A Travellerspoint blog

HOPE FOR ORPHANS RESCUE AND EDUCATION CENTRE (HOREC) PROJECT

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This year on February 5th, 2011, Hope for Orphans Rescue and Education Centre (HOREC) celebrated its 6th birthday. In that time the project has seen amazing growth and progress through the generous donations from individuals and organizations, as well as the hard, unrelenting effort of its founder, Christine Wambui.

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For Christine, HOREC began on a personal level when her sister passed away due to infection with HIV/AIDS. After her sister’s death, Christine vowed to do her small part for those afflicted with the virus. She began going to the slum areas of Nairobi, Kenya regularly to care for sick women. As many died, they left children orphaned and in a very vulnerable position. Christine began to take the girls into her home as they are the most at risk of being taken advantage of. Once she had taken in eight children, she began renting a 2 bedroom home with the help of a volunteer housemother.

When I first came to HOREC in June 2007 there were seventeen girls living in the same two bedroom house and two house mothers. At that time, the project and Christine were struggling to stay afloat. Finding the funding for rent, food, water, and school fees was a constant worry each month. The choice between food and shelter was very real. Homelessness because of the inability to make rent was always on the horizon. Often, Christine was forced to go around and ask community members for small donations to provide food for the children each week.

During the time I was here, a lady from the United States that was volunteering for a couple of weeks at HOREC saw Christine’s compassion for the children and improving their lives’, as well as her constant struggle to find the funds to do this. She donated the money to purchase one acre of land to begin the construction of HOREC’s very own compound.

Today, the HOREC project has come very far from where it was three and a half years ago when I was last here. The families that were ripped apart from HIV/AIDS have been reunited as the brothers are now able to live on the compound due to the increase in space. There are now thirty-one children living at HOREC. There is a girls’ dormitory capable of housing thirty girls, a newly constructed boys’ dormitory capable of housing twenty boys, a kitchen, a dining hall, a nursery school, and an office for the onsite social worker. On staff there are three security guards (one during the day, two at night), a social worker, one housemother, one cook, a laundry washer, and one grounds man. Additionally, many projects have been established to further self-sustainability including a chicken farm with 200 chicks and 200 chickens, raising eight goats for milk and meat, and a new planted garden to grow and provide their own vegetables.

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I arrived back to HOREC on January, 15th, 2011. I was so taken aback and overjoyed to see the amazing progress that has taken place over the last few years. Although, I have been in constant contact with Christine and was aware of the changes, it was an altogether different experience to see it with my own eyes. I know the challenges and obstacles that have presented themselves along the way and it is simply remarkable to see them overcome on the road to continued success. There is still much work to be done but I am confident that in the next two years HOREC will be fully self-sustaining.

Currently, HOREC wants to begin a fish farm, build a cow shed, and purchase two cows to provide nourishment for the children, as well as income generation. As the fishpond project is already being overseen by an organization and subsidized by the government, I would like to begin fundraising for the cow project. I have already surveyed the land to determine where the cow shed will be built, contacted the builder to get an estimate of cost, and contacted local cow farmers to determine the cost of the cows and their upkeep. The total cost for the project is $4,800 USD. This includes the building materials for a barn that is capable of housing six cows, construction, two cows, food for three months, vaccines, and insurance for one year.

The cows will not only provide milk for the children and save the project money it usually spends on purchasing milk, but will also be providing additional income as the manure will be sold as bio-fertilizer and additional milk produced will also be sold. This will raise approximately $150 USD each month. This money will pay for the cows’ food each month, as well as be used to further the project by purchasing additional cows.

I have also visited a regional bio-gas plant that converts cow and pig manure into gasoline, which is then able to be used for lighting and cooking. Eventually, the goal is to install a bio-gas plant at the project. This would eliminate the monthly electricity and gasoline bills ($450 USD/month), plus provide additional income as the extra gas produced could be sold to neighbouring households.

HOREC is currently partnered with a US-based fundraising organization called International Treasure House Ministries (ITHM). 90% of the money donated in HOREC’s name will go directly to the project, the other 10% is for administration fees and covering the cost of transferring the funds to Kenya. Any donation amount is greatly appreciated and will go far in helping accomplish this project and further HOREC’s self-sustainability. All donations can be made out to ITHM and sent to:

23223 S. Warmstone Way
Katy, TX, USA 77494

Please include a note with the donation requesting the donation be used for the HOREC cow project. A receipt will be sent to you at the end of the year for tax purposes.

Thank you so much for your time! For more information contact me at my email: alexisfarley@gmail.com. Please feel free to forward this on to anyone you think would be interested in HOREC and the project.

Posted by alexis.f 09:31 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Middle East Adventures

Hello all! Hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday season. For the past couple of months I have been travelling around Turkey and the Middle East. I absolutely love the region: its so full of culture, history, amazing people, and yummy foods. I used Istanbul as my base point and returned several times in between trips around the region. On December 16th, 2010, a friend of mine, Vicky, who is currently living and teaching in France came to meet me in Istanbul. We spent a few days sightseeing and then decided to take an impromptu trip to Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. We booked our ticket on December 19th, 2010 and left and hour later for the airport. Our flight took us from Istanbul to Gazientep, which is in the south of Turkey. We had no visas for Syria and did not know if we would be allowed to cross the border. All the other travellers that I had talked to had been turned back at the border, so we were taking our chances. Once we arrived in Gazientep, not knowing our next step, we followed everyone else and caught the airport shuttle into town. On the shuttle we started talking to a lady who helped us with where to get off and put us in contact with another guy who was also going to Syria. We ended up sharing a taxi with him from Gazientep to the border and hopefully, if all worked out at the border, to Aleppo, Syria. The ride to the border was nerve-wracking and stressful as we were starting to prepare for our next move after we had been denied entry as the taxi driver was sceptical that we would be allowed to cross. At the border, it was not looking good: we were called in twice to talk with the chief border patrol officer. He interrogated us both and could not comprehend the notion that we were just travelling to travel, not work or study. At the end of the second interview he said that it was going to be too difficult to allow us into Syria and we were not going to get a visa. I asked him to reconsider and told him that we were only going to stay in the country for a few days to sightsee and experience the country. He paused, made a phone call and then informed us that we had a visa and to go to the bank to pay the $50 USD fee. So our journey continued!

We then took the taxi from the border to Aleppo, where we then caught a bus to Damascus. We had no idea where we were going to go or sleep once we arrived in Damascus because we seriously did not think we would make it this far. About ten minutes before we arrived in Damascus, we asked a guy around our age sitting next to us if he knew of any hostels or hotels near the city center. He ended up coming with us to the city center and helped find a hotel (which was the equivalent of about $30 USD/night). He gave us his number and told us to call him if we needed anything while in town or wanted to be shown around. We called him the next day for advice about where to go and what to see. As he was a student and had some spare time, he toured us around for the three days we were in town and made our experience in Syria so much more memorable as we got to see and do things from a more local perspective.

From Damascus, we took another share taxi to Amman, Jordan. Crossing the border was no problem and fairly straight forward. Once in Amman, we had planned a bit better than we had for Syria so we had the address of a hostel in the city center. After we got some food (the most amazing falafels, hummus, and pita I have ever tasted for the equivalent of $1.30 USD for two people) we asked the manager of the hostel for his recommendations on an itinerary for the places we wanted to go in the time we had (about 4 days). After talking with him, we decided to leave for Petra the next morning at 7 am. We arrived in Petra at 10am and explored the site for the day. Although the entrance fee into the park is the equivalent of 50 euro, it was well worth it. We ended up hiking around in the mountains, where there were very few tourists, to access vantage points of the entire city and sites from above. After our day of sightseeing we made our way into the desert of Wadi Rum. We stayed the night at a camp. It was incredible scenery and so relaxing getting away from the city for a night to see the stars and sit around the fire in the desert. The next morning we did a 4 hour trek through the desert with a 4X4 before leaving for the Dead Sea on our way back to Amman. We made it to the public beach, Amman Beach, at the Dead Sea about an hour before sunset. It was a surreal experience FLOATING in the water and being so buoyant. I decided it would be a good idea to do a Dead Sea mineral mud bath for $5 USD. So, after letting the mud dry on my face and body I got into the water to wash it off. In the process of washing it off, I got it in my eyes and mouth…. NOT FUN!, but memorable. I could not open my eyes and had to be led out of the water and have my eyes cleaned.

The next day, Christmas, we made our way back to Damascus, Syria by a shared taxi. It was not a problem crossing the border because we had previously been there but we had to pay another $50 USD to enter despite our attempted efforts as budget travellers to have the fee waived. From Damascus we caught another shared taxi to Beirut, Lebanon. In Beirut, we dropped our bags off at a hotel for the day and did some sightseeing and had Christmas dinner. Our flight back to Istanbul was at 7am but we decide to stay the night at the airport because accommodation, like everything else in the city, was SO expensive. So my Christmas 2010 began in Jordan and ended in Beirut, via Syria.

After, spending a few more days back in Istanbul and deciding what to do and where to go next, we left on a ten hour overnight bus to Cappadocia in central Turkey. The landscape there is simply beautiful and other worldly. The rocks of Cappadocia near Göreme are eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillars and minaret-like forms called fairy chimneys. The people of the villages at the heart of the Cappadocia Region carved out these rocks to form houses, churches, and monasteries. We went to the world’s largest open air museum, which was very impressive and contains the region's best collection of painted cave-churches. Medieval orthodox Christian monks (1000-1200 AD) carved the caves from the soft volcanic stone and decorated them with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. The town itself, Göreme, is very quaint, charming, and full of reasonably priced hostels and hotels. One of the highlights was Derinkuyu Underground City (built between 3-5 centuries BC), which is an ancient multi-level underground city. It has eleven floors extending to a depth of approximately 85 meters, it was large enough to accommodate between 35,000 and 50,000 people together with their livestock and food stores for months at a time.

After our tour of Cappadocia, we boarded another overnight bus back to Istanbul in time for New Year’s. My best friend from high school, Neda, met us there on New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s day Vicky had to return to France. Neda and I spent a few days in Istanbul and then left on a short flight to Antalya, which is on the Mediterranean coast in Southern Turkey. It is absolutely beautiful there. We spent our days just wandering around and enjoying the scenery and people watching around the marina. The weather was great and we were even able to go to the beach. We stayed in the old city, which is very quaint and quiet. It was a very relaxing and laidback vacation in the perfect location. After five days, we once again returned to Istanbul for one last time. All the pictures up to Cappadocia and a map of where I have gone so far are up on my blog.

I booked my flight for Kenya for the day Neda left to return to the US, January 14th, 2011. I am currently staying about 40 km outside of Nairobi, near a town called Ruai. I am staying with friends that I met when I was last here three and a half years ago. The lady runs a children’s home for orphans called Hope for Orphans Rescue and Education Centre (HOREC), where I previously volunteered. It’s great to be back and see the tremendous progress of the project. I am currently trying to do some fundraising for a project we would like to start to improve HOREC’s self-sustainability.

Posted by alexis.f 09:49 Comments (0)

The Real Adventure Begins

Hello from Tehran, IRAN! It took a 43 hour bus ride from Istanbul but I finally made it!

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The beginning of my Iranian experience began with picking up my visa in Istanbul, Turkey, which was a much easier process than I assumed it would be. Beginning in October, I applied through a tour agency for an application code to be sent to the Iranian Foreign Ministry so that I could pick up my visa in transit from a location that I chose. It cost thirty euros and greatly reduced the hassle and time involved of getting my friends in Iran to write a letter of invitation. I just had to fill out a short application form and pay the fee; and within a few days I had my code and the location of the consulate in Istanbul.

After a ten hour bus ride from Romania, I arrived in Istanbul around 3:30 am. I got a few hours of sleep and the next morning I went straight to the consulate to start the process, which I was told would take one to three days if there were no complications. I put on my headscarf and entered the consulate. It only took twenty minutes once I had got all of the necessary paperwork and requirements completed including 2 passport photos with a headscarf, photocopies of my passport and Turkish visa, and the visa fee (45 euro).

From the Iranian consulate, I went to book my bus to Tehran. It was shockingly cheap, only 35USD for an estimated trip of 38-40 hours! I was the only woman on the bus which was a bit daunting at first. From the beginning of the long journey I was constantly offered tea and food and if I refused I was given it anyways, keeping in line with the Iranian custom of taarof, which is the unwritten code of how people should treat each other. Only three out of about thirty people spoke English but some fun and entertaining conversations were had, which made the bus trip bearable and seemingly relatively short. Everyone one the bus really looked out for me and by the end of the trip they were calling me their sister and doing whatever they could to help me. At the border, instead of being grilled about my reasons for coming to Iran I was given chocolates and graciously welcomed to Iran.

Once we arrived in Tehran I was met by my friend at the bus stop. It was so nice to see a familiar face! I stayed with them and they were so generous and went out of their way to show me Iranian history, life, customs, and traditions. We have gone to concerts, theater performances, the bazaar, palaces, and have eaten some delicious Persian food. I also took a trip on my own for four days to two other cities--Esfahan and Shiraz, which were very different from the capital. They had a much more laid-back atmosphere, streets lined with trees and flowers, and amazing architecture. Also, from Shiraz I was able to visit Persapolis, the 2,500 year old ruins of the Persian Empire.

Overall, my experience in Iran was great. I got to experience a rich aspect of culture, history, people, architecture, ect that many miss out on. So I feel very privileged to have witnessed this country first hand. However, that does not mean that there were not aspects that I did not enjoy. For example, the pollution was HORRIBLE! It is at highly toxic levels and the worst it has ever been due to the burning of banzen because there is no available gasoline as a consequence of the economic sanctions against the country. People are getting sick and suffering from cancers, inability to breath, rashes, and other side effects. While I was there, I often had a headache and found it difficult to breath. To deal with problem, the government's solution is to keep constantly declaring "public holidays", which in effect closes schools and keeps people from working. Also, while I was in the country, two university professors were shot and killed because they were anti-government and their outspokenness concerning Iran's nuclear policies, which speaks for the current lack of freedom.

Before coming here, everyone that I told that I was going to Iran immediately became very concerned and felt they needed to give their words of wisdom and warnings to me about entering such a "dangerous" country. However, I have found quite the opposite since being here: the people are not the government! Most Iranians do not agree with the current government and their policies. In fact, this country's people are some of the most hospitable, gracious, and educated people I have ever encountered. Although, the laws and policies of the country vary greatly with much of western society, most people are so similar to those at home, they have parties, sing, dance, enjoy life, and debate and are critical thought about their government and the current state of the world's affairs. I am so happy with my decision to come to this country despite most people's concern and alarm. It has reiterated to myself not to trust media's perception of a country...one has to go to a place to make their own judgment.

Posted by alexis.f 07:31 Archived in Iran Comments (1)

FINALLY!

a wee bit of procrastination...

Hello all!! So thus far, this blog has been an epic FAIL!! Its been difficult to find places with cheap internet in Europe, and quite honestly it has been a bit too much partying and getting used to constantly being on the road. To start I want to apologize for my spelling in this post and lack of details about my trip so far. I am posting simply to get a start on this blog and give an update about places I have visited so far and my upcoming plans.

At first I was diligently writing down all the places I went and things I did everyday, but after about a week and a half, that ended. So, I am going to sum up by simply saying I have been culturing myself throughout Europe and just give a brief recollection of places visited so far. These are the places I have visited ...

The first part (Scotland, N. Irleand, Ireland, Bristol, & Bath) I was on my own and stayed with local people through an online organization called couchsurfing. It was a great time....I met loads of interesting people, saw places through a more local perspective, and got to do lots that I otherwise would not have been able to.

I then met up with a good friend, Andra, in London. She had previously lived there for 2 years, so we were able to stay with some of her friends and got to see places that normally tourists miss, such as Brick Lane, 1001, Blackheath, and loads of markets. Overall, our time in London was a bit too short (4 days), so I was not able to do lots of things that I wanted to including Tate Modern and Westminster Abbey. Andra and I then travelled through Portugal, Spain, and Rome together. It was an incredible time filled with warm weather, good food, and SUPER cheap wine! Couldn't ask for a better time!

After Rome, I tried to make my way to Montpellier, France to visit a friend who is teaching there but...the French love their strikes, so half of the trains were cancelled making it impossilbe for me to get there. So instead, I went to Paris and ended up staying for 5 days, which would not have been a problem except it is SO expensive.

I was able to finally escape from France to Belgium and met up with a friend in Brugge. It was such a beautiful, quaint town that I recommend everyone to visit. We travelled through Belgium together, visiting Brussels and Ghent on day trips from Brugge. After, we went to Amsterdam, Berlin, and Poland, which is where I am now.

All the places I have been so far have been awesome and I am loving Poland. From Krakow, I am planning on going to Zakopane for a few days to visit the mountains and get out of the city. After, I will probably head to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary before making my way to Croatia. The only deadlines I have are: I must be out of the EU before December 3rd, and I must pick up my Iranian visa in Turkey before January 19th. Everything else in between is up in the air!

Sorry for my lack of posting and updates and this boring post. I promise to update more often and have more details from now on! I have uploaded pictures from my trip so far...so have a look! Hope you are all well and send some updates about life at home!

Love
Alexis

Posted by alexis.f 00:17 Comments (0)

West Coast Road Trip!!!

2 weeks, 3 girls, 2 provinces, and 8 states!

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View West Coast Road Trip! on alexis.f's travel map.


To celebrate graduating from University, 2 girlfriends and I went on a road/camping trip through the western US and Canada. It was an AMAZING trip with so many diverse experiences from the rocky mountains, to the rugged oregon coast, napa valley wine tasting, 46 Celcius degree death valley, the majestic grand canyon, grizzly yellowstone, and glacier national parks. It was a wonderful 2 week camping excursion and a great way to see the countries I'm from before leaving for my travels around the world.

Posted by alexis.f 01:04 Archived in USA Tagged automotive Comments (0)

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