"MACHAO," the Makueni Christian Home for Assisting Orphans, is a faith-based organization formed by seven Christians of the Africa Inland Church (AIC) in the Wote Division of the Makueni District in Kenya. I became aware of the organization when the Machao organizer, Dr. Carolyn Rowley began working with my mother, the Pasadena Police Department's lead Lieutenant, Phlunte Riddle. They constructed a team, including myself, to travel to Kenya to assist with development efforts.
Traveling to Makueni, Kenya with a team of strangers was definitely a leap of faith for me as a Pasadena native. While I have traveled internationally before, spending two weeks in a remote impoverished city in Africa was a great stretch of my character.
Our mission commenced with a strenuous 25-hour plane ride to reach the destination of Nairobi, Kenya. Upon arrival, the orphanage's Pastor, Dr. Joseph Matunga, greeted us with many of the orphans of Machao at his side. The children were ecstatic to finally meet us, as they had been anticipating our arrival for some time. They welcomed us with huge genuine smiles and gave us endless hugs, as I watched about 30 children rip luggage from our possession so we would be burden free. The program we were to carry out was in the fourth stage of development after having several teams preceding ours, and leaving the kids with many life changing improvements, including a fresh water well in the heart of their facility. So, with the arrival of a new team coming to continue improvements of the orphanage, I understood the appreciation in which we were greeted. To complete our travel, we boarded a weathered bus and started on our three-hour pavement-free trip toward Makueni, home of Machao.
Makueni welcomed us with the overbearing and distinct aroma of burning trash, more notably plastic, which was a result of a virtually non-existent sanitation program and evidenced by many smoldering fire pits throughout the village. The hotel itself was meager in stature but provided the essentials of running water and electricity, which soon proved to be a luxury compared to the living conditions of the orphans. The main focus of the mission was to continue progress with the agriculture sustainability of Machao. This phase consisted of purchasing and constructing a greenhouse and chicken coop during the 2 weeks of our stay. This was essential because all of the food consumed by the children is grown and harvested at the facility. Before the sustainability project began, the children were eating one meal a day that consisted of mainly grains. With the addition of fresh water and additional vegetation crops, the kids are now able to eat multiple times a day with a bit more variation in diet. The addition of the greenhouse will mean being able to add to that variety and safety of vegetation from the elements, critters and vandals.
The chicken coop houses 100 chickens and offers the children a steady diet of protein, through the eggs produced. Any excess vegetation and eggs will be sold at local markets, and profits will go directly to enhance the lives at Machao.
We spent most of the days working on our projects, while the children spent long hours at school. Over the weekend, we were finally able to spend significant time with the children at the Machao orphanage who, despite their impoverishment, were rich in spirit and radiated with joy. We were able to present the 42 orphans with care packages that were donated on their behalves. These packages consisted of basic hygiene items such as toilet paper, toothbrushes, and deodorant. Additional gifts were donated as well including soccer equipment, suits and crafts, all of which were received with great appreciation.
Our team decided to stay a night with the children at the facility to have deeper understanding of their hardships. At night, we slept in badly aged bunk beds, which consisted of an extremely thin mattress and a rock hard bedding fixture. For bathing, there were stone enclosures with a wooden door. Each of us was given a large bowl of warm water, which had to be pumped from the water-well then heated, and we were to pour it over our body, lather, and repeat. There was not nearly enough water to have a thorough cleaning. The children attended school during the week from 8am to 8pm, walking both ways and traveling back home by moonlight only due to lack of transportation.
While donations and sponsors have contributed to enhancing these lives, there's so much more that can be done with basic funding. In the short two-week trip we were able to greatly increase the means for consistent meals. With additional funds, we will be able to focus on facility enhancements like running water, bedding, transportation, etc. The concert is a fantastic opportunity to sow into these children's lives. All proceeds go directly toward enhancing life on the Machao Orphanage. I look forward to returning to Machao in the future to aid in their continuous expansion and experience the deep gratitude that these orphans have for the impact we've made in their daily life.
The premier Machao Orphanage Benefit concert is scheduled for 6:00 p.m., Saturday, August 18, at the Ambassador Auditorium of Maranatha High School, 169 South Saint John Avenue, featuring the music of Latin Guitar World Fusion Group INCENDIO, performing Jazz, Celtic, Middle-Eastern and Electronic music.
Tickets are available on the website: www.machaobenefitconcert.com, at $30.00 and $10.00 for students, VIP tickets are $100.00 and include VIP seating and a Pre-Reception.