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We finally did it!










We have been hoping to start this project for quite some time. This week, we finally started our riding therapy for children with disabilities or traumatic pasts. The first session went smoothly, and the kids were smiling ear to ear!

The benefits of horse therapy for children with Cerebral Palsy like Peter pictured above are huge. Just by riding a simple walk, his abdominal muscles will get stronger and stronger. Children who are wheelchair bound evently gain strength to sit up and some even learn to walk with assistance. But most importantly, they have fun and gain confidence through riding. 

This is such a fun project. It requires a lot of work on our end keeping and training our horse to not be bothered by all of the people walking around her, the music, clapping, etc. plus getting enough people to lead the horse and walk along each side with the rider... and it requires a great deal of work from my friend Haley who hired a van, bought snacks, and convinced guardians and parents to bring their kids!

Start with What You Have

Years ago before moving to Kenya, Johnny and I bought a house in Port Arthur, TX. We felt so happy to have a bigger home that we decided to 'give back' by taking in homeless people. We received so much negative feedback from the 'church' asking us why we would do such a thing. It was the beginning of our pulling away from religion.
But what we learned from that experience was that we can help people with things that we HAVE. Start small. Step out and be bold by doing just a little with what you have where you are...
Often times, when people hear that we care for orphans in Africa, they gasp, "Wow. You are so special." And it makes me feel as if this idea exempts them from thinking they, too, can do something 'great.' I am no one special. Johnny might think he is special, I don't know... But the reality is we are normal folks who had to start somewhere. I knew that children in Kenya didn't have taxpayer dollars helping them when they lost their parents. I also knew that I loved being a mom so I decided I could offer the little I had to fill a need. I decided to be a mom to more than my own children. Now we have a small homestead in Kenya helping orphans and people in the community thanks to people like you who support us.
Fast forward to 2016, we have lived through raising 15 children. I have learned many lessons along the way. When we started taking in children (mostly preteens and teens at the time), we had expectations that our new children would be so overwhelmed with love that they would just fit in and be like our own kids. We knew they had traumatic pasts, but we didn't expect it to be difficult to connect to them. We loved them as our own, but for some reason they wouldn't talk to us, or they would do strange things like hide food in their shoes, or urinate in weird places. It was hard. We needed help, but we found that there wasn't any place in our area of Kenya that would fit the bill. Our Kenyan children had issues with trusting people because people hurt them in their pasts so counselling with a 'human' wasn't exactly the answer.
So here is where we are now: our orphansnomore are growing up. They have turned into beautiful girls who are still in our care for a few more years, but our dynamic is changing. Johnny and I feel as if we can't continue raising new batches of children forever. We are developing our farm to be a model for future orphan care projects. We also are helping orphans stay in school by paying their school fees and buying uniforms, books, etc... but I have this fire in me to fill another hole by doing something I am passionate about using things we have on hand. Once again, I find myself excited to be starting something new.
Having the farm and having the gift of having a horse that was given to us as well as tack that was donated is such a wonderful thing. (I believe every child should have a pony and learn from them if possible. Here is a good article on that.) And being the person that I am, I don't want to just keep a horse to myself. I want to use our horse to help kids in need. Why not combine the two things I absolutely love:  horses and helping people? (Not to mention Kenya is the perfect place to do just that because horses are inexpensive to keep in Kenya costing around $39 or less a month for a good doing pony up to $74 a month for a guzzling Thoroughbred. That includes shoeing, hay, feed, salt, vet. That's less than people spend on a dog per month.)
This is not an 'all of a sudden' thing. I have been planning and preparing for this for YEARS. It is only now that I am feeling bolder and more confident about it. I attended a bit of training in Nairobi on two different occasions. I have studied, and I am still studying. Am I completely ready to do therapy with horses? Not quite, but if I wait until I am completely ready, I will never start. So, I will do what I always do. I will start with what I have where I am. I have people asking for this 'service,' and I have been preparing to a point where I feel like we can take the first steps to starting this endeavor. 
I have a friend who works with disabled children who she believes will greatly benefit from this venture. She is not the only one hoping we get this going. Another friend who works with orphans wants to bring them here as well. Not to mention my own orphans-no-more who will and do benefit from this.
With that said, we are starting small where we are with the horse that we have. We are doing our first 'riding for disabled children' this Wednesday with three children who have cerebral palsy. I am so excited about this. I want to make children feel special, loved, and give them hope. I want to help disabled kids develop confidence and muscle tone. I want to give orphans a place they can feel love and acceptance, and I want to give struggling orphan guardians a place where they can see their children heal from traumatic pasts.
I don't think horses are THE answer nor will this be all we do, but I do believe they can be a part of how we bring hope to the hopeless.

School Fees

There is a school, a nursery school, in Nakuru run by a good friend of mine. Nursery school in Kenya goes for three years. You have your baby class, middle class, and top class. When  one graduates top class you move on to class 1 (first grade.) Nursery school is an important step for these children to prepare for primary school. Unfortunately not all students can afford to pay, or have trouble paying all the fee or paying on time. Without fully paying the fees the student cannot take the final exam and move on to the next grade.

We committed to pay the school fees of two of these children a couple of weeks ago. Part of our mission of bringing hopeful futures to children here in Kenya is helping them to get access to education. Paying fees, lunch fees, uniforms, and even sometimes paying for school trips is part of how we are keeping kids in school and in reach of a hopeful future. I would like to pay for more students in this school to help them be better prepared for class one.

Since I know the owner of this particular school well, I know the funds are needed and will be used to improve the school. Thus improving the education of these little ones just starting out on their educational path.

There are seven students we have identified that need help for this term. I have already paid one school fee at 5,500 KES, which is about $54 U.S. dollars. If we can raise another $324 for the other six fees this will go a long way to helping the school, and the students.

I am not committing to sponsoring these students for the rest of their school career, just would like to give them a boost for this final term of the year. In fact some of them will graduate from top class and move on to first grade next January. 

We would appreciate any help you could give towards this project. Just follow this link for information on how to donate, and make sure to include a note that it is for the nursery school fees.


Changing Dynamics


Let me help you understand our dynamic now. Firstly, we are celebrating NINE YEARS of orphan care in our personal home this month.

We took in one preschooler, and 8 preteen and teenage girls nine years ago (2007). None of them had a consistent education before moving in with us. With that said, most of our Kenyan daughters are grownups now, but they are still in our care because they are going to high school. We cater for all of their needs, but going to high school is a huge transition for Kenyans.

Let us talk about the oldest 4: Grace is 22 years old and in 11th grade. Sarah Apiyo is also 22 and in 11th grade. Mildred is 21 and in 11th grade, and Sarah Muthoni is 19 and in 11th grade. They all attend the local school near our home. In January of this year, I had just given birth to Starlette, so informing everyone of the changes was difficult because I was busy with a brand new baby... But three days after she was born, we started renting a house closer to the girls' school so that they could start learning to manage themselves as 'grownups.' They receive a monthly allowance, and we pay their rent, school fees, and medical stuff. In other words, we are still caring for them! We just don't see them as often. Instead of having to walk 45 minutes to our home from school, they only walk 3 minutes to their house. I hope to get some good video of it for you. It is quite adorable! I am so proud of them. So far, they have really managed themselves well!

Now Mercy is 20 and in boarding school because she received a full scholarship. Mary and Teresa are also grownups being 18, and have chosen to return to their biological families against our wishes.

Beatrice is 17 and also attending boarding school because she made high marks on her exams. We still have BT visit every holiday when she is out of school.

Lastly, Edith is 13 and living with us in our home. She is the one who has opened up so much in the last two years. She is in 7th grade and is just one of us. She is thriving and doing well.

So there you have the 'orphansnomore' update.

Taking orphans in as our own children is not easy nor is it finished. We are still raising them and guiding them and funding them. The dynamic has changed a bit, yes, but they still require us in their lives.

The financial demand is still there, but the time demand is a little less. We only have 7 children in the house now. So we are able to plan what our future holds as the girls begin to grow up and out. They still have some time under our wings, but in the meantime, we are doing new things.



Not Just Words

Our monthly newsletter recently went out (if you are not getting it sign up here,) where I wrote about the passage in Matthew 25 concerning the sheep and the goats.

Here is the part I quoted in the newsletter:

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

This is one of my favorite passages in the New Testament. Lovely little story that I decided to dare to believe one day. In fact Kate and I rearranged our entire lives in order to live out this story. 

No fear, I have not gone off the deep end. My feet are firmly on the ground, and I am not keeping a tally of sheep or goat personality traits. This is not something to take literally. God is not actually sorting people out like they are sheep and/or goats. Nope. Stories do not have to be factual to be true.

We should care for one another, and we should care for those that society or culture has rejected or ignored. That is the truth.

I graduated from high school in 1992. Glad to be free of that indoctrination machine, I have not really spent much time since then reminiscing. Yet as I was thinking about this passage from Matthew yesterday a memory surfaced. I was reminded of a time when I failed to be there for one of those in my school who was bullied, oppressed, and rejected. Personally I was on the bottom of the social ladder. Fat and antisocial I just was not cool material. Honestly this did not bother me. I thrive by myself and loved all the free time to read. Bullies quickly learned that I fought back, and would leave me alone. Unfortunately not everyone can fight back. There was this one kid who was a complete outcast. Awkward to the nth degree, but always trying to be a part. He or she, I cannot remember now, used to come to school wearing Star Trek uniforms. Needless to say this was before cosplay was mainstream. I do remember thinking on more than one occasion that I should reach out and be a friend. I never did, and I regret it.

In each of our lives we have these "least of these" type of people. Kate and I decided to move to Kenya and work with orphans, especially orphaned girls, because they are overlooked and ignored in this culture. Each time we pay a school fee, buy a school uniform, buy food, or take one to the hospital we are reaffirming that they have value. We are saying "you are seen. "

Thank you to those who help us to love these children here in Kenya. We, meaning us and them, appreciate it dearly.

It is official, I completed a Lamaze Childbirth Educator training course.

I am now a certified childbirth educator! This is the beginning of something new at A Future and a Hope. Although I have coached many women on how to relax during their labors, I now have a complete curriculum plan plus some tools to take women and their partners through a 6 week childbirth education course.


New About Me Page

We are currently working on a new biographical page and thought you might enjoy what we have so far. Keep in mind this is not the final draft, we will add some pictures and possible videos, but it gives you a good overview of our lives.

Thanks for stopping by our little corner of the web. My name is Johnny Brooks, and together with my wife, Kate, live in Kasambara, Kenya. We moved to Kenya in January 2005 with our children from Texas and have been enjoying the adventure ever since.
We are working towards providing hopeful futures to orphaned and/or abandoned children. The sheer number of needy children in Kenya is overwhelming, so we decided to put the big number on the back burner and help the ones we could. Nine girls moved in with us a little more than eight years ago. They have lived with us as family ever since. Our basic orphan care philosophy is that by replacing the missing family parts of their lives we can provide them with hopeful futures. Years later we are still connected as a family, and all nine girls have more chance to become productive parts of society. 
Fifteen children, nine Kenyan orphans and six biological children, are more than enough for any family. Yet we still want to provide for more and more children. To that end we are expanding our efforts to keep children in school. Unfortunately here in Kenya school is not free. There are a myriad of fees, uniforms, books, and other expenses that have to be paid. If you fail to pay the lunch fee, for example, then you are sent home and not allowed to continue learning. We are paying lunch fees for students so that they can stay in school, and at least eat one meal for that day. This way we can keep needy children on the path to futures with hope.
We also believe that agriculture is a way that more orphans can be cared for. To that end three years ago we purchased nearly twelve acres of land in Kasambara. The main goal being to learn farming methods, produce food for ourselves, and then use any excess for relief in needy families. We call our farm, The Shire. We now live on The Shire and love it. The learning process for farming is time consuming, and requires a lot of trial and error, but we are well on the way to achieving our goals of producing food for us and others. 
Kate is also expanded the project to include educating women and girls on reproductive health and dealing with menstruation. Child birth is dear to Kate and she is quite passionate about getting information into pregnant women's hands here in Kenya.
That is us in a nut shell. Follow us on Facebook to get a more day in day out glimpse of our lives:


There is this cute little boy that lives down the road from us. I am guessing he is maybe two years old. Anytime he hears the car, which being a LandRover is audible from quite a distance, he runs to the road and waves with as much vigor as he can muster. I have never heard him say anything (in Kenya is is common for children to shout "How are you" at passing white people) he just waves and smiles. I try to give him a worthy wave in return, and generally if anyone is in the car with me they will lean out the window and say hi. 

I have never actually stopped to say hi. That actually might scare him and mess up a good thing. Little guys like him are one of the great things about living out of the city and in a smaller village. Kasambara does not have a busy road, which makes it easier to wave at a little boy on the side of the road. Plus the road is so terrible that one is forced to travel at a measly pace which makes it harder to miss cute kids on the side of the road.

Having now lived in Kasambara for more than two years I do not think I could go back to living in a city. I mean not if I have a say so in it. We have less noise, people, and bills cluttering up our lives. Which creates more space for us to be with the children and each other. A less busy space.

Honestly though when I stop and think about it our lives are not less busy, in fact we generally have much to do, but the excess noise is less and that helps generate a more relaxing atmosphere to live in making the work more enjoyable and less like work.

Creating the farm system takes up much of my time and energy. Not necessarily with the labor part, but just learning about farming. There is a lot of information out there and a lot of people willing to sell you their interpretation on that information. Processing data on farming methods has begun to take up bigger and bigger pieces of my days.

At the moment the farm is not producing very much food, though what we do grow and raise is delicious, however the infrastructure and development necessary for the future is going in. Some of what we have done:

  • Some fencing, including creating paddocks for cows and horses
  • Building a small hut for guests. This hut recently had a toilet added on to it.
  • Building a house out of mud. This is our home, which is powered by solar energy and now has a hot shower (also solar powered)
  • Building stalls for cows and horses
  • Building two pig sties
  • Building a rabbit enclosure
  • Building a small chicken coop
  • Planting lots and lots of trees

Now a list of what we would like to get done before the end of this year:

  • Slaughtering house (not really a house but space to be able to butcher animals cleanly and more easily.)
  • More fencing. In fact we would like to complete fencing of the whole property
  • Refrigeration. 
  • Planting lots and lots of trees.

It is only September, there is still plenty of year left. 

It seems that keeping up with our blog can be a bit redundant with all of the social media stuff we are posting out there. I hope that there are a few of you still popping in here from time to time.

I forget sometimes to sit still long enough to write blogs and update everyone on things going on.

In case you don't follow us on Facebook, some up coming events include me (Kate) trying to attend an accredited childbirth education course in Nairobi.

The course takes place 26th of September through 30th and costs $500. I need transport there and back, too.

I hear it is well worth my time. I will receive a certificate as well as amazing tools to help me educate women: a model pelvis, placenta, doll, and umbilical cord, plus a syllabus for teaching women.

I haven't been away from my kids for any length of time, so this shall prove interesting. Of course baby Starlette will be with me!