Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A special note for the holidays

This is what it’s all about.

Our friend Brian Pieters was recently at the orphanage to photograph the children and House Mothers. Our goal is to connect all of you with the children through a photo exhibition that we are planning for in the New Year. He already sent us home some photos that we wanted to share with you – have a look, they are posted on the Facebook group page: http://groups.to/orphans

These photos are a reminder of what all of this fundraising and talk about the Nzirambi Orphans Fund is about: We’re giving these vulnerable children an opportunity to grow up and become independent, successful citizens.
All of the funds raised this year are going toward a scholarship fund to cover school fees from senior levels of high school and post-secondary education.
By paying for the older children to go to school, we are helping to relieve the overall stress of the orphanage – that means, there will be more funds in place to make sure that all of the children will have a sturdy roof over their head, water they can drink, clothing, a bed to sleep in, nutritious food and medicine when they need it. And they will all have the chance to be educated or learn important skills to help them land jobs.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support and for inspiring us (Monica and Karen) to keep doing what we’re doing. All of you have made a difference.
Happy Holiday everyone!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday shopping ideas to support the orphanage

What do you know? It’s snowing in Ontario – and it is starting to look a lot like Christmas!

I’m super happy to tell you that we’ve already sold 325 bookmarks in our annual drive, but our goal is to sell 400. Help us reach our goal and share info about the bookmarks with your friends and colleagues. They make great stocking stuffers, Secret Santas, gift toppers and gifts for colleagues, friends, family. Each one cost $10 and you can order them from this blog using paypal. They’re really cute and ALL of the money raised will go directly to the orphanage to help send the children to school.

We’ve also got some other crafty goods for sale to help us raise funds. Check it out:
Poetic Art

Roxane Tracy of Poetic Art is giving proceeds from the sale of her African-inspired art to the orphanage. Her work is a perfect match for the orphanage, depicting the challenges and triumphs of women and children. Take a minute to look at her work – it’s gorgeous. She is selling prints for $40 and greeting cards for $5 each or 4 for $15. http://www.poeticartgallery.com/

Yoga bags for a good cause
Our friend and supporter Aynsley Morris (@aynsilly) has handcrafted these really amazing bags for yoga mats. She did some in African prints, and some other designs, including one white with daisies. The yoga bags are $20 donation. She also made eye pillows with flax seed and lavender – great for meditation, blocking out light when you’re sleeping or if you get headaches like I do. We’re asking for a $10 donation for those. Aynsley donated the material and so ALL of the money raised from these purchases will go directly to the orphanage.

Last but not least
Please do think of our children this holiday season. Right now they will be just finishing up their semester at school and gearing up for a few weeks off over the holidays. The kids don’t really celebrate Xmas, except, hopefully, this year they will have an opportunity to have a big feast. They’re happy kids, and we are helping to give them a world of opportunities by paying for their education.

Please do consider the orphanage when making your holiday donations this year. We don’t have charity status yet for tax receipts – but stay with us because we aim to have that in place for this time next year.

Thank you for your support - Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bookmarks for Babes are back!

Last year, you may remember that the beaded bookmarks kicked off the fundraising efforts for the orphanage. At that time, I was trying to figure out how I might raise $500 to bring to the orphanage on my volunteer trip. Turns out, people ordered the bookmarks in droves and $4,000 was raised. And so the Nzirambi Fund was born!

A year in the making

I’m a little more prepared this time around and have been working on them all year. I also have a small army of really awesome volunteers who have been helping me make them (@nancyjt), helping to put ribbons on (Monica, Cindy, Marie-Helen), and others helping to sell them. Barbara Strang took some amazing photos (like the one posted here), and Lawrence designed a new card to attach to them.

Hundreds of bookmarks have already been delivered – we have Aynsley Morris (@aynsilly) selling them in Ottawa, Jessica Taylor in Calgary, Tenesha Clarke in Brampton and Nancy in Niagara. Our friends at Honey Fig will also be selling them at the Yonge Street store.

Want to buy one now?

You can order bookmarks on this blog by using the paypal box in the right column. Let us know what colour you like – they come in pearls, pinks, blues, greens, purples or mixed colours. Or say: “surprise me” and we’ll pick something out for you. Be sure to include your address so we can mail them to you.

Boomarks are a $10 donation. Each one will have a card on it that says: “All of the funds raised from the sale of this gift will go toward the boys and girls at the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre. Thank you for your support.”

Last year, people bought them as gifts for friends, colleagues, teachers, family, etc. They’re also really great stocking stuffers!

Want to sell bookmarks?

If you are keen to help us sell some to your family, friends or co-workers, please do let us know.

Where your donation goes

All of the money raised will go directly to the orphanage and pay for the children to go to school. By helping these children obtain higher levels of education, they will be able to escape the cycle of poverty. We're helping to make dreams come true for these children.

Thanks, as always, for your support.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A letter from Veronica

I recently received this letter in the mail from one of the older girls at the orphanage. Her name is Veronica and she's getting ready to apply to university next year. I'm going to write her letter out in full to share it with you. It's very sweet!

Hello Karen,

How are you and how is work and your life in Canada? Well, back here in Uganda, I am doing ok. I am at school busy reading my books since I am soon doing my final exams in November that will register me for university.

I really thank God for the time we spent together here in Uganda and I would also like to come and visit you in Canada since we had a good time here. How is Monica? Do you normally visit her and go for coffee together? Send my sincere greetings to her and tell her that we lover her so much.

I have been communicating to Auntie Milly via phone and I have always been informed about what has been taking place at home. I really miss those children at the orphanage. (**fyi, Vero has been doing her final school year at a boarding school in Kampala.)

I have chosen the right courses that I would like to do at the university with the help from my teachers. They have advised me about the courses that best suit my subjects that I am doing here in Senior 6. These are some of the courses-- law as my first choice and accounting as my second course. My results from my final exam will determine the course I will be doing in university.

After my results are back in February 2011, I will be going to university in August 2011.

I will be soon going for my long vacation in November after my exams on the 24th, I will be going back to Kasese and be with the children. I am also going to start my computer studies and I will open up an email where I will be communicating to you.

In my vacation, I will be helping with the work at home, playing with the children and helping Auntie Milly with her work in the office.

Lastly, I would like to send my greetings to all of your friends in Canada and I with you a nice stay and hope to see you again here in Uganda.

Greetings from all of my friends here at school like Rhoda, Martha, Esther and Faith.

With love,
Veronica Nabasinga.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Amazing Race Maps

Did anyone see the Amazing Race last night? They were racing in Ghana and one of their challenges was to correctly identify the Ghana on a map of Africa. (What?! You mean Africa is not a country??)

Just today, I had to dig up some maps of Uganda and Kasese, where the orphanage is, as part of our application for charitable status. And then I had an "Amazing Race moment" and realized that people who read this blog and know about the orphanage may not know where it is.

Here's a map to put things into perspective. It also shows where Gulu is - many of us are aware of the long-standing war in Northern Uganda - and its proximity to the Congo and Sudan.

Look south on the map and you will find Kasese on the Congo border, surrounded by lakes, mountains and forest. Actually, the orphanage borders on the land of a national park and one night that I was there, the elephants came onto the property in search of food and water. I didn't see the elephants, but heard the gun shots of rangers trying to scare them off the land.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I recently received some sad news that two of the babies from the orphanage, Caroline and David, have passed away. Both of these babies came to the orphanage after I was there in January, so I didn’t get to know them.

David was born Feb. 20 of last year and when he was just four months old, his mother became mentally ill and unable to care for him. With seven other children, David’s father was not taking good care of him.

A sickly severely malnourished baby, he was regularly in and out of the hospital for his first four months. A nurse, having heard of the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre made arrangements with the probation officer and the orphanage for him to live there. Slowly, after six months he began to recover, showing strength in his legs by kicking and playing.
Just recently, doctors began to suspect that David had spina bifida. He came down with pneumonia and, despite the best efforts of the house mothers, doctors and nurses, he didn’t survive.

Caroline was born November 18, 2009 and brought to the orphanage in June after her mother died of malaria. Again, the father was unable to adequately care for his child and Caroline was removed from his care and brought to the orphanage after being hospitalized for pneumonia.

This little girl became quite ill over the summer and required a blood transfusion. However, none of the hospitals in the area had blood supplies to donate. In Uganda, a person must have an HIV test every six months in order to donate blood and none of the house mothers had this test done and could not donate blood. They decided to transport baby Caroline to the Kampala hospital, but she died along the way.

The reality
The reality of the situation is that neither of these children likely would have died had they been given the care we can expect for our children in Canada. The housemothers and hospitals did everything they could, but there are so many limitations, especially when a child is born into these incredibly stressful, life endangering situations.

In so many ways, it’s frustrating to hear that two of our children have passed away. But, it’s not time to lose hope. There are more than 80 children there now, some now in their late teens, haven grown up and survived these difficult circumstances. The death of these little ones inspires me even more to stay focused and continue my goal to raise $10,000 per year for the next three years so that we can give the older children a real chance through education.

Thank you so much for your steady support.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pilates for Men

Our Pilates4Babes was so much fun in the summer, but there was only one man in attendance!

So, why aren’t more men doing pilates?

Pilates was, after all, started by a man – Joseph Pilates. He was a boxer and trained athletes. And there is nothing wimpy about Joseph! (That's him in the photo!)

It’s challenging, but not impossible; you don’t have to be flexible like yoga; it gives you awesome abs and the classes are full of hot, fit women. What’s not to love about Pilates?

So, we decided to call the men out for their own class. Hosted by Sandra Brunner (aka @Wallabina) at Chang’e Studio,1114 Queen Street East in Leslieville, the class will be held Sept. 11 from 2-3p.m.

Come have fun, work out and support a charity, all at the same time!

We'll also have some great raffle prizes available – including tickets to the Leaf/Senators Fans First game on September 21.

With the proceeds we hope to be able to raise enough money - $700 - to send one child to school for a year.

Class size will be small, so please let us know asap if you want to sign up. You can purchase your ticket in advance by making a donation on this blog using Paypal .

Monday, August 30, 2010

Garage Sale Mania

Over the weekend, Monica and I drove to the Midland/ Wasaga area to visit my Aunt Lynn who was holding another garage sale to raise funds for the orphanage. It’s the third sale she’s hosted with the help of some other family members.

To date, she’s raised over $700 doing it. Her goal is to raise $1,000. There’s no question, she’ll reach her goal. I think she’ll surpass it.

So, how does this work? Well, friends and family have donated all kinds of stuff they don’t need or want anymore; children’s clothing, fishing tackle, books, kitchen stuff, etc. And then she puts on a garage sale. When she’s all garage saled-out, she’ll haul everything to a charity store. So, it’s a win-win. She’s doing another one in September, so if you’re in the area, please do stop by.

The $700 she raised is already enough to pay for a year of school for one of the children.

The best part is that she is coming to the orphanage with me in January, so she can meet first-hand the children she will be helping to put through school.

I’m so blown away and so grateful for all of my aunts and family – Lynn, Barb, Judy, Susan, Nancy, my grandmother, my mom, Tammy, David, Jeff, Gary and everyone else who has been helping to make this happen.

Thank you!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The quest for the perfect space

The team working behind the Ugandan Orphan Education Fund has been toying with the idea of holding a special event in November – something that would become a signature event of sorts to look forward to every year and raise funds.

For this year, we are planning a very special concert with a group of youth with very big voices. Along with the choir, we will be hosting a silent auction (the quest for raffle prizes is also on, so let me know if you have an idea or something you would like to contribute).

Right now, to make all of this possible, we need a venue. Something that’s not going to break the bank and has enough space for a small concert and a cocktail reception. Ideally, we’d love to have a sound system in place and if we are lucky enough, we’d even have chairs. The natural fit seems to be a church. But, we’re turning up some dead ends in being able to find space available on or around Nov. 13.

Do you have any suggestions on where we might find a venue suitable for this event? Drop me a line or leave a comment here. All suggestions welcomed!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A super success

Over the past couple of weeks we held two events and I wanted to share with you the outcome. Our goal for 2010 is to raise $10,000, which is the cost needed to make sure that we can pay for all of the children who need it, to go to school in 2011. I’m happy to report that we are already half way there. We’ve got a few things planned for the fall, and with your continued support, I know we’re going to succeed in getting these kids to school.

Pilates For Babes

A few weeks ago, we pulled about a dozen people – mostly from Twitter – together for #Pilates4Babes. Sandra Brunner (@wallabina) generously donated her studio and led a pilates class for us. In addition to those who attended the class, many others made donations even though they couldn’t make it.

The result: $600 raised for the orphanage!

Thanks so much to everyone who attended: @amazerall @atubanos @clickflickca @CreativeFusion @JeanGeary @JustineLewkowic @laurendorphin @MonicaNK @SylvieinToronto, as well as, Betty, Claudette and Zeridah.Also, thank you to @justineabigail, @paula_attfield, Kevin Leslie and Dean Hughes who supported us from afar.

Stay tuned for Pilates For Men!

Charity Yard Sale Raises $700

My friend Laura Copeland was hosting a yard sale to raise funds for Women’s Cancer, and that gave us the idea to do one as well. So, Cecile Peterkin (@cosmiccareer), Monica and I hosted a charity yard sale at my parents house in Pickering.

A lot of people donated a ton of really great stuff: Marcel Weider, Kari (@karrio) and Carey, Aynsley Morris (@aynsilly), Phil (@mediawong), my parents, Lynn Hebner, and Terry, Susan and Kevin Crow.

The result: $700! That’s exactly what it cost to send a child to school for a year in Uganda. What an accomplishment!

What these two events have shown me is that we can really accomplish a lot, just by doing and giving a little. Thanks everyone for your continued support.

(Congrats to Laura who also raised $600 from her garage sale and has met her goal to raise $1000).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Update from Kasese

We received an update from the orphanage and this time, there is tons of good news to share! Check it out:

The home is growing, the number of children is now up to 81. Ten new babies have have come in since the beginning of this year. A fifth house is being built to accommodate these new little ones, the structure is at roofing level now.

The farm at the orphanage
The farm at the orphanage has had its first harvest of seasonal vegetables (carrots , radishes) . A sweet potato crop will be ready for harvest soon. The intention is to produce food and sell any surplus alongside teaching the children how to grow the crops. Fifty chicks are due to arrive in two weeks time and someone is being trained in chicken farming to take this over at the home. The goal is to supplement the children's diet with eggs (protein deficiency is quite common).

SOS children's village
We are hoping that the rate of increase in the numbers of children will decrease as a new orphanage run by SOS children, a large UK charity, has opened up in Fort Portal (about 2 hours away). SOS have agreed to take all the tiny babies that come to NOTDEC in the next few months (who need to be fed on very expensive tinned milk), and all other children from the Fort Portal area. Just this week SOS accepted a 4 week old baby who was initially brought to NOTDEC.
Thank you again for supporting this wonderful work. F or those of you attending Pilates for Babes this Saturday, see you there.
PS - our charity yard sale raised a whopping $700. We had incredible support from so many people --- THANK YOU!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Charity Yard Sale

hi friends - if you're in the Pickering area this coming weekend on Saturday, July 10, we're hosting a yard sale to raise funds for the orphanage. BBQ at noon! Lots of great stuff has been donated for the sale. Details below! Hope to see you there.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pilates for babes

We've half sold out the pilates class, but we have some spots left, so I thought to share this poster Lawrence did. If you are interested to come, please register online at twtvite/pilates4babes or you can reserve your spot by making a donation on the "Pilates" paypal button on the right side of this blog. Hope you can make it!
Check it out:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pilates for Babes

Very excited to tell you about a pilates class fundraiser for the orphanage being hosted by Sandra Brunner and Chang'e Studio -- a very cool yoga/pilates studio in Leslieville.
Here are the class details:

When: Saturday, July 17
Where: Chang'e Studio, 1114 Queen Street East.
Time: 2-3p.m.
Cost: Minimum $20 donation
Who: Hosted by Marie/ @karmacakedotca, Sandra/ @wallabina and myself @karensnider
Hashtag: #babes

Goal: Through a series of pilates and yoga classes, our goal is to raise $700, which is the cost to send one of our children to school.

Space is limited - so you must purchase your ticket in advance. Look to the right of this blog and you will see a paypal button for Yoga/Pilates. You can reserve your space by making a donation there, or you can pay at Chang'e.

Can't make the class and still want to donate? Of course, please do! There is a button for you on paypal under Yoga/Pilates.

I've been to a few of Sandra's classes and when it comes to your abs, this woman means business! So come and get your sweat on and while you're at, we can help the orphanage. It's a good thing!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baby Carolyn and a New Playground at the Orphanage

I just got an update that the orphanage has another new baby. This one is named Carolyn. She is five-months-old and her mother died of malaria. A welfare officer came to the orphanage to ask that they accept her because her family was unable to cope with her.

This means there have been four new babies to the orphanage in the last few months. Another child’s mother died during childbirth; one mother was mentally ill; and yet another was born to teenage parents who did not have the means to care for the child.

The orphanage is growing at break-neck speed. People in the community are becoming more familiar with it and so the number of children is growing. These are children who otherwise would have been left for dead or left in families that could not care for them.

The UK sponsors are beginning to build a 5th little house to accommodate the orphans and the house mothers. So while their family grows, thankfully, so is there living space growing!

I also received these new photos that show the children playing on their new playground equipment donated by the local Rotary Club. The equipment was once in a public space, but it was getting vandalized. The children lucked out when the Rotary Club decided to give it to the orphanage. These children don't get to play very much and they don't have a lot of toys. So this is a very big deal!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What’s coming up this summer

Thought to put out an update and let everyone know about a few activities we’ve got coming up this summer. The first is going to be a charity garage sale. We’ve been gathering tons of great stuff donated – everything from TVs to cameras to Guitar Hero accessories.
We’re going to hold the garage sale in Pickering at my parents house (big driveway).

Hold This Date!
When: Saturday, July 10 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: 2346 Meriadoc Street, Pickering
Who: The garage sale is being hosted by myself, Monica Kahindo and Cecile Peterkin
What: As I mentioned above, we’ve got some really great stuff. We’ll also have some coca-cola memorabilia, great books, stuff for kids.
Hungry? We’ll host a BBQ at noon

Also coming up – Yoga for Babes!
This week, I’m meeting with an instructor from a yoga/pilates studio in Leslieville because they are planning to host a “by donation” pilates and a yoga class this summer! Very exciting stuff. I’ll reveal the studio once the dates are set. How awesome is this – so many of us are doing yoga and pilates anyways, so this way we get to work out and support the orphanage at the same time. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mother’s Day wrap-up

I’ve been waiting until I collected all of the funds from our Mother’s Day card fundraising project before sending you an update. Our goal was to raise $1,000 by selling the cards. We did better than that! We raised nearly $2,000.

Two thousand dollars is enough to cover the costs of sending three of our children to a full year of high school. It’s almost enough to cover a full year of Veronica’s university tuition as well.

Special huge thank you to everyone who helped us surpass our goal. So many of you were out there selling bookmarks, cards and accepting donations for us – your support was phenomenal.

I wanted to give a special thank you to Aynsley Morris (@aynsilly). This girl sold more than 50 cards on her own, one at a time. I’ve heard she’s quite the fast-talking salesperson! Thank you so much, Aynsley – we’re lucky to have you on our team of volunteers.

We’ve got some other great fundraisers in the works – a yard sale in the summer, as well as a pilates/yoga class. I’ll keep you posted and hopefully, we can get you involved.

Thanks again everyone!
Monica Kahindo and Karen Snider

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I wanted to share with you some news about our newest supporter, HoneyFig, a gorgeous little shop near Yonge and Sheppard that sells beauty and body care products.

Thanks to Michelle Samuels who works there HoneyFig is now selling our bookmarks for $10.

I went by the store to bring some spring-coloured bookmarks and saw they have a display set up on the main counter with the bookmarks and a photo of some of the boys from the orphanage. It looks incredible! And it's inspiring to see such a great shop get behind this cause.

A huge thank you to HoneyFig, Michelle and all of the women who work there, for your support in helping us to support the Nzirambi Orphan Talent Development Centre and ensure these children can go to school.

If you haven't been to HoneyFig, definitely stop in. They carry top-of-the-line and all-natural products: frangrance-free, nut-free, soy-based...you name it! And it's not only body and beauty products, they sell hair accessories, jewellery and beautiful soy-based candles (which I bought for my mom for Mother's Day - in lilac, her favourite flower!).

Check out their products online.
HoneyFig is also on Facebook

Monday, May 10, 2010

A special thanks for a “twitterific” gift

For those of you on Twitter, you probably know about Scott Stratten, aka @unmarketing. He's “kind of a big deal on Twitter” and he tweets a lot - in fact, he’s tweeted more than 40,000 times.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Scott on a few occasions. It was his birthday a few weeks ago and I thought that as a proud father, Scott would appreciate the greeting cards that we have been selling to raise funds for the orphanage.
I knew I would see him at Digital Leap (hosted by Stephen Thomas Ltd, Ted Hart and The Royal Conservatory ), where he was a presenter, so I gave him the card then.

Later that evening, Scott told me (in 140 characters) that Digital Leap organizers are making a donation to the charity of his choice as a gift for his presentation. He decided to give his donation to the orphanage.

The donation came at a good time. Monica and I have begun filling out the forms to obtain charitable status and the night before Digital Leap, we were especially overwhelmed. When we got Scott’s message, it was a reminder that we’re doing the right thing. That good people want to help us help these children.

So we’ll keep pushing to raise funds for the orphans. Our goals are reasonable: we aim to raise $10,000 every year for the next three years. Our funding will go toward an education fund to pay for the children’s secondary and post-secondary education. Without higher levels of education, these children won’t break free of the cycle of poverty they are currently in.

And they deserve the chance. These kids are so strong – some of them have lived their entire lives in the orphanage. There are 77 children at the home, ranging in age from newborns to teens. The mere fact that these children have survived the poverty - that over the years has left many of them ill with malaria or malnourished for long periods - is a feat in itself.

By supporting the education fund, not only are we giving the children a chance at success, but we are alleviating the stress of the day-to-day grind on the orphanage. That means there will be more funding for medicines, nutritious foods and salaries for the heroic housemothers who care for the children 24 hours a day.

A special thank you to Scott and Digital Leap for helping these children reach their goals.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Children's Hospital in Uganda

With Mother's Day in Canada coming, I thought to share these photos that I just received from the orphanage. Being a housemother in Uganda takes on an entirely different meaning to motherhood.

When a child is sick, not only are there hospital fees to pay, but either Dorothy (the founder) or one of the housemothers has to be in hospital with the child. Attached is a photo of the children's ward at Kagando Hospital for you to have some idea as to what it is like.

Three more housemothers have been employed since the beginning of the year to ease the strain when children are ill and to assist in looking after the ever increasing numbers of children.

Milly (orphanage co-founder) also feels that it is right that the housemothers who have babies sleeping on their beds at night - and two other little ones in their room - should also have a time to rest during the day. This seems quite reasonable to me!

This luxury is not really possible at the moment, but it is something that she is aiming for by continuing to increase the number of housemothers in the future.

By supporting our Education Fund, which will fund secondary and post-secondary levels of education, we are alleviating the burden and stress on the orphanage so that more funding can be directed where it's needed - medicines for the children, nutritious foods and even a pittance so the housemothers can take even just a few hours off to themselves.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Tweet this!

As some of you know, I’m madly in love with Twitter.

It is, by far, the best networking tool I have ever used. Full stop.

I’ve benefitted in so many ways – everything from hiring consultants and web designers, to connecting with advocates passionate about the same topics that I am. I've been offered a couple jobs, and I’ve even helped host two “tweet-ups”; one for the Canadian Red Cross, the other for my friend Cecile, who is a career coach. I’ve also made tons of new friends – really, REALLY great people.

Twitter works. But it can be a little tricky for some people when they first start out. Stats show that so many people log on, don’t get it and don’t go back. I think it’s because they didn’t take the time to learn it and reap its benefits.

All this to say that every week I am asked (and sometimes I offer) to do free twitter tutorials for people. I’ve had to start saying no to this, simply because I don’t have enough hours in a day.

But, now I’m saying yes! But, it’s not free. If you’re keen to have a twitter tutorial – someone to lean over your shoulder, walk you through the basics and get you going on it, then I’m happy to do so. In return, I ask that you make a donation -the amount is your choice – to the orphanage.

Looking forward to sharing Twitter with you!
Karen -
karensnider@hotmail.com - please put Tweet This in the subject line

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why World Malaria Day Matters

In the weeks before I arrived at the orphanage, the worst happened. Three boys; two babies and one 10-year-old boy died in December, all of them had malaria.

The children had just moved into a new home on 30 acres of land where soon they will learn to farm and become self-sufficient. But, at the time, there was a major problem with mosquitoes that they didn’t know how to control.

The deaths were a shock to the orphanage – never before had they lost so many children at once.

The orphanage hired a nurse to help keep watch of the children on a daily basis and provide them with anti-malarial medication. It prevented any more children from dying. But, it did not stop the illness.

When I got to the orphanage, the women and children were still struggling with the loss of their boys.

There was no question that the mosquitoes were bad in the area. We all slept under bed nets, but the real problem was that the children have their play time at the end of the day when the chores are done – usually at dusk when the mosquitoes come out.
They play soccer in the field with no protection from the bugs.

I honestly don’t know how the babies contract it – they are kept inside almost all day long and they sleep under bed nets.

What we learned while I was there was that the mosquitoes were breeding in the latrines at the back of the buildings. The orphanage, quite simply, was not putting enough of a special solution down the drain to kill them. So, they started adding more to kill off the bugs.

Even still, it’s a problem they will struggle with always. The best we can do is raise funds for the orphanage so that they can purchase the medications they need that prevent malaria from becoming deadly.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Special Post for the Grade 4 class at St. Bernard Catholic School

I had a very nice surprise today. I came home to an envelope stuffed with letters written by the children of Mrs. Berardini’s Grade 4 class at St. Bernard Catholic School.

A few months ago, Kira Neves heard of the orphanage and decided to draw some pictures for the kids in Uganda. I posted a blog about it. Kira printed off that blog and brought it to school to show her classmates during a “Current Events” session. Mrs. Berardini and the other children loved the idea of sending letters and pictures to the orphanage, so they decided to make it a class activity.

Most of the letters are addressed to “Dear Children of Africa.” (I love that!)

In the letters, Mrs. Berardini asked them to include some questions for the kids.

Here are some of the questions:
“What is the temperature outside?” “What is it like in an orphanage?” “Who is taking care of you?” “Do you like to play basketball?” “Are you happy in Africa?” “Does it rain a lot in Africa?” “What part of Africa do you live in?” “What do you like to play?” “What food do you eat?” “Is it hot in Africa?” “Do you go to school?”

All really great questions!

I visited the orphanage in January, so I can tell you a bit about them. The children range in ages from newborn babies all the way up to teenagers. Many of them are the same age as Mrs. Berardini’s Grade 4 class. The children do go to school. Their classes are large – sometimes there are up to 90 children per teacher. The children don’t play basketball, but every night after their chores are done they play soccer in the fields.

The orphanage is in a country called Uganda, and it is hot in Uganda, but not too hot. There are four houses at the orphanage – two for girls and two for boys. In each house there is a woman called a House Mother who looks after the children. Most importantly, the children are indeed very happy!

Thank you to Kira, Nathan, Tonya, Teresa, Alexander, Tevron, Michelle, Aaron, Freddy, Zachary, Elvis, Tiago, Moises and Kassandra for your beautiful drawings and letters. We will be sending them to the orphanage later this month! I know they will enjoy reading your letters and appreciate that they are being thought of.

And a special thank you to Mrs. Berardini for taking the initiative and teaching children to think globally.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

About the Mother's Day Cards

You are probably going to hear us start talking about a very special Mother's Day fundraiser we've got coming up, so I thought to tell you about it now!

I was very fortunate to have Johan from Pikto Gallery (www.pikto.ca) sponsor us in printing high quality photo greeting cards that we are selling for Mother's Day. Pikto is a super great photography store in the Distillery - they do professional photo finishing, camera classes, host photo exhibitions in their gallery, etc. I'm thankful for their support.

Three photo cards
We printed 200 cards with three designs. One is of a House Mother (women who look after the children at the orphanage) with a baby on her back; another is a black and white photo of a House Mother holding a sleeping child in her arms; the last is a group of boys at the orphanage hamming it up for the camera.

There is a note on the back of the card that says proceeds from the cards will go toward a scholarship fund to help the boys and girls of the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre go to school.

A special Mother's Day message
We decided to keep the cards blank inside so that they can be used for any occasion.
I gave one to my friend for her birthday and she loved it.

However, using a special, clear paper, we printed a special Mother's Day message that says:

With the purchase of this card you are
honouring the Ugandan mothers who died
during childbirth and the women who now
take care of their orphaned children.

There are 70 boys and girls at the
Nzirambi Orphan Talent Development Centre;
and seven House Mothers to care for and love them
as if they are their own children.

Thank you for your support. Happy Mother’s Day.

Please donate generously
For the cards, we are asking for a donation of $5, $10, $20 or more.

Please do contact myself, Monica or one of the sellers listed in the previous post if you are interested to make a donation.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Inspired People for an Inspiring Cause

The last few weeks have been a bit of a beehive of activity, so I thought to write a quick blog to update everyone and give a huge shout out to the people who are helping us.

Mother’s Day cards
One thing we are gearing up for is to sell cards for Mother’s Day. The cards have a photo of a House Mother or children on the front (The photo here is one of the ones on the card). Pikto Gallery in the Distillery (www.pikto.ca) gave us 50% off the price so that we could print high quality, super awesome photo cards for this.

We’ve managed to recruit tons of people to help sell them, and so far, we’ve put more than 150 out there. Some of the sellers are:

Jessica Taylor, Aynsley Morris, Jen Mayville, Judy Degagne, Natalie Francis, Nancy Horvath, Lindsay Tipping, Betty Noakes, Farah Ng, Sharon Snider, Kira Neves,Tungi and Nezahat. Kim McCutheon, Monica Kahindo and Cecile Peterkin are also helping to get these cards out into the world!

I’ll have more updates on these soon, or you can email me or Monica for info. If you want to purchase a card – for a donation – contact any of us listed here.

A special delivery
On April 15, Monica and I are sending a suitcase of stuff to the orphanage.

Jen Nehme, who has been following the blog and facebook page, donated a pile of her son’s clothing – we definitely need boys clothes as there are more boys than girls there. Fiona Wagner also offered some clothing, but I’m going to have to include her doantions in our next shipping.

I went to a clothing swap at Carey Toane’s house last weekend and picked up a few more clothing items to send over.

My mom and I couldn’t resist shopping for a few items to send over. The one item that makes me smile most is the Magic Chopper, or whatever that thing is. In Uganda, the women are grinding peanuts with mortars and it takes FOREVER and it also hurts your arms! So I promised when I was there to find something to make that one task a little bit easier. (They make an absolutely delicious stew with the peanuts).

I also heard today that Kira Neves' grade school class was so inspired by the pictures she drew for the orphanage that her entire class is going to write letters and send pictures for the children in Uganda. Way to go, Kira!

Thanks everyone for your support. We're off to a very good start.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Our first contribution to the orphanage this year

Today, Monica and I sent $450 to the orphanage to cover the outstanding school fees for Veronica’s final year of secondary school. Secondary education is not free in Uganda, and Veronica has extra fees because she boards at a school in Kampala, five hours away from the orphanage.

The fees for her school year are about the same amount that was raised through the sale of jewellery. So, for those of you who made a donation for one of the pieces – wear it proudly! You helped send a girl to school.

Also important, is that by making this contribution, we have eased the demands on the orphanage. It means that the UK charity involved can focus more of their funding on child survival – ensuring babies have formula, children have food, medical bills are paid for and that other basic necessities are covered.

This reminds me again of how easy it is to help these children. We only have to give a little for them to receive so much.

Thanks again for your support.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

the fisheye blog

Check out this great video of Lindsay talking about the contest she won and what inspired her to give her donation to the orphanage.

And the winner is....http://fisheyecorp.com/

This example with Lindsay is testament to what we can achieve if we keep telling people about the orphanage by posting notes on facebook, the blog or twitter. It's virtually impossible to not be inspired by these children.

We didn't know Lindsay before she made her donation, but we are really looking forward to having her on board as a volunteer to help us make our scholarship a reality.

It's so easy what we are trying to do. We don't need heaps of cash. But if everyone can just help a little bit - then we'll be successful.

It's going to be a very exciting year for the orphanage fundraising.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The African Vero Collection

On my recent travels through East Africa, I was able to buy/haggle/make trades for hand-made African beads. The beads include amber from Kenya, black and white African batik, hand-made clay from Tanzania, African wood and some very special beads that are made from paper by the women in Uganda.

The result is: The African Vero Collection, named after a 17-year-old girl at an orphanage I volunteered at in Uganda. Veronica is quite possibly one of the most ambitious teenagers I’ve ever met.

When she was just a baby her mother died of AIDS. Her father would not care for her; the youngest of seven siblings and the only girl in the family. She was brought to the orphanage, where she has been raised. Her friends there call her Vero.

Right now she is finishing her final semester of secondary school. Afterward, she plans to attend law school in a Kampala university. She’s smart enough to succeed – she has straight A’s and is the third highest scoring student in her district. The trouble is that there is no funding in place for her university.
What a shame for a young girl with such potential and drive to not be able to go to university because she cannot afford it.

Inspired by Veronica, I’ve started a Scholarship Fund to help her and the other orphaned children achieve higher levels of education. In the coming months, I’ll be talking up a storm about our fundraisers, including a special one for Mother’s Day.

As part of that, I’ve decided to donate ALL of the funds raised from this collection of jewellery to the Scholarship Fund. Because I’m not taking any profit from these sales, the pricing is different. You will see, for each piece, I’ve made a suggested donation price.

You can view photos of the jewellery on:
Facebook - http://groups.to/ksselects
Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/karensniderpix/sets/72157623475622259/

The jewellery was photographed by Patricia Loeppky – she did an incredible job. You can check out her photography on her Facebook page, Patrycja Loeppky Photography. Thank you, Patricia!

Also – thank you to Aynsley Morris who donated some of the beads used in these pieces. She purchased them during recent travels to Kenya and Ethiopia.

If you want to know more about the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre, check out our Facebook group at http://groups.to/orphans

Thank you for your support.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cute Drawings

I wanted to share this great drawing of a snowman by Grade 4 pupil Kira Neves. Kira is 9 and she's drawing Canada's four seasons to send to the kids at the orphanage. I especially like how she writes "snowman" on top of the snowman because, Kira, you're right, there's no snow in Uganda so the kids there have never seen a snowman!

Her older sister Breanne Neves, in Grade 10, is planning to help with orphanage fundraising, and I've heard she already has some incredible ideas.

Thanks to Kira and Breanne!

I'm collecting any drawings or letters written by children to send to the orphanage. Great way to get your little ones involved and thinking of their African peers.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Yours is the only permission you need to go after your own goals

I'm writing this blog to send a huge THANK YOU to Lindsay Tipping and the Toronto ad agency, fisheye, for a donation they made today.

I received an email today informing me that a woman named Lindsay Tipping had entered and won a contest, and was donating the prize of $200 to the orphanage. The contest was held by fisheye (fisheyecorp.com).

I had no idea who Lindsay was or what the contest was. A little digging and I saw that Lindsay is a member of the Facebook group page that we just recently launched for the orphanage (Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre). So I emailed her to find out how she heard of the orphanage.

Her enthusiasm for the orphanage is so infectious that I had to share it.
Here's her response:

Hey Karen,
Yesterday I saw the name of the orphanage on (a friend's) page and wandered over to the facebook page to check it out. Spent about an hour reading your blog and all the info on the orphanage. Was so enchanted and wishing I had a decent chunk of money to donate. And then 'boom', I got news that I won the contest.

At the beginning of the year I went to a 'housewarming' party for fisheye, an ad agency that I work with through my job at Harbourfront Centre. We all had to bring one piece of 'wisdom' that we'd learned in 2009 and one 'want' we had for 2010. My wisdom was "Yours is the only permission you need to go after your own goals." There was then an online vote and I guess my idea resonated with people cause it won!

I was dancing and jumping all over my office when I won and telling everyone about the orphanage. Everyone was really excited and feeling the reality check settle in about the fact that there are so many people out there in the world struggling to just have the basic things we can so often take for granted. Knowing that this little $200 can make a real difference to people is so amazing. And knowing that one little sentence I wrote somehow set this in motion is still blowing my mind. I can't stop smiling!!!


Thanks again, Lindsay. There is a team of us working so hard to build fundraising opportunities for the orphanage, and your unexpected support was a real boost to all of us. I look forward to staying connected with you.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Recruiting bookmark sellers and inspired youth

I've got 40 new bookmarks ready - well 30 now because Jessica Taylor (http://www.intuitiveedge.ca) bought the first 10. But no worries, I've got more in the works, thanks to Cindy Lepine and Monica Kahindo who I've recruited for the bookmark sweat shop.

If you would like one, let me know. It's a $10 donation. If you think you might be able to sell a few - also great! Maybe your work colleagues, friends or family would be interested ins upporting the orphanage this way?

I'd also like to put the call out there to hear from the youth who are keen to get involved. We're building some opportunities for you! We're also looking at ways that you can put in your community service hours for school credit.

For the little ones, I'm collecting drawings and letters that I can send to your peers at the orphanage. I have a few letters I have to write myself to some of the older girls, so I thought this a nice opportunity to get some of the children we know involved. Send me your drawings and letters!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Awesome people supporting an awesome cause

I've been talking online with the woman in the UK who organized the orphanage sponsorship program about where the greatest needs are for any funds I can raise. We agree that an education fund is definitely needed. We started breaking down the costs - and I'd be lying to say it wasn't a little overwhelming. (Can I seriously raise that much money?)

But just when I get a seed of doubt, I got ten times more encouragement as the day went on.

I wanted to give a huge shout out to some people who are helping the fundraise forge ahead! Cindy Lepine and Monica have volunteered to come over tomorrow night and learn how to make bookmarks. I really need help with this because it was a killer trying to make all those bookmarks for Xmas! I've had quite a few people ask for them since I've come home. Also, my awesome Aunt Judy in Midland has offered to sell "as many as she can" for us.

I went to the shops today to pick up the supplies. I got talking to the girls at Fancy Beads on Queen Street about the orphanage. They are keen to get involved and have offered to donate some of the personal jewelry pieces to raise funds. AND - while I was there, I met Tony who runs Sully's Boxing Gym (and also is a jewelry designer). He overheard our conversation and offered to let us use his space if ever we want to do an event. It's a very cool space and a world-famous boxing gym - even Ali and George Chuvalo have trained there! So who knows what the possibilities are!

And the best part of the day was that my long-time friend, Bernard Petersen, who lives in Boston offered to cover the costs of ALL of the supplies. I bought enough for another 100 bookmarks, so that means another $1000 for the orphanage. **Awesome -Thank you B!


Saturday, February 20, 2010

A letter from yoneki

Monica brought this letter home from Uganda addressed to me from one of the teenagers at the orphanage. The orphanage doesn't have email, so it was hand-written. I received it today and wanted to share it with you because it’s something very special to me, and because it’s just so cute! It’s a real honour to know that she is thinking of me and that I have made an impact – if only just a small one – in this girl’s life.

The letter is from Yoneki, who I called Unique, because she is indeed unique! At age 15, Yoneki has grown up in the orphanage and you could easily mistake her for a House Mother. She never stopped working – preparing food, laundry, gardening and caring for the babies. She was a natural care-taker and I would not be surprised if she one day goes on to be a nurse or a teacher. Yoneki was the eldest girl in my house and so I got to spend a lot of time with her – helping her in her chores. She is in her senior fourth level at school – she has a few years left before she thinks of university or vocational training.

Hello Karen,

How are you now that you are in Canada? To me, my life is not very well because you left me! Thank you for the letter you wrote me, I received it. Karen, in the letter you promised that you would be hearing from me in the future, but how and by what means? I don’t think I will hear from you unless you come to Uganda or if you send me your phone number.

In your letter, I really thank you for saying that you think I am a special girl.
The day you left I had a dream that you were hugging me and then I cried. But my mind told me that if I cried it means you shall one day come back to Uganda.
Thanks goes to you for all of the good things you helped me with at (the orphanage) in Uganda.

Greetings in love to all of your friends in Canada.
Love from your brothers and sisters in NOTDEC, especially Ellen.
Wishing you the best in your work. I hope to hear from you. I miss you very much.

Best wishes, from Yoneki.


I'm just home from Ottawa feeling even more inspired about the orphanage fundraising after talking to my colleague, Evelyne. She told me that before Christmas her husband and daughters talked together and decided to make a contribution to the orphanage to purchase a bed. Evelyne and her daughters are now brainstorming ways that they can mobilize others in Ottawa to help.

I met her daughter tonight - an amazing, bright, ambitious young woman - who told me she is taking a year off school to do volunteer projects and would love the opportunity to go to the orphange. You go girl! Do it!!

The young women at the orphanage, many her own age, would be thrilled to have her there - how incredible of an opportunity to connect with others your own age, but your situations are polar opposites.

If anyone else keen to do a volunteer experience, keep the orphanage in mind.

I've been blown away by the generosity of my friends and family who have offered to help. There is more I will soon share. And I'm going to start outing all of you who keep inspiring me to go further with this. You are propelling this fundraiser forward.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Going forward, next steps for fundraising

Going forward:

I wanted to thank you again for supporting the fundraiser and share with you information on how our funds were used, not only to buy furniture, but to help in a crisis situation. It turned out that our money arrived just as the orphanage was running out of food and baby formula. I’ve put more details on how our funds were used in the attached document.

Many of you said that you would like to make a donation or buy a bookmark, but we didn’t get the chance to connect before I left. Now’s your chance! Please contact me if you are still keen.

Since returning from Uganda, many people have asked me: “Wasn’t it sad to see those children?”

The answer is no, I didn’t feel sad. Frustrated at times, but mostly, the orphanage was inspiring.

I continue to be inspired by so many of you that have told me you would like to continue to support the orphanage. We have a real TANGIBLE opportunity here to make an enormous difference in a child’s life. There is a church group in the UK currently running a sponsorship program to pay for the children’s education, food and living expenses. The sponsorship is working, but there are other areas of need.

Some of the areas that I will be focusing on to raise funds for are:

· SCHOLARSHIP FUND: This will be a scholarship program for the orphanage’s youth who are preparing to go to university. The only thing stopping them is not being able to pay for it. We can help change the perpetual cycle of poverty for these children by funding their post-secondary education.

· DONATING USED CLOTHING, TOYS, Etc: I am currently building a list of items that we can send to the orphanage to help them. Items will include clothing for boys, toys, eye glasses, paper, pens, etc., that we can send to them.

I’m currently preparing documentation to turn this into a solid fundraising program. I’m also recruiting a team of like-minded souls who will help to champion this cause. Please do let me know if you’d like to get involved. If you are interested to keep getting updates about fundraisers, please do let me know.

Otherwise, I hope that you will continue to support our fundraising efforts – bookmarks and some other new items are in the works!

Thank you again. You all reminded me that if we all give just a little, we really can make an impact.


How our funds helped the children

How our money helped the 70 children at the Nzirambi Orphan Talent Development Centre A Miracle When I first arrived at the orphanage, I learned that the orphanage had run out of money in the middle of December. The orphanage is sponsored by a church group in the UK, but there had been a problem with the Ugandan banking and the money got tied up for two months. They were scrambling to find funds to pay for food for the children and formula for the babies. Auntie Milly, who helps run the orphanage, says our money was like a miracle to them. I wired six million shillings (the equivalent to $3,50CDN) to them in mid December. If I had of known there was a problem, I would have sent money sooner instead of leaving it in a box in my drawer – as I did while I was collecting your funds. But the orphanage, I think, was too proud to ask. Furniture I was able to see first-hand how our money was used. We bought ALL of the beds for the youngest babies – our beds are distinguished from the others because they have been painted white. In the house where I stayed with the youngest babies, there are sturdy couches which we paid for. It means the women don’t have to sit on the floor while they are holding crying, hungry babies. It also makes the home feel more like a home. A young carpenter was working on site to build more of the couches for the other homes as well. Small tables were also purchased, along with plastic chairs for the homes. The Prisoners/ Agriculture One morning I woke up to find a line up of about 30 prisoners in yellow uniforms working in the field outside of my window. The orphanage sits on 30 acres of land, which they are working to develop and prepare for farming. The hope is that the orphanage will one day become sustainable and grow most of its own food, and maybe have some left over to sell. The prisoners were hired with our funds. They provide cheap labour and in return mass amounts of land was hoed and grass cut, ready for planting.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The babies

The babies
When I arrived, the home was still grieving the loss of three children - two were babies - who died in December due to illness, most likely malaria. The children died just two weeks before Christmas.

I stayed in the home where the majority of babies were kept – in all, I think there were about 6 of them under the age of 2. At least one baby stays in each of the houses as the House Mothers try to share the workload of caring for the youngest at the orphanage.

When I was there, the youngest was Baby Steven – he was born on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day he was found in a garbage dump and brought to the orphanage.

Baby Abigail was baptized on the last Sunday I was there, and after her baptism her House Mother brought her to the hospital. I’m still not sure what’s happened to her or why she was ill.

Baby Rafiki George who I cradled one morning for hours trying to stop his crying was also brought to the hospital that same day.

But, the day after the baptism, a new baby, Baby Jimmy, was brought home from the hospital. I didn’t even know about him! He had been brought to the orphanage before I arrived, but immediately admitted to hospital and was only returning now. I got to meet the sweet little baby, wrapped up in blankets, sleeping soundly and overall, doing well.

Another baby, we determined while I was there, is quite possibly deaf – or maybe autistic. We tried to bang pots to catch his attention, but the child is completely unresponsive. He never cries, never moves – never makes a sound. If tests reveal his hearing is fine and he is not autistic, then it is likely that the child is in shock after losing his mother – sadly, not uncommon for many of these babies.

If it is determined he has serious health issues, I’m not sure how the orphanage will manage the medical costs involved....?

The babies are so vulnerable – and sadly, many of them do not make it because they are so ill when they are brought to the orphanage. However, most do survive and they live in the orphanage until they have grown and finished school. They are incredible children.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Daily Grind of the Orphanage

I promised some of you – and myself – that when I had access to a computer, I would update the blog about the orphanage. Now, I’d like to backtrack and in the upcoming blogs, I will introduce you to some of the children and their life at the orphanage, tell you how our money was used and some ideas I have for future fundraising. I’m practically bursting at the seams to share my idea...but, first things first.

The orphanage.

There are four houses here and in each one there are almost 20 people – the houses were built with the donations of a Christian group in the UK. The boys are kept separate then the girls, and there are many more boys then there are girls. The kids range in age from newborns up to 20 years old - the older kids have spent their entire lives in the orphanage.

The older children (and by older, I mean anyone older then 5) help with chores. I was there during their school break and all day long, the children would work. They cook, clean, do laundry and feed the babies. How strange it is to see a 7-year-old girl pick up a crying two-week-old and stick a bottle in its mouth (while she is sucking her own thumb). None of them complained about chores.

The house where I slept is where most babies are kept. At the time, there were about 8 babies. The youngest was Baby Steven, born Christmas Day. He was brought to the orphanage on Boxing Day when someone found him in a garbage dump.

In each house, there is a House Mother. These women work non-stop. There is a perpetual cycle of laundry, dishes, floors to scrub, cooking, babies to bathe, bottles to prepare....It’s almost impossible to explain the amount of work that goes into caring for 70 children (without the convenience of washing machines, dishwashers, microwaves, etc).

I tried my best to help out where possible – peeling matoke (bananas with a thick sap that make them difficult to peel), grinding groundnuts with mortars for stew, hanging laundry, digging out weeds in the yard, washing dishes (constantly washing dishes) and sweeping the floor. Every morning, I would make all of the baby beds. One morning, I held baby Rafiki George for three hours trying to soothe him. The poor boy was taken to hospital just a few days later with illness that had not been determined while I was still there.

In the evenings, the children would gather in one house for prayers, singing, dancing and drumming. Afterwards, they would huddle around a TV that was donated to them. There is no cable, but they have a donated DVD player and it runs off a solar-powered generator. It’s their one small luxury.

Some of the older kids would sit out front of the house talking – as older kids always do. I would try to join them most nights. They wanted to know what life was like in Canada, did I go to university, or how often did I plait my hair (!!!). I wanted to know what they dreamed to do, what school was like, where their fathers were and what they planned for the future. These evening were some of my favourite times at the orphanage.

I’m home now and my days are getting back to normal – work, internet, exercise, walks with Shelby, visiting friends and family. I’ve had three caramel apple spices from Starbucks since I’ve been home Meanwhile, I know nothing has changed there. The perpetual cycle of work and struggling to survive and get ahead continues....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Case for Clean Water

It's been almost a week since I've been home, but I'm still recovering. Turns out I brought a nasty little parasite home from the orphanage. I've been to the doctor three times and purchased about $100 in medicines to cure all of the havoc the little pest has wreaked.

But the sad reality is that I got to come home and get better and the children are still there. These kids are not immune to such illnesses. In fact, the children are dying because of sickness in their bellies or from malaria.

In the month of December, three children died before Christmas. As a result, the orphanage scrounged funds together to pay for a young man, right out of nursing school, to come and live with them so that he could monitor the children every day.

And so every day, there is a line-up at his desk as he dishes out medications. No more children have died. But three babies were admitted to a nearby hospital while I was there.

The reason appears to be a lack of clean water. There is no running water or electricity at the orphanage. Instead, they fill buckets of jerry cans with mucky water from a nearby river. Or they catch the rain in tanks.

For two years, Unicef has been telling them they will help them dig clean water wells. But, it hasn't happened yet.

I know the orphanage is working hard to bring running water to the new homes. But, it's a matter of money -- always a matter of money.

Hard reality to face when I'm standing at my kitchen sink....I think it just strengthens to continue raising funds and doing what little I can to help them.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Introducing some of the children by photos

I'm finally able to upload some photos, so you can see some of the cuties your donations have helped.


Hi - I wanted to introduce you to NOTDEC UK - This registered charity is specifically raising funds for the Nzirambi Orphan Talent Development Centre in Uganda. It started with a group of church members raising money and has grown from there. NOTDEC has recruited a sponsor for each child at the orphanage, ensuring that food, school and medicine fees can be covered.
It's because of their generosity that the children have the new homes to live in, as NOTDEC raised funds for and helped build the new houses.

Monday, January 18, 2010

the feast, right to play

Great day yesterday, the House Mothers at the orphanage dressed in their fine African dresses, lots of food for the children to eat - overall a great celebration to mark the "official opening" of the orphanage. A special day considering just a few months ago all of the kids were crammed into one house -- and that the very first orphans lived with Aunt Dorothy in a grass-thatched home.
A church group from the UK has sponsored the children and paid for the construction of four new buildings for them. The homes are great - except there is no electricity and running water -- an issue that desperately needs to be sorted out. (They are working on it....)
Some of the children are falling ill, likely because of it. To help this, a nursing student has been hired (for a small fee) to live at the home and check on the children daily.
It's obvious the home has come so far - but the need is still great in so many ways.
One thing I'm eager to inquire about is whether Right to Play is interested to sponsor toys for the children (as there are virtually none). Anyone have any contacts there?
I'm also going to check with Bikes without Borders about getting more bicycles or parts for repair!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

the orphanage

I have finally arrived! I've been here for four days - and to say that my first day here was overwhelming would be an understatement. I'll write some more, shorter blogs soon. Right now, internet is a scarcity - actually, there are barely computers here and even many of the older children still do not even have an email address.

Tomorrow is the "official" opening of the orphanage - in fact, it has been going on for more than 20 years, but generous donations from a group called NOTDEC in the UK have raised funding to build the fancy new houses you see in the picture below. For the event, I was able to help write a speech to be read by the chairman. I thought I'd post it because it gives you the history of this orphanage, and Dorothy, the real hero behind the orphanage. In my following blogs, I'll tell you how our donations are being used, introduce you to some of the children - and tell you where the need still lies.

One child here is only a few weeks old. He was found left in a pile of garbage on Christmas Day. He has survived and seems to be doing well now. Each of the children here has their own story - I can't wait to share it with you.

The Speech:
This orphanage is the calling of Dorothy Nzirambi.

Dorothy took her first child in more than 20 years ago while she was still living in a grass-thatched house. She has always been a natural care-giver.

When she was 15, Dorothy, who dropped out of school because she could not afford school fees, was given the responsibility of caring for the two children of her elder siblings.

She raised four children on her own after her husband was killed in 1978 during the regime of Idi Amin. She took work at the Kagando hospital where she witnessed the death of many mothers in the labour room – this is a problem that continues and is the reason most of our children are with us today.

It was in 1984 that Dorothy had a vision to read the Book of James, Chapter One, Verse 27, which says: “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God, our father, means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”

The very next day, she visited the maternity ward at Kagando Hospital. She learned that two men had taken home a two day old baby after the mother had died. There were concerns, the child would die in their care. Outside, Dorothy found the two men and the baby, all of them crying. The men told her they wished the child had died.

Dorothy knew this was the message she was meant to receive. She took the child to her home and prayed t God: “Here is the child I have nothing to give. Bring mana from heaven as you fed the Israelites in the desert for this baby.” The baby was fed that night with a cup of breast milk collected from new mothers at the hospital.

Word spread that Dorothy was taking in children and this is the humble beginnings of the orphanage.

In 1989, Dorothy met Dr. Hodges, who eventually adopted one of the children, Rachel Hodges. By this time, Dorothy was caring for 15 children, still in the grass-thatched home. Then in 1996, she met a Swiss woman, Eleanore Wismer, who decided to finance a new house for the children. In 1998, Dorothy finally left the grass-thatched home and moved to a brick house in Kasinga. By this time, Dorothy’s sister, Milly, also began working with the orphanage.

A few years later, friends of Dr. Hodges, Janet and Antony Johnston visited the orphanage and were inspired to mobilize their church to raise funds. The Kasinga house was becoming too small and so it was decided that new homes were needed. It is because of the generosity of our partners in the UK that we were able to buy the land that you see here – 30 acres. With expertise in construction, John Leftley, and his wife, Carlee, came from the UK to help build the four houses.

St. Paul’s Church has also created a program so that all of the 70 children here has a sponsor who helps pay for education, day-to-day expenses and medicine.

These four houses were built over nine months. The plan is to have another four houses built here to accommodate the growing number of children. The remaining land we will use for growing food.
etc, etc...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I'm in Uganda now -- we did a very quick trip to Bwindi National Park to see the mountain gorillas. We had to trek up a mountainous hill, but thankfully there was a porter behind me to help push my rump up the slope:)

We found three gorillas in the trees, one silverback, two young ones.

At one point the silverback came down from the tree and came about six steps behind me - then he plopped himself down and watched us watching him. It was incredible! The photos are amazing, but I can't post any yet!

I've been reading Gorillas in the Mist and feel so grateful to Dian Fossey - all of the things she did -- learn how to track gorillas, make them comfortable around humans and promote tourism and conservation is exactly what is being done now.

Anyone up for a Gorillas in the Mist movie date when I get back??

Monica's brother, Morris, is coming to pick me up in Kampala tomorrow and then we make the 6 hour trip to the village of Kasese where the orphanage is.

Can't wait to send you updates!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Nairobi Nursery - for elephants

In Nairobi now, getting ready to head to Uganda for gorilla trekking and then on to the orphanage.

Yesterday, I visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant sanctuary. They've rescued about 80 elephants and I had the chance to see bout 15 of them, ranging in age from just a few months to a few years.

The elephants are so awkward on their feet - clumsy. They kept falling over, some could barely get back up.

Most of the elephants are victims of poaching - either they have been injured in snares or orphaned when their mothers were killed. As babies, they are so delicate and the keepers stay with them 24 hours a day to help them grow. They are fed with oversized bottles of baby formula.

When they are old enough they are released into the wild - the elephants decide for themselves when they want to go - and often come back to visit the nursery.

More info can be found here: www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org. It's definitely worth a quick peek!

Say NO to ivory.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Serengeti

I created this blog to update from the orphanage - but I just returned from a 3 days bush camping trip in the Serengeti, and it's too incredible not to write about, so here goes:

I’m not sure anyone has proper words to describe the Serengeti (perhaps other than Ernest Hemingway). It’s magical. Surreal. You’re driving along and it feels like you are in a live National Geographic documentary.

The plains are flat, endless and at this time of the year, they are green. The occasional acacia tree dots the landscape. The sky feels unusually low, leaving the mirage of such a short distance between the land and the clouds.

With a group of five others, we drove through in a Land Rover with the roof popped open so that we could stand on our seats for a clear view. Before we even reached the Serengeti boundaries, the landscape was overwhelmed with wildebeest and zebra.

Every year, the wildebeest – 1.5 million of them – migrate in search of food and water as the seasons change in East Africa. I was blessed with the chance to see part of the migration, which I first saw many years ago in an IMAX film.

The animals had just finished the migration from the north to greener pastures in the south. It is truly one of the most incredible things I have seen. Thousands and thousands of these ugly browns animals dotted the plains for as far as your eyes could see.

Zebra and antelope migrate as well, but in smaller numbers. The zebra are simply magical. Their black and white stripes are a stark contrast to the rest of the Serengeti’s beasts.

I was also fortunate to be there at the time of year when zebra give birth. I saw many young zebra – still shaky on their already long legs – suckling their mothers. I spotted one mother licking her babe’s coat, cleaning it.

I saw other babies too: baby lion cubs laying with a lioness, two baby warthogs chasing after their parents with fast but stumpy legs, even a baby rhino.
But, the most fun to watch were the baby baboons. Three of them with a group of adults, playing, chasing each other, rolling in the grass.

I was also lucky to see two young lions laying on the side of the dirt road used by safari vehicles. We were so close that the lens on our camera could pick up distinct details in their paws and fur. They looked like they were cuddling, spooning. So lazy in the heat and probably full from their nightly hunt. And – oddly enough – so disinterested in our jeep full of tourists gawking at them. They knew they were there, looking up at us occasionally.

I could go on and on…but “TIA” This is Africa, and the odds of me losing power and losing this note are not in my favour.

Internet too slow. Photos to come!

As a side note – if anyone has any tidbits, facts or recommendations on where to get good info on the Masai tribe, please leave some comments here.
Only a short time now until I reach the orphanage – feeling happy, healthy and really looking forward to it.