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life inside the rehema home . nairobi, kenya

It has been a privilege to have spent some time immersed in the Rehema Home. We have learned so much about this beautiful home. We’ve seen first hand not only how well run this place is but also how much love and care is given to the children in all their diverse ages and stages of life. An important part of the work here is that almost half of the children are HIV positive. However due to a healthy diet, consistent medication and lots of love, the doctors at the local hospital are amazed at the resilience and health of the children from the Rehema Home.

We are going to try to give you a glimpse into the life of a home full of children that I am sure you will find is not much different from your own homes. Not only are we going to focus on many of the 58 kids that live here but also on some of the 30 different staff members that help make this home a wonderful place.

Irvin and Ruth moved into this 10 bedroom home in 2001 with 13 children. They were previously in a 4 bedroom home that was much too small. They rented this home for 4 years before they were able to raise funds to buy it. It is now home  to 58 children and Uncle Irvin and Auntie Ruth.

This is the biggest room in the house. It is reserved for the boys as they are the majority. Twenty-five boys sleep in this room. There are four other rooms, one for the oldest girls, one for the younger girls, one for the oldest boys and a small room for the babies and toddlers.

As their youngest daughter was about to graduate high school and they where entering the empty nest stage of their lives, Irvin and Ruth wondered what was next. Ruth a registered nurse, together with their daughter Joanne, had been working at a children’s home on weekends and holidays. A need arose for a child to be taken in and Ruth was eager to take the child in for a couple days but Irvin was not very open to the idea. He finally agreed to have one child stay with them. The young child ended up staying longer than they expected and during that time Irvin fell in love with him and his heart was opened to the idea of keeping and caring for this child. They both concluded that in this next stage of their lives God was guiding them to care for orphaned children. They took five children into their small home before they started looking for a bigger place. In the next four bedroom home they took in thirteen children. Fifty-eight children later, they are happily continuing to care for these children.

The day starts at 6:00am when all the children are required to get up and start getting ready for school. By 7:15 all the kids have had breakfast are bathed and ready for school. At 7:45 the bus takes some of the older kids to one of two other schools nearby while others walk to a school nearby. The younger kids who stay back go to school on the Rehema Home premises. The Rehema Home has a school curriculum and hired teachers to teach the kids from kindergarten through fourth grade.

Chege (11.5 yrs old)

Teresa (10.5 yrs old), Chege (11.5) and Tom (10.5) on their way to school.

Caroline (13 yrs old) waits for the bus to take her to school. Caroline’s parents died when she was 4 yrs old and her aunt was unable to look after her. She is a beautiful young lady, and her smile will make you smile every time!

The younger kids have breakfast together. Faith (8.5) drinks Ugi which is basically a cooked meal that includes maize and other grains and flours that has vitamins and is nutrient packed. She is watched by Musa (8.5) and Kip (10.5).

Joseph (6.5 yrs old) carries his school supplies on his way to class. He was brought to the Rehema Home as a 1 year old together with Paul by a social worker. They where both abandoned at the hospital. Joseph was one of my closest friends throughout our time there. He was always there waiting for me and ready to follow me around everywhere giving me info on everyone and asking questions about everything. His favorite question was ‘you coming back tomorrow?’

Lucy (10 yrs old) on her way to school.

The Rehema Home compound has five rooms dedicated for classrooms for grades kindergarten through fourth grade.

Justin (5 yrs old) pays attention in school.

Bassett (5.5 yrs old)

Julius (11 yrs old), Samuel (12), Wesley (11.5), and Ayub (11.5).

Luke (10.5 yrs old) reads his Swahili book. The kids talk english amongst themselves at the home. They take Swahili lessons every day and the other Kenyan workers on staff make an effort to talk to them in Swahili to reinforce both languages.

Behind the scenes while the kids are at school there are several staff workers who do a tremendous amount of work to keep the home running and in top shape.

This is Gideon the day time Askari (guard). He has been taking care of the Rehema Home for 11 years. He is the first person we saw every day we arrived at the home as he opened the gate. He also does some grounds cleaning, washing cars, and other jobs around the outside of the home. The kids love and respect him very much.

This is Norah and her main job is to do all the laundry for the home. At first I thought it was a little overkill to have one person full time do all the laundry but when Irvin told me how much she has to wash every day I understood. She washes, dries and folds laundry for 58 kids. This involves school clothes, pajamas, and play clothes. In all, its about 150 sets of clothing plus the baby clothes and bedding. Done daily!

Meet James. A recent addition to the home. He has been here for 2 years. He was hired to mainly help with Harry who was getting too big and needed extra help carrying up and down the stairs, getting bathed and moving around the home (more on Harry later). However while Harry is in his school classes, James has also started working with the toddlers during the day and spends time with them playing with them and feeding them lunch. He ‘s such a gentle man and the little ones really love him.

This is Harrison the main cook washing dishes after a meal. He is in charge of making most of the meals for 58 kids every day. He has been at the Rehema Home for 7 years.

Jacinta is a kitchen worker and helps in meal prep and clean up. She has been at the home for 5 years. Here she’s prepping the leaves for the typical Kenyan dish Sukuma Wiki.

The toddlers and two babies stay back during the day and have the whole place to themselves. They are so cute and love to run around everywhere!

Levi (3.5 years old)

Ryan (2.5 years old)

Christine (2 years old)

Kelly (2.5 years old)

Elisha (1.5 years old)

Joy (2.5 years old). when Joy was 18 months old her mother left her at home by herself. A lamp fell over and set the curtains on fire which burnt off most of her hair and a large part of the left side of her body. A social worker found her and brought her to the Rehema Home. When Joy first arrived she had lost her ability to walk. Her head burns hadn’t fully healed and she had a bloated stomach due to being HIV positive and receiving very little care. Over the course of the last year she has regained her confidence and has started to walk. Your heart breaks when you see this little girl and all she has experienced in her few years of life. But then you see her smile and your heart fills up with so much joy and hope for her future.

As the kids return from school mid afternoon they change and immediately get started on their homework. Younger kids as well as older kids find locations all throughout the home to focus on their studies.

Musa (8.5 yrs old), Catherine (10.5), Mary (11.5), and Micah (9.5) doing their homework after school.

Paul (12 yrs old), Janet (10.5) Grace (14.5), Leanne (16) and Chege (11.5)

Paul (12 yrs old) finds a quiet and well lit corner of the home to do his homework.

Steven (12.5 yrs old)

Education is such an important part of the kids daily life. This is Margaret working with Harry. She is one of the teachers aides who helps out in school. There are days when she also stays after school to tutor specific students as needed.

On a weekly basis a couple physical therapists come to work with the kids that have special physical needs. Benson is an occupational therapist who came on board to help with Harry as he needed extra help in physical rehab.

This is Catherine (10.5 yrs old) doing some physical rehab on her arm. Catherine was found nursing from her mother when her mother died. Neighbors came and reported her to the children’s officer who in turn brought her to Rehema Home. She was born with Cerebral Palsy and her right side was paralyzed. While the doctors said she would never be able to walk, she not only walks but runs and plays with the other kids. She doesn’t use her right arm as much as they would like but the physical therapy is helping her improve.

Margaret is the other occupational therapist that comes weekly to work specifically with Joy. Part of the therapy is to give Joy a massage in order to loosen her limbs that have gotten so stiff due to not walking. Joy is HIV positive and as a result had a bloated belly due to the lack of care she received before she got to the home. The massage also helps bring her belly bloating down. I have been so impressed by the care that is given to each and every one of the kids here.

As the kids started to get older Irvin and Ruth wanted to be able to give the kids some water safety training. So 5 years ago they got permission to take the kids to a local hotel and give them swimming lessons. Irvin and Ruth’s daughter helps them on a weekly basis. They divide the kids up by skill levels. Ruth works with the younger ones and Irvin works with the older kids. They work on the different strokes and just overcoming fear of water. Some of the older kids have become very good swimmers and they all thoroughly enjoy it!

Alex (12.5 yrs old) watches as Joe (6.5) jumps into the pool and Kip (10.5) watches on.

Musa (8 yrs old) and Catherine (10.5 yrs old)

Once the kids are done with their homework they are given some free time. Most of them go play outside but some of them take time to rest inside, read books, and even prep for a 5K race!

Samuel (13 yrs old)

Wesley (11.5 yrs old)

This is Thomas (12.5 yrs old) training for his 5K race. Some of the local schools are having a 5K race for different age groups and about 10 of the kids at the Rehema Home have been training for it. After the kids get back from school those that are training are driven back to school and they run back the 5K distance to the home.

Asha (16 yrs old) helps feed Jonathan (7 mths old) during her free time. I was impressed by the older kids willingness to step in and help with the younger ones. Everyone does not only their own responsibilities but they also willingly step in to help each other at different times.

Brice (6 yrs old)

Dennis (15 yrs old) is one of the oldest boys in the home. He came when he was 3 years old together with his brother Samuel who was then 18 mths old. Their father had neglected them and wasn’t taking care of them at the time. Dennis has always been a very sensitive and quiet boy. He’s very athletic and loves to work out, ride his bike and engage in any physical activity available.

Carol (16 years old) loves playing and caring for the younger kids. Here, she’s having a good time with Justin (5 yrs old).

Janet (11.5 yrs old) on the swing.

Dennis on his bike

Harry (15.5 yrs old) came to the Rehema Home when he was 9 mths old. He was born prematurely at another home then was transferred here. At age 7 he leaned over to pick up an eraser and couldn’t get back up. He had had a stroke. Doctors didn’t think he would live and they didn’t promise they could do much. However 3 days later he was out of the hospital and back home. With lots of love and care he recuperated and was beginning to show signs of recovery. He was able to use his left hand well and was even riding a bike. However at age 10 he got encephalitis which reinforced his paralysis. It also cleaned out his memory, he didn’t know who anyone was, had difficulty speaking, couldn’t see out of his left eye and basically had to relearn everything. In the last 5 years he has made great progress again. He attends school and is tutored after school. He receives physical therapy weekly. His physical impediment has done nothing to hinder the life and joy that flows out of him. He is one of the happiest kids in the home. He has an incredible memory and remembers everyone’s birthdays. All the kids not only have great respect for him but they care and love him so much.  Spend but a minute with him and you will fall in love with Harry.

Household chores are given out on a weekly basis and every child is on a rotation to complete different tasks. Setting up table for meal times, taking out the laundry, cleaning rooms, cleaning floors, folding clothes, etc. It teaches them responsibility and is part of life at the home.

Musa (8 yrs old) takes out the laundry to the washing area.

Brice (7 yrs old), Musa (8), Sheldon (10.5) and Micah (9.5) help fold and put away the boys laundry.

Silas (8.5 yrs old) on post meal clean up duty.

Bassett (5.5) cleans all the school shoes for all the kids.

The children’s weekly menu is set up by Ruth. She makes sure the kids have a healthy balance of different food groups. The meal here is yogurt, ugali (maize mix) and sukuma wiki (a type of kale) accompanied by some chapati (type of bread). This is a very typical Kenyan Meal.

Simon (12.5 yrs old) is on pre-meal set up. Simon is one of the other boys that followed me around and just seemed to enjoy my company. He’s very bright and was asking me about all the other visitors he has had from America in the past. Amazingly,  I did know one of the guys that visited him last year and he was so excited to know I knew one of his friends.

Asha (16 yrs old) prays before a meal. The kids are required to wait for everyone to be ready and then they all recite a prayer before digging into their meals.

The dining room area fits all 58 kids. Everyone eats everything on their plate and many will go back for seconds and even thirds.

Every night Irvin and Ruth have devotions with the kids. Originally they had them all together, but as the kids started getting older they saw the need to seperate the older kids form the younger ones. Ruth takes the younger kids and goes through a devotional with them before kissing each and every one of them good night. Irvin takes the older kids and brings them into their apartment (which is part of the Rehema home) and talks to them about their role as older siblings, their future, and the importance of faith in their lives.

The babies and toddlers have their own room and when it comes time to put them to bed the workers keep the routine simple: bathe them, sit them on the potty, put on p.j.s,  put them in each of their cribs, good night, lights out, close the door and the babies all fall asleep!

The under 12 kids go to bed around 7:30 while the older kids stay up finishing homework or just hang out indoors until 9pm when its lights out.

Irvin and Ruth tell me they never expected to play the role of parents to 58 children at this stage of their lives. You can see it in them how tiring it can be. But what I also saw in their eyes and their actions is how much they care for these kids. There is something out of this world that was put in their hearts that made them say no to retirement and yes to fathering and mothering 58 children that may not have had the chance to even live. They tell me of the dreams that the kids have. Some of them want to be doctors, pilots, nurses, matatu (bus) drivers!  Irvin and Ruth want to see their dreams fulfilled. Their ultimate goal is for them to be committed Christians, productive citizens and great examples to others that will come after them. Irvin has a dream of building a ‘half way house’ where the kids can live on their own in a place where they can little by little gain independence and confidence to be ready for life on their own. He also wants the kids to have the opportunity for college or trade school to provide for them and their future families. He even feels like some of them may come back and take over in caring for the younger kids at the Rehema Home. The dreams are big! It was such a privilege for us to witness the wonderful work that is being done here. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be able to tell a little bit of their stories. If you want to know more and be part of helping fulfill some dreams for these beautiful children, there is plenty of opportunity. Read our next post for some information on how you can help!

Julie edmonds -

Beautiful on every level. Thank you!!!

Chuck Fishbein -

My wife and I have been to RehemaHome three times. These images are absolutely stunning and the best I’ve seen of the children.

My only question is how did you get Ruth to be in a photo?

All the best

Marcus -

My wife Sunny and I have supported Rehema for over 10 years now–these are amazing photos, thanks for updating us on all of them!

andres -

Thank you Marcus! It was our first time there but we loved the place and specially the kids. Such wonderful work that Ruth and Irv are doing.

andres -

Thanks Chuck! We loved it too. I had to bribe Ruth! :) She was a good sport for that one photo of her and Irv.

nelly -

Beautiful.. brings tears to my eyes and the kids look well looked after, next time am in kenya with my kids i must stop by.wonderful God bless them!

Immaculate Otinga -

am immaculate…have worked with children for almost 4years..both under NGO..I would like to be part of your team.. thank you..0700203707