Thursday, 31 January 2013

Golfing thanks and Network progress

Before they set off  home to the UK, Scott and Laura Webster presented our administrator Rose with a cheque  from  Scott's golfing friends.
The group of members from South Cerney Golf Club , near Royal Wootton Bassett,  held a Christmas dinner and during the evening homemade cakes were auctioned and a raffle was held which raised  which £145 the Happy House.
Thank you golfers, and cake makers ,for once again supporting our family.
Scott and Laura are pictured with Rose and friend Pauline Stewart (far right) from Oldham, who, like Scott and Laura, was also staying at Turtle Bay Hotel.

Network makes progress
Mama was delighted to back home so that she could attend the second meeting of the Charitable Children’s Institutions Network with Uncle Billy who has strived so hard to set it up.
The meeting was hosted by a children's hoem in Malindi and has taken the group a step nearer to setting out its future plans for working together to enhance the lives of children in care.
Uncle Billy: ''Next month we will deliberate on core areas such as health, education and the emotional needs of our children and how best to handle them in ways that compliment each other.
''There is evidently a great need to keep learning and emulating the best practices from amongst us thereby fostering a robust networking and referral system which will go along way in adding value to our children centred services.
'' We can only wish ourselves the best in this bid.''

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Our first sponsor from Mexico

Adriana and Maurine
As we have said before, the Happy House weaves its magic over so many lives, all around the world.
We have members of our children's sponsor families from many part of the globe including Europe, the USA, Australia , New Zealand and now South America, too.
We are delighted to welcome Paulina, who is sponsoring Maurine, to our family.
Here Paulina, who is just receiving news of her new Happy house friend, tells how she discovered the Happy House  why our children have become so important to her:
My name is Paulina. I’m 24 years old and I live in Mexico City.
I spent the last five years of my life studying architecture, it is my greatest passion.
While I was still in college, Adriana, one of my best friends began what I think will always be the best journey of her life; a trip to Watamu, Kenya, in order to help the children who live there.

I think I never really became aware of the wonder she was living untill I started to see her pictures. 
Paulina and Adriana
The way people reacted to them; and the most amazing thing was not only seeing how she was changing but how she was touching people hearts as well.
 For me, in those pictures, every smile counted, every tear counted, every moment counted, even when I wasn't there. 
I could imagine how she started every day with a smile and ended it with a bigger one. I will never be able to explain the feeling, but born in me was a desire to help.
And so I asked Adriana How can I do it? and she mentioned I could help a child directly by making month donations and that is how Elizabeth Gomm , a women to whom I will always be grateful, told me about how I could sponsor a Happy House child.
I cannot wait to meet my boy or girl, I love him/her already so much.

*If you would like to sponsor a Happy House child, like Paulina, please email for details

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

For you, dad - Mama's tribute

Raising the national flags
Mama Sue's much loved father was a huge influence in her life.
And how proud he would have been of all his only daughter has achieved and to know how her work is making a difference to so many young lives.
Yesterday, Mama paid her tribute to the memory of this special man by dedicating the new Happy House primary school to his memory.
Mama's tribute
Her precious dad,  Harold Hayes,   was a dedicated prison officer who came from humble beginnings and attended a humble school in a poor area, but despite this he rose to greater heights as a civil servant in the prison service.
Mr Hayes was passionate about education and believed that children should be given every educational opportunity.
The ceremony of dedication started with a parade by the Happy House Scouts with Mama Sue being invited to inspect the guard of honour.
This was followed by raising the flag - both the Kenyan national and the Union flags, and both national anthems were sung with enthusiasm and pride.
Scouts on parade
Later Mama spoke to the assembly about her father and of his ideals before going up to school for a short prayer of dedication and remembrance of a man who had been a war veteran, a role model as a father and in life, a believer in children and education and a respected prison officer who received recognition from the Queen in being awarded both the Imperial Service Medal and the British Empire Medal.
Mama Sue used the ceremony to emphasise to the Happy House children the importance of working hard and making the best of every minute of their lives and the opportunities offered to them  at school and at home at the Happy House.
It was a moving and historic moment in Happy House history that all will look back on a remember with affection.

Monday, 28 January 2013

N-ice treat

There was a tasty treat for everyone thanks to friends Scott and Laura Webster, who sponsor little Rose and Selina, one of the newest members of our family.
Scott and Laura, who do so much to support us both here in the UK and practically when they visit ,were coming to the end of their visit and they wanted to say a special goodbye.
So they bought ice-cream for everyone, which went down a treat!
Thank you Scott and Laura for everything you do, for the ice cream and for being such fantastic friends. 
We hope you are now safely home in Royal Wootton Bassett. 
We know you will not forget us and we hope that it will not be too long before you come to see us again.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Welcome our new friends

Our five new children are now happily settled in at the Happy House thanks to their very welcoming new ''brothers and sisters''.
 The two little family groups, Selina, Hajiri and Maurine and brothers Emmanuel and Elijah are now enjoying life as members of our big and happy family as  Janet (pictured left),  one of our first Happy House kids and a loving big sister to her own younger  brothers,Evans and Oscar, and to all the kids, explains:
How are you ? I hope you are fine and me too. This is about our new friends who joined us recently during the holidays.  
We welcomed them nicely and also we were happy to receive them.
We are also happy to be part of our family and to have them in our family. 
We hope they will enjoy staying with us at the Happy House and we like them and help them all we can.'' 
* If you would like to know more about sponsoring a Happy House child please email                              

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Birthday boys and girls!

The youngest member of our family,  little Esther reached her first birthday landmark this week, sharing her special birthday with our Uncle Billy.

When Esther, who was  just a few days old when she found abandoned in scrubland last year, Uncle Billy was delighted t hat her official birthday was the same day as his own and then doubly delighted when Cherith and Steve Cushing, who do so much to support us and were visiting at the time, named her Esther, which is is the name of Cherith's late grandmother but also  of his own much-loved mum!

This week there were gifts for both of them presented at kids club, with Jane taking Esther to receive hers.
There were also gifts for Katana and  for little Rose, who had two members of her sponsor family, Scott and Laura Webster, there to join in the birthday song.
Happy birthday to all of you.

Welcome to Paul and friends.......
Paul Hatch has been looking forward to visiting the Happy House for months ... and he and his family have been collecting items for Paul to bring for the kids.

Luckily his airline helped out by giving him an extra 10kg charity baggage allowance to ensure he didn't have to leave anything behind. .
Paul , from London, met Mama Sue and Papa Dave and the family earlier this week and came back yesterday with three fellow guests from Turtle Bay Hotel - Audrey Wolfendale, Janice Clarke and Michelle Stanton.
They were given a guided tour by Papa and loved everything they saw. Thanks Paul for your generosity and for helping to spread word of the Happy House work.

Friday, 25 January 2013

US Navy comes to call

The Happy House success story is one that never fails to surprise and impress those who visit us.
They can see for themselves exactly how Mama Sue has not only created a children's home with exceptionally high standards, but also how she has taken her vision forward to provide both our Happy House children, and those from the local community, with a school which is also blazing the trail for change.
So what is her secret to success? That is what everyone wants to know ..including our latest visitors from the US Navy.
They are in Watamu working on local projects and having heard about the Happy House, they wanted to see it and to talk to Mama so that they could help the local projects, nowhere near as successful, to understand what it takes.
And as Mama, who never gives less than her best to her family and, therefore, refuses to accept anything less than the best from those who work with her, was happy to advise them.
Uncle Billy says: 'They marvelled at the standards of care and admired the achievements put in place within a short space of time
They wanted to understand how best to support the community and the Happy House was a place they wanted to learn from.
''They  asked Mama how she had managed to  do it all. She quickly answered them that it was by being accountable,transparent and maintaining high standards of integrity.
'' Corruption has marred so many projects started by well wishing donors who end up feeling disenfranchised after funds are diverted and mostly misappropriated.
''This is never the case in the Happy House. Everything that is given, whether money or goods, gets to where it is intended, to supporting the children.''
*Mama and Papa are pictured (above) with navy officers Benjamin McGee and Kevin Hodge along with George Mumba, a travel agent who organises educational, internship and volunteering programmes.
Welcome Carol
Another visitor who came to call was Carol Sohier from Jersey, Carol has helped us by supporting our appeal to raise money for a new and bigger bus and in other ways so Mama Sue was thrilled to welcome and for her to meet our family. Carol brought with her some very useful stock of dry goods for our kitchen store cupboard. Thank you Carol for being so kind.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A model of charitable enterprise

The first day of 2013 was dawning when Layla Hamadi arrived in Kenya ready for a month volunteering with our Happy House family.
A graduate from Belfast and Oxford universities, Layla has been ready to turn her hand to anything  - from washing up to teaching.
She has also seen first hand, with our social worker Uncle Billy as her guide, the complex way children's services work in Kenya.
Layla, 27, who grew up on the Fylde coast, has also been getting to know her sponsor child Peninah and her mum Karen's sponsor child Sauma.
Here Layla,  a nursing assistant  working with adolescents with severe mental health difficulties at a specialist unit in Oxford  who is also a member of an Oxford University research team investigating adolescent-onset schizophrenia with nasal stem cell technology , writes about her Happy House experience which is now drawing to a close.
''When I boldly announced the decision to my friends in Oxford that I was planning to take time off work to spend a month volunteering overseas during January, the feeling was that this was a slight overreaction to a classic British summer of truly appalling weather.
 But it was something I had wanted to do for a while and I originally planned to go to Fiji where they were asking for support in a centre for children with mental health difficulties. This seemed perfect as I work in a psychiatric hospital for adolescents at home and love my job.
 But my mum suggested that I come to the Happy House instead, where I have sponsored the lovely Peninah for a while.
The idea sounded very appealing and, after some consideration, I got in touch with Mama Sue. After this, I was convinced I wanted to come and things began to happen quickly.
With many promises to my mum to  take lots of pictures of Sauma who she sponsors, I booked a complex flight to Kenya with stops in Istanbul and Kilimanjaro (selecting the Hindu meal option out of curiosity), booked in for some outrageously expensive vaccinations and reserved a room nearby.
I flew on New Year’s Eve, arriving early in the morning at Mombasa airport in jeans and nearly passed out from the heat. 
Shortly after I arrived at what would be my home for the next month and, after a cursory application of Deet, I was on my way to the Happy House. 
The warmth between the children and staff is apparent to visitors from the moment they come through the door. The fact that the children are so excited to see new people and so affectionate speaks volumes about they way they are cared for.
A number of the girls were grimly determined to braid my hair and whenever I sat down, they flocked around. Undoing a full head of braids took me the best part of three hours as I sat back in my room.
Happy House has an ethos and reputation which has captured the interest of many visitors in the area.
A group of American volunteers who took me for the day to Gede school for children with cerebral palsy and deafness expressed an interest in visiting as they heard about its set-up and how it is respected in the community as a wonderful success story. 
We also had some representatives from the US Navy come to visit who are stationed here working with local government and NGOs who were particularly impressed and are coming back to meet Mama Sue.
Many  people fear donating to charities in Africa because they worry  their money will not get to those they wish to support and various people I have met while here in Kenya have spoken about corruption as a problem. There is no question that this is an issue globally, but the opinion seems to be that a lack of transparency and accountability here deepens the problem. The fact that the Happy House is somewhere where people can be confident that everything they give goes to the children and where the staff so clearly love and care for the kids makes it a model of charitable enterprise.
This trip has certainly taught me plenty. It has been interesting to make home visits to families to discuss possible cases as well as visiting the Children’s Department when going to pick up little Moses. These, plus Moses return to his mother, have helped me to understand more about the legal system here, with Uncle Billy patiently answering all my questions.
Taking the children to the clinic and the hospital has reminded me of the gulf in healthcare between here and home. 
The moment where the doctor told me the anti-malaria drugs I had been prescribed in England were useless was a bit of a low point as I held a squirming toddler in my arms. He brightly followed this gem up with a request to send him an Arsenal top when I got home as they don’t post to Kenya.  
Teaching a couple of English classes has increased my respect for primary school teachers across the world. A group of young children can take 10 minutes to locate their pencil, open an exercise book and write the date.
 I possibly lack the sort of tranquil patience that marks out skilled teachers, but there is no question that those that work at this school are dedicated to the children and passionate about what they do.
I am always so encouraged when I see the children reading, something which I have always loved. Margaret is currently in possession of the first volume of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials which I am giving to the kids in instalments and I hope they love as much as I did.
I hope to wean them on to Harry Potter shortly. Today I have brought my Kindle in to show them which I hope they enjoy trying out (and don’t break, otherwise that Hindu meal is going to be the highlight of my flight back).
Some of the most enjoyable moments I have had so far have been while spending free time with the children. Playing with the babies, watching dvds, sitting with the kids at lunchtime and pushing them on the swings in the garden.
I have found it heart-warming how wonderful 16-year old Lucinda is with the younger children and enjoyed chatting to some of the older ones, notably Rukia whose good English reveals a razor sharp wit. 
As I hurriedly type this out , aware that it is tea and biscuit time in a few moments, I realise I am more than halfway through my stay.
I sometimes idly wonder if I could take one of the smaller children back to Oxford with me without Mama Sue noticing - but I suspect this is unrealistic!
I will have to take as many photos as possible and,maybe,return one day.
To anyone considering coming out here themselves I would warmly recommend it.''
*To find out more about volunteering at the Happy House please visit:

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Pooling resources

Scott and Laura Webster have been pooling their talents to the benefit of our family.
Auntie Laura has been working alongside the aunties in the baby banda and as she brought a new paddling pool in her luggage, got busy filling it for our babies to enjoy  a cooling dip and, as you can see, they did!
Meanwhile, Uncle Scott, who is a very keen gardener, has been helping  in th garden and  also assisted handyman Lanson and provied himself to be a Mr Fixit in the process when he successfully repaired a broken wheelbarrow.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Move along! But our Mama is home...

A quiet as mice, our Happy House kids wait for their Mama and Papa to walk through the arrivals gate at Mombasa Airport.The older ones stand, their necks craned, each wanting to catch the first glimpse of Kenya Airways most precious cargo.And when they see Mama and Papa walk through the gate the pent up excitement erupts and the children bubble over clapping, cheering, singing ... and literally jumping for joy.

Their delight at having their Mama and Papa home at last was there for everyone to see - passers-by and fellow passengers unable to conceal a smile as they too were caught up in this  infectious happiness.
Only the bewildered security staff, unused to joyful reunions on this scale, were a bit put out, asking the family to move on as they were causing congestion. 
''But our Mama is home!''  the kids
For Mama and Papa, it was the welcome they had been looking forward to for weeks.

''It was a journey long and tiring,'' says Mama ''but all is forgotten when the kids are there to meet us with hugs, kisses and great big smiles.'
Everyone was there, Uncle BIlly, Auntie Rose, Uncle Isaac, housemums, teachers, volunteer Sarah Flanagan, our Masai, gardeners and Lanson and all the kids big enough to endure the two hour trip.
To the relief of security staff, the happy procession  snaked their way colourfully to the car park to board the bus home, with a stop for sodas on the way.
Mama says the sodas arrived quickly but it too an age for straws to follow. She asked the kids to wait and they did, so patiently, not one even child trying to sneak a surreptitious slurp!
Volunteer Sarah, a teacher in the UK for more than 30 years, was once again impressed by the way our children behave.

Mama says: ''I said to the kids wait until your straws come, please don't drink from the bottles, so they all sat quietly waiting. Sarah couldn't believe it, she was amazed how good they ALL are.''
Drinks stop over, with everyone chatting away trying to tell Mama and Papa their news, it was back on the bus for the long ride home to the Happy House where a special lunch of turkey and pilau awaited the happy but weary travellers.
And Mama had them all trying to guess what present she had brought them ... and were thrilled when she produced line dancing dvds along with a red cowboy hat for every child.
Knowing our enthusiastic dancers,  they'll have the routines mastered in no time. 
Mama and Papa have been truly missed, now they are home and for our family life is once again complete and all is well.
Welcome home, Mama and Papa.

Monday, 21 January 2013

A case for investigation

What have we here then, Uncle Scott?
Little Jonathan crawls up to see just what's in the case when our very good friends Scott and Laura Webster arrive back at the Happy House. 
Scott and Laura have been supporting Sue's work in Watamu for many years and have visited many times.
The couple, from Royal Wootton Bassett,  like to be busy and Scott is working alongside the gardeners whilst Laura is giving a hand with the babies.
They have brought with them lots of really useful things for our family, including pumps, socks, nappies, clothes and toys, some very generously donated by their friend Steve Culliford from Swindon.
Thank you Steve for your kindness.
Thank you also to Scott and Laura who sponsor our littlest Rose, who have now added to their family by joining the sponsor family of Selina who, with her two young sisters, joined us earlier this month.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Helping the Aunties - by Daniella

Today's blog  about helping our aunties is written by ever-helpful Daniella who loves to be busy around the house.
 Daniella writes:

I just want to tell about  helping the auntys in the kitchen, laundry and baby room.
I love helping in the laundery with Aunty Loyce and to cook rice with soup with Aunty Joyce.

And in the baby room I was helping Aunty Freedor with babies.
 I am  with Natasha and Charity on the rocking horse.


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Birthdays at the double

 There were two birthdays to celebrate at Kidz Club this week.
Stepping into the spotlight to the sound of the birthday song were Daniella and Ushindi who received their gifts from Auntie Lloyce and big ''sister" Mariam.
Happy birthday kids from all your friends around the world.
Tomorrow, it's Kids Day on the blog and our guest writer this week is Daniella. Make sure you don't miss her story of Happy House life.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Mama and Papa set off for home

All packed and ready to go ... Mama and Papa are setting off today for a three week visit home to their Happy House family.
Mama and Papa have so much to do while they are there and it is so important for the kids that they get home as often as they can as they are very much missed.
Mama and Papa and the family have a lot of catching up to do - and they also have  five new members of our family to meet.
Mama and Papa get very homesick too, but they will be back  ready for a busy schedule working with Elizabeth here, including the Rotary conference in Scarborough and our annual charity night in March.
Mama and Elizabeth have done so much in the past few months to consolidate fundraising that, hopefully, by mid-summer when all the major speaking commitments have been fulfilled, Mama and Papa will be going home for good.
Safe journey, Mama and Papa.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Welcome Madam Sarah

Retired teacher Sarah Flanagan has just started her first week in the classroom at our Happy House school.
Sarah, who was inspired to help our family after hearing  Mama Sue speak at the Lancashire Woman of the Year luncheon this summer, formerly taught at St Mary's College, Blackburn.
Before volunteer Sarah has been fundraising for our family and also joined our family by sponsoring Hassan, who she is now enjoying getting to know.
Sarah arrived on Monday to meet our Happy House and after being introduced to our staff and children, and an induction to Happy House life from head teacher Madam Rose and social worker Uncle Billy, quickly got to work in school.
She says:
''The professionalism of all the staff is so impressive as is the behaviour of the children. 
 The teachers are great....very committed and want to talk and ask questions about the UK system. They all demonstrate a real and touching pride in The Happy House and are aware of how special it is. 
I taught prepositions to a class and they were so keen to learn... it was a joy!
 I wish our UK kids could have such neat handwriting and be so enthusiastic.
I am now officially Madame Sarah!''