I can never decide the best way to start these annual trip newsletters that I like to write after returning from Kenya each time. I know I just sent out a year end letter describing some of the activities and progress made in 2016, so I will make this newsletter briefer than normal. The team this time was the biggest ever with 10 people. I’ll admit that with the six different itineraries of folks traveling there I was a bit worried about the logistics of getting everyone to Kisii together. In the end everything worked out as it usually does. We had no missing people (although there was a couple of tight connections due to delayed flights) and only 3 missing pieces of luggage (which arrived the following day).

In the first 4 days we split into 3 teams each day and went to different vaccination sites and vaccinated around 2000 cows and goats for foot and mouth disease (thank goodness we don’t have that disease here in the USA) and around 150 dogs and cats for rabies. Both diseases are endemic in Kenya and obviously pose serious health threats to their health and livelihood. In fact, the Boscovet Project has vowed to take a more active role in Kisii County by promoting rabies vaccinations for all dogs and cats and by leading the way through sponsorship of additional rabies vaccination clinics. After those 4 very busy days, the team members took a well deserved break. Some headed to see the beautiful scenery and fantastic wildlife of the Masai Mara National Game Preserve only a 3 hour drive away. Others went to visit the beautiful Suringa Island Resort on the shores of the beautiful and huge Lake Victoria. Church services with Pastor John’s congregation again on Sunday followed by home visits finished out the weekend.

There were several major highlights of the trip this time. We heard more inspiring stories of villagers grasping the vision that the Boscovet Project has shared over the past 9 years. As we visited the homes of Rose and Jemima where new wells had been recently placed, we saw the difference clean water makes in the lives of these families and the other one hundred people at each well location that now not only have clean water but don’t have to spend 4-6 hours out of every day, day in and day out, walking to get water and carrying it back home. Jemima and Jane (another recipient of a well) both said that an additional benefit has been the development of .a sense of community among the families who share the water coming from the well. Much like here in our neighborhoods, everyone pretty much keeps to themselves – but water will bring families together.

Another highlight was hearing that the Boscovet Hope Academy continues to attract more and more children from the surrounding hillside villages around Masongo. Even though we lost our inestimable principal, Joab, to a higher paying position with the county the mark he left on our school will last forever. He brought much needed order and organization and leadership to our school and will be sorely missed. A search is now underway for a new principal to lead our school. We received many applications as the word is out that the Boscovet Hope Academy is providing an excellent education to area children. In fact, our students test scores place our school #1 among the public schools in our area. We have received a lot of interest from families in Kisii city who want to send their children to the Boscovet Hope Academy but have no easy way of getting them there. So we have decided to purchase a van and establish a “bus” route to the city ad pick up and bring home these children.

We also made time to stop by the local village medical clinic in Masongo. Since they provide medical services to many people in the area who cannot afford to go the hospital in town, we felt it was important to support their work. Thanks to donations by nurses who have heard about the work we do there, I am constantly getting medical supplies dropped off at the vet clinic. Between those donations and those made by Safe Harbor Free Clinic who donates their just outdated drugs, we can supply a lot of the supplies used at the clinic. Thanks to extra monetary donations we were able to bring an additional 100 pounds of much needed medical supplies for them to use. Many times their cupboards are bare of the most simple but essential supplies. We brought over Tylenol for children, aspirin, antibiotics, diabetes medications, bandage supplies, diabetes test kits, suture materials, and much more. It is amazing what you can fit in those totes. The nurse that staffs the place was so appreciative. Especially since the doctors were all out on strike for higher pay, she had emptied her shelves taking care of everyone.

Another bit of extra luggage we packed was 148 complete Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits. This outreach was started locally a year ago by Becky Wietzke, Miriam Lancaster, and Linda. They have a team that buys fabric, sews kits and shields, buys panties, and puts these all together for us to take to Kenya. Each kit contains washable, reusable feminine hygiene products that allow these girls to stay in school on those days they would otherwise miss due to their period. Over the course of their middle school and high school years that amounts to nearly 300 school days lost – the equivalent of a full school year. At the Otamba middle school where we presented the kits with a short presentation by Lilian to a classroom full of 6th, 7th, an 8th grade girls there was such excitement at the possibilities now open to them. Something simple like that will make a huge difference in their lives and educational progress.

The solar oven that was donated by Angela Libengood got a lot of attention when we presented it to the group at one of our seminars. It was amazing how quickly it got hot in the center of the oven. The leaders of the project will place it with a family that will put this technology to use and be a good demonstrator and teacher to others who will adopt this new technology. In addition to the cook oven, Dr. Jenna spoke on rabies and the importance of vaccinating their pets. We also talked (again) on goat nutrition. Anything important bears repeating again and again. This was probably our 5th or 6th time to talk about the importance of high quality nutrition and its connection with improved milk or meat output.

Another major development is a plan to purchase 3000 avocado trees, form a group cooperative, and sell these avocados to a buyer who will haul them to a ready market in Nairobi and Mombasa where people love their avocados but can’t grow them there. This is potentially a game changer for these Boscovet members. Each avocado tree will produce around 250 avocados each year – 750,000 total per year. As part of this investment plan, they will also receive soybean plants with these trees and will plant them among the trees providing additional income.

The team visited some of the homes where chicken projects had been recently placed. Each of these 8 families received 10 disease resistant chicks and funds to build a simple chicken house. As a condition of being a recipient of these chickens, they will pass on to another Boscovet family 10 chicks and this family will do the same to continue the gift. It is always amazing to hear how 10 chickens led to the purchase of a cow or a goat or paid the children’s school fees. It is good to see little things like this make such a significant change in a family’s situation and potentially a life changing event for the children in the family.

I have been consistently impressed by the accountability of the Boscovet members and leaders. I have now been to Kenya 10 times. The mission and vision remain unchanged – Empowering those who live in poverty to live with HOPE. The future looks bright for the hard working people of the Boscovet Project. May God Bless them.

In His love,

Dan Haskins