margaret and Neema - that we really want to be able to give them the best chance of producing a maximum crop.
So if you can help by making a donation towards a Farmers' Kit or know anyone who might be interested in helping fund such an important project please contact Sue at or Elizabeth

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Star treatment

Surprise, surprise ...
Volunteer and friend Lynn was in the spotlight at Kidz Club when our family gave her a surprise party - a belated celebration for her birthday.
Lynn was thrilled as the family sang to her and the kids presented her with two kangas and  beads as  gifts from the family -  Janet stepped in to with some style advice on how to tie the wraps!
There we smiles and hugs all round, specially for her own sponsor child Musyoka (in green) and our baby Harry who is even more delicious than the birthday cake cooked up by Habel
And as the icing on the her cake Lynn was presented with the Star of the Week Award for her love and loyalty to our family.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Rescued from a city slum

Living in a city slum, defeated by poverty and unable to feed her children, a desperate single mother, Neema, made a cry for help.
And in looking for the best way to help this family in crisis, the local children's office called on the Happy House.
Director Mama Sue, social worker Billy and volunteer Lynn went straight to Malindi to assess the situation for themselves finding the mum of six in despair with no means of caring for her twins, born in March, let alone her four older children aged from six to 11.
At 33, she has given birth to eight children, six of whom surive, and without any support from the fathers her children have been unable to attend school and have been living in abject poverty - some living with her and some with her own mother.
Twins, Peter and Paul, are now in the safe and loving care of the Happy House, giving Neema (pictured getting her babies ready to leave) an opportunity to try to rebuild her life.
And as an initial step she has also agreed to permanent family planning measures to ensure there would be no more babies.
Billy reports: " We found the family living in absolute poverty and the mom needed to be relieved of some of the in order to help her reorgainse her life for the sake of her family."
Taking the twins from their mother and home to the Happy House was a moving experience for everyone. Lynn says: "We arrived back home, drained and emotional. As Sue says the Happy House exists, to help the neediest and will continue to do so - so long as we have the available funds and, of course, can attract new child sponsors into our family."

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Fw: School break

Trying to make a getaway from the Happy House?  No way... these three musketeers are making what appears to be a highly organised break in, to SCHOOL!
Our toddlers are encouraged to explore their surroundings, as Uncle Billy explains: "We allow them to explore with supervision and without making any fuss and look what we saw - Natasha, Rose and Brian attempting to break through the gates that lead upstairs to school.
"They are probably empathising, no longer keen to stay at home while their brothers and sisters enrich themselves with knowledge whilst also having lots of fun.
"Aunties Riziki, Rhema and I just watched them quietly, from a distance,  as Natsha tried her hardest to pull the bolt, with Brian and Rose as lookouts.
" Little Peninah later joined in, keeping her distance, but not far behind."
Unlucky for them the bolt was fixed fast and their break-in attempt foiled, school must wait for another day!"

Monday, 13 June 2011

Fw: Learning - a serious business!

In the last of her reflections on her recent visit to the Happy House volunteer Dawn Heather White  shares some of her pictures of our school's youngest pupils!

"Now that the younger children have joined the baby class they are taking their education very seriously. Stevie and Sauma have been been practicing their reading while Sauma is also working on her communication skills! "
Fun night reminder
Steph Hill, who sponsors Lily, is staging a Happy House charity night at Poulton Golf Club, Breck Road, Poulton, near Blackpool, on Friday, July 8, from 7.30pm. 
Live band, Elf and Safety, will be providing the music and there will be a raffle and auction with great prizes up for grabs. It's a family night, and while there's facepainting for kids, there's also a chance to get those toes sparkling, for older girls, with Twinkle Toes. DJ Beej will also be doing his stuff and there's a buffet too. Tickets are  £5 from  Steph oon 07595 339 669.
It was a really fabulous, fun night last year, so if you live near enough please come and join us.