Sunday, November 11, 2012

Whats been happening with In Step construction?

Over the past few months I haven't been able to write and publish a blog at all, there have been a few times that I had tried and actually written something only to find that I was not able to post, whether it was from lack of Internet the power being out or just thinking that what I had written didnt hold any value. That and the end of the day I just don't feel like doing anything but eating, showering and getting to sleep. So I think I will give another try to see if I can get an update to whoever might be interested.

I think that this is the first blog that I will have been posted by me since coming to In Step full time in April, other then the short one from October that I just got around to being able to publish while writing this one.

I guess I have found myself sucked in to all the happenings around here. There is always a long to do list and even a longer list of children that are looking for some attention and affection. I really dont know how I can describe what a day here looks like for me. When first coming I would try to plan what I would do in a day only to find that I would be trying to get something done only to be distracted by someone that needed something or an emergency repair. On the way to do that something or repair I would be met by another distraction and another only to forget what I was originally planning to do in in the first place for the day. Of course this has gotten a little better the longer that I have been there because of getting things caught up and finding where there are needs and becoming more proactive instead of reactive.

The main projects that have been worked on since arriving here have been picking up with the finishing of the medical clinic that was started in 2010. It needed the entire site to be cleaned up and then to have the electrical conduit and plumbing put in, followed by windows, door and ceiling joist, which here is called blundering. And then plaster, electrical and plumbing fittings, paint and glasses for the windows. Also the septic tank would need to be finished and a soak pit would have to be dug, which is the equivalent of our leach field. Of course not everything for the medical clinic has been finished due to lack of funds, but all in the Lords time im sure it will be.

Thirteen miles outside of Kitale in beautiful Cherengani I have found that there are more challenges or opportunities present then while working in town. Transport being one of the biggest, finding that going to the hardware store to get materials now took a larger portion of the day. Sometimes depending on the rains materials wouldn't be delivered for a few days at a time. So once again a day that would be planned out would have to be changed on the fly to accommodate for the materials on hand and the labor force that was present. Also the twenty acre compound with certain materials in one store room or another would mean that I would be walking in almost twenty acre circles. While still working on the clinic the first of three teams building teams for the dorm came from New York with a few members on the other teams coming from Pennsylvania and California. It was great to have them here headed up by three great team leaders my father Ron, Jim Taylor, and my Uncle Bill. I was able to discuss with them where we were at in the project and then head to town to get the needed materials for the construction to continue.
While the three teams were here over a six week period the dorm went from being a slab, to having walls and structural columns and getting the form work for the lentil started, and the stairs to the second floor formed and poured with concrete. After the teams left the project moved much slower, as did I being effected with typhoid and malaria at the same time. however the shuttering for the slab was completed, as was the steel reinforcement and the site was cleaned up with some minor landscaping done, just to level out some of the ground. The plumbing was put in as well as electrical conduit for when the slab would be poured. The reason things really came to a standstill was to get all of the the money on hand in order to get all the cement needed for the second floor slab to be poured.

While trying to open a new bank account to make this possible, a new kitchen was started and finished.


While working on the kitchen some repair was needed for the septic tank which was no longer working properly. Turns out that the soak pit was completely filled by sediment, which caused the water to not percolate through and caused a back up. So the only solution was to remove all the stone and dig the soak pit all over again. it was dug to a depth  about 20 feet and then fill with drainage stone and covered back up.

A side project to get better storage and organization for the daily goods for keeping the home running. Things that need to be kept secure so that the kids cant get into them or walk away while no one is looking.

Also the building for In Step Academy was started as the kitchen was being completed. It is a two class room school and now has the windows set and is ready to have the ring beam formed. Each year a new class room will have to be added on to accommodate the new student class that is coming to age. Here school fees are charged for children to go to school, so with 14 students in class one and 25 in preschool and 33 that will be coming to preschool the at th beginning of the year it will be more feasible to hire teachers and to have a private school where a few students can come from the community and there fees will help pay for the teachers. Its hard to believe that this is a more economical approach yet it is.

While the kitchen and school were being built I was lucky enough to get some backup thanks to Terry Kiser who was here for a few months. Although we were splitting the responsibilities of construction we also had some Jeff and Carla's responsibilities to split with Sean and Meredith, while the Picicci's took a most deserved and needed break.

The second floor slab has been started to be poured now and the last section should be finished on Monday.

I have to give God all the glory for everything that has been accomplished here, because I certainly dont think I had much to do with any of the accomplishments, instead it was His Spirit that works through all of us that are here and those that have given support from abroad.

It may be hard for some readers to understand the above statement unless you have experienced it first hand, here I believe it happens on a very frequent basis.

Thanks be to God

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Week 7

This is the seventh week of construction on the new dorm here at In Step. Its been a week since team three boarded the matatu and headed off for safari before heading back to their homes in the US. All three teams worked hard and have accomplished so much in the past six weeks for the children here. Yes building the dorm is the reason most members of the three teams traveled halfway across the world, but I think upon arriving here each team member might have found that they built something a bit different from what they had expected, and far more important then laying stone and mortar or mixing concrete. Among the most important things that the teams have built is the relationships with the children whom they came to serve. I know that there were a few members if not most that had life changing experiences. I thank God for everyone that came to help build and everyone else who contributed financially and through prayer.

This week the kenyan scaffolds were set up, as well as a ramp that will be used to get wheelbarrows of concrete from the ground up to the second floor. The forming work continued, most all of the beams are now completely formed and so is the shuttering work for supporting the slab while it is wet. Also the steel work has been started.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wrapping up

Today was the final work day at In Step for Team 3.  Tonight the team is sorting and packing and getting ready for a 6 AM matatu to Nikaru tomorrow morning.  It has been an event filled two weeks and it certainly has gone by quickly.  Team 3 experienced many of the same delays and disappointments as Teams 1 and 2.  Nothing went quite as quickly as we had hoped and now and then the rain dampened the ground and our progress. Several team members got sick including Dan, Ashley and Carolyn who got malaria.  As Dan mentioned, yesterday morning started with an hour of sweeping water out of the building  before we could begin work. Anytime we even breath a word of disappointment Adam always says, “welcome to my world”.  He is a very patient man and living here has taught him even more patience.  I know he is here for construction but 80 percent or more of his time is spent on maintenance and not on the planned construction.  In spite of it all we can see meaningful progress forward, even if not at the rate we had hoped.  The team worked hard.  They fabricated all the steel reinforcing cages for the entire first floor ring beam.   All the columns got poured to the top of the wall and the outside ring beam is nearly all formed and has steel set ready for concrete.  The concrete stair tower to the second floor is walled in and the stairs and landing formed and poured.  For now it is a stairway to nowhere, but in time hundreds of little feet will run up and down it.   Adam does have a team of Kenyan workers who are following up behind us to complete the forming and pouring of the second floor.  The goal is to have that completed in five weeks.   Ashley, Amanda and Grace were able to sort boxes of kids cloths and organize them so they are easier to find.  It was a fantastic two weeks and the hospitality and care provided for us by the In Step was above and beyond expectations.  The accommodations were excellent, the food outstanding, the medical care exceptional.  Thank you Adam and Sean and Mer and Jeff and Carla.  We leave behind us months of work for Adam and his crew to finish.  We also leave behind an amazing group of dedicated staff who work hard daily to care for the 118 youngsters with their unique personalities and skills and potential.  We take with us awesome memories of the people we met, the things we experienced and the lives that touched us.  We will certainly think of and pray for In Step often.  We all owe them a debt of gratitude for everything they do for the kids and for everything they did for us.

Holy cow

Today was another wonderful work day. We started the morning by sweeping the 2” of rain off the floor. After getting most of the water out we started mixing concrete to pour the ring beam for the stairs leading to the second floor. After we got the ring beam poured it was back to forming up the ring beam over the first story, and forming up the second flight of stairs leading up to the ring beam, and there is always cleaning up the concrete from mixing it on the floor; that brought us to lunch time. While in lunch I was summoned to Carla's kitchen where Papa Jeff told me he was going to look at a cow to buy and wanted to me come along and look at it with him. I told him I would go. On our way I was wondering what kind of farm we would be visiting or just going to some pasture in the middle of no where. When we pulled up to the place it had a 20 ' concrete wall around the complex. This guy was not selling the cow to pay for medical bills like we were told; we're not sure why he was selling it, but we wonder about how legit the sale would have been. While we were looking at the cow we got a phone call saying that the van had died on the way home from the clinic. After we finished looking at the cow we took off for the van. By the time we got back to the clinic they had got the van running so we returned home!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


It was a day of rest and a day of busyness all at once. We got to sleep in a little bit, then we went to church with the kids right here at InStep. After porridge was served to all 117 kids outside, the kids 3 years and up gathered in the end of the dining hall for the service. Worship time was wonderful with many songs, including Father Abraham. Singing, dancing clapping, we worshipped as fellow Christians without barriers of culture or language. Pastor then preached about honoring your mother and father and those who care for you, like Aunties and Uncles "and visitors" (who would that be, do you think?). The kids were very attentive for over an hour, before getting antsy...well, except for the young drummer sitting up front, who fell asleep after the first half hour ON HIS DRUM ;). We sat with the 7 & 8 year olds, who had their bibles and looked up scriptures as pastor cited them. It was a very nice service. 

After church, we packed up to ride in the Land Rover to visit two other orphanages. The bumpy (okay, VERY bumpy) ride took us first to Veronica House, a home for orphans that are HIV positive. There are only 12 kids, most of which are older, and they presented us with a sweet song and many hugs. We also took a tour of the buildings there.  Adam, Bill's nephew who has devoted his life to these ministries while living in Kenya, helped to build them. There is a vision here for both a sewing school and a beauty school for the women in the area. We were shown a pile of purses that were sewn using empty concrete sacks, like those at our work site. They were cool; if they'd have been for sale, we'd have bought them! :) Both the kids and and the adults had a strong, quiet spirit about them as we visited,  and a bit of me remained there, even as we pulled away. 

Our second visit was to Kids Kingdom, the orphanage built in 2010 by the Pollock family projects in Johabeto. There are about 40 children there, 4 years old and older. This ministry was vastly different from even the orphanage we are working on here, with Kids Kingdom having no electricity or clear water available. The light of Christ's love was also evident in the eyes of these children, and their parents Martin and Ruth.  Their hugs and smiles filled our camera lenses and our hearts.  Their expression of appreciation for our visit included joyful songs and greetings and sharing news of the children's successes. We hung out with everyone while a torrential rain storm played out, and I was blessed to meet and talk with a young man, Edwin, who was deaf, and we used American Sign Language. The conditions there reminded me of our mountain ministry in Mexico. Limited means,  but a vision for God's children to be cared for. They showed us their maize crop, as well as beans and millet. It was also a  happy reunion for the orphanage and Carolyn and Bill, Jeff, Zach and Adam, all of whom were on the team that built the place two years ago. it was an incredible visit. 

Now we are back at InStep, having had a quick dinner of banana stew over rice. We are watching the team play Hearts.  Bed soon, as the building continues tomorrow morning bright and early. It's been a wonderful day here. It's such a blessing to be a part of something that will continue long after we go home. God has been so good to us. We are all healthy and raring to go! Blessings to all of our favorite people at home! Keep those prayers coming! 

PS if you haven't looked back, pics have been added to the previous posts. Check them out! :)

Team3 Day6 – Sat Aug 18

Today was an eventful day. We gained one of our recovered team members back (Becky, but not yet Grace), but lost one to Malaria (we missed your work ethic and cheer today Dan).
We had the great fortune to be here for the monthly birthday celebration. With so many children, there is a birthday celebration just once a month. All of the children gather in the veranda/dining room, and the ones with birthdays that month are called up front to be recognized. Some of the little ones, not understanding the purpose, think they are in trouble and burst into tears. The birthday kids help serve out that special of all birthday treats; cake and ice-cream! My what a babble. Laughing, clapping, screaming, crying, and calling fill the room. Even with a 1” square X 2” high piece of cake, and an egg-sized plop of ice-cream, I am amazed at how much ends up on the table, the floor, faces, hands, arms, and hair. What fun they have:-) Jeff and Carla decided to use this occasion to share out some of the 20 lbs of M&Ms brought by Grace. Each child got some, and a few managed to get lots :-) When the sugar high was at its peak everyone went out to the play-yard to blow and chase bubbles. It was a very successful birthday party.
Today was also the day for the visit of Robert the crafts-seller. He set up his 'wares in the school house and we all went shopping! So many beautiful items. Everyone found something to take home as a reminder of this trip. Some found lots. I'm glad that I didn't have more $ on me, or I would have kept buying. As it was I had to borrow some from Bill :-) Lots of jewelry, wooden bowls and figurines, cloth, paintings, belts, bags, baskets, and musical instruments. There were lots of amazingly carved and beautifully painted items made from soap-stone quarried from Robert's local village.
And, unfortunately, the rain, which has held off all week, arrived around 2:00 and ended our workday. With all of these activities, it was our least productive day over-all, but many tasks were still accomplished. Bill and Jonathan completed the complicated task of designing, making, and installing the forming structure for the 1st flight of stairs. Bill has covered the nearest plywood form with calculations and sketches. Everyone joined in the frenzied mixing of concrete required to fill the forms, and the first flight of steps was complete! Hooray!
Due to the early end to our work day, everyone had energy and time to catch up on our emails and contacts back home. That really gave the already tenuous internet connection a real workout:-) We also played some cards and heard many stories from team members that have gone on other missions.
With Sunday being our day of rest, we have a long break in which to recover and gather strength for the final 4 day push next week.
John Trentini

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Day 5 – Aug 17
I, for one, am feeling the days of hard work in the fresh air. I don't think I am the only one either, as we have been a little slower getting started every day. But still out on the job and working by 7:45 or so. What used to be the wheelbarrow ramp into the structure, is starting to look like the enclosed, 2-flight stairwell that it will eventually be. Bill has been working diligently with the local mason, Jonathan, to complete the outer walls and build the forms for the concrete stairs and landings before the end of our trip. Our team goal is to have all of the ring beams (the 8”X18”, re-bar packed, poured concrete beams that go along the top of the outside walls of the first floor) ready to pour by the time we leave. Thats about 250 feet of re-bar framing; made from differing thicknesses of 40' steel rods that must be cut, bent, and wired together by hand. These re-bar frames are then laid horizontally on the top of the outer walls and wired to the vertical re-bar frames standing out of the poured concrete pillars spaced around the outside walls. Then wooden forms are built around these frames. All remaining large gaps where concrete can run out of the forms (and there are lots, due to the unevenness of the stone walls) need to be closed off with pieces of scrap wood. After that, all remaining small gaps get stuffed with empty cement bag scraps until it is tight.
Two of our team have been smitten with a stomach bug (not Malaria, yay!) and have had to spent most of the day resting and recuperating. Unfortunately they also missed the big night out on the town. Adam drove the team, along with Sean and Maredith, to Kitale for dinner at a local Chinese/Indian restaurant. We had 13 people (14 until we dropped off Hoglah, the site's Social Worker) packed into the Land Rover for the ride. The food was tasty, and the discussions interesting. It was late by the time we got back so the blog didn't get written until Sat evening. And now that Friday's blog is done I am going to bed, so I will add Sat and Sun blog on Sun (our day of rest :-)
- John Trentini

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day 4 on the job and we are still going strong

The weather has been great for working. The good news is that we haven't had to stop for rain even once. The bad news is that we haven't had a rain break even once:-) Our days have been full of hard work, good fresh food, and camaraderie.
This is my first time on a volunteer mission, and my first time traveling to Africa, and it has been a learning experience. What I have seen of Kenya is poor, dirty, and smelly, and yet happy, beautiful, and lively. Our arrival into Nairobi was my first experience of what I guess could be considered a third-world city. There are obviously much different rules (or the rules are not enforced) about driving, living conditions, pollution, and oh-so-much more. Even though it is the capital of the country, the roads are narrow and poorly maintained, packed with traffic (at least between the airport and our hotel). Most of the buildings that I saw were old, dilapidated, and would probably be condemned it Rochester, NY. But every so often there would be a new building tucked between the old with familiar signs like SONY, Toyota, Dell, and many more. I don't think that I would last ten minutes driving in Nairobi. For one thing, they drive on the left side. There also appear to be few traffic signals, and fewer that actually work. At the busiest intersections police officers risk their lives (at least I think so) and stand in the center of everything. They don't seem to do anything but be there. Around them there is a never ending stream of uncontrolled vehicles; vans packed with people, small buses (like we were in), trucks, cars, and lots of motorcycles. The first vehicle to go through, whether going straight or turning, is the one that wins. And yet, there seem to be no accidents. Lots, and lots, and lots of close calls. Whenever the line of traffic stops (as it often does) people weave their way through the vehicles to get to the other side.
Our hotel (The Park Side) was... well, not 5 star. Bill picked a small local hotel, that seemed to be in the heart of the city. The sidewalks are broken and uneven (where there are any), the roads very narrow and dirty. The smells are so different from home, that I am not sure if they are terrible or just strange. The sounds of Swahili, people laughing, vehicles beeping, and neighbors calling out to each other made that first night a bit surreal for me. Bill had stayed there before and had some knowledge of the area, so once we settled in to our rooms we decided to walk to the nearby shopping mall. Well, I call it a mall because there were lots of stores and shops in it. It was a 2-story, warehouse-sized building with a full department store at one end, and a set of places to eat. Sort of like a food court. We managed to find something to eat, and I even found a pair of running shoes to replace the ones that I accidentally left at home. We returned to The 'Dark' Side (as Ron calls the hotel) and managed to sleep, even with a loud night club outside our window.
Hmmm, I realize that I will never get through this blog at this rate. I think I will just continue on tomorrow's blog, if they all let me :-)

John Trentini

P.S. From the scenes of life, family, and home that I have observed, I can only imagine that most people here do not have the opportunity to hear, see, or worry about the local, national, or global politics of race. I am sure that the children's favorite member of our team is Grace. A beautiful, thoughtful, fun, and outgoing 16-year-old young lady who has bravely traveled across the world to give of herself for these kids. She works hard on the job all day, and then plays hard with the kids every evening. I have had the joy of playing with her, and them, often. During our play we, and they, often joke and have fun with each other. They are happy, even proud, to have their burps called lion roars, their football (soccer) skills cheered at, and yes, their climbing ability compared to monkeys. They only understand such statements as the compliments that they are meant to be. Personally, I hope that their (and Grace's) innocence about such things as racism is never destroyed by the introduction of it into their lives. As Grace's father, I couldn't be more proud of her.