Kenya

May 24

Look out for my new album "24 hours in a minibus". The second track rocks, "speed bumps, you're for me", a perfect prelude to the third track, a love ballad about speed bumps on bumpy dirt roads. I reckon the hit single is gonna be track 6, "Legroom". Think I napped for a solid 8 minutes. Think we are getting stuck in to building classrooms with the locals for OrphFund's new school attached to the orphanage, and profiling kids for the records, and for sponsors at home.

May 26

The orphanage, Heartspring, is soooo beautiful and lush, high in the mountains near lake Victoria. There are some fancy houses around, one of them built by the founder of a charity a year after it was set up. People are sus. That's why I am so fully behind OrphFund. At night last night there was fabulous music and proper drumming to fall asleep to. We are roughing it more here... dorm accom, bucket showers n pit toilets. The kids have turned the 'wild' down a notch, probably because of a closer involvement with a stricter school. They all seem healthy and happy, though more hear wear the scars of past trauma, some looks serious. The internet is sketchy, I'm standing on my friends shoulders on a rooftop with my arm stretched out, so bear with me. Sometimes internot.., we are near Homa Bay on Lake Victoria, the second biggest lake in the world. There is extreme need here as well.., and a different relationship with us muzungo, many more people are slightly more wary, and less inclined to open up immediately. I don't mind that. Though the little kids are super smiley still. This eve I played soccer (first time), kicked and head butted the ball (first time), and then played netball (first time). I'm better with my hands than my head n feet....

May 27

Made 15 push bikes out of a pile of junk! 15 happy kids... one kid had a huge stack in to a water tank (no injuries!!) and all the other kids ran over and pinched his bike, leaving him there. Heartbreaking on another level too...when dragging broken hulks of bike from the container, a quiet murmur of "that ones mine" began and continued in the background. I remember my friend Matt visiting a polish orphanage decades ago and described the same stimulation urgency. He played guitar but the kids were grabbing the strings and were overwhelmed. Kids were grabbing bikes while we were fixing them. They weren't misbehaving, just so aching for it... there are a few people who responded to the last post about the big house being built by a charity owner. There is also mention of charities (who no-one has heard of!) buying half a million pens and fundraising saying they helped half a million kids in poverty. OrphFund is different...it's not just pushbikes either. The high level talks are about economic sustainability, starting high schools, buying farms to feed the kids and sell the excess, corporate sponsorship. Every little bit helps so much at this stage. Get in to it. sponsorship@orphfund.org More soccer and netball tonight, I'm scared.

May 28

Today we are interviewing 50plus kids for 10 or so new places in Heartspring orphanage, though desperation usually necessitates a couple of extras being squeezed in. Quite honestly, it's a juggle... it's a drop in the ocean in one way, these kids are plucked from a dangerous/desperate life and shown love, support and hope, and for some of them this will create a great future. They may go on to become doctors, nurses, bank managers, drivers. The brutal reality is that many won't. Some locals have explained that even if they get great uni results the jobs will still go to friends, or those who can pay for the privilege. So it's a weigh-up... personally I think it's worth it. A setting example thing, where locals can see lives changing. One of the things I like about OrphFund is that the managers on the ground are locals already looking after their own, and us whiteys are more behind the scenes in governance, fundraising and planning, allowing the big picture to become possible. I like this because it's locals making the difference... autonomy. One of the distressing byproducts of the extremely strong and recent Christian influence is that autonomy is removed and determination placed in the hands of a god, removed. I can't see this as healthy, though Christian doctrine does support peace and unity, but OrphFund's model places autonomy back in the hands of individuals willing to work with the opportunities they are given. So far most of the managers are Christian, also preachers, but a different breed to most. They remind me of my dear father. A grass roots worker... only one has mentioned god in any context. These people are carefully recruited by Steve, who is not a religious man, for their value to the kids. Yes, it's a juggle. There are more than 50 desperate kids lined up here who want in. Another reflection... there is drumming and chanting every night. It is described as church, but seems more tribal. A tight clothing of Christianity over a tribal body perhaps... the sponsors letters are GOLD to compare and share lives... so far we have bought 4 bulls (through external requests beyond sponsorship) and now we are after a $120 to buy a plough for them to pull, aiming for orphanage self sufficiency. Anyone in? Xx

May 28

The number of hopefuls to enter the orphanage has grown beyond 75 now. The cases are extreme...

May 29

So here we are. About 100 potential kids turned up today. For 10 places. We knew we could push it to 15. So far we have interviewed 45, and need to accept 10, with another 4 borderline cases. (The borderline cases would make you cry your heart out) So here it is. We are gonna need 20 new sponsors. $35 per month will almost cover food, clothes, care and school if the Aussie dollar gets stronger. Please, who is in? A few coffees a month to literally save a life. Go halves if you need to! It's hard to find the words to put this in proportion...

May 29

More interviews, more kids coming in. There is such need, such a fine line between vulnerable and super vulnerable. It takes a lot of time to get it right... so far we have gathered 12 new sponsors. Thank you! You are changing lives. It's incredible... we still need more. This is consuming every moment right now. Tomorrow we head to Nairobi, the via a stack of ugly airports to Sierra Leone, to start again! Who knows what we will find? But for now, in this beautiful hungry place, almost with a missing generation, we need sponsors. Please visit sponsorship@orphfund.org , or the OrphFund facebook page if you don't believe me. I will be back to more informative journalism after this exhaustive recruiting and sponsorship drive... in the meantime OrphFund is expanding the school on site, turning bricks in to classrooms...

May 30

Too soon to be leaving. Lots of ticks off the big list, the boss is happy. On a coach to Nairobi, beginning a day or 2 of travel the 9000km to Freetown, Sierra Leone, to the next 4 orphanages... going via London to pick up another 100kg of donated goods to take to the harshest of the OrphFund projects. Thanks for the overwhelming feedback to these posts, and the new sponsors, cow and plough buyers. I will be back. Who is coming?

The last leg of  Mark's trip brings him to Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa. His journey continues and concludes here.