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Thanksgiving in Paradise

It’s 10 minutes to midnight on Thanksgiving – and everyone on my Facebook feed is posting delicious pictures. What a week. I don’t care if you are the bird or the country, its not a good time to be “Turkey.”

Unless you live here. Where turkeys, cranes, storks, vultures (one, at least) geese, guinea fowl, chickens, ducks, (i’m getting tired of naming birds), african grey parrots, budgies, (forget it, those are just the domesticated ones around here) run and fly free. We run our operation out of an animal sanctuary. Really. I haven’t even named the mammals or reptiles wandering around here.

That wasn’t part of the plan. To live in a sanctuary. But it just turns out that our Host Club from Rotary International has a past president who donated a bunch of space for us to run our headquarters. It happens to be in an artist commune and animal sanctuary on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. From here we have an office, living quarters and a rehearsal hall.

All around us is art too. Painters, potters, sculptors, metal workers, felters, collage artists, and especially glass blowers -each doing their craft. It’s a mosaic masterpiece of alternative glass covered buildings crammed into a forest on the edge of an ancient gorge.

Today a monkey stole lunch from Annette, the young Roteract Student who we hired as one of our administration assistants. She handles booking the teams, processing evaluations, chasing monkeys, and financial reports. Chasing monkeys is new in her job description and an overstatement. What she really did is go “Oh No! There is a monkey in here.” Nate (our most awesome volunteer) came down the stairs from his room, and I rushed around the corner from mine – and the monkey was gone. “He took all our chapatis!”

So I didn’t celebrate thanksgiving like we do back home. I had hotdogs and eggs for dinner. I just got over a four day food poisoning stint, and I’m thankful to be walking upright. But not upright enough to thwart a monkey. Those guys are like specters – they arrive and depart in a breath – and with our food.

So I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving like back home – but I am grateful, oh so very grateful. Even now I have ants crawling over my feet, and a rat is packing a document into his new nest behind our fridge. (That’s a battle story for another day. We WILL PREVAIL, BTW)

So I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving like back at home – and I will finish this thought without digressing into animal adventures this time – but I couldn’t be more thankful for our donors and supporters. Can you believe its been three years since this journey started? Operations only got into full swing three *months* ago and already we have reached over 17,000 kids. SEVENTEEN THOUSAND??? Meanwhile we are just getting started with the actual work.

We’ve knocked out that first “number goal” – its actually 20,000 but we are waaaaaay ahead of our target for the time frame and will likely double that number by the time we finish our next goal – (of training 160 people in weekend workshops.)

The teams are only doing 2 schools a day, and after our break for the holidays we may get them doing 4 schools a day. I say “may” because I was told by an experienced Rotarian and former mayor – “Darren, its not in the plan, its in the planning.” And if he means, “the plan changes – so do a good job changing the plan” then I am just about on the right track. Things change a lot. Our team is getting better and better – and if the personal tragedies and sicknesses slow down a bit I might get better too.

Anyway TL:DR

I am so thankful for birds, turkeys or otherwise. We are surrounded by wildlife and art and passionate people – and regardless of their traditions – all of us are dearly thankful for those who make this lifestyle possible. Our supporters. We love the work. We love the people we serve. We love where we work. We love where we live. We love impacting the lives of young people and teaching them how to live. Thanks. Everyone. REALLY. Project HAND UP is on it’s way.


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