Day 4-6 - Toddlers, Rain, and Vaccines
The weather has been the wettest we've ever experienced in December with heavy rains daily. The main effect being we have taken more Ubers between the rescue centre and hotel - it's 2km in distance so not far, but in torrential rain with muddy roads not great. It's also meant more talking to Uber drivers, who are a great source of local news. Our driver yesterday was fully vaccinated but said that many were afraid to take the vaccine as they'd seen on social media (which is huge in Kenya, almost all phone based) that Europe was sending only the faulty vaccines over to Africa. So there are two challenges facing getting the developing world vaccinated - getting them here, and quashing the misinformation.
Vaccination rates here remain low - according to Reuters "Kenya has administered at least 8,913,690 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs 2 doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 8.5% of the country’s population."
One of the benefits of the external influences on Happy Life, all of the staff and supporters are fully vaccinated.
There have been some full lockdowns here but currently everything is open.
Many people have asked whether we feel safe here in regards to the pandemic. Whilst there is of course COVID here, we feel much safer out and about than in the UK. Mask wearing is prolific - with most choosing to wear masks even walking on the street - but in the shops/malls/indoors they are almost universally worn - and sanitiser is everywhere. On entrances to the mall and supermarket there is also temperature testing.
Days 4-6 have been filled with baby feeding and occupying the toddlers in the mornings and working from 12-8pm (Kenya is 3 hours ahead of the UK).
The older infants seem to be better behaved than in previous years, and we had wondered if that was because is had been so long we were not remembering correctly. But speaking to Sarah the head of administration it's actually correct.
The team had been studying other projects around the world and found that the strict routine of feeding time and other activities was not now thought to be best practice. By bringing flexibility into the kids days - if they want to eat they can, but if not, there's not the pressure to - has made a big positive difference on behaviour.
It's easy to understand why in the early years of Happy Life the priority was to ensure the basics - safety, health and nutrition. Now the project has expanded they are able to make changes and be more flexible.
That said it doesn't mean they don't behave like manic toddlers. 30-40 minutes 'keeping them occupied' is still exhausting and leaves me drenched in sweat due to the heat.
The video below shows them in 'quiet mode' as the TV with cartoons is on - which of course the staff try and limit - but gives and indication of the size of the playroom. With Sharon and myself in the room to 'play' with them with the TV off, it's pandemonium.
I can't share a video of that as I daren't get my phone out in the room - as it was I managed to have my pocket picked a couple of times as the kids climbed all over 'uncle' (the most common name they all give male volunteers).
For these kids Sharon and I are a real novelty. Under the pandemic there have been very few non-local volunteers so in particular my 'yellow hair' is something the toddlers find fascinating and want to test out.
Baby Sharon is ready for feeding
Sharon was able to feed her namesake yesterday which is always a special moment. Sharon was named after her - the second baby to be named Sharon as sadly the first passed away last year.
The infant mortality rate (under 5s) at Happy Life is very low, and having the hospital next door helps a lot. It's significantly better than the Kenyan rate of 42 deaths per 1000 births (UNICEF). Overall, Kenya has seen a huge improvement since 1995 when it peaked at 110.
The babies once again have been wonderful and whilst we are very careful not to spend too much time with any particular infants, Blessing has really captured both our attention. At just a year she is walking and talking a lot and has the most amazing nature - already within a few days of getting to know us she is saying hello and spreading her arms wide for a welcome cuddle.
Today we are off to Juja Farm which is the countryside location for Happy Life where the older kids are located - there are now three schools, all the way up to High School. As well as educating the 100+ kids that have stayed with Happy Life (any children not adopted stay with the program) the schools provide a vital eduction for local village children - with the High School taking some paying middle class kids from Nairobi to help towards the costs.
We're looking forward to see the kids again (we saw most of the older kids briefly on Sunday as they came across to Nairobi for church) and look at the progress made at Juja. In addition to another school since were here two years ago they have built a small medical centre too.
Some of the hundreds of trees from our #bookstotrees project in 2020 will have grown to a decent size so that will be interesting to see too.
This years project #bookstobooks has funded over 800 books for the schools and library. We'll report back on Saturday with our next update with hopefully lots of photos and videos.
Wishing all of our authors and fans a fantastic holidays. We're able to be here because of your continued support.
MX Publishing is a social enterprise, with a share of the proceeds from every book purchased on this site going to projects like Happy Life and Undershaw.