Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lance's Deaf Orphanage

My brain hurts.  Seriously, I feel like I just finished eight hours of piano lessons where I had to play with both hands at the same time.  That's what it feels like when I have to communicate using Kenyan Sign Language (KSL).  I can do it for a little while, but after going at it all day long I just overheat or something.

Today we took a break from the project site at Marera because we had other business to attend to.  There is a little deaf school and orphanage several miles down the road from Sam's Place; it's called Lance's Deaf Orphanage.  One of my assignments on this trip was to visit Lance's Deaf Orphanage and report on how things are going.  Huruma House does not directly support LDO or fund its operations, but last year we purchased a couple of dairy cows for the orphanage, so I was supposed to check things out.

Charles Otieno, a deaf Kenyan who oversees several of Huruma House's projects in Rongo, met us at our guest house this morning and we all piled into a public matatu for the ten-mile trip to Lance's Deaf Orphanage.  A matatu is a twelve passenger van that carries eighteen.  Cody Ben had to sit squeezed up against a young boy carrying a chicken.  The four of us finished the matatu ride safely but crumpled, then we began the mile climb up a sheer rock cliff to LDO.  (Ok, that's somewhat exaggerated, but it was a serious hike.)

When we got there we were greeted by the director Daniel Ogembo, a deaf man, who showed us around the place.  Everyone at LDO was deaf, our liason, Charles Otieno, is also deaf, and I was the only hearing person around who knew a little sign language.  Unfortunately, my sign language skills are really rusty, so we had to do a lot of guessing and finger spelling, but after a lot of patience on the parts of Ogembo and Otieno I think we finally understood everything they were trying to show us.  It seems to be a very well run nuclear waste processing facility, or at least I think that's what they said.  I usually have Stephen Greek with me to do all the heavy lifting in the sign language department and all I have to know how to say is stuff like "Where is the bathroom?"  But this year I kind of got thrown in the deep end and I had to figure it out on my own.  Dad seemed to have fun playing the charades game, too, and he was able to provide some valuable guesses about some of the finer points of nuclear waste processing.

Anyway, they have 92 rabbits.  We got to see them all, one at a time.  They also have two dairy cows.  One cow is doing very well, and the other needs a bit of medical attention (or maybe some heroin, I wasn't quite clear on that point).  Dad advised them that they should watch the sick cow another couple of weeks and if it wasn't doing better they should sell it and buy another milk cow.

This little school houses and educates 21 deaf orphans, 9 girls and 12 boys.  The conditions are pretty cramped, but it is much better than what they would have if there was no one to care for them.  Deaf orphans are the outcasts of this society.  They are often neglected by their extended family and left to fend for themselves, so I am so thankful that Daniel Ogembo and Mary Aluoch have taken these children in even on such limited means.  The deaf teachers at LDO volunteered here for four years with no salary until my deaf friend, Alex Abenchuchan, came along and started to raise some additional support.

I was very impressed with how much they could accomplish with so few resources.  They stretch every shilling and are making many efforts to raise their own food to help their little school require less outside assistance.  They also have an interesting philosophy of letting the orphan children return to their extended families a few weeks out of the year.  The idea is to make sure they have a familiar community to return to after they leave LDO.  Often the deaf children will have an inheritance or some family land that they can return to after graduation, but if the children are tucked away in the orphanage for 18 years they can easily be forgotten by their relatives and their community back home.

Also, there was a situation recently where a 12-year old neighbor boy stole one of the orphanage's dairy cows.  When the village elders learned of the crime they went vigilante and were about to douse the kid with kerosene and light him on fire.  Fortunately, Daniel and some others at LDO argued on behalf of the boy that stole the cow and they persuaded the village elders to have mercy on the boy.  Now both the boy and the cow are doing just fine and LDO is held in great respect by their community because of the way they intervened to show mercy.

Tomorrow, Keith Gafner and his two daughters will join us in Rongo and we will continue work on the poultry projects together.  We are so grateful to have Keith's expertise in this.  Also, Dad has been a real asset on this trip.  In the past, whenever people have started talking construction, my eyes just glaze over and  I smile and nod.  But Dad actually knows what he is talking about and he can have meaningful conversations with the CBO leaders about their construction projects.  He also has a lot of knowledge about raising poultry, and I am confident that these two poultry projects the CBO is beginning (a layer project and a broiler project) will be very successful and earn a lot of income for the community.

Also, we have located a very good place for our new Computer Training Center in Rongo's brand new "modern market" area downtown.  It is only going to cost about $40 per month to rent the shop.  Then we just need to buy a couple of desktop computers, a printer, and a few other supplies and equipment and we are good to go.  Daniel Magambo is going to use the place to teach computer course to the CBO members and anyone else in Rongo who is willing to pay for it.  Also, Bernard Magambo is going to run his little photography business out of this place as soon as they get a printer capable of printing photos.  I'm really excited about it.

We have a lot going on at once, as you can see, but the pace of life in Kenya is very slow, so it has been nice that we can take our time and not have to get stressed out about everything.  This has been a really good trip, and Dad has quickly gotten past the hard parts and has hit his stride.

Much love from Kenya,


  1. Thanks for sharing this post, i read your this post its really very useful post...
    Journey Kenya

  2. i stumbled on your blog while researching deaf adoptions.... very interesting!!! i have been trying to find a way (other than Facebook) to contact the lance's deaf orphans organization... in hopes of gaining some direction on adopting a deaf child. do you have any insights or suggestions? thank you! -cori haughery (