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  • Writer's picturePeter Demko

January 13

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Nairobi, Kenya Jan 13, 2023:  

Today is our last full day in Kenya as part of this latest SHGO trip to our partners in Sierra Leone and Kenya.  Tomorrow we begin our long journey home to RI and MA.  We are all tired, a bit in need of a full nights sleep, and to be with family and loved ones back home.  And, our work back at Seven Hills awaits us all.  

This morning was spent meeting with a group of families participating with one of our Kenyan partners, Pastor Samuel Kariuki and his brother Roman from FOCUS Dream Center.  There we met and listened to their stories in overcoming difficult life circumstances while pursuing educational opportunities for themselves and their children. The cost of food throughout Africa - but particularly in Sierra Leone and Kenya- has skyrocketed in the past year with the cost of rice going up 70% in some rural parts of the country.  Poor families can’t afford this cost increase and so Mothers will eat only one meal a day so that their children can be fed. And so today we passed out contributions of rice, flour, and other staples to a number of families in need.  It’s more than humbling to look into the eyes of hungry mothers asking for food.  Several photos in todays photo gallery are of Marissa, Isaac, and Andy distributing food items.  From there we traveled out to another long term SHGO partner- Children's Garden; home to 500 orphans founded and operated by a former orphan Moses Ngundu.  Moses is an amazing man who loves and cares for all of the children there as he would his own children. Walking through the campus / residence children ceaselessly call out to him “Daddy Moses” as we walk reminiscing about my last visit with him 2 years ago and marveling at the increase in orphans placed with him and his wife.  Nairobi, like any large and growing city in Africa, is facing tremendous challenges as global economies are struggling due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and inflation broadly effects poorer nations.  Food price increases, energy cost spikes, populations in under resourced countries burgeoning and a host of other pressures are tearing families apart in the developing world and the abandonment of children - or the loss of parents due to conflict or disease- is one of many tragic outcomes.  Children's Garden is trying to do as much as humanly possible to address this social crisis , with help from Seven Hills.  

Late this afternoon and into the early evening we met with Dr Joseph Lenai, a former Maasai tribesman who became a medical doctor in Kenya and now works the Ministry of Health in coordinating international collaborations and partnerships. Dr Lenai has been following the work of Seven Hills Global Outreach over the years and reached out to us during this trip to ask if we might establish a public-private partnership with the Ministry which could hopefully lead to sending to Seven Hills hundreds of Kenyan young people as work-study candidates.  

He then took us to an older hospital that he and his wife are converting to one of Kenya’s only inpatient / outpatient behavioral health facility.  Behavioral healthcare is a relatively new treatment service in Kenya and so Dr Lenai is asking for the help of Seven Hills Behavior Health Inc in guiding / advising this venture.  We arrived back at our guest house at 9:00 pm a bit weary, but excited about our many experiences and accomplishments in Kenya over the past 4 days.   

My admiration and appreciations to Isaac, Marissa, Andy and Peter for maintaining their good humor and work ethic over these past 10 days.  In Sierra Leone we furthered our work in organizing the new Seven Hills sponsored community library, broke ground on a new rural school we are building with donor funds in a rural bush village, engaged with our two existing schools, medical clinic, and water & sanitation initiatives which serves 26 bush villages.

We also began work with a local village on constructing a new bridge over a dangerous river. One of the highlights of our time in Sierra Leone was in our support of our 11 year partner

Pastor Michael Kanu in dedicating a new church.  

In Kenya, our primary effort was spent in completing the work on the design selection of a new primary school for children in grades 1-3 SHGO is building for our partner in a slum called #Kibera.

#Kibera is Africa's largest slum and is otherworldly to walk through.  We also spent time with our key partner in East Africa , FOCUS Dream Center as they create desperately needed models of care for the very poor.

My hope in meeting with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and meeting with the wife of Kenya’s Vice President will lead to new work study employees coming to Seven Hills Foundation in the months ahead.  

And at the risk of overstating it once again - I could not be more proud of this January’s SHGO team of Marissa Ruff, Peter Demko , Andy Graham, and Isaac Adusu for spending inordinately long days and working into each evening reflecting on our work.  We are all exhausted but would not trade this experience for anything. And as for me, since starting SHGO in 2009 with a few Seven Hills staff and several of my former Clark University students we yearly impact the lives of over 24,000 men, women and children in 8 countries - doing everything possible to represent our own Seven Hills staff and the diaspora they represent.  Out of our 4700 employees, Seven Hills is made up of over 2500  first generation immigrants from 53 countries around the world and we collectively owe so much to their loyalty and the compassion they give to our students , clients, and patients.  It’s in recognition of them that SHGO was started in 2009 and why I have continued to travel to remote parts of our world - a time or two a year- as we develop healthcare, educational, and other services intended to uplift the poor.  SHGO has always been and continues to be a demonstration of our collective “better angels."  I look forward to returning home to Massachusetts tomorrow but will hold on to the memories of the faces of the hundreds of women and children we have met over the past 10 days.  

Dr David A Jordan

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