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Restore Humanity's Winetopia - Friday October 11th

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Restore Humanity's Winetopia - Friday October 11th

TICKETS ON SALE TODAY -- Click Here To PurchaseWe sold out last year, so get yours before they are gone! You are invited to our annual wine-tasting extravaganza Winetopia! We were thrilled last year at the success of our event and we can’t thank you all enough for your continued support! Due to this success we were able to continue to care for our now 17 kids at our orphanage and provide Outreach assistance to 150 more! In addition to that, the first kid that we begin assisting through Outreach in 2008 is now attending the University of Arkansas through our RH Scholars Program! It has been an exciting year!

All of our kiddos are doing great and we thank you for making that happen! So much can be done with just a little help from a lot of people! We need your help to continue our work and expand even further—building a medical clinic in this same village is on the horizon—but we can’t do it without you! So please join us for this incredible night!

Glazers has donated a spectacular selection of wines from all over the globe for you to compare and enjoy. There will be an incredible array of cuisine to complement the wine, provided by Bordinos, Cafe Rue Orleans, Greenhouse Grille, and Catering Unlimited. We will also have sweet treats from Little Bread Co. and healthy goodies from Berry Natural. Enjoy the soulful sounds of DJ Shortfuze and a variety of top-notch beer as well! There will be a wonderful assortment of silent auction items for you to bid on and don’t forget about the “wine toss” -- featuring Papa Joe as the famous “Carny in the Corner!”

Winetopia…it is almost too good to be true…

 

Sincerely,

Sarah Fennel

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JCO Children’s Center is 3 Years Old

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JCO Children’s Center is 3 Years Old

JCO Children’s Center is 3 Years Old “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

Three years ago we moved our first 10 children into the Restore Humanity Orphanage— JCO Children’s Center. It has been a difficult and awesome journey! Everyone involved has learned so much through this process. These have been the best three years of my life and I am truly thankful.

Let me take a moment to say thank you to all of our incredible donors—those who gave money, time, and services to help make this dream a reality! I also want to send a special thanks to our Board of Directors! You have all worked tirelessly over the years.  Please know how much I appreciate it! Of course absolutely none of this is possible without our fantastic Kenyan team—led by Mrs. Opot and Patrick! These people work day in and day out for our kiddos and I feel so blessed to work with them!

The weeks leading up to our Opening three years ago were really hectic. We were finalizing all of our policies for the home, deciding which 10 children would be able to move in, training staff, and negotiating with furniture builders. We were picking out mattresses, linens, and all the furnishings. It was very exciting, yet highly stressful. It was easy to get caught up in the details and forget to appreciate such an extraordinary moment in time. A perfect example of this was on our move-in date, August 2nd.

The children were set to move in at 2pm that day. We were all over the place, running back and forth to the village center, cleaning everything, washing linens, setting up the rooms, and preparing the kitchen. Around 1pm I was walking to town in hopes of finding electricity so that I could print some forms. I was walking as fast as I could and thinking about all the things we needed to do... all of the sudden I heard someone yell “Sarah!” I stopped and looked up to see three of our children walking down the road.  Ester, Barack, and Sheryl were on their way to move into our home! They started running towards me and Ester gave me one of the best hugs of my life! They were so excited—smiling from ear to ear. It was incredible and I will always remember it for the rest of my life. That was an ‘aha moment’.  All of the stress faded away in an instant and I remembered what was important.

Our most vital “big picture” goal in starting our JCO Children’s Center was to run it like an institution (concerning staff, policies, efficiency, etc.) but make it feel like a home. Our entire Kenyan team has worked very hard to create a loving, stable, and consistent environment for our kiddos. We have been successful so far and we will work every day to continue this journey. By far the most impressive aspect of our home is our kiddos themselves. The love they bear for each other is apparent in everything that they do. They are constant sources of inspiration and I am so honored to know every single one of them.

Mrs. Opot and I have sat down many times over the years and reflected on this journey that we are on. We talk about how many things had to happen for us to reach this point and we recognize how blessed we are to have been a part of it. No matter how many times we tell our story, we always end up shaking our heads in wonderment and saying “Nyasaye Ber,” (which is a common Luo phrase that means God is good).

Thank you all for your support!

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Vincent Agare—Creating Hope

Vincent Agare—Creating Hope

“In the space of love, all things are possible” Baron Baptiste

As I begin yet another journey to Kenya I feel a calm, deep, and resonating sense of gratitude. I feel so grateful to be a part of this work we are doing and to see the fulfillment of people’s dreams, including my own. Over the last six months some incredible things have happened; we moved in our newest kiddo Shadrach, two of our children successfully passed the Kenya National Exam and have begun high school, and all of our children have progressed in some way or another.

However, I must make mention of a recent development that has been a long time in the making and is extremely fulfilling for everyone that has been on this journey with us—especially for Moses Vincent Agare. He was the first student that Restore Humanity ever assisted in Kenya, we began paying for his school fees in 2008 so that he could attend Secondary School (high school) and in December 2012 he graduated in very good standing.

 On our way to the airport with Vincent's father

I first met Vincent in 2007 when he approached me to ask for money for a protractor—the equivalent of $.50—and we have been friends ever since. Soon after we met, when Vincent was only 14 years old he told me of his dreams to attend a University in the US and become an engineer. In fact he was ready to come right then. I tried to explain the difficulty of the logistics alone, but at the same time I told him to focus on his studies, work hard and anything is possible.

In the subsequent years that followed I would spend time with Vincent every time that I was in Kenya. He continued to work hard and hold onto to that dream. I got to see him mature and become an incredible young man. I kept telling him that if he keeps working hard, then I would do the same on my end. He followed through on his part of the deal and I am so thankful I was able to follow through on mine!

This week he is beginning his summer preparatory work at the Spring International Language Center, through the University of Arkansas. Last week, Boo Buchanan flew over with me to pick him up in Kenya. Boo escorted him safely and soundly to Arkansas, so that I could stay and tend to our kiddos here. My parents picked them up at the airport and they have all been taking care of him ever since. He is settling in quite nicely. Next week he will go live with his wonderful host family Tom and Debi Smith—some incredible long-term supporters of Restore Humanity that generously and enthusiastically offered to provide a home for our sweet Vincent. He is surrounded by love and I am so thankful to all of them for taking care of him.

 Photo by Cole Fennel Photography

So many people were involved in making this dream come true, of course Vincent, his father and stepmother, Mr. Owour (his High School Principal) and his teachers, Mrs. Opot and Patrick (our Kenyan Restore Humanity Team), and all of our Restore Humanity supporters in Arkansas that helped to pay his High School Fees. I am so thankful to our Creator, the Almighty Yahweh for setting these things into motion and connecting all of these wonderful people. It is truly a blessing for all of us.

It is a wonderful story—Vincent had faith and he followed that with action. In this moment my faith is stronger than ever, seeing that truly “In the space of love all things are possible.”  It is one thing to have faith and hope, and quite another to see those hopes become reality. I am so thankful to have witnessed these amazing things coming to fruition.

Vincent has inspired us all. His success has brought immense joy and hope to two communities across the globe.  People here in Kenya are full of joy and so proud of Vincent. People in Arkansas feel the same and many have yet to meet him.  What is most exciting to me however is to see how the children here are reacting—Vincent’s story has already created hope for so many kids. Although it is a vital component of realizing big dreams, hope is pretty hard to come by in an impoverished community. These bright young minds have now been inspired to reach higher and dream bigger—and that is precisely what is needed to change this community and change the world.

The Importance of Being Thoughtful

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The Importance of Being Thoughtful

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

I have been witness to many great things and for this I am truly thankful. In my opinion the greatest of all of these moments are the ones that involve one human being connecting with another, when the love, compassion, and humanity that is in us all is somehow opened up. Thoughtfulness is a key component in this exchange. The importance of being a thoughtful person is too often overlooked, but I strongly believe that it is essential to the betterment of this world.

Thoughtful- “Having or showing heed for the well-being or happiness of others and a propensity for anticipating their needs or wishes” What could be more important than that?

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On this trip, I have been truly inspired by the most thoughtful person that I know—Mr. “Boo” Buchanan. He has spent the last month here in Kenya with us. His interactions with our kiddos and our Kenyan family as a whole have been incredible to witness. He has been an integral part of Restore Humanity for years and now he has finally met the amazing little people that we have been working for.

His thoughtfulness is usually quite subtle, yet very effective, bringing joy or comfort to those around him. However, on one day in particular it was in full force...

New Year’s Eve we decided to take the kids on a simple day trip to Kisumu and go to see a movie, however it turned into quite the adventure. The excitement began about 30 minutes into the journey when one of the tires on the small bus we had rented came off. This resulted in sitting in the hot sun for over 2 hours while it was repaired. The children were well behaved as always and the delay did not seem to faze them one bit.

We got back on the road and almost 2 hours later we arrived at the shopping center with 30 minutes to spare before the movie began. Patrick, Mrs. Opot, Boo, and I set straight to the task of feeding our 16 cuties before Showtime. Normally this would have been simple, however there was a massive church gathering (a “crusade” as they called it) with thousands of people around, next to, and inside of the shopping center. It seemed that they all needed food at the exact same time we did. Despite the madness we accomplished our task and managed to keep up with everyone in the process.

We sat down and the kids got to see their first movie in a theater, Ice-Age 4, and they loved it. After the movie we had some errands to run before leaving town. Boo and I waited with the children as Mrs. Opot and Patrick tended to them. While we were waiting I had a moment to reflect on a few things—first I noticed that Boo was going around the bus talking with all of the children making sure everyone was doing ok; then I realized what a careful eye he had kept on all of them throughout the day. He was quick to notice if someone was wondering off, which children tend to do, and was very aware of where all of them were at all times. This is not an easy feat with 16 of them, I assure you.

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We finally headed home after a very long but rewarding day and we saw by far the darkest rainbow that I had ever seen in my life. It was awesome. All was well except for the traffic, which delayed us quite a bit. The darkness fell and then the rain began. It started off sprinkling and quickly changed into torrential downpour. It is never good to be stuck out in a storm, but it is an especially bad situation to be in when you have to drive 45 minutes on muddy roads to reach home. It was raining so hard that we had to roll up all the windows in a vehicle that had no AC. The driver was wiping the fog off the windshield with his bare hand every few minutes to gain what visibility he had. Then the lights on the vehicle went out—all the while we were trying to avoid the endless potholes on the road.

The driver eventually got the lights working and we continued on. I was sitting behind the engine in the Nissan van, so heat was relentlessly blowing on me, which was complicated by the fact that I had both Catherine and Sheryl asleep on me. I was so hot I thought I might pass out. Boo, noticing my discomfort, hung his bandana out the window to soak it with cool rain and then put it on my head. I have never been so grateful...

Finally the rain subsided and we began down the muddy path home. We didn’t make it very far before the van became stuck. The driver tried and tried, but the more he pushed the gas the further we seemed to sink into the mud. Boo got out to help push and he almost singlehandedly moved our small bus and we were back on our way. With the rain having returned this happened again 3 more times. He pushed us out again and again, but once we started up the big hill about a mile away from home I suggested that we all get out and walk the rest of the way so that the van didn’t slide into a ditch. We all piled out of the van and into the cold rain and began our uphill trek home.

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Boo offered to carry a heavy bag for Mrs. Opot while already carrying Clinton and ensuring that he was covered by a blanket to protect him from the cold rain—all of this is in the dark with very slippery mud beneath our feet. I was walking slowly with Sammy—afraid that I would slip if I carried him. We all made it home safely, albeit cold, hungry, and tired but oh so happy to be home. Throughout this entire journey Boo never complained once, he just spent all of his energy making sure the rest of us were ok. And to be honest, I do not know what we would have done without him.

Witnessing genuine love, care, and concern for others gives me hope and inspires me to be better in everything that I do. To see the joy someone gets from being in the service of others touches my soul in a way nothing else can. It also reminds me to stay on track with Restore Humanity’s mission, as Boo represented our Mission in his action:

Restore Humanity’s Mission StatementWe restore humanity by taking the opportunity to help whenever, wherever, and however we can – not dictating the terms of our assistance, but responding to the needs of the individuals and communities we are serving.

I am truly inspired and hope this encourages us all to be more thoughtful in all that we do.

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Pride & Humility

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Pride & Humility

It is an interesting thing to feel pride and humility simultaneously, but there is no better way to describe what I experienced during my first week back in Kenya. I arrived in Sirembe (where our orphanage in located) on a Saturday afternoon.  The path leading to our destination follows along a main dirt road, which at some point leads to a much smaller one, which in turn leads through a maize field.  As we moved through the village familiar faces began to appear and I once again felt like I was home.  There is a moment each time I make this journey when the JCO Children’s Centre comes into view and the joy I feel is so overwhelming that it defies description.

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I arrived to find that everyone is happy and healthy. What more could anyone ask for? All week I have been laughing, playing, and snuggling with our kiddos, catching up with each of them on how they did in school and their new interests. It is a wonderful little family. I have felt many emotions since I have arrived, but as I reflect on this past week—pride & humility—these two seemingly conflicting emotions stand out.

Of course I am proud of what we, as the Restore Humanity Family have accomplished; people helping people for the good of the individuals and humanity as a whole. I am proud of our Kenyan Team that makes this all possible and proud of our donors for reaching out how they can. However, the main source of my pride is our children. I have been blessed to witness the enormous progress they have made as individuals—emotionally and academically. They are incredible! There was also an overwhelming amount of praise coming from the staff, people in the village, and community leaders, all of whom were so excited to tell me how well behaved our children are, that they are excelling in school, that they treat each other and others with kindness. As I listened to the Youth Pastor from their church and the Principal of their school go on and on about their progress and the amazing children that they are, I couldn’t help but feel proud to be a part of their lives.

I am proud to be a part of what is happening here but I am also humbled and grateful that I have been given the opportunity to experience it all first hand. We are all only individuals, but together we can make things better.  I feel so blessed to witness every step of this process.

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On Thursday, the Youth Pastor came to do a short sermon for the children at our home. We said prayers for all of them and everyone connected to them.  I could see on the faces of the children how special they felt that he took the time out of his day to come to our home. He is a soft-spoken man, gentle and humble, full of kindness and compassion. The love in the room that afternoon was palpable.  I was moved to tears more than once throughout the process.  With our youngest Clinton fast asleep on my lap, I just sat back and tried to take it all in.  Love is such a powerful thing...

I am honored to be here and to know these beautiful souls. I am thankful that they are all healthy and surrounded by so much love.  I look forward to the days to come...

“Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean.”

Ryunosuke Satoro

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World AIDS Day--Global Support Group

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World AIDS Day--Global Support Group

Today December 1st is World AIDS Day. I remember the first time that World AIDS Day really struck a cord with me; it was 7 years ago today in South Africa. I was finishing up my volunteer trip—the trip that changed my entire reality. During those months, my eyes and my heart had been opened by the amazing people that I met and the horrible things that I witnessed so much so that I would never see or feel the world the same again.  Some examples of these horrifying moments are: trying to help a child deal with loss of the parent due to AIDS, comforting a young woman (my age) with AIDS in her last hours of life, working with Hospice to help people and their families prepare for death of loved ones due to this disease or cuddling a 6 month old baby while the Hospice nurses try to save her mother’s life. The list just goes on and on... and this disease has caused and continues to cause so much pain.

However, there are always little lights of love even in the midst of darkness. The children in a support group run by a Hospice nurse named Rhona were those lights for me. The support group was made up of children ages 4-16 that have either been infected with HIV/AIDS or affected somehow—i.e. losing a family member. They came together once a week, danced, sang, and performed plays all having to do with AIDS. They sang songs about dropping the stigma associated with the disease, about loving and accepting people that are infected. They discussed prevention and how you can hug and cuddle with an infected person all day long with no risk. I learned so much about the disease through these sweet children. They had all been through so much and would continue to endure more than anyone should; yet they had joy and love because they had support.

So on December 1st, 2005 I attended a World AIDS Day community candlelight vigil with the Support Group. They performed some of their songs for the community and did a play. Then we all prayed and stood holding our candles in silence... remembering those that have lost their lives to this deadly disease. I remember looking at their young faces as they held the candles and thought about their loved ones that they had lost—even as I think about it today I am overwhelmed with so much emotion. Since that moment I have met countless other children both in South Africa and Kenya whose lives have been destroyed by this disease. The insurmountable pain this disease has caused on a global scale is impossible to wrap your head around—so let’s work with our hearts instead.

We should honor those we lost, be loving to those living with the disease, educate ourselves and others about the facts, protect ourselves, spread love and awareness to destroy the stigmas and remember that we are all in this together—just one big Support Group for each other!

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Sheer Anticipation

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Sheer Anticipation

I am beyond excited!  Two weeks from now I will be reunited with my 16 little loves in Kenya. My patience is running out.  I just want to snuggle them and hear their laughs, and see their sweet faces. I have really missed them terribly during this time away. When I think about seeing them soon I feel it all the way in the pit of my stomach--sheer anticipation.

How much will they have grown physically? emotionally? How are they handling their school lives and their lives at home? I get updates every week and if there are any health or emotional issues I discuss them with our on-site directors but those conversations are usually about the big things.

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What I am thinking of now is all of the small things that I miss, both good and bad. Subtle personality shifts and emotional changes are a natural part of growing up and I am anxious to see and feel all of that from them. It may take a little time just sitting with them, playing a game, talking together but I’ll soon be able to see the progress that they have made. This time of discovery and connecting with them brings me more joy than I can say.

I will be there for two months on this trip, and while I will get in quite a bit of snuggling with my cuties there is also a lot of work to be done: staff reviews, children progress reports, figuring out what we can do better within our home and our Outreach Program. We will also be working with the schools and continuing to lay the groundwork for our future clinic. In addition to all of that, thanks to our Winetopia success, we are able to move in four more children as well! We’ll soon add four more members to our wonderful family!

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As with every journey I make to Kenya there will be so many lessons.  There will be a lot of joy and also pain. There will be growth, change, and progress--but most of all, there will be love.

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps, hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it’s destination full of hope”- Maya Angelou

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Thank You For Coming To Winetopia 2012!

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Thank You For Coming To Winetopia 2012!

Winetopia was a huge success! Selling out of tickets a week ahead, ending up with about 400 guests and raising $65,000--we broke every record that we had! Thank you so much to everyone that helped us to make this a success! We are overjoyed and as always so touched by the support of our community!!! Already looking forward to next year!A "HUGE THANK YOU to all of our guests and supporters! The community of NWA is amazing!"

We also want to send a Special Thanks to all of those that made Winetopia a success:  our Honorary Hosts, Board of Directors, Sponsors, Community Partners, and our Event Committee ( all listed below). THANK YOU!! 

Restore Humanity

Winetopia 2012 Event Committee

Event Coordinator: Boo Buchanan

Auction Chairman: Brandon Hurlbut

Chris Beavers

Kimberly Clinehens

Shelia Cole

Candra Davis

Leigh Davis

Tanj Donovan

Mary Fennel

Michelle Fyfe

WarrenFyfe

Garrett "Vern" Gunderson

Brittany Hurlbut

Ellie Jones

Rebecca Kington

Lana Lyon

Brooke McDonald

Meredith McKee

Gloria Vasquez

Special Thanks to our volunteers from:

University of Arkansas Rugby Team

University of Arkansas Tri-Delta House

Restore Humanity

Event Sponsors

2012 Current Situation

Community Partners

Winetopia

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Reaching Out

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Reaching Out

“One does not regret having helped another” Kenyan Proverb I was told a story once that has stuck with me ever since.... One day a man is walking by a river and sees a group of people working tirelessly to remove dead bodies, one after the other, they just keep coming. The people work there day after day removing body after body. So this man asks, “where are these bodies coming from?” Everyone was so busy trying to fix the immediate problem they did not go upriver to find the source of it. The reason this story was told to me when I started Restore Humanity was to remind me that while we want to help to solve day-to-day problems we should also find out why these problems exist in the first place so that if possible we can prevent them in the future. This concept is the basis of our Outreach Program in Sirembe, Kenya—providing immediate care AND prevention.

For the last two years we have been taking care of our children at the orphanage and with each step that we have taken we try to learn from our mistakes and successes. We have tried our best to be patient, just observe, and listen to our children, our staff and the rest of the community. As we saw progress in our children we started thinking... Yes we are truly helping our 16 kids at the orphanage, but how can we have more of an impact? How do we make their community better? We want every child to have the same kind of care and opportunities as our kids. While we know that isn’t possible, we can surely improve the lives of people in Sirembe in a lasting and sustainable way. We came up with a few ideas and one of those is to expand our outreach.

 Reaching Out

We have been doing Outreach in this community since before the orphanage building was even finished, but this year we took it to a new level. We started in 2008, by paying some school fees for a boy named Vincent so that he could attend Secondary School and continue his education. He is a senior this year (still in our Outreach) and excelling each term, we are very, very proud. He pulled me aside last year and told me that God sent me to him and he thanks God for me everyday. He told me without our help he would have never gone to Secondary School. I was so honored, humbled, and grateful for this opportunity—I was not sure how to respond. I just hugged him, told him that I loved him and to keep working hard. He promised that he would. Each year we have added children to our educational Outreach Program. We are currently helping 20 children with school fees and/or uniforms, books, etc. This year, at the request of the Secondary School girls, we started providing maxi pads monthly for 150+ girls. We also have 30 students in our free morning Daycare program 5 days a week, where little ones are cared for and taught the basics. Another expansion of our educational outreach was to reach out to the Headmasters of both the Primary and Secondary schools in our area. They work so hard every day to make the schools better for the children and their staff--we  just try to pitch in when we can. One thing we were able to do this year was to cement the 3 remaining dirt floors in the Primary School. The funding for the first floor came from Fayetteville High School Seniors (2012). They raised the money here in NWA to help their Kenyan peers (Our Global Ambassador Program). It was pretty awesome! We were so inspired by the FHS kids, we had to cement the other two!

 Reaching Out

This year we also began implementing a program called Comprehensive Outreach wherein we help parents/guardians within the village to provide the comprehensive care for their little ones. We realized that every child needs food, healthcare, shelter, education, and love. So where the guardians cannot provide, we try to make up the difference—working together to provide a better life for more children in need. As we are assisting with immediate needs, we are helping to better educate guardians (on issues like fire safety, hygiene practices, or disease control) to hopefully prevent some problems in the future and build a stronger community. Many aspects of our program that I have listed provide immediate care and work to prevent similar problems in the future simultaneously. This, of course, is not as simple as it sounds. It is definitely a journey and we are learning as we go. We recognize that there are broader needs of the community, and individual needs that will vary. So we will keep working with our partners in Sirembe, have fluidity in our approach, and strive make the quality of life better for all who live there.

Restore Humanity’s Mission Statement:We restore humanity by taking the opportunity to help whenever, wherever, and however we can – not dictating the terms of our assistance, but responding to the needs of the individuals and communities we are serving.

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A Sense Of Community

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A Sense Of Community

“First, we are challenged to rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” -Martin Luther King, Jr. I am blessed to have two homes. One is in the northwest corner of Arkansas and the other on the western edge of Kenya. I draw so much strength from both communities and am constantly reminded of how amazing they are.

Being raised in Northwest Arkansas was truly a gift, this has become so clear to me as an adult. The core goodness of this community is why I moved back—I love the people that live here because everyone supports each other. Members of this community take pride in supporting local businesses and organizations. This is something that was ingrained in me as a child by my parents and now I see more and more everyday how essential this really is. We all strive to support each other and in turn we are supported. The beauty of it is that everyone seems to really enjoy this mutual support and cooperation.

I see it everyday in our NWA donors, who for the most part have provided what we need to build and sustain a home for 16 children in Kenya. That is pretty incredible. An entire community of people supporting another community year after year. Extending that care and support to others within our global community and loving every minute of it! It is wonderful—the local businesses that donate goods to us every year, the volunteer base that just grows and grows—people are constantly reaching out to me and saying, “what can I do to help?” This genuine care and joy in giving maybe isn’t unique to this community, but it sure makes me proud to call it home.

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A sense of community and cooperation can be really powerful. A group of people working together for the same purpose can accomplish so much! A perfect example of this came this week from my 2nd home of Sirembe, Kenya. A group of concerned citizens from this community formed the Sirembe Community Water & Sanitation Project. They have stayed focused and worked hard to realize their goal of clean water piped throughout their community! On my last trip I saw villagers in their respective areas pitching in and digging the trenches for the pipes. Then just a few days ago I received an email saying that our area is finished and we have water! That is awesome.

Community is defined by a group of people living together in one place. We have our local communities and we have our global community. Supporting our neighbors next door or our global neighbors thousands of miles away makes us feel like we belong to something greater. I believe with all my heart that we do. Simply put, that is working together to make this world better for every person in it. Take pride in your global community—One Planet, One People, One Purpose.

Restore Humanity’s Vision Statement: Our vision is a world where every person has access to basic human necessities, compassion and kindness are commonplace, and there is a perpetual concern for the well-being of others.

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The Ultimate Safari

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The Ultimate Safari

The word “safari” in Swahili (one of the National Languages in Kenya) means “long journey” and here in the US we think of visiting a park with big wild animals. This past weekend our kiddos in Kenya got the ultimate safari in every sense of the word. A luxury 5-star safari resort in Kenya’s famous Masai Mara National Reserve decided to give our kiddos an experience of a lifetime.All of our 16 kids and a few lucky staff members stayed three nights at the 5-Star Mara Timbo Resort—it is the type of place that I only dream about! They stayed in beautiful luxury tents, each with it’s own bathroom equipped with toilets, sinks, and showers. Each tent has a huge bathtub on a deck over-looking a family of hippos—the children went “swimming” in their tubs each night they were there. Each tent also had it’s own private butler to attend to their every need. After dining with the hippo family each night they snuggled up in big comfy beds and drifted off to sleep.

They called to update me every few hours about the fun they were having and the joy in their voices was priceless. It makes me smile just writing about it. On their game drives they saw a lion and lioness, hyenas, elephants, giraffes, and to quote our eldest boy Joreim “We saw animals that we had never even heard of!” He followed that with “The only problem is that we don’t want to leave.”  I cannot express the joy that I felt each call that I got, those giggles just make my day.

 Mara Timbo Camp nighttime

People travel to Kenya from all over the world to see Masai Mara.  It is really wonderful that our kids got to experience a world-renowned place within their own country. This was the first vacation that any of our children have ever been on. Our day field trips to surrounding sites were the first time that many of them had even left our village! Now they have all traveled outside of our province into a completely different area than what they are used to. The journey alone opened their eyes to so much. Then add to that an experience that most of us would only dream of—witnessing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. It doesn’t get better than a family vacation with all your siblings, creating amazing memories that will last a lifetime.

We are so grateful to the Mara Timbo Resort, click below to watch this video of just how spectacular this place really is.

http://www.maratimbo.com/video-and-photo-gallery

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Sleeping Peacefully

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Sleeping Peacefully

Sometimes it is hard to see the bigger picture when you are focusing on day-to-day problems. This is especially difficult when you are caring for 16 children. Everyone has something going on. It could be fighting over toys or having a hard day at school. The children that are living at our home have often dealt with much more than any child should and so even small issues can trigger something bigger. Then there are also all the positive things that happen to the kids, like doing well on a test or becoming their class leader. Maybe it is just learning how to write their letters, understanding subtraction or reading an entire Berenstain Bears book without help. Big or small, good and bad, we strive to be there for our kids as much as we can--ensure that they know that we value each one of them. So when I am there I find myself just going and going, not having the time to process what is actually happening.  However, on my last trip there was a moment, seemingly small, that brought everything into focus... One evening a staff member Mary became really sick and Patrick (our nurse) had to rush her to the hospital. After they left, our staff member Christine and I served the children dinner and she had to be back the next morning at 5:30am, so I sent her home. Then it was just our 16 kiddos and I.

It never ceases to amaze me just how well behaved our kids are! They all finished their dinner and went about their routine—they cleaned off the table, brushed their teeth and got ready for bed. Soon after they grabbed their book bags, sat around our solar lamps and began to study. I didn’t have to ask them to do any of it. I walked around helping everyone with his or her homework and then began to get our smallest guys ready for bed.

 Restore Humanity

Amazingly enough our youngest boys Clinton (2) and Austin (3) were really easy. I just told them that I loved them, gave them each a stuffed toy and told them to go to sleep. Then they giggled (because how I sounded speaking Luo) and climbed in bed. I kissed them good night and sat for a moment rubbing their backs as they drifted off to sleep. Samuel our 5 year old was much more difficult, but after some snuggling, his sleepiness finally won the battle.

The older children just sat quietly studying. Then one by one they packed up their schoolbooks and headed off to bed. Ester and Juma (both in 8th grade) studied the longest, but about 10pm they said goodnight.

I sat in the middle of our living room floor tired and sweaty after a very long day. The house was dark and the only sound I could hear was our children breathing. They were all tucked in their beds, sleeping so peacefully and I realized at that moment that we had really done something. I thought back to the day that the construction was finished and I sat on this floor wondering what it would be like when children actually lived here. And now there I was listening to the peaceful sound of our 16 wonderful children sleeping—feeling safe, loved, and cared for in our home. There were not many moments in my life that can compare—it was truly a gift!

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Culture Connects Us

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Culture Connects Us

Culture is such an interesting thing.  We often don’t recognize our own until we are experiencing another. At times the differences are painfully obvious and yet many times the differences between two cultures are so subtle they are hard to perceive on either side. What is interesting is that these subtleties can often make all the difference in the world. The process of understanding a different culture is similar to peeling an onion layer by layer. Each time I go stay in Sirembe (Western Kenya) I learn something new about their culture. Just when I think I have it figured out, a new realization occurs. Sometimes aspects of culture can make our job more difficult, but what I came to realize on my last trip had just the opposite effect. In August of 2010, a few days after our first 10 children moved into our orphanage, Ester (our eldest girl, 13 at the time) was playing with my hair and she said, “Sarah, you know you are my mother now, right?” I agreed enthusiastically. I was so moved that she would say that, but it also made me sad because it seemed as if she thought I was replacing her mother. I have always worried that the children might feel that way, and in the culture I was raised in, my concern makes perfect sense. It wasn’t until years later that I actually realized what Ester meant...

Luo people, the tribe in our area, have a very strong connection to their extended family. However, their idea of extended family extends MUCH further than we in the US can imagine. If you are Luo you just assume that anyone within your tribe is in someway related to you and the number of family members then extends into the millions. They often call each other “brother” or older women “mother” to show love and respect. It is not uncommon at all for children to be raised by an extended family member, such as a grandmother or an aunt, even if their mother is still living and has to move away for work.  Of course children will always have a connection to their biological mother, however, Luo children understand that they are cared for by a community full of “mothers.”

 Restore Humanity

In January of 2012 I went with Patrick (our on-site nurse and Managing Director of our children’s home) to the Sirembe Primary School to attend a Parent/Teacher meeting for our 13 yr old girl Vivian. All of the parents or guardians were asked to stand up and introduce themselves to the group of children and adults. Patrick stood up for us and said, “My name is Patrick and this is Sarah and we are the mother and father of Vivian.” Everyone laughed for a moment because it was quite obvious that I was not actually her mother, but they understood what was meant. I was worried instantly that Vivian might take it the wrong way, as if we were trying to replace her real parents. But then I looked up at her and she was beaming! She stood up, smiling from ear to ear, proud to have two people there that loved her. No we aren’t her actual parents, but we are her family and we cared enough to be there for her. I realized at that moment that I had been looking at this all wrong—we are not replacing anyone; we are just extending their family further.

It is a very common thing for children to be cared for outside of their parent’s home, so in this way it makes it much easier for our children to adjust and allow us to take care of them. Ester never thought that I was replacing her mother, she was just trying to say something like “Sarah, I trust you and you are the one who cares for me now.” This level of comfort and acceptance on the part of the children is largely related to culture and I am thankful for it. They are all quite comfortable living in our children’s center and happy that their family continues to grow and grow.

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Mother Knows Best

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Mother Knows Best

Mrs. Opot aka Mathe, which means “mother” in Sheng (common slang spoken in Kenya) is the reason we have a project in Kenya. I met her in 2000 as the actual mother of my dear friend Joab. I would see her periodically, over the years, while she was visiting her children in the US. Years later (2007) the Opot Family approached me to help them open a home for children in Kenya. There was a building on Mathe’s land that wasn’t being used, but needed some serious renovation. Mathe donated a plot of her family’s land with the building and we set to work to make it a home. Her nephew, Patrick Lumumba who is a certified nurse and midwife came on board and we built our team. Mathe, Patrick, and I are the three Managing Directors of the James Christopher Opot Children’s Centre (JCO). Mathe was a full-time teacher in Nairobi for 33 years and raised 6 wonderful children of her own. She now cares for our 16 children on a daily basis, in addition to anyone in need around her. Her living room is a never-ending stream of people coming for food, advice, or a listening ear. She is always involved in community betterment projects (i.e. bringing water to the village and economic development). She is a respected elder at her church and in her village. She is a very strong woman. She is a “force to be reckoned with”, yet she possesses such a kind heart--a “mother’s” heart-- for everyone. I am always amazed at how she never seems to tire; she is always ready to welcome someone else.

I feel very blessed to have spent so much time in Sirembe. Since 2007 I have been able to go almost bi-annually and spend months at a time, under the constant care of my Kenyan mother. When I come to visit, Mathe and I sit there for hours each night just talking, over the light of a kerosene lamp. During my first visit to Sirembe, she showed me around, taking me to meet people in many different homes. It meant so much for me to be welcomed into their homes and to begin to understand more about Luo culture. At the same time, it meant so much to these people that we would want to come and spend time with them in their homes. It helped to bridge so many gaps without even trying.

She is a mother, a constant mother to everyone, but it is more than that. She has an innate generosity that is deep and abiding. There is such ease to it, I see people coming to her literally begging, but she never makes them feel that way. She helps them in a respectful manner—ensuring their dignity remains in tact. She makes it seem as if she isn’t doing anything, like it is the most normal thing in the world. As if it is a necessity and not just an act of kindness. Her constant compassion is an ideal that I agree with, but seeing her apply it day in and day out is awe-inspiring. It is what I would call “living generosity” and I continue to learn from her example every day.

Although Patrick and I bring our ideas to the table and sometimes we are right, the one thing I have learned over the years is that it's generally a good idea to defer to her wisdom. Because after all Mathe knows best.

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Education Saves Lives- World AIDS Day

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Education Saves Lives- World AIDS Day

Education saves lives, the facts are over-whelming. By ensuring education, for girls in particular, you can completely change communities. Education is crucial for the survival of individual children and their entire communities. Educated girls lead to healthier families, in turn healthier communities. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa if a girl is educated, more often than not, she will:

  • Delay sexual activity & have fewer partners: (girls with at least 8 years of school are 87% less likely to engage in sexual activity before they are 18 than girls with no schooling.
  • Delay marriage & childbirth
  • Have fewer babies and healthier babies (Children with educated mothers are half as likely to suffer from malnutrition as those with uneducated mothers)
  • Help to break the cycle of poverty by becoming a provider and a decision maker in her home. (Education provides families with more economic options)

Education gives her the one thing that her uneducated counterparts lack, options.There is also a significant increase in the likelihood of this educated woman ensuring that her children are also educated, thus passing the benefits to the next generation.

The life-saving power of education is not limited to girls. According to recent studies: "If every child (globally) received a complete primary education, at least 7 million new cases of HIV could be prevented in a decade."

That is astounding! By providing education to the children of the world we can SAVE LIVES!

So in honor of World AIDS DAY, join us in providing a crucial part of the cure! DONATE to help Restore Humanity educate more children and save lives today!

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Horrible Stats Become Reality

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Horrible Stats Become Reality

I KNOW the problems facing the majority of human beings across the globe... the health, economic, social, and emotional issues that I try to make people aware of -have very real consequences. In fact I see them all the time. However, a recent story of a woman I knew unfortunately followed every “pattern” that an impoverished, uneducated woman in the third world is at risk of falling into and she suffered the very real consequences of them. I would say cliché if it wasn’t so tragic. Pamela was a woman that didn’t get past a primary education, married young, and gave birth to 11 children, 8 of which are living. The last pregnancy and stillbirth delivery and the complications from it was the cause of her death this past July.  The night of her death, she had no access to the medicine she needed... That night in the village I could hear her husband’s family screaming and praying for hours on end. Finally an ambulance came and took her, but at this point she was already convulsing. Upon reaching the government hospital there was no medicine to be had because the pharmacy was closed.

Her tragic death could have been prevented up until the end. What I mean by that is:  if she had been properly educated through at least secondary school, then she wouldn’t have gotten married so early and when she did get married she would at least have more job options and most likely ensure her children’s education. She would also have prolonged giving birth to her first child and if statistics mean anything, as an educated woman she wouldn’t have given birth to that many children. Even if she didn’t get to pursue further “dreams” she would most likely be alive right now taking care of her family. We also see that the lack of healthcare in her area and the lack of education about it played a big role as well.

The bad news is she died and has left 8 children without a mother. However, the GOOD news is we can care for those children and others like them. We are raising funds now to provide the immediate care needed (i.e. building a Clinic, supporting the schools, food, and workshops) and laying the necessary foundations to prevent tragic stories such as Pamela from even beginning.

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