Thursday, June 28, 2012
Dear Friends and Family,
We’ve had a couple of fantastic days moving from our Kisumu home to the great Masai Mara Reserve and experiencing all it has to offer. Unfortunately there was no internet easily available and even if there were, we were so exhausted at the end of the days that we all dropped into wonderful, deep sleep in our warm, cozy beds, listening to the sounds of hippos sloshing through the river below our rooms.
We left Kisumu early on Tuesday morning, and drove a grueling 8 hours before reaching the game park. The road into the park was in extremely bad shape and with our drivers doing a mad dash to get us there in time for lunch, it made the last 3 ½ hours torture. We were bounced and tossed like crazy, and we all arrived sore and tired…but not quite tired enough to miss the first game drive an hour later (well, most of us, anyway).
From then until we left the park this morning (Thursday), we saw animal after animal living out on the open plains, running, eating, sleeping and stalking.
Kari had the best time of her life standing up in the pop-top van all day Wednesday and cruising all over the park looking for animals. She has become one of the top spotters in the world, seeing them miles away and identifying them with ease. Most team members see big rocks and scream “elephant!” but not our Kari….she saw them, identified them and then took their pictures all in one fluid motion. It was magical.
Allen’s highlight for Wednesday was simply seeing all the animals and the beautiful countryside. The rainstorm that came in around 4pm was majestic and soothing. Today, it was having his van-team leave him behind at every pit stop - purposely. Even the driver got into it, telling the team “he is coming back – please, can I drive away?” Allen knew who put them up to it each time…well, except when the driver made his request.
For Aubrey, being so close to the elephants on Wednesday was a true highlight. To be sitting in the van and only about 50 feet from a large and hungry elephant was exciting and amazing. Today, she was even more excited when she got to kiss a beautiful giraffe at Nairobi’s Giraffe Center, a sanctuary for Rothchild’s Giraffes that is located in the middle of Karen, a neighborhood named after Karen Blixen, of “Out of Africa” fame. Aubrey loved kissing the giraffe while she held a piece of food in her mouth and he retrieved it. Yuck….totally disgusting to this writer.
Kim loved the seeing all the hippos yesterday in the river where we walked and climbed as our guide James told us all about the area and the animals. She especially loved the noise the hippos made as they cried out to their buddies – it’s a bit indescribable but sounds kind of like a cow with a sore throat. Kim also loved getting giraffe kisses today. Apparently long, slimy black tongues appeal to more of us that we originally thought.
For Jared, taking in the beauty of the Masai Mara and seeing so many fantastic animals was something he’ll remember forever. He also enjoyed the special time he spent with Sally and Kari Wednesday evening trying to lure the local crocodile onto the bank. They offered to hold him over the railing to dangle in front of the big guy, but it turned out Jared wasn’t THAT interested in getting him up on shore. No sense of adventure.
Kat enjoyed the nature walk by the Mara River where we saw the hippos and crocodiles lazing about. She especially liked the way our guide James put himself into the third person when he spoke to us - “If you need help, don’t risk yourself, just ask James”. Today’s highlight came with losing her voice and despite it, beating Aimee hands down in an open fight. Oh, you girls!
Aimee loved seeing what few team members ever get the opportunity to see - a leopard sitting in a tree just off the road. She has never been so close to something so beautiful, unique and big. He was soaking everything up, enjoying his day before stretching out long and lean, and getting up to make his way down the tree and off into the bush. We saw him walking down the road shortly after that – must have been on his way to the lodge for some fun. Today, Aimee got to spend time with Kat and Emma – her new BFF’s that she has enjoyed getting to know these last few days. Sorry, Kathy (Koy - you still have me!).
Since Kathy is not much of an animal person, the safari time was okay, but not all that thrilling. What DID thrill her, however, was her chance to jump with the Masai warriors doing their “show” at dinner last night. As we ate we started hearing some noise and a low hum to a beat….and suddenly there they were! About ten tall, lean and muscular men in their traditional Masai garb of red and blue blankets and lots of beads and wooden clubs were arriving to do the jumping you’ve seen and heard about on documentaries and such. They stand in one place and jump up – and can they jump! There were a few who were okay at it but a couple were awesome – they jumped about three feet off the ground from a still and standing position. Amazing! Well, the team pretty much coerced Kathy(and others) into the contest and she jumped straight up to give the guys something to think about. They had no idea they would have to compete with our Ninja Warrior Princess. Ha! She rocked it!
Upon returning to Nairobi, this morning we stopped first at the Giraffe Center, then visited the Kazuri Bead and Pottery Shop. Kazuri was founded with the intent to help widows care for their children and now, their shop sells beads all over the world. The women who make them earn a good living, have housing and food and even medical care at the site. Another great work in Kenya!
When we were dropped at the Classic Guest House for the night, we had to say goodbye to one of our drivers. Collins said he was leaving for Kisumu in the morning to attend a funeral. Emma’s highlight of these few days came when she was invited to meet Collins' family after she returns to Kisumu. She has two more weeks in Kenya after the rest of the team leaves, as does Devin, who is still in Kisumu, so she is hoping to find a way to meet them.
Kelly shared with the team that she was truly appreciating the opportunity to reach out to God more than ever these last few days. Surrounded by His creations, she soaked in all that is His glory, praying all day, reflecting on all things, and putting all her troubles in His hands instead of worrying and fretting. She loves that she has been able to communicate with God on a different level these last two days and is grateful for all the support and love she’s received from her team. Did she tell you she thinks they’re absolutely wonderful????
For me (Sally), my best times on safari come from watching team members faces when they first see a zebra or an elephant or any other animal they’ve never seen outside of a cage before, if at all. I am so blessed to have these opportunities to share in something that I hope will change their lives forever just as they have changed the lives of the Kenyan people and changed mine. I am grateful to each and every one of these fantastic people for being here with Village Care, and to all of you for your love and support as they planned and dreamed of this for the months leading up to their departure. I know it’s not easy to watch your “child” or spouse or brother or sister go to a far off land, and whether they are 18 or 58, I am honored that you entrusted them to Village Care International.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Tomorrow is departure day and after some great souvenir shopping, some rest and some more packing, we’ll be off to the airport to catch our flights. Emma will return to Kisumu, Kelly and Allen will depart for their “honeymoon” in Europe (they celebrated their first anniversary earlier this month), and the rest of us will board our flight for Zurich. From there, we’ll catch our flights to Newark (Kari) or Washington DC (everyone else) and then home.
We love and miss you all, and we’ll see you VERY soon!
Thanks again for all your love and support throughout this wonderful experience.
God bless you all.
Signing off for the final time -
Jack’s ALWAYS Sassy Aces!
Monday, June 18, 2012
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Just wanted to let you know that the June Kenya team is safe and sound in Nairobi getting ready to head out to Kisumu to begin their work. Sally and the team are having internet connectivity issues and may not be able to communicate for a little while. As soon as the next team update is available I will post their update. Thanks again for your support and encouragement for this team. Take care.
We are on our way! The team is together in Washington DC and boarded for our flight to Zurich. We still have a LONG way to go, but we're excited and happy to be together on this great journey.
Thank you for all your support, patience, and mostly, LOVE, during our time leading up to this trip. At times it has been joyful, difficult, amazing, terrifying and extremely exciting. You will never know how much each of us appreciates your support.
We will email again at the next possible time - hoepfully no later than after we are checked into our hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, on your Sunday late morning - early afternoon.
At any time during our trip if you don't hear from the team when you thought you might - DON'T WORRY! It is often difficult to get an email out due to a lack of internet service or electricity, or to road travel, but we'll do our best to send one each day.
Have a good week everyone and God bless you all.
Your June 2012 Kenya team -
Aimee Scott, Applegate, CA
Allen and Kelly, Jarrett Roseville, CA
Aubrey Jones, New Port Richey, FL
Cari Kommel, Beloit, OH
Devin Joseph, Haymarket, VA
Emma Yingling, New Baden, IL
Jared Capper, Rocklin, CA
Kathy Chin, Aloha, OR
Katryn Dierksen, Muscoutah, IL
Kimberley Stone, Hereford, AZ
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
To give you a quick and concise breakdown of what was discussed I think we can break it into three parts: program continuity and consistency, expansion, and refining what we do and why we do it. Many more things were talked about and debated for many hours, but these main areas give a clear picture of the importance of this conference and the success that was achieved through coming together as ordinary radicals and putting the future of VC and the communities we work in at the forefront of our work.
When dealing with program continuity and consistency the discussion centered mainly on the topic of “drift.” There was debate about what drift means for us and what it means in general, everyone sharing their own viewpoint and putting on the table all the issues that we might face as a group. Drift, at its core, is the idea that without a clear, concise, and sound base from which all programs and efforts flow there is the possibility that VCI might drift from our core philosophy. The group talked at length about how we can decrease the chance of drift as more and more countries join the movement and mold the program to each community’s unique situation. It was decided that the solution to drift was to think metaphorically. It was suggested that we think of the base mission, vision, purpose, and method like the bones of a skeleton. Once those things are set and created with sound principles and with the philosophy by which Village Care is founded it can not be altered. No matter the flesh, or programs, that are placed on the skeleton by each country initiative, the skeleton remains firm and unaltered. Each country is free to form the flesh of their initiative to be the best it can be for each unique situation while keeping the bones of a movement proven to work. This was a huge success and each leader in the room agreed we had done our best to put VCI on a path of solidarity and cooperation no matter the breadth of its reach.
Naturally stemming from a discussion of drift, the topic of expansion was an exciting, as well as eye opening conversation. There were many countries and regions suggested as potential partners for the coming year. These included South Sudan, Cameroon, Gambia, Rwanda, Liberia, and Congo. Expansion into a new country is a delicate process that is unique for each new place we go. Usually a leader from each of two countries near the new partner will make multiple visits to the country to plant the seeds of the VCI tree there. Partnerships are made, relationships forged, and the seed begins to become a tree. Over time our leaders train other leaders in the new country and those leaders go into their communities and present the Village Care program to new people. From there it spreads and viola, a new VCI country is born. There were high hopes and lots of excitement surrounding these new countries for this year. The Village Care movement can not be contained and it is just a matter of time before communities all over the world are shattering conformity and sparking transformation.
Revisiting our purpose and vision is a topic that we delve deep into at each conference. It is so important that we ensure, as time goes on, that our vision, mission, purpose, and method are relevant, effective, and in line with our overarching philosophy. As these things are discussed it is so amazing to listen to such inspiring, thought-provoking dialogue from men who are natural leaders and innovators in their field. Those of us still learning are left in awe at the depth and scope of the discussion, always taking notes and trying to absorb as much of it as we can. From start to finish this discussion was a success and everyone agreed that we had done justice to the power of this movement and to ensure it is sound and ready for what is to come.
As our time together drew to a close, goodbyes were said, and friends who had become brothers and sisters prepared to part ways with heavy hearts and full minds. It is hard to deny the power of the human spirit when you consider the circumstances from which each of these people has come. From brutal civil war to famine to colonial occupation, each country seemingly possesses every opportunity to give up. Instead what we see is true strength, unwavering determination, and a pride in their people that is seldom witnessed. If every person in a position to affect change in the world had the mind, heart, and soul of these people the world would be forever changed as would the perception of poor communities across the globe. Before we left I had a chance to sit and talk with Phillips and Gabriel who are from Nigeria. As they recounted the horrible atrocities being done in their country you begin to understand why they are here. For so many years their people, and the people of many other nations, have been held down, demeaned, walked on, and told they can not do any better. Behind the teary eyes and heavy heart lies an unmistakable will to see their people transform into the nation they once were and once again will be. Though I can not even begin to understand where they come from I can’t help but feel the depth of their conviction, the power of their words, and the promise of their action. It is only a matter of time before Africa regains her rightful place among the powers of the world and the beauty that lies beneath the residue of occupation, enablement, and corruption we strive to overcome. Until next year friends, I am in awe and so proud to be a part of this movement
Sunday, January 29, 2012
We just completed our third annual Village Care International Conference in Kisumu Kenya. Attending were the national leaders for VCI of our nine member countries, including Sierra Leone, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, and the Congo.
Nothing is sacred at Village Care, so to speak, except our faith in God, so we spend a lot of time on the topics; What is Village Care?, what works?, and what is our purpose? What can we do better? Each year I have seen amazing strides in our leadership and organization as we get our feet under us and mature into our calling. Now entering our 7th year, Village Care is a very out of the box organization, and that means that we constantly challenge the status quo. This year our theme was “Shatter Conformity, Spark Transformation; therein lies the key to achieving our full potential”. It is from Romans chapter 12, verse 1. Village Care is a faith based community development organization that works among the poorest communities in Africa. Our focus is to care for people in crisis, mainly widows and orphans. Our main aim for orphans is to place them in loving homes where they will be safe, well cared for, loved, and protected.
We are different because we expect the poor to solve their own problems, and we hold them accountable for lifting themselves out of poverty. We don’t give a handout, and we don’t give a hand up, we don’t even teach them how to fish, actually. As I said, we are pretty out of the box in our thinking. From our first official VC Village in Kenya in 2005 we now have nearly 800 member villages across the belt of Africa from east to west. Each month we are expanding into about 30 communities. In Kenya nearly 27000 orphans are involved in some phase of Village Care initiatives. Last year almost 7000 new volunteers joined nearly 100,000 Africans already involved in VCI, working without any compensation. About 300 new business were started through our Outcomes for Business program. We also added about 600 “small group projects”, all of which exist to support their own local orphan populations, and all of them started without any outside donations or loans. That’s something virtually everyone believes to be impossible.
I started Village Care for a few simple reasons, mainly that nothing else works in Africa, and I could see nothing to lose by trying something radically different. In spite of what you may think, after trillions in donations, Africa is getting poorer and increasingly more radicalized every day. Nothing feeds terrorist movements quite as effectively as poverty. I often hear Americans express how happy they think the poor are. When they visit Africa they see happy little children playing in the streets just like children everywhere. But to be honest, the poor don’t like being poor, and in the world at large there is massive unrest. When those kids grow up they become prime targets for radical sects. Our original plan this year was to meet in Jos Nigeria but that area has been struggling through quite a bit of strife with insurgency by a radical Islamic sect known as Boca Haran. There have been bombings targeting churches, many deaths, and a deepening sense of national crisis. The group in Nigeria has targeted Christians and the eradication of Western teaching as one of its primary goals. Such radicalism is spreading across all of Africa.
We have come a long way in a few short years. Across our nine member countries we have invitations to train over 200 new communities and requests from 248 existing villages for Outcomes for Business Training. There are about 400 Villages that just need followup, but our resources are stretched pretty thin. Everyone seems to agree that our understanding of how to really empower the poor to take care of themselves is a solid, it really works, but most people would still prefer to give $25 to feed an orphan for $25 per month that they feel connected to rather than give $25.00 to feed a hundred of them, about what it costs us to support our network. We struggle to make that compelling personal and emotional connection. We aren’t very good at marketing frankly, and haven’t figured out how to help people connect at a heart level to our work.
God is in charge though, and in spite of all logic, we keep growing, and I figure that as long as we keep our focus on His work, then our work will thrive. We sincerely do appreciate your help, and I can guarantee you that a dollar to Village Care is an investment in a brighter future, not a perpetual welfare program.
This year we gained a lot of clarity and I was deeply impressed by the maturity and ownership our African Leaders have expressed in our time together. We clarified our role as agents of change, and we spent a lot of time reflecting and working on how we express ourselves to the world. Here are some key points.
Village Care International 3RD Conference Summary
Vision: We promote healthy and empowered communities around the world.
Mission: We equip leaders to mobilize their communities to empower their widows and orphans to raise their standard of living using the resources they have on hand.
Purpose: James 1:27; “Pure worship in the site of God is this; to visit widows and orphans in their distress, and keep oneself unstained by the world”. To put it simply we serve God and each other by assisting vulnerable populations to thrive.
Method: Our method is to present a program called OPOS; Outcomes Practices and Open Space, and a followup program called Outcomes for Business, and other community and family programs that promote self-reliance within the local community and eliminates dependence on donor-funded initiatives. Our main care program is called Outcomes for Children, and our main support program is called Basic Home Practices.
The Roadmap for Village Care
1. The road must lead to independence for each country VC Initiative to be self sustained.
2. The roadmap for Empowerment is to spark transformation using OPOS within the community, then fuel transformation with activities that encourage the continuation of the process in the life of the person, family, and community. Benchmarks are:
a. OPOS to OFB (Outcomes for Business)
b. SLOPE within and without (the members of the community and the encouragers who come live to Serve, Learn, Observe, Pray, and Encourage.
c. An actualized Phase I community has:
i. The support of the majority of the community
ii. Groups meeting regularly
iii. Active projects continuing across the five practices
iv. Projects focused on the vulnerable population (via registration or scoring)
d. An actualized Phase II Community
i. Is adding new members continuously
ii. Meeting personal, family and community goals
iii. Has a measurable focus on a vulnerable population, which is registered and scored by the Community Leaders.
iv. Has officially become a VCI Member Community approved by the National Team
e. An Actualized Phase III Community
i. Has profitable income producing groups/businesses that support the vulnerable community.
ii. Has volunteers involved in community development
1. A Care Community that may Include
a. Child Care Centers
b. Adult Literacy programs
iii. Is regularly conducting OPOS programs within their community.
iv. Is actively supporting VCI Initiatives inside and outside their community.
f. A Phase IV Community
i. Is always growing and expanding programs and ideas.
ii. Has a Volunteer Group Training adjacent communities
iii. The newly trained communities are accurately replicating the principles of VCI.
iv. Has an official VCI representative at the regional level
v. Actively supports VCI nationally financially
If all four phases are not within the seed of VCI at day one, they will not materialize. Grafting in added essential concepts later is much more difficult.
The VCI Dictionary:
· OPOS, a skeleton that communities can use to grow a body of work. OPOS is a program of Outcomes for Children (our Target Group), Basic Home Practices (the tools necessary to accomplish the Outcomes and raise a healthy community), and a self-initiating event called OPEN SPACE.
· Outcomes for Children: A program that identifies practical ways to insure that every child in the community starting with the most vulnerable is safe, healthy, living in a loving home, and has a good reputation in the community.
· Practices: Basic Home Practices are the essential features of a healthy community that has good Sanitation, Nutrition, Health Awareness, enforced Educational Policies, and Economic Security reflected by growing businesses and creating jobs.
· OPEN SPACE: After exploring the skeletal framework of Outcomes and Practices the members take charge of the program and meet in self selected groups to answer five questions:
o What will I do for myself
o What will I do for my family
o What will I do for my community
o Who will I do it with
o When Will I do it
· Conformity: The barrier to change, conformity can include tradition, or any habit that maintains the status quo.
· Transformation: Transformation is a new life, not a repair of an old life. To transform means to be made new.
· Empowered: A person is empowered when they are able to make their own choices. The more choices one can make for themselves, the more empowered the person is.
· Community or Village: a community is any group that has a common interest and works together to solve problems.
· Healthy Community: A healthy community reflects a collaboration of projects that keeps the community and members clean, healthy, learning, and working together to care for themselves and their most vulnerable population.
· Self-Actualization: Achieving our full potential personally and as a community
Village Care Succeeds because:
· It is a movement that inspires cooperation
· It is adaptable to the community it serves
· We prepare in faith, live in hope and are inspired by Devine grace
· VCI immediately points to an internal solution, owned by the community, not an external solution dependent on someone else.
· Of the use of Open Space around a Skeletal Framework of Goals and Tools to inspire the community to solve their own problems.
· Of SLOPE, leaders and members Serve, Learn, Observe, and Pray and Encourage each other all the time.
January 29, 2012
David Glenwinkel, Founder
3240 Professional Drive
Auburn, Ca. 95602
What will you do today to make a difference?