Blog: Lesson Learned

While we were feeding the kids on the green space in the middle of town, many people started to gather around to watch.  They weren’t helping, just watching. I later learned that many of the people in town don’t support the kids on the street because they think they can just go back to their families.  This idea isn’t far off from how many view the homeless population in America - The homeless are too lazy and just need to get a job and can ask their families for support. However, I can’t imagine many in America would fault a child for being homeless, telling them to just go back home to their abusive family.  

What struck me most on this day we were feeding the kids was an interaction afterwards. One of the onlookers asked us what good we thought we were doing by feeding the kids. He told us that just feeding them would not solve the problem and asked why we were doing this.  My first reaction was to take offense. Did this man not know I have been working with the kids for 8 years? What about him, what was he doing for the kids? How could he pass judgement when he wasn’t doing anything to help the problem? At least I was making relationships.  This is how I was able to get the boys together to talk. This is how I started Children of Bungoma. The kids and I would hang out at the Posta ground and every now and then I would feed them. It was a way to build trust. It was a way to continue the conversations with the kids in asking them how they got where they were and where they wanted to go.  How dare this man question my work. Of course I knew feeding them one meal wouldn’t solve the problem. How could he be so ignorant in thinking I was ignorant. To this day I am still trying to build trust in the community, especially with the kids. We may not have a lot of money but we do have kindness and intelligence and empathy. I wanted to give this same rant to this man but then another thought hit me, a more important thought, one without judgement or ego.  

This person, this community member, had something to say and was actually questioning the actions of an American and of an NGO. Most people would just come up to us and tell us good work and thank you for helping but not this guy. This guy wanted more, he wanted to see actual change. Good for him. We were in a hurry so I didn’t get to speak with the man. Philip explained our mission in brief terms and we moved on. But what I should have done was embraced that moment.  With much of the community thinking lowly of the kids on the street, here was a man who was asking important questions and looking out for the well-being of the kids.

What I should have done was asked him more about what he thought the kids needed. I should have asked him what the community needed. I should have asked him what the community could do for the kids, what he could do for the kids. But I didn’t. I was tired and stressed and let my ego get in the way of his statements to us.  Even though I didn’t get to ask those questions and engage in a more meaningful conversation, I learned something important that day. I learned that there are some community members that do care and perhaps even more than I give them credit for. I learned that there is hope in this community and that there is a forward way of thinking that goes beyond aide and charity to support and empowerment. The key is to get these players involved. I am not going to solve street homelessness for kids of Bungoma but one day, maybe the community will.



5 Steps to Solving Homelessness

1.       Educate Yourself

Beyond the humanitarianism of housing those without homes lies another, financial benefit to solving the housing crisis. 

The Housing First Model is one in which those experiencing homelessness obtain housing, first.  This means that before obtaining employment, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, etc., that the person’s first goal is to attain permanent, stable housing.   The idea behind this model is that everyone deserves housing. This model eliminates the idea of the “deserving poor” as it has been proven that housing is what solves homelessness…imagine that!

The financial benefit to such a program is that housing people significantly decreases the amount a community spends on emergency resources. Those who are homeless more often use our ambulances, emergency rooms, police force, jails/prisons and judicial system. It has been proven that housing the highest utlilizers of these services significantly decreases the amount of emergency services used, ultimately leading to a decrease in your taxes!

2.       Educate Others

Ever heard of the term NIMBY?  Well, now you have.  NIMBY stands for Not in My Backyard and is often used as a noun to label those who are against housing projects in their neighborhoods.  These people often believe that housing projects will increase crime in their neighborhoods and decrease their property value.  Fortunately, this could be further from the truth.  Permanent Supportive Housing Programs have been proven to not affect either of the NIMBYs concerns and often lower the cost of emergency service use by those housed in PSH programs, lowering the amount paid by taxpayers, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and police and ambulance responses.

3.       Support Housing Programs

The highest utilizers of a community’s emergency services are most often those categorized as “chronically homeless”.  The definition of a person who is chronically homeless is one who has been homeless for at least a consecutive year or 4 times in the last 3 years and has a disability.  Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) programs were created and implemented to house and support this specific population.  PSH programs require tenants to pay 30% of their adjusted income towards rent, while working with a case manager to fulfill goals to sustain their housing. 

4.       Vote for Government Officials who Support Homelessness Issues

Since much of the funding that goes into housing programs comes from federal and local governments, it is important to support those officials who make a stand towards housing for all.

5.        Social Connectedness

It is imperative to eliminate the “us” vs. “them” attitude. Empathy can go a long way when solving homelessness. A good start is to remember that mental illness and substance abuse issues are not easy to live with. It is not easy to stop being schizophrenic or to stop using Heroin. It is also important to keep in mind that certain types of mental illness and substance abuse comes from significant trauma and how each of us copes and deals with our trauma is unique to us and our situation(s). It is not fair to judge others. We are all in this together and the communities who have solved homelessness (have reached functional zero) use helping one another and empathy to drive housing the most vulnerable in their communities.




9 Items We're Bringing Back from Bungoma

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Starting in December, we will have NEW PRODUCT in our Children of Bungoma store!  These new items will be purchased directly from our neighbors, in Bungoma.  We strive to directly support our local economy, while bringing you authentic and one-of-a-kind international pieces. 

 Follow us on Instagram from November 15th to 30th to help us choose which items to bring back to the states, watch your items made live and much more!

 We can’t wait to share a little bit of Bungoma, Kenya and Africa with you!

1.       Earrings

Historically our most popular item.  We are still working on finding the right fit for you all.  Stay tuned for pictures directly from Kenya.  We’re going to be asking you to vote on some of the items and we will bring back your favorite ones!

2.       Necklaces

3.       Bracelets

4.       Key Chains

5.       Pocket Knives

6.       Belts

And custom-made too!

7.       Artwork

8.       Bags

9.       Small dishes



Blog Story: About the Time I Got Malaria

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It was Christmas Day of 2012 when I realized I needed to go to the hospital.  I had been taking antibiotics for weeks, for what I was sure was a Urinary Tract Infection.  But my pain was only getting worse and I feared it was turning into a kidney infection.  However, there was a slight issue – the nurses were on strike.  So, I decided to drive the car I had bought to Eldoret, a town about 2 hours away from Bungoma.  I knew there was a hospital there with American doctors and figured they wouldn’t be on strike.  When I arrived at the hospital I was told that all the American doctors were at their homes and was directed to a hospital across the road that was still operating.  The nurse I was sent to was having a difficult time taking my blood pressure so I showed her how to do so. They gave me an ultrasound and told me everything looked fine so the next morning I drove back to Bungoma

I was back in Bungoma but was still not feeling well.  I got to a point where I could barely move from my bed, let alone walk.  We found a hospital that was open about 30 minutes away from the house.  I was admitted for a kidney infection and placed in a private room, on the top floor of the hospital.  People were constantly in and out of my room because they heard there was a white woman in the hospital and wanted to come see for themselves.  To this day, I still can’t tell you which of the several men who came to treat me was my doctor.  I had a sweet nurse, named Sarah.  She would come to my room every morning to give me tea and then just sit and talk to me.  She mostly wanted to know about life in America.  Her dream was to someday work as a nurse in the states.  Sarah would bring in my IV antibiotics and hook them up to my IV.  She tried to push them once, but I screamed.  She was pushing it too fast and it felt like my vein was going to pop.  I asked her if I could push my antibiotics myself and she agreed.  Every day I was getting stronger and even got to a point where I walked down a floor to take a shower.  I had to have help bathing but was proud of myself for at least getting to the shower on my own.  I thought I was going to be released soon and was excited about finally being in my own bed.

But then, on January 2nd, it hit.  It was the middle of the day and I suddenly started throwing up.  It felt like my someone was trying to close my airway and sit on my chest.  I could barely breathe or move.  Everything gets a little hazy here, but I remember a team of people rushing into my room and speaking in Swahili.  I don’t know medical terms in Swahili, but I did understand the word Malaria and believe me when I tell you that word was being thrown out a lot.  One doctor came in with an injection, another nurse rolled me over and pulled down my pants and someone shot the injection into my ass cheek.  I was rolled back over and within minutes felt like I could breathe again.  I was so weak that I quickly fell asleep and woke up in the morning.

The next day was my 23rd birthday.  A team of people came into my room to explain to me that I had Malaria.  They realized there was a hole in my mosquito net around my hospital bed and figured I had been bitten in the night.  I was going to continue to get injections for several days and was going to have to stay in the hospital for even longer.  People around town started to come into my room to see me, a well-known Pastor, the village chief, some of the older kids, a few friends I had made while living in Bungoma and of course, my nurse, Sarah.  She even came in on her days off to come in and chat with me so that I wasn’t alone.

Several days later I was released from the hospital and a couple of weeks later I decided to fly back to the States.  I still can’t tell you what they used to treat me or what kind of Malaria I have (some types stay with you for your entire life).  I will say that I have had no flare-ups and my doctor back in the States is aware of the Malaria diagnosis from back in 2012/2013.  I learned some valuable lessons from those weeks in the Kenyan hospital: (1) always check your mosquito net and (2) take your preventative medication - Doxycycline!  Trust me when I say my Doxy will be the first thing I pack on this next trip to Kenya.



4 Differences Between Homelessness in America vs. Kenya

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1.       More Services

People experiencing homelessness, in America, generally have access to more resources to those in Kenya.  Many of the larger cities in America even have entire homelessness initiatives to end homelessness (otherwise known as ‘functional zero’).  And better yet, some cities have even accomplished this goal!

 Especially in rural areas, like Bungoma, people experiencing homelessness have no access to shelters, food banks, clean water and so-forth.  Some religious groups will attempt to help the children experiencing homelessness with soap for bathing in the river and food on Sundays but aid to those without homes is not easily accessible.

2.       Reasons for Homelessness

Homelessness in America can be caused by a variety of situations.  The most common are: physical health issues, mental health issues, substance abuse issues and loss of employment.  However, we often see that the main reason stay homeless is a lack of a support system. 

 The causes of homelessness for the kids we interact with on the street are often much different.  You may be thinking that the main reason for childhood homelessness is the direct result of the AIDS epidemic.  However, this is only partially true.  Yes, we have met some children who have lost both of their parents to AIDS, but it is not the most common reason we see. 

 Land is an important asset in Kenya.  It’s passed down from generation to generation and has ultimately resulted in making it difficult to find open plots of land (for things like say, a landfill – perhaps more on that a different day).  With many people choosing to re-marry after divorce or the death of a spouse, blended families are becoming more common.  It is customary for a man’s land to be passed down to his direct kin, in birth order.  When a woman whom already has children marries a man and enters his home, her children have no right to her now husband’s land.  Therefore, it has been the case of many of our children that the new step-mother forces her husband’s children out of the home, with the hopes that her children will now inherit the land.

3.       Stigma

What are the typical stereotypes you hear in America?  The homeless are just lazy.  Why don’t they just get a job?  They just want money to get high or drunk.

Now imagine that same sort of stigma with children.  Hard, right?  But that is the exact same type of thoughts many people have regarding the kids living on the streets of Bungoma.  The children are often beaten on the streets by passerby’s, store owners, the police and other children. Many schools also will not accept the children on the streets to not enter school and the government has even go so far as to put up billboards urging people to not help the “street children”.

4.       Government Involvement

America has an entire office of the government, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that provides funding towards assisting the homeless population.  HUD allocates funding to Continuums of Care (CoCs) throughout the nation.  For example, I currently work within the Metropolitan Denver CoC, one of the largest in the nation, with an estimated homeless population of 5,506.  This CoC is compromised of 7 counties.  HUD allocates funding to our CoC, who then allocates that money, through grants, to organizations in the 7 counties working towards ending homelessness.  Organizations who are a part of this CoC apply for the grants and if awarded, are heavily monitored to ensure the funds are being used properly.

 Pop over to Kenya and things are a little different.  Coming across government funding is few and far between.  In Bungoma, most homelessness services are funded by local church groups, often with monetary ties to developed countries.



3 Reasons to Consider Monetary Over Tangible Donations

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1.   Support the Local Economy

We strongly believe that poverty is best solved by supporting individuals to invest in themselves.  The best way to increase global economic growth is to empower community members in their personal economic growth.  What does this mean exactly?  You know the saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”?  The same lesson is relevant to our work in Africa.

 I will come out and admit that yes, I have turned down donations.  I’ve turned down people who want to do school supply drives, clothing drives, toy drives.  I’ve turned down a brand-new TVs and shoes and books and bicycles.  Why?  Because there is a difference between charity and philanthropy.  Charity has rarely solved anything, often providing a short-term solution to a complicated problem.  Philanthropy on the other hand, provides social change in the form of long-term solutions.

 Let me provide an example: Let’s say I accepted the invitation for a school supply drive.  The donors compile enough school supplies to take care of an entire school.  The supplies are shipped from America to Kenya and all the kids are set for the year.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Unfortunately, not.  See what we are missing is the impact this has on the community.  One of the student’s fathers owns a school supply store in town.  He relies on the sales from his child’s school mates to make a living for his family.  Now he is out of business and struggling to provide for his family.  While it was not intentional, we passed on a burden to another family, another child.

Imagine instead that we raised money for school supplies.  We sent the money to Kenya and bought the supplies from the same business owner AND, because supplies are less expensive in Africa, we were able to buy even more supplies than were donated in the previous scenario. Which sounds like the better scenario to you?

2.   High Shipping Costs

When we got our first corporate donation, we were ecstatic.  It was so rewarding to see our support include local companies.  This first donation was books, Frisbees and soccer balls.  We knew the kids would absolutely love these items, so we went to the post office to ship it to the kids.  There was a total of about 20 books, 10 frisbees and 5 soccer balls in the box addressed to Bungoma, Kenya, with a hefty shipping price of just over $200.   We opted to send the items and the kids loved the gifts but also learned an important lesson that day, shipping to Kenya is super expensive!

3.   We Just Want Your Support…and Money 😊

Want to know how best to support Children of Bungoma?  Spread the word!  Let your family, friends, co-workers, workout buddies, strangers and everybody else know about the important and progressive work happening to ensure children living on the streets have equal access to shelter, food, education and healthcare. 

 Of course, we are always open to monetary donations.  This helps us not only directly support our kids but also the community in which they live. 



6 Things to do Before Your Trip to Kenya

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1.       Book the “Right” Flight.

So, you’ve decided you want to go to Kenya and you’re ready to book your flight. Start your search by looking for flights into the capital, Nairobi. If you’re feeling extra spontaneous and would like to check out Uganda too, you can fly into Entebbe and take a bus to Kenya. The bus ride is around 6 hours. I like to stick to Expedia and Hopper when searching for flights. Hopper has a cool feature that allows you to see on what days prices are higher/lower.  Let’s say you can be flexible with your dates.  Here are some things you want to think about:

-          Price: If you’re like me, you want to find a cheap flight.  But hold on because those cheap flights can have some consequences.  Which leads me to…

-          Layovers: Make sure the layovers aren’t too short or too long.  I will be flying from Colorado, so I will have two layovers - one in the states and one in Europe. Both layovers are no longer than 3 hours long and no shorter than an hour. Remember, you will have to go through customs, so your layovers can’t be too tight. And on the other end of the spectrum - One time I had a 20-hour layover in London, on my way back to the states.  I just wanted to be home!!!

2.       Register with Your Embassy.

I am a United States citizen so clearly, that is the embassy I registered with.  The STEP program gives you an option to choose the dates you will be in said country or gives you the option to leave it open – given you have bought a one-way ticket.  It’s important to register with your embassy in case something happens while you are there.  Given the unpredictable nature of Kenya’s government, it’s a good idea to register (and it only takes about 5 minutes).

3.       Take Your Medicine!

And not just any kind of medicine.  What I’m talking about is that good old Western medicine to prevent MALARIA.  Speaking as someone who has had malaria…twice (because I didn’t take my meds), trust me, take the meds!  There are several different medications you can take to help prevent Malaria but my tried and true is Doxycycline. Your reglular Primary Care Physician should be able to prescribe this to you. Always remember to follow Doctor’s orders but normally you will take the Doxy a day or two before you travel, every day that you are there and 28 days after you leave.

4.       Get Your Shots.

The CDC highly suggests getting a vaccine for Yellow Fever before your trip to Kenya.  I got this vaccine, along with others, back in 2010.  The Yellow Fever vaccination lasts a lifetime, but the CDC suggests getting a booster every 10 years if you frequently visit countries where the virus is present. Yellow Fever is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure the infection. Other ways to prevent getting sick from yellow fever are to use insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

5.       Keep Contact.

Back in the day…I had to buy a phone over Kenya to communicate with my family and friends back in the states.  Luckily, phone service providers like AT&T and Verizon have added Kenya to their international plans.  All the international plans I’ve found can be added on a month-to-month basis.  Add an international plan to your phone to avoid buying a phone in Kenya and have better access to those back in the states. There are also internet-based apps you can use in order to communicate. My favorites to use are WhatsApp, iMessage, Viber and Skype. And yes, I use them ALL.

6. Notify Your Bank.

You don’t want to get stuck over in another country with no access to money! Make sure you let your bank(s) know when you are going to be traveling. Bring some US dollars with you. There are pros and cons to this. Of course, there is a risk of having it stolen but it is also a good safety net if you can’t get access to your bank account immediately.

Your Kenyan visa will cost $51 at can be purchased with US dollars, at the airport. I suggest bringing at least $200 cash, as opposed to Travelers’ checks. I tried this the first time I traveled to Kenya and it didn’t go great. It was difficult to find a bank that would take the check. Once you are in Kenya, I find it easiest to withdraw from ATM’s. The charge for withdrawing is relatively low and depends on which bank or credit union you use.

The exchange rate in Kenya is currently 0.0099 US Dollars to 1 Kenyan shilling. An easier way to look at this would be a US dollar is equivalent to about 100 Kenyan shillings. 100 shillings can easily buy you a meal, in Kenya. For a better frame of reference of the value of a shilling, our rent is $14,000 shillings, approximately $140 US. Budgeting for your trip will largely be determined on the reason you are going and where you will be staying. Whatever it is that brings you to the beautiful country, make sure you have completed these 6 key things!



4 Ways to Support Children of Bungoma

Children of Bungoma has been around now for 7 years!  7 years, can you believe it?!  I started this little dream at the age of 20 and haven’t stopped.  These kids are truly the most amazing group of humans I have ever met and came to me asking for help.  There was no way I could turn them away, so I’ve worked seven long and exhausting years to give them everything I think we can all agree they deserve. 

I haven’t done this alone though and I cannot continue to do it on my own.  The kids rely on YOU to support them in a variety of ways.  Whether you have time and money, one or the other or even neither, YOU have shown us the love and given in so many ways.  Many people have asked me how best they can help and really, it’s quite simple. 

Just follow these 4 easy asks:

1.       Interact With Us On Social Media

Like our Facebook Page

Follow us on Twitter - @BungomaChildren

Follow us on Instagram – childrenofbungoma

Share our posts

Subscribe to our blog

We can’t do what we do without you!  Even if you don’t have the funds to help us, that’s okay!  Just spread the word about us and what we do. 

2.       Educate, Advocate and ASK!

Learn more about our cause.  Why do we do what we do?  How is our nonprofit different than others?  What do we even do?  What are the best ways to help? 

Use our social media sites and website to learn more about the answers to these questions and much more.  Do you have something you are wondering about?  ASK US!  Interact with us.  Email us at or message us on Facebook.  And then spread your newly acquired knowledge to others. 

3.       Support the Local Economy, in Bungoma

If I’ve learned anything through the process of making Children of Bungoma what it is today, the most important is that the Kenyans know what they’re doing!  The issue is that they have a corrupt government, lending to extreme poverty.  We’ve learned that what is best for helping those experiencing poverty is to help them help themselves.  But you’re asking, can you please give me some specifics? 

Sure!  We want to start by giving directly to organizations that we trust and that are following this model of independence.  But we want to give money.  That’s right, perhaps in your local organizations you give blankets to the local emergency shelter or coloring supplies to the local after school program.  However, international nonprofits are different.  Instead we want to give international nonprofits money to buy these items in the country the nonprofit is operating. 

We take your donations and put it back into the economy where the kids live.  We buy all of the items the children need right there in their community, we rely on our local caretakers, send the children to local school, and do much more to support our local economy, peoples and agriculture.

Learn more about this topic in the wonderful Wangari Maathai's book, The Challenge for Africa. It's one of my favorites!

4.       Set up Recurring Donations

Interested in giving to us on a regular basis?  Well we’ve got that all set up for you!

Choose the amount you would like to give every day, week, month or year, etc.  You can feel comforted that you are consistently putting out something good into the world.  And we’ve made it so easy!  Just go to our DONATION page!

And don’t forget that any amount counts.  $1 pays for tomatoes for the day.  $5 pays our monthly electric bill.  $10 pays for a school uniform.  The list can go on and trust me, every little bit counts!



5 Tips for Surviving the Streets of Bungoma

Allow me to preface this blog by stating that we are not promoting such behaviors outlined below.  The following tactics are simply what we have observed through our outreach work.  

The sad truth is that even in the small rural town of Bungoma, Kenya there are approximately 70 children living on the streets.  Day and night are spent using these strategies to survive.  The daytime is spent searching, begging and/or working for food while the nighttime is spent finding a warm and safe place to sleep.  Not every day is successful in achieving such goals.  However, those who entertain these strategies are more likely to survive on the streets. 

1.       Rummage Through the Trash

Bungoma does not have a landfill because of the lack of available land.  Therefore, there are trash pits around Bungoma that are filled and then burned.  Better get what food you can before it is set on fire!  The best time to find food is when the shops and restaurants are closing so that you can get the food that was not eaten that day, as it is thrown out behind the businesses.  If the shop owners trust you enough they may even ask you to perform a small job in exchange for some food.  Take this opportunity as it does not come around often!

2.       Sniff Glue

To help reduce hunger pains and keep warm at night make sure you get yourself some glue from your local shoe repair shop.  But be wise because you won’t be able to get the glue directly from the shop.  One of the older kids will go to the shop to buy a large quantity of the glue so that it is less obvious what the glue is being used for.  Then buy your glue from him.  Find a small bottle to keep your glue.  Other kids will try to steal your glue, so make sure you hide it in the top of your shirt.  Leave the top of the bottle showing so that you have easy access for sniffing.  The high of the glue will make your situation feel less daunting.  *WARNING: This coping mechanism is not good for your health.*

3.       Don’t Get Caught Breaking the Law

You take a risk when you steal food from street vendors or beg for money.  In rural Kenya, the law is a little laxer.  This doesn’t mean that you get away with more things but perhaps the exact opposite.  Not only are the police more corrupt because of a lack of oversight but this also means that there is a sort of civilian law where citizens will elect and act upon their own consequences for crimes.  It is not uncommon for a mob of people to go after someone who has been deemed a thief.  Many of the people in Bungoma have not found sympathy for you.  They believe you are a burden and should be punished for living such a lifestyle.  The police will find any reason to belittle and arrest you.  Citizens will blame you for crimes even if you were not the one who committed the crime.  You are an easy scapegoat.  Be safe and be aware of your surroundings.

4.       Find a Place to Sleep

It’s gets cold at night.  Sometimes you will not have a blanket and it’s dangerous to build a fire because it will bring attention to your whereabouts, making it easy for the police to find and arrest you for anything they think you may be doing wrong.  It is best to find shelter in a shack or other sort of small building.  The best place to go is the hut that is used to store charcoal.  The man who owns the hut is very nice but there isn’t a lot of room, so get there early.  And always make sure you find a sleeping place with someone you trust.  It is best to not be alone, as you don’t want to be taken advantage of.

Inside the Charcoal Hut

Inside the Charcoal Hut

5.       Have Fun with Your Friends!

Sure, life on the street is hard.  But children have a resilience and drive that can be impressive when compared to adults.  Follow the crowd to the local field and play a game of football.  You might be able to even round up a team of fellow kids living on the street to play a team that has proper coaching and training.  And you know what, your team will probably win!  Now that’s good for morale.  If you’re lucky, the local missionaries might bring by a snack for you after the game.



Swahili 101: 12 Words to Know

When I first went to Kenya I realized that there were words and phrases that I caught onto quickly because I had to use them so much.  While I didn't have much trouble communicating in more popular areas like the capital, Nairobi, or where I was going to University, Eldoret, once I got into the rural area of Bungoma things got a little tricky.

Here are some important words I learned while hanging out with the kids living on the streets of Bungoma...the Children of Bungoma:

1. Hello, what's the news? (Greeting) - Habari?

Habari? Habari yako?  These are typical phrases heard as greetings throughout Kenya.  You may have heard the popular phrase, "Jambo!", but this is seldom used and is really just what foreigners say to try to 'fit in'.  

2. I'm fine - Mzuri sana.

Just one of many responses to a greeting.  Mzuri. Mzuri sana.  Either one is fine.  Or you can say "iko sawa" - I'm fine. 

3. Come - Kuja.

Normally we use this word as more of an explanation.  KUJA!  Come here, your dinner is ready!

4. Jump / Run / Dance - Ruka / Kimbia / Cheza!

These are fun words to use when trying to entertain the younger kids.  Cheza for life!

5. Toilet - Choo.

Always an important word to know when traveling anywhere!

6. Food - Chakula.

Also an important word to know when traveling.  Some popular foods in Kenya are Ugali (thick, stiff porridge made from white cornmeal), Chapati (flatbread) and Sukuma Wiki (kale).

7. Water - Maji

Water is life!

8. Van / Motorcycle / Bike - Matatu / Piki Piki / Boda Boda

There are so many ways to get around in Kenya that are easily accessible and super cheap!  These are just some of the main ways.  There are also cars (Gari) and auto rickshaws (Tuk Tuks). Our favorite mode of transportation are Piki Pikis.  They are not only fun but also fun to say!

9. School - Shule

When asking the kids on the streets what they wanted the most, the resounding answer was SHULE!

10. Home - Nyumba

Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, this was the second most popular answer.

11. Left/Right - Kushoto / Kulia

Very important when traveling, especially when on the back of a Piki Piki!  You can explain where you're going with just these simple words.  Trust me, I've done it.  I've also had to use Simama! (Stop!) if we have gone too far.

12. Bye - Kwaheri.

See ya later!  Asante Sana (Thanks) for supporting Children of Bungoma!



1 Minute Read: The Rock at the Food Stand

The first time I walked through a slum was jarring.  The sights, the smells, the expanse – it was all so much to absorb for someone who had been raised in middle class America.  My tour of the Kibera slum, in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, started with the warning to look out for things flying.  I was cautioned that the lack of a place to urinate and defecate forced people to expel in unlikely places, most commonly into a paper bag that was then thrown through the air.  As if my attentiveness to my surroundings wasn’t already shockingly high, this warning made it even more so.

We walked through sewage where people were getting their daily water because it was their only water source.  We saw children selling items just to make enough money to buy food for the day.  We saw people running around with no shoes because they could not afford them.  But what was the most shocking thing I saw?  It was the rock at the food stand.

The first couple days roaming through Kibera was sensory overload.  There were so many new things I was learning through simple observation but I kept coming back to the same image.  This image of rocks being sold at food stands.  These were just little food stands all over the slum, people just trying to sell produce to get by.  But I couldn’t get over these rocks and why were they being sold along with food?  So, I finally asked.

The answer I received changed my perception of world poverty immediately and forever.  It was explained to me that the rocks being sold for only one shilling a piece, that’s less than a penny, were bought by those who did not have adequate money to buy food.  Instead, the rocks were bought by people who would then lick them to absorb the rock’s nutrients, since they were unable to afford food.  Most often, these rocks were consumed by pregnant women lacking financial support.

Talk about culture shock!  Something inside me changed.  My soul instantly became older and wiser.  My eyes began to swell.  A lump formed in my throat.  Everything went blank.  Where was I again?  What were we doing here?  But none of that really mattered in that moment.  That moment was meant to be reflective, just as I hope this moment is for you.



5 Facts to Know About the Current Kenyan Government and Economy

In a country where corruption is already heard, elections cause that chatter to become a scream.  Kenya has a history of violent elections.  This violence largely goes back to the days of colonialism when tribes were forced to live together, under one country - one government.  The violence spurs between tribes with citizens tending to vote for those candidates whom are members of their given tribe.  The 2007 election brought about the worst violence with more than 1,000 people killed and about 600,000 displaced from their homes.

Children of Bungoma is seeing the effects of the impending elections first hand.  There is no milk or sugar.  We are buying products, especially food, at a higher price than normal.   And we are having to spend more money on transportation to get these food items, as they are scarce in the rural area where our house is located.  

This year is an election year, which means the living climate in Kenya is tense and tough.  Here are 5 things to know about the current Government and Economy:

1. Inflation is up 12 percent.

Kenyan's economic growth has been consistently steady for the past five years, with an average of about 5% each year.  However, basic goods like milk, sugar, bread and maize flour have raised in price.  Inflation is now up 12% and many families are now reporting that they are struggling to get by.

Companies, such as sugar manufacturers, are holding out on their product. Instead using the money they would normally spend on production of their product, they are instead spending that money on contributions to the political candidate they support.  This is a major contributor to why items are either scarce or absent.

2. Four out of 10 people are unemployed.

According to the UN's development agency (UNDP), Kenya has the highest unemployment rate in the region.  Election years tend to cause a shrinkage in the economy, often leading some companies to cut down employment as investors wait out on the election period.  

3. Kenya is ranked as 31st most corrupt out of 176 countries.

Transparency International ranked Kenya at a position of 145 out of 176 countries in it's 2016 report.  The organization blamed the low rating on the incompetence and ineffectiveness of anti-corruption agencies that fail to punish those participating in graft (unscrupulous use of a politician's authority for personal gain).

4. President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration has been called "the most corrupt in Kenya's history".

John Githongo, founder of the Kenyan branch of Transparency International, has called President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration the "most corrupt in Kenya's history".  Several reported scandals have been cited involving alleged inflation of costs of projects and payments to phantom companies.

5. Kenyans have been using the hashtag #CostOfLivingKe

The cost of living in Kenya has become such a burden on the livlihood of those living there that citizens are starting to use the hashtag CostofLivingKe to show the differences in the cost of items now versus before the election campaigns started.


Without YOU our children will not be able to eat, forcing them back to streets.  Our work is important.  Our success is astonishing.  Your donations will help us through this rough patch.  It is the only way we will endure.

Asante Sana!



6 Topics in the NEW Children of Bungoma Blog!


6 Topics in the NEW Children of Bungoma Blog!

Welcome to the brand new Children of Bungoma Blog!  Our goal is to post on a new topic every Monday.  We hope that this blog will keep you informed on what is going on at Children of Bungoma.  But we also hope it will do so much more to educate you on such topics as:  Kenya's Culture, Politics and Economics, International Nonprofit Giving, How You Can Help, and Much More!

Founder, Nikki Reising, visits one of the kids, Simon, at his High School.  Simon was our first kid to graduate from High School!

Founder, Nikki Reising, visits one of the kids, Simon, at his High School.  Simon was our first kid to graduate from High School!

1. What's Going on at Children of Bungoma

Keep up to date on the kids' lives and what we are doing to make their lives better!  See what we are doing on our compound; from what fresh new foods we are growing on our farm to adorable pictures of our caregivers' new baby.  He's super cute, trust me!  Our lives are interesting and complex and we love being able to share all of our peaks and valleys with YOU!

2. Kenya's Culture

Whether it's learning Swahili, traditional celebrations or local cuisine, there's so much to learn about what makes Kenya, Kenya.  How did the boys come to live on the street?  Why do you not hear of girls living on the street?  What type of schooling does Kenya provide and how much does it cost?  What are some cool things to do in Kenya?  What is the typical dress?  What is the difference between rural and urban living?  Stay tuned! We will answer all these questions, and more!

3. Kenya's Politics and Economics

Kenya's government is one of the most corrupt governments in the world.  This often times gets in the way of our operations.  The local government has threatened to shut us down more times than we can count, often times leading us to give them exactly what they wanted in the first place, a bribe.  In a country where people are living with no electricity, insufficient amounts of clean water and limited access to nutrition, a corrupt government does little to help alleviate such harsh living.  Learn about how local politics and economics shape the way we operate.

4. International Nonprofit Giving

Domestic and international giving provide two very different lenses of effectiveness.  While domestic giving can come in the form of not only giving money but also in giving time to help directly through volunteer hours, international giving does not provide the later.  It is difficult to those giving to international nonprofits to know exactly what they are giving to without actually seeing the work, first hand.  That's where we come in to help.  We have to bring Children of Bungoma to you by sharing what our programs provide, while also promoting the best ways to give.  We will share with you the most effective ways to give that will benefit the children and all those involved with Children of Bungoma the most.   Learn more about common misconceptions on giving and how best to give.

5. How You Can Help

What do we need to survive every year, month and day?  How can you ensure that when you give to Children of Bungoma that it is going straight to programming?  What type of giving is best for you?  Is it donating directly to Children of Bungoma, a 501(c)(3) organization?  Or maybe it's purchasing our merchandise, where all of the sales go directly back to Kenya?  Or maybe it's simply spreading the word?  We are so excited in your willingness to help and are here to assist with all of your giving needs!

6. And Much More!

Read about our stories (we have so many!) - stories that are meant to inform you, to provoke emotion, to make you think, to entertain and to excite you that you are on this journey with us.  Become a part of our story because it is a fun one.  Sure there are tough times, lots of tough times, but they only make us better, more resilient and educated.  We have great times too, showing how successful our programs are and happy everyone involved in Children of Bungoma is.   Be there for every moment, you won't want to miss it!