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.  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.  One time I had a 20-hour layover in London, on my way back to the states.  I just wanted to be home!!!  And for real, try to avoid O’Hare.  Seriously, that place is a mess.

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, trust me, take the meds! 

4.       Get Your Shots.

Kenya requires a vaccine for Yellow Fever to get a Visa.  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 Yellow Fever is present.

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.

6. Notify Your Bank.

You don’t want to get stuck over in another country with no access to money!



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!