Category Archives: Comet House

All in the family :-)

Comet House was born from the heart and soul of the Gituku family.    Ann and her brother Fredrick, together with their parents, Teresiah and Steven, created this very special home to provide food, clothing, shelter, and school fees for some of the poorest children from their village.  Teresiah and Ann began the outreach several years ago, when they started serving meals to children in need, and Fredrick has led service projects (with volunteers from Atlanta) since 2008 through the 501(c)3 organization that he co-founded,  Mtoto Africa.

My personal interest in Kenya began two years ago, when William Gituku (Fredrick’s son, now a rising fourth grader) was in my first-grade class at Westminster Schools.  He’s a wonderful boy, and I got to know his parents quite well.  His mother (Christy) is from Atlanta and his father (Fredrick) is from Kenya.  Our class learned a lot about Kenyan culture that year (including learning how to make soccer balls from newspaper and grocery bags!) and together we earned a bit of money to send soccer balls and books to a school in Fredrick’s village.   Here is a video that tells that story — Exploring Kenya in First Grade

This past year, William’s younger sister Marjorie was in my class and my desire to travel to Kenya deepened.  When I was invited to chaperone my school’s exchange program to Mount Kenya Academy, I jumped at the chance.  My whole first grade team (4 classes, 8 teachers, 80 students) got involved, and all of us learned a lot about the animals and habitats of Africa, as well as the culture of Kenya.

When school let out for the summer, I had the incredible opportunity to spend three weeks in Kenya, where I met Fredrick’s sister and parents.  Here’s just a little bit about each of them —

Fredrick’s younger sister Ann is truly a Wonder Woman.  She is raising two beautiful children (Hailey, age 7, and Jeremy, age 2) while also working full-time for the PCEA Outreach Foundation in Kikuyu.  Ann’s home and farm are a model of sustainability, and she served as the general contractor for the building of Comet House — in her free time :-)  Ann’s nature is quiet (but friendly), hardworking, and unassuming… and the boys adore her.Ann1open house

Ann's shamba, with livestock pens in the background
Ann’s shamba, with livestock pens in the background, and her house on the right. Manure produced on-site generates power for cooking and lighting in the house.
Ann and Fredrick supervise homework
Ann and Fredrick check homework after school
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At the open house, Ann reminded visitors… “Our gates are open… These kids are our kids.”

Fredrick and Ann’s mother, Teresiah, is the salt of the earth.  She cares for the boys of Comet House as though they are her own grandchildren.  Teresiah is a wonderful cook, and she seems most happily at home in the kitchen.  I watched her effortlessly manage 3 stoves (two inside and one outside) at the same time, and I looked forward to every meal (and the chai tea) that she served us.  The boys call her “ShoSho” (‘grandmother’ in Kikuyu) with greatest affection.  Not surprisingly, Teresiah is a very active member of the Women’s Guild at her Church.

Supervising laundry...
Supervising laundry…
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ShoSho’s outdoor kitchen — cooking over an open fire is second nature to her
Saying prayers before our snack...
Saying prayers before morning tea time
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Bread with butter and a full cup of milk — a mid-morning snack at Comet House provides as much (or more) nutrition as the boys typically received in a full day at their family homes.
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ShoSho is at home in the kitchen!
Teresiah, walking home (and carrying a full load) after a day at Comet House
Teresiah walking home (and carrying a heavy load) after a full day at Comet House
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The Comet House boys eat a LOT of cabbage — and keep Teresiah busy!
Steven, Fredrick, and Teresiah Gituku
Steven, Fredrick, and Teresiah Gituku

Steven Gituku played an essential role in supervising the digging of the deep-bore well that will provide clean water (as well as a source of income) to Comet House in the future. I first met  Steven while he was slaughtering a goat on the morning of the of the Comet House Open House.  He was eager to teach the traditions to the children, and he seemed delighted to share them with me as well.  (Without getting too graphic, let’s just say that each body part has a particular purpose…)   1-steven 3-steven 4-steven 5-steven 6-steven 7-steven 9-steven

Fredrick is Ann’s older brother, and although he now lives in Atlanta he returns to Kenya frequently and is committed to doing what he can to improve the lives of his fellow Kenyans.  As Ann pointed out many times, their’s is  “a small town… where everyone knows everyone”, and after spending 3 weeks in Kenya I can assure you that absolutely everyone knows Fredrick!   I feel so lucky to have gotten to know this wonderful family, and I am so grateful to all of them for making me feel right at home in Kenya.  

If you're ever riding anywhere with Fredrick, be prepared to stop and chat with someone at every corner.  If you're riding in a car behind Fredrick (as I was on this trip), be prepared to stop and wait.
If you’re ever riding in a car with Fredrick, be prepared to stop and chat with someone at every corner. If you’re riding in a car behind Fredrick (as I was on this trip), be prepared to stop and wait :-)
Fredrick is a leader in his community, and was welcomed to speak in Church while we were there
Fredrick is a leader in his community, and was welcomed to speak in Church while we were there.
Fredrick and Ann had two brothers who have passed away.  Fredrick and I spent time with his brother's children (Tracy and Steven) on visiting day at Tracy's boarding school.
Fredrick and Ann had two “middle” brothers who have since passed away. Fredrick and I spent the afternoon with one of his brother’s children (Tracy and Steven) on visiting day at Tracy’s boarding school.
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The Comet House boys look up to Fredrick, and he took many opportunities to offer guidance to them.

 

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Fredrick proudly introduced the boys at the Open House, and encouraged everyone present to help help look after them.

 

A labor of love

On Monday, June 2nd, we began the process of “finishing” much of the cosmetic work at Comet House.  The structure was in place, and it was already big and bright – so our job was to paint every surface and to help organize the contents.  Monday was a school holiday (Kenyan Independence Day), so we were able to begin with a group prayer including the boys.  What followed were days (and days and days!) of painting, carpentry,  landscaping — and even a lumber delivery via donkey cart.  Our goal was to be ready in time for the Open House on Saturday.  Click on any picture to view the slideshow.

There will still be lots of projects to finish after we’ve gone.  Interior ceilings will need to be installed, along with bathroom sinks and showers, a pump for the well, additional water tanks, and so many other things.  Those projects will have to wait for donations to fund them — but Comet House has already begun to feel like home to the boys who live there.

Extreme Makeover: Kenya Edition

The boys of Comet House had watched us working and painting all week, but they had no idea what we had in store for them before the Dedication Ceremony.   We sent them outside to play on Saturday morning, and set about finishing our projects before calling them in for ‘the big reveal.’

On Friday, the seven boys had only three backpacks between them — but none had working  zippers.  They didn’t know that Nancy and Ethel had brought brand new backpacks for each of them from Atlanta — and the looks on their faces when they found their new book bags filled with school supplies were priceless.

These boys were used to sharing inch-long stubs of pencils, so having brand-new pencils, erasers, sharpeners, rulers, and writing journals of their own was a whole new experience.

Our second surprise for the boys was new towels, washcloths,  and toothbrushes for each of them.  They had been used to sharing an assortment of cleaning supplies, so having their own hooks and baskets was exciting!

toothbrushes, before
toothbrushes, before
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toiletries, after

Our final surprise was the for the boys was the transformation of their shared bedroom.  Each had a new set of sheets, and their very first pillow (ever!)  We’d also hung curtains on the windows, and filled their newly-built cubbies and baskets with clothes and shoes.  They were thrilled!  (Click on any picture to view the slideshow)

It takes a village

On Saturday, June 7,  after cooking, cleaning, hanging curtains, and other finishing touches — including setting up chairs and a tent that were delivered via donkey cart! — we welcomed families, friends, and supporters to bless the future of Comet House and its residents.  More than fifty people came — and sang, and prayed, and ate — and toured the house to see all that had been accomplished.  It was a great day for all — except, perhaps, the goat :-)  Thank you to everyone who made this amazing celebration possible!  open house 1 open house 2 open house 3 open house 4 open house 5 open house 6 open house 7 open house 8 open house 9 open house 10 open house 11 open house 12 open house 13 open house 14,jpg open house 15 open house 16 open house 17 open house 18 open house 19 open house 20 open house 21

Meet the boys of Comet House

The boys of Comet House
The boys of Comet House

The service mission of my trip was to help establish a home for boys in Kikuyu, Kenya — and here are the first seven boys to call Comet House “home”.  First row, left to right:  Peter, Wycliff, Joseph, Edwin, Brian, Ian, Morris.  Back row:  Jenn, Andrea, Ethel, Nancy, Parker.  Below, click on any picture to open the slideshow… 

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Fredrick with the Comet House boys