Eating Stone update from Sandi Carlile
Once again this update is being written from J2 Ranch near Canal Flats, British Columbia, Canada, where I have been residing with my daughter since Easter 2020 because of the pandemic.
An unbelievable story
First, the unbelievable story of four brave little girls – seven, six, five and four years of age – who found their way 40 kilometers to Eating Stone the 3rd week in April.
The Eating Stone children, playing in the compound, heard a tapping on the gate. At first they ignored thinking it was kids from the area (because of lockdown no one was allowed inside). The tapping persisted so the children got the house mums, Jackie and Agnes, who then went to the gate to investigate.
There stood four small, starving girls, two with no clothes and the other two in tattered clothing, soaked with rain. The mums quickly brought the girls into the compound; they were given baths, clean and dry clothing, and food.
The area chief and child welfare authorities were alerted as required by Kenyan law. We learned that four small girls had been missing for two months from the Dandora slum which is 40 km from Eating Stone. The children were severely traumatized and did not speak for more than two months. Two of the girls, suffering from pneumonia, were admitted to the intensive care unit of Kenyatta National Hospital May 12. Sadly the youngest child, four years of age, died two days later and was laid to rest. Her six year old sister responded to treatment, but was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver which required surgery to remove one of the lobes. She is fully recovered now and will be released at the the end of August to join her sisters at Eating Stone. Cyprian’s doctor colleagues covered the daily hospital costs and also held a fundraiser for the surgical bill which was just over one million Kenyan shillings. Several well wishers also contributed but one third of the bill still remained. As a gesture of good will from Eating Stone, a portion of the bill was paid and the balance was forgiven for which we are very thankful.
A team consisting of a social worker, a psychologist, a nutritionist and a nurse were assigned to work with the three remaining sisters. We now know the childrens’ story:
Their mother was Luo, their father was Luhya. They lived in the Dandora slum. Father worked for a contractor in the industrial area of Nairobi. Three years ago he was accosted by robbers, killed and left on the railway line. Mum was the only daughter of her mother who passed ten years ago. Mum, left with four very young children, fell into depression. One day she was walking home from the market and was followed by a group of “bad boys” who broke into the home and stabbed the mother, her killing witnessed by her four daughters. Terrified they would be next, the children ran as fast and as far as they could go. Eventually they found themselves in Nairobi town where they met a woman at a railway station. The woman befriended them, and gave them food and a place to stay for five days. She then worried she would be charged and she sent them away telling them to go to Karen (a very upscale area), look for white people there, and ask them to take you to the orphanage that white people run. They walked and walked for almost two months thinking they would find Karen. Instead they found themselves in Kawangware. They told someone that they were looking for a childrens’ home. They were told to follow the Wisdom Academy school bus where they would find Eating Stone Children’s Home. A boda boda driver (motorcycle taxi) took pity on them and took them as far as the Alliance High Schools road.
They walked the last five kilometers.
The rest is now history! I never cease to be amazed and awed by the resilience of Kenyan children. The Eating Stone family is further enriched by these new family members and they have now settled into their new home.
Education successes during Covid
All the Eating Stone Family remain Covid free despite the high Covid numbers and the spread of the delta variant. Strict protocols remain in place within the compound. All schools in the country reopened for the second time at the beginning of May including the on-site Wisdom Academy, a registered primary school. Enrollment at Wisdom Academy has been limited to 150 students including Eating Stone children.
The exception to school opening was those children who are entering secondary school (Form One, Grade 9). They began their year on August 2. Six Eating Stone children, four girls and two boys, wrote their KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) exams in March. In a normal year they would have written in December for school opening in January. All the ES children passed well and have been invited to attend various schools in the country. Primarily because of excessive transport costs, the decision has been taken to send all four girls to Yamit Girls Secondary where we have two other girls. The two boys are attending Kahugwini Boys Secondary where we have three other boys.
Our thanks go to the Blair Family Foundation, Varico Foundation, and individual donors for their support of secondary students. With 16 Eating Stone children in secondary school we are still in great need of sponsorship. The cost of one year for one student, less transport, is 1,000 CAD. If you can help please contact me.
We are also hoping for sponsorship of the four girls who will be attending university or technical school. The children of Eating Stone are growing up!
The Awendo farm, a duck, internet and education
Participation in the One Acre Farm Project (described in my previous update) is serving the Eating Stone Family well. The 1.75 acre farm at Awendo is producing two crops per year. Kevin and George, Eating Stone Alumni, have been taking their agricultural training and are responsible for the farm. This season, 43 bags weighing 90 kg each were harvested. Three bags were left to feed the young men and their families and the 40 bags are for feeding the ES children. Seeding the next crop will be in September and plans are to plant onions for the ES family as well as selling some commercially. We hope to be able to lease some land in the Awendo area in order to become more self-sufficient in time.
Meanwhile the children of Eating Stone continue to rear both chickens and rabbits! I’ve been told that a female duck is now part of the menagerie!
At last we have temporary but poor internet connectivity at Eating Stone. We hope to soon have access either to the Zuku or Safaricom network which will be much better. IT training is mandatory from Grade 4. Thanks to a fundraising effort by Tracey Farleigh in the UK, five laptops were purchased and are now being shared by the many children. We are still very hopeful for approval of the laptop/solar panel project being developed by The Rotary Club of Stampede Park in Calgary.
Our greatest and ongoing need, aside from school fees, is raising adequate funds for food. Costs keep rising and the children are growing together with their appetites! Please consider a donation. The donation page is easy to navigate and donations made through ATB Cares attract an additional percentage to Eating Stone.
With a grateful heart,
Eating Stone Kenya Board Member & Trustee