Thursday, 31 October 2013

Mama, our essential essence

Back where she belongs 
It's been a hectic few weeks at the Happy House. Since Mama and Papa arrived home last month there has been so much going on.
The whole building has a renewed buzz as Mama, back where she belongs,  does what she's good at ... leading her team and being Mama to all the family, regardless of age!
There is no-one happier to have his Mama back than Uncle Billy, our social worker who is key to the management team
Now, he has had a chance to catch his breath he has written this lovely and very touching article about how, for so many months, he had to rely on the essence of Mama and Papa.
""In March last year Mama  and Papa travelled to the UK for the annual Charity Night which is crucial in raising much needed for funds to cater for the diverse needs of the ever growing family.
 It was a break from the previous year which saw the event at the end of the year. As always when there is any new developments affecting the family, our tradition is to share the information  during the weekly Kidz Club meeting which  brings together all the teachers, housemums aunties ,cooks, grounds men, cleaners, security and all the staff and volunteers on a level playingfield with the kids.
The children are actively involved in decision making over matters that are of their interest in a bid to bring up a responsible, confident and assertive young people. They have been told they have a voice and encouraged to use it knowing that adults must take time to listen to  as the children are ,and always remain, our main focus.
The results are immense. Our children are never shy or timid as is always the case in the first days during pre and post admission assessment stages.
On the contrary, our children quickly transform to ones who  are well versed with their rights which  obviously go hand in hand with responsibilities.
 They are developing other social and life skills such as public speaking and also in cookery, gardening, athletics and sports which are a bonus on their physical and cognitive advancement.
In such a lovely atmosphere which also see birthdays being celebrated including the coveted star of the week presentations  for outstanding achievers, Mama and Papa said a  family farewell promising to come back in three weeks time. Mama humbly asked everyone to take of each other while she was away  and though there were sad faces around, Kidz Club ended with a happy song after reminding ourselves that just as we treat our family members, friends and volunteers who live abroad ….’we must let them go, for them to come back’.
 Fair enough.
As fate would have it, things seemed to be working right until when we hit a financial low, had to stop our school building work, and Mama thought it best to stay in the UK to help our Auntie Libby with vital fundraising.
Then health problems set in hence delaying some of the laid out plans that Mama had within her short visit abroad.
 It was difficult to keep announcing that she needed more time before she could back home.
Flashback to earlier days
 Our kids are very accepting and they would also respond by asking us to send love to their Mama, Papa and Auntie Libby whenever we caught up over telephone conversation or in emailing.
 Rose and I would always do so and it wasn’t always easy especially with the staff who would look at us almost in suspicion of foul play.
Most worrying was for the kids who have previously been abandoned, neglected, starved, battered or raped only to come home to a loving and caring environment under Mama’s watch.
In our family they have  become ‘children’ once more after previously having had to grapple with adults roles of  carrying their baby brothers/sisters on their backs, cooking  and even begging for alms for their collective survival and well-being.
Silently, they would wonder whether their world would crash without Mama, sending them  reeling back to the dreaded dark days
. It was a tall order for us to keep taking care of each other and get the jobs done which was obviously doubled after two pairs of hands in Mama and Papa were out of sight.
 However we would constantly stay in touch and we never felt left out in terms of ideas and consultations and the Management team agreed to take an extra mile so as to keep achieving Mama’s dream in sailing  the fast moving Happy House ship while strictly remaining on course.
Our traditional ‘Mad Monday’ meetings always take place in Mama’s office where we all seat in sort of ‘half moon’ facing her. Without realising it we maintained the same position to this date since we always felt Mama and Papa’s presence in our midst.
 Sometimes we would get a depressing call and I would consider working in Mama’s office to offer some support and encouragement to Rose, then expecting her first baby, who would really break down in tears in many occasions. I would take my favourite position in front of Mama’s desk and would hope to at least make Rosie feel not left out in the wilderness.
That way it helped me to remain focused more for us I faced Mama’s empty chair I would think: " Now then Mama how would you like this done’ and I would get a straight answer and a smile saying ‘ Yes, and we have a plan, as always, because we like it when we have a plan!’ 
A remarkable element in technology in the name of Skype came as an integral component in communication hence bolstering consultations and even accountability to the kids when they got to chat with their Mama on a one on one approach.
 It truly saved us from appearing like terrible people who are keeping Mama and Papa from the family with ulterior motives.
 We would in turn conduct departmental staff meetings where Mama & Papa would get all the house, school and gardening reports. This way everyone remained in the fold and we henceforth got bailed out from suspicious glances from the kids and staff. God bless the one who invented Skype!
It is now several weeks since Mama, Papa and  Aunty Libby came home and the family has got more vibrant and livelier.
 All the meetings and general activities have taken a spring and there is more life In everyone involved. The kids are merrier because they are now certain they are secure and are assured of more love and care from their reservoir of hope and pillars of strength in their Mama and Papa.
 Our pecial thanks to Aunty Libby  for taking good care of them while in the UK and for  working hardest to propel the charity work ahead and to the health experts in the hospital who took good care of Mama.
 Kudos to Papa Dave for being a wonderful husband caretaker, soul-mate, cook, shopper, security…the list is endless but, above all, Mama’s Love.
We can’t forget Mama’s childhood friend Joan and her husband who welcomed our  beloved in their home at the Isle of Wight giving them VVIP treatment and a relaxed stay which aided in recharging their batteries in a week long holiday before they came home to us.
Thank you all and may God bless you for you have all contributed to make my dream come true ‘ A brand new Mama has come back to us, of course with a new fashion accessory in crutches which, as she gets more mobile every day, she will very soon be doing without.
I love you  all!''

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

DJ Ten ... Get-Fit Milan brings joy to Happy House

 Walk, run or race ... the choice was open to everyone taking part in DJ Ten - a celebration of fitness held in the heart of the city of Milan.
Organised by DJ rad ion station the event has two 10km routes - one competitive and the other for those who prefer to go at their own pace.
And there was even a shorter 5km route, DJ Five,  for families.
The event took place on October 19 and saw a river of colour weave through thew city, as those taking part joined to share two passions - one for the run and the other for charity.
Get-Fit, with its 14 fitness clubs, took part again this year by collection race subscriptions from its customers.. with a one euro donation to the Happy House from each one registering.
Susanne Gregorgio, whose husband Livio Leardi is CEO and owner  of Get-Fit, said: "We are proud to join together with the entire family of Happy House to help Sue Hayward to create ambitious projects.
Sport is a healthy lifestyle that fully combines the healthy aims of Happy House."
Get-Fit is a wonderful supporter of Happy House and this is the most recent of their fundraising support for our family, when Susanna was visiting Watamu recently she brought Mama 1,000 Euro raised from previous fundraising efforts.
We are so grateful to Livio and Susanna and to all the members of Get-Fit for helping to make a difference to our children.
They are truly helping to make life better and brighter for our 78 children.
In Italian (translated using Google Translate)

Camminare, correre o di razza ... la scelta è stata aperta a tutti i partecipanti a DJ Ten - una celebrazione del fitness tenuta nel cuore della città di Milano.
Organizzata dalla stazione di ioni DJ rad l'evento ha due percorsi 10 km - uno competitive e l'altro per coloro che preferiscono andare al proprio ritmo .
E c'era anche un percorso cinque chilometri più breve, DJ Cinque, per le famiglie .
L' evento ha avuto luogo il 19 ottobre e ha visto un fiume di colore tessere attraverso città thew , come i partecipanti uniti per condividere due passioni - uno per la corsa e l'altro per carità .
Get- Fit , con i suoi 14 centri fitness , ha preso nuovamente parte quest'anno per collezione abbonamenti corsa dai suoi clienti .. con una donazione di euro per la Happy House di ciascuna registrazione .
Susanna Gregorgio , il cui marito Livio Leardi è CEO e proprietario di Get- Fit , ha dichiarato: " Siamo orgogliosi di partecipare insieme a tutta la famiglia di Happy House per aiutare Sue Hayward per creare progetti ambiziosi .
Lo sport è uno stile di vita sano che unisce pienamente gli obiettivi sani di Happy House " .
Get- Fit è un meraviglioso sostenitore di Happy House e questo è il più recente dei loro supporto di raccolta fondi per la nostra famiglia , quando Susanna era in visita a Watamu recentemente ha portato Mama 1.000 Euro raccolti da precedenti sforzi di raccolta fondi .
Siamo così grati a Livio e Susanna e per tutti i membri del Get- Fit per aver contribuito a fare la differenza per i nostri figli .
Essi sono veramente aiutando a rendere la vita migliore e più luminoso per i nostri 78 bambini .

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Empowering women to make changes

A Kenyan government initiative to improve reproductive health is being rolled out in the Malindi area.
And for a nominal 50 Ksh (approx 36p) , women living in poverty can receive a smart card entitling them to free long-term family planning services from from the coil and implants to sterilisation. 
The campaign OBA 2030 is being delivered by trained social workers who are going out into communities to explain it to local women and Mama was delighted to invite them to the Happy House to meet with a group of mothers who have some of their children in our care.
Six women turned up and social workers Christine Karimi and Emma Karembo told them how, with the smart card, they could receive the service of their choice at a local health facility close to where they live.
All, but one, wanted to sign up but none had the 50 Ksh needed.  Mama had already decided that we would fund the cost if necessary.

The woman  initially reluctant to sign-up had not fully understood what it meant but when the other women gathered round to talk with her and to counsel her in their own way, she soon changed her mind seeing how it could help her.
There are so many children born into poverty and neglect, and many women die from complications in childbirth.
This initiative aims to give women the ability to manage their own fertility and to improve their reproductive health.
Our six are a small drop in a huge ocean but it is a start.
Mama is determined to do all she can to help empower women to use the services available and to help bring an end to the self-perpetuating cycle of childbirth, poverty and neglect which results in children being taken into care.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Making a difference

DawnHeather and Neema
Our volunteers add so much to life at the Happy House.
Coming from all around the world, of different ages and backgrounds, each one opens a new window on the world for our children.
Plus they have differing gifts and talents to share, whether they are helping in the gardens, the kitchens or assisting in classes in school.
Coral and Esther
We know that their experience with our family will enrich their lives, too.
Some volunteers come back time and time again, like Coral Blackhurst and DawnHeather White.
Coral, from the Isle of Man, is back for the fourth successive year and  DawnHeather has recently returned back to Bangor, Northern Ireland, after her sixth visit  to our family.
Back in Ireland, DawnHeather, who is in Katana's sponsor family, is a fantastic fundraiser for the Happy House.
Coral is in Mariam's family.
Auntie Coral and Auntie DawnHeather both enjoy helping out in kindergarten but will turn their hand to anything when need be.
If you would like to know more about volunteering at ther Happy House please  take a look at the volunteer section on our website:

Sunday, 27 October 2013

I like to read, by Jedida

This week Jedida is our blogger. She is never happier than when she has a book in her hand.
For our Happy House children there is, as you will see, a clear dividing line between being in the family home or being at school.
"I am Jedida. I am in class 3. I am 11 years old. 
I went to the library. I read some of the books. We love to read very much. We have a library teacher called Catherine Salama.
There are 8,026 books in the library, CDs, and text books. We also have newspapers. I like reading them.
At the Happy House library we have rules. We have chats and storybook. 
In the library we have big four tables and 24 chairs.. 
 I like to read Mama Panya’s Pancakes, it is a good story book. 
When I reach home after school I do my homework and after play I go to eat my meal. 
Then I take a shower and afterwards I go to sleep. In the morning I take my breakfast before it is time for school."

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Our shopping adventure

  Yesterday, we brought news of a wonderful donation of groceries from Italian friend Tundra Tononi.
Tundra has very kindly written about her local shopping experience and the motivation for her fundraising - in both English and Italian.
 L'abbraccio e lo sguardo di Sue di ieri mi hanno ripagato di giorni di preparativi...
Sapendo di tornare in Kenya per l'ennesima volta ho voluto tentare di portare un aiuto un po' più concreto alla Happy House. Ogni volta portavo con me qualche vestito dei miei figli ed accompagnavo amici a visitare la struttura perchè si rendessero conto del grande lavoro di queste persone...
Quest'anno abbiamo avuto la possibilità di far frequentare a mia figlia la “Happy House primary school” per qualche mese, ora dobbiamo tornare in Italia, ma la mia piccola Juna ha già chiesto di ritornare alla sua scuola kenyota, si è trovata benissimo nonostante le difficoltà iniziali con la lingua.
Il poter passare del tempo con la sua “sorellina” Hajiri, che supportiamo da qualche tempo, ha significato sicuramente un'esperienza molto importante per Juna.
Con l'altro mio figlio Ethan ci siamo preparati al nostro viaggio in Kenya per riprendere Juna e l'idea iniziale era di raccogliere qualche capo di abbigliamento e qualche giocattolo fra i nostri amici. La risposta è stata molto positiva ed in poco tempo abbiamo raccolto tanto materiale da non poterlo nemmeno portare tutto con noi a causa delle limitazioni bagaglio delle compagnie aeree (3 scatole sono già pronte per successivi invii). Ethan mi ha aiutato a preparare delle scatole per la raccolta dei soldi e delle lettere in cui spiegavamo il lavoro della Happy House e le abbiamo decorate con foto di mia figlia all'interno della scuola con le sue amichette e garantito personalmente l'arrivo dei fondi a destinazione. Ethan ha coinvolto i suoi compagni di classe e le sue maestre, io gli amici ed i colleghi di lavoro e anche mia cugina Luana, che conosce la Happy House e già sponsorizza una bambina, si è data da fare..
Nonostante lo scetticismo di alcuni e la poca fiducia di altri, insieme abbiamo comunque raggiunto una discreta somma.
Ieri,con Isaak munito di preziosa lista, siamo andati a fare gli acquisti in un piccolo negozio di Timboni, è stato emozionante ma sembra sempre di non fare abbastanza, solo quando ho ricevuto l'abbraccio ed il ringraziamento di Sue ho capito che forse una piccola differenza l'avevano fatta anche noi.
Grazie a tutti coloro che ci hanno aiutato e che lo faranno in futuro.
 And in English
"Mama Sue's embrace and the smile on her face made all our preparation worthwhile ...
Knowing I was to return to Kenya for the umpteenth time I wanted to try to bring a little more concrete help to the Happy House.
Each time I have visited I have taken clothes from my children and their friends as I know what a great  job is being done there.
This year we had the chance for my daughter to attend the Happy House primary school for a few months, we must now return to Italy, but my little Juna has already asked me if she can go back to her Kenyan school. She found it very good despite some initial difficulties with the language,
Spending time with her "little sister" Hajiri (our sponsor-child)  was certainly a very important and special experience for Juna (pictured below, and above with Happy and Hajiri).
In preparing our trip to Watamu, our initial idea was to collect some articles of clothing and  toys among our friends. The response was very positive and we collected  so much it was impossible to bring everything with us because of the airline baggage restrictions  (three boxes are in Italy ready to send out with other friends in January).
My son Ethan helped me in preparing the boxes for fundraising and we wrote letters in which we explained the work of the Happy House and decorated them with photos of my daughter together with her school friends.
Ethan has involved his classmates and teachers, I also  asked for  help from  friends and colleagues and from my cousin Luana, who  knows the Happy House and sponsors Happy.
Despite the scepticism of some people, together we have achieved a good sum.
On Thursday, we went with Isaac and his shopping list,  to make purchases in a small shop in Timboni.
It it was exciting but always I feel that I am not doing enough, only when I got the hug and thanks of Mama Sue did I realise that we also have made a small difference. 
Thanks to everyone who helped us and to they will support our efforts for the Happy House again in the. future

Friday, 25 October 2013

Shopping galore with love from Italy

 It's just lovely when our friends come to the Happy House and want to go shopping!
Tundra Tononi bought lots of groceries and supplies with money raised by her family and friends from Italy. 
Mama and the family were particularly touched to hear how her son Ethan had done a great deal of fundraising at his school.
They spent a total of 119,300 Ksh for supplies which will last our family for around a month.
Thank you so much Tundra, Ethan and all those who supported you in the wonderfully generous donation.
 It is so thoughtful of you all and greatly appreciated.
*Tundra is picture with her son Ethan, daughter Juna, Mama Sue, Uncle Isaac, Uncle Josphat, Uncle Baya and Auntie Velma.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Welcome back, Lynsey

It's two years since Lynsey Hill visited the Happy House with her mum, Bev Higham, and sister Steph Hill, and now she is back again and enjoying seeing how much everything has changed.
And she is also having fun seeing her special little friend, Harrison, who has grown so much since she was last there..
Lynsey is a member of Harrison's sponsor family and he was there to welcome Lynsey (back left) and her friend, Amy Dutton, when they arrived, along with his brother, Ushindi, and sister Salama.
Steph is in Lily's sponsor family and Lily was all smiles to see Lynsey again.
Lynsey and her family have been supporting the Happy House since it was being built and in 2009 she and Steph completed a fundraising bungee jump.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Now we are 78

A brother and sister, whose single mum is, tragically, suffering from an incurable illness, have joined our family after being identified as being in need of care and protection.
We were told about their case by some kindly Italian friends, who were concerned for the mum and her two little ones, Dulla and Rehema.
Uncle Billy went into the interior with them to investigate and after 20 minute drive, and a ten minute trek through undergrowth arrived at the settlement where they found the kids with their grandmum who was trying to weave a basket to sell.
Uncle Billy said after talking to the children's mum he was convinced of their need for a secure home and phoned ahead to tell Mama and Papa that they would be bringing Dulla and Rehema home.
"They immediately got the family together for the traditional grand welcome that doubtless makes every child remember their grand entry to the family with nostalgia
 On arrival, they were  overwhelmed by the VIP reception and soon there was a group willing to take them to  their bedrooms, the shower was ready, plus a change into fresh new clothes and crocs as hot meal was waiting…….  
 "Triza, a local girl, had expressed her fear that the little girl would cry incessantly for her mom. This is far from the case.
" They have settled in as quickly as any children who have come to us.
"The next day I found them mingling with the rest and just being kids without a worry in the world. That is, indeed ,what we like to see and can only describe  as, simply,  the Happy House magic!"
Rehema and Dulla bring our family number to 78 and,again, their circumstances reinforce the vital need for our current Room for Another project.  If you can help by fundraising towards the £18,000-£22,000 to pay for it or would like to sponsor a Happy House child please email:

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Papa takes a tour

 Before Papa  arrived home,  Fikiri wrote a lovely blog telling how busy things had been in the garden and how the boys were looking forward to showing him how everything is growing.
So Papa was more than pleased to join Evans, Sifa, Fikiri, Hassan and Oscar  when, true to their word, they took him on a guided tour of every bit of growing space.
They talked about all the fruit and vegetables that are coming on so well, and which go into the kitchen to feed our family.
The boys are overjoyed to have their Papa home.  He always has a laugh and a joke with them, a football tale to tell or a magic trick to show them.
He's a true father figure  and so loved by them all.

Monday, 21 October 2013

A remarkable model

Management consultants, Andrew and Amy Dickinson volunteered at the Happy House as part of a three-month sabbatical.
Now back home in London, Andrew, who grew up on the Fylde coast, has written this blog about their experience.
"Amy and I have spent a memorable three weeks in Watamu volunteering at the Happy House as part of a three- month sabbatical from work. 
Our time at the Happy House has been a truly unforgettable experience and has surpassed all of our expectations. The tone was set by the warmest of welcomes received as soon as we walk through the Happy House gates.
Children, teachers and all the staff greet you with a warm handshake and a beaming smile that immediately makes you feel at home.
We have been part of Musyoka's sponsorship family for the last 12-months but it was difficult to fully understand the amazing work being done at the Happy House until we spent some time here. 
A couple of themes really struck me that makes it a particular special place.
Firstly, it is a family that love and cares for each other. This is clearly evident among the children who care and support each other. If one child falls over there is always someone else there to pick them up and dust them down.
Secondly, it is a place that is not content with merely providing a stable home for the children but is striving for excellence and aims to set these kids up for long and bright futures.
The model itself is remarkable, combining a home for poor and vulnerable children with the best school in the area that attracts the most talented and financially secure day pupils from the outside. A great example of doing things differently is that the children set their own academic achievement targets. This immediately empowers the children and is really paying off with the results being achieved.
Mama Sue's vision for the Happy House is ambitious and still a work in progress. Longer term plans include building a secondary school and also building supported living units for the children to use once they have left school and are starting to make their way in the world.
The current project underway is to relocate the library and computer room to a new purpose built resource centre. This will free up space for the older kids to live in more independent dorms whilst also allowing the family to grow beyond the 75 kids currently living at the Happy House.
These projects alongside the day to day running of an ever expanding school and children's home bring huge challenges for the entire Happy House team. Mama Sue is quick to point out that the Happy House is more than just smiles and cuddles from the children. Capital funding is a major issue for the future plans, as is the cash flow required to keep 30+ full time staff employed 365 days a year.
Successfully managing a business on this scale would be a challenge back in the UK, however, it is that bit more difficult in Kenya.
Resources are more difficult to come by and there is a tendency for local tradesmen to try to inflate their prices.
Mama Sue is wise to their ways.  She insists on getting only the best value for money and makes every penny go as far as possible to positively impact the kids, which means a constant battle with suppliers, builders etc over the price and quality of work.
The good news is that this battle is paying off as the facilities at the school are consistently improving. Just the the last couple of months, and thanks to the efforts of fellow volunteer, Frankie, a football field and play area have been finished.
 The contrasting reality to these improvements is that day to day resources remain in desperately short supply, for example, whilst we were there the school had run out of pencils. It sounds a cliche to say that every penny donated to the Happy House makes a difference but after spending some time here I can honestly vouch that it really does.
Our own experience was very special. We immediately fell in love with the children and the more time you spend with them the more rewarding it is as you get to know the individual characters.
That said, it didn't mean the children didn't push their luck with us as they looked to get the measure of the new volunteers. When they did something naughty it would be greeted with the cheekiest of knowing smiles and our hearts would melt.
Another observation is the children's overwhelming desire to learn. One of my favourite classes was library where I would sit with children from class 1 and 2 whilst they read stories to me. Each day I would ask who wanted to read for me and I would then be besieged by children wanting to read and learn.
With Musyoka and Francis
The desire to learn transcends into music and sports as well. They love to learn songs, especially with actions involved. Amy managed to teach the kindergarten "Swing low, sweet chariot" plus actions. Dancing is another natural talent for the children and  they will be up dancing as soon as the music starts. 
Unfortunately my own attempt to dance like a Kenyan was not too successful - us English boys were not born to move our hips.
I also loved spending some time with them playing sports. Football is a natural passion for the boys and girls but I was also struck by how quickly and naturally they picked up news skills. One example was that we dug a long jump pit in the gardens in preparation for the Happy House Olympic Games. As we were completing it the children started to wander over to see what was happening. They immediately recognised the challenge and after one or two practice attempts were jumping great distances. I think it will need to be made longer soon otherwise they will be jumping out of the pit!
We have also learnt a lot personally from spending time in the Happy House. Life does run at a different pace in Kenya and this has brought a need for patience that is not required and easily dismissed back home in the UK. Putting on the Olympics has also tested our organisation and communication skills. Having said that it was worth it to hear the cheering and see the smiles on the children's faces.
I hope this provides some insight into our time spent in the Happy House. Finally, what we will take back home is that the Happy House vision is clear and inspiring and we feel a small but important part of making it happen.
 Most of all we are eager to see what the children will achieve in the future. In our hearts we know it is significantly more because of the opportunities presented to them from being in the Happy House family.''

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Lucinda's ambition

Our guest  blogger today is our Lucinda, who is 16.
She writes:
When I grow up I will be a teacher. It will help me to get a lot of money which I can use to buy books and pens which pupils like to use.
Some people like to play games like hide and seek. I like to play them very much.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Up, up and away!

Intrepid Pauline Royle reached the heights of Britain's capital of fun, when walked to the 235ft summit of Blackpool Pleasure Beach's Big One - the nation's tallest rollercoaster.
And it was our Happy House kids who gave her the courage to do it.
Pauline, who is in Jane's sponsor family, says:
I saw "Walking the Big One,at Blackpool Pleasure Beach" in the paper sometime ago and decided to have a go and at the same time try to raise some funds for the Happy House Room for Another project.
I set up my JustGiving page, emailed all my friends and relations and told anyone who would listen about what I was doing and why.
I am quite a reticent person really, but knowing it wasn’t about me but about the Happy House kids made it easier.
Someone said I was an inspiration, but I knew it wasn’t me; it was people reading about what Sue Hayward had achieved that made them want to sponsor me.
And sponsor me they have, people’s generosity has been amazing. I had hoped to collect £500 but have a final total of £800 plus some gift aid. 
Prior to the event I had been glued to the weather app on my phone, which eventually settled,  for that evening,  on ‘It will be colder than you’d like’ and ‘You’ll prefer it to be less windy’
It wasn’t wrong, but at least it wasn’t raining!
Driving down the prom, planes were coming in to land at the airport, dropping below the top of the Big One and they still looked very high up.
Eventually six of us  congregated for the safety briefing. I was pleased to see that we were half and half (I had thought it may be a male thing), ages ranged from 15 to mine – I could certainly give them all a run for their money, age wise.
 The safety briefing included what would happen if someone wanted to abort the climb – as it would necessitate being unclipped and manoeuvred passed everyone, I decided that I would get up there no matter what.
After that it was into boiler suit, hardhat and harness – at which point I knew exactly how the Christmas turkey must feel before it is shoved in the oven. 
Then the walk through a deserted Pleasure Beach, strangely quiet and eerie with deep shadows cast by the floodlighting – it would make a brilliant setting for a who-done-it. 
At the bottom of what is technically referred to as the lift pull (I think it’s the bit that enables the cars to get round the rest of the ride) our lanyards were clipped on to the steel cable running up the ride. 
‘Think of it as taking a dog for a walk and just pull it behind you’, said our leader. Easier said than done, mine was one that wanted to stop at every lamppost and was reluctant to move on, that was the bit needed to pull it over the brackets. Then up we went, stopping at 150ft, for ‘the view’, an excuse I think to allow us, well me, to get my breath back.
So far so good, then up to the summit at 235 feet. 
Gosh it was windy, cameras out and the photographing of the view began, it was brilliant, a lovely clear sky and good views of the illuminations and Blackpool Tower changing colour.
It did sway slightly, but at the briefing we had been told a necessity as, if it was rigid it would snap. At that point I wasn’t scared, but did turn and move around a bit gingerly, holding on to the handrail as well; though there was absolutely no way I could have fallen off.
 I did manage a wave to Mike who was waiting on terra firma, he waved back, but he said later that he had no idea who was waving as we all looked like red blobs, the reflection from the aircraft warning light.
 An official photographer went up with us so we all had to pose for our photograph before making our way down. 
That was quite hard as the floodlights shining up made the steps difficult to see, but soon we were back down and my adventure was over. We were presented with our certificates, relinquished our harnesses and sent on our way.
I felt so chuffed, inordinately pleased with myself and couldn’t stop grinning all weekend. My calves were stiff the next day, even though I had tried to do plenty of walking and swimming prior to the event. "
* A big thank you to Pauline for this tremendous effort and to all her family and friends who sponsored her.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Baby Leah safe in our family

 Tragically the mother of this tiny baby girl died within minutes of giving birth last Friday, leaving her husband with six children to raise alone.
The pressure of shock and grief proved  too much for him. He could not afford to buy formula milk and could only feed his little Leah on cow’s milk.
 Unable to manage on his own, Leah was being left alone for many hours in the shade of a tree or  in a  room.
The  mother of one of our day pupils alerted the Happy House to the family's plight and brought  Leah into our care.
She was welcomed by Papa, who immediately signed her up for his Leeds supporters’ club!
Leah's father is away arranging his wife’s funeral and will meet with Uncle Billy to discuss her long term care when he returns.
In the meantime, she is safe, loved, nourished and nurtured as are all our Happy House kids and her arrival brings our number to an even 76.
There's always room for another....

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The inspectors call

When the inspectors went carry out an  Ofsted inspection at St Aidan's Church of England Technology College in Preesall, Lancashire, the Happy House received an unexpected bonus.
They contributed  £17.50 towards the cost of their lunches and the school agreed to donate this to our family.
In their report, the inspectors mentioned the school's caring ethos citing its fundraising for charities including the Happy House.
Teacher Joanne Rossall's form, K7, sponsor our Linus and as part of their fundraising they have been selling badges supporting the Happy House.
Linus is now the proud owner of this one which he keeps safe in  in his memory box.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Happy birthday Mama

Today is Mama's birthday and it will be just the happiest day as she and Papa are back in the only place they want to be - with their children.
This video is of children from the Happy House family and school singing the special song they had learnt just for Mama's homecoming last month.
Volunteer Frankie Asher had shown them a video of the song and encouraged them to rehearse until they were word perfect.
Listening to them sing I Just Can't Stop Loving You for the Mama who has transformed so many little lives was just so emotional. It touched hearts, and Mama and Papa could not hold back the tears.
It was the best present the kids could give their Mama, who just can't stop loving them either.
Happy birthday Mama Sue from all the members of your Happy House family from around the world, we love you too.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Taking child protection forward

 As a key player in children's matters in the region, the Happy House was invited to a high profile meeting attended by Sweden's Ambassador to Kenya at the Child Protection Centre in Malindi.
The Ambassdor, His Excellency Johan Borgstam and the Unicef country representative, Kanyankore Marcel Rudasingwa, were at the meeting to see for themselves the centre which opened in 2010 following a three-party agreement between Unicef (the main funding body), the Kenya Government and Malindi Municipal Council.
The centre, a pilot project for Kenya, is a one-stop shop to tackle all issues of child abuse or neglect.
Mama Sue and our social worker Uncle Billy were delighted to have an opportunity to be there as Uncle Billy reports: 
"The CPC has now reached a crucial stage whereby  measuring its impact on the immediate locality and environs was necessary, hence the task force went out of their way on a fact finding mission. 
After implementation of a project it is pertinent that the merits and  maybe the weaknesses   entirely  must  be interrogated in order  to chart the way forward in achieving the most desirable results.
 In his report district children’s officer  Eric Mugaisi noted that,the centre has solved a massive case load of children issues owing to the increased awareness and  quality improvement on service delivery.
Lots of benefits have been noted, a fact  which was echoed by the district education offficer Chai  Abdalla who said that  in the wake of the CPC operation, more girls arfe being retained in school unlike in the past when many girls dropped out of school  through  negative effects of n tourism such involvement in commercial sex tourism.
Others were victims of the societal repugnant cultures such as early /forced marriages of young girls barely in their  puberty have been considerably reduced,including defilement and incest cases.
 However, it was found out that the out-reach programme needed to  be explored since the geographical location of the centre wasn’t accessible to all.
 Mama Sue raised the need to have strengthened mobile units that could go into the interior to create more awareness as well as offer direct services as well as empowering the local communities to be on their guard in reporting and mitigating child abuse cases.
 The efforts generally called for a multi-disciplinary approach whereby the police, judiciary, volunteer children officers, health workers, child counsellors, children's lawyers would all be dispatched to the most hidden areas so as to aid the existing  structures in tackling problems.
 Mama also lamented on the generational problems that needed to be addressed through educating the communities on best practices such as family planning as well as abolishing corporal punishment to children even after the perpetrators claim  justification of undergoing the same in their childhood through their parents and next of kin.
 There is a dire need to have a  paradigm shift on the way the society looked at children as voiceless beings who were there to be seen and not to be heard.
 Eventually there was an unanimous agreement that the centre was headed in the right direction and hence the  request for the extension of funding so as tothoroughly cover the unexploited areas.
 It was a major privilege for Mama and I to attend that meeting as I have been longing  for her company in such forums not only  as my great mentor but also as a  great resource person and a true servant for Kenyan children.''

Monday, 14 October 2013

Olympics glory for Namibia

 Namibia romped home to victory in the Happy House Olympics.
Teams representing six countries (chosen by the children) competed in a lively and colourful programme of events.
The Games were the idea of volunteers Andrew and Amy Dickinson who organised them, with the help and support of our enthusiastic teachers.
After a solemn ceremony to raise the Happy House flags, the assembled countries sang the Kenyan and British national anthems, before parading to the stadium for the Games to commence, with Mama and Papa as guests of honour along with parents of day pupils, friends, and teachers and children from neighbouring Upendo School.
Events included running, hula hoop, penalty shoot out, high jump, long jump, tug o'war and relay plus novelty events for teachers and parents.
There was great excitement as teams from Tanzania, Kenya, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Namibia battled for points.
At the final count Namibia triumphed with Tanzania second and Kenya in third place.
Mama presented certificates to members of the three teams and thanked Amy and Andrew for all the hard work they had put into event and thanked teachers for helping to make it happen.
Head teacher Mr Athman thanked Andrew and Amy for assisting in school during their two weeks with our family and, in the Olympics, bringing something new and different to benefit our children.
We wish them a safe journey home today and hope they will come back to see us soon.