The past few months have been extremely busy for me. I started a business (more on that later), I lead groups and sewed pads, I collected and organized underwear and soap, I spent incredibly valuable time with my family. I began attending church on Wednesday nights with my family. I joined MOPS. I spent time with friends and family, experiencing life-on-life relationships.
I did not blog.
I have been wanting to write this letter to you all, my wonderful supporters, and I am so glad to have the time now to share with you the progress of this project (for those of you not following me on Instagram, where I have been posting LOTS of pictures of the progress). When I last wrote, we were planning to make the trip to Kenya in May 2015. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we moved the trip to September 2015, a time that worked well for our hosts in Lodwar. Our trip is September 21st - October 1st 2015, just a couple short days away!
I hosted three sewing days for pad construction: one at The Grove church in Gilbert, AZ and two at CrossRoads Nazarene Church in Chandler, AZ. We had many people attend and help complete our goal of 600 pads! We ended up with 602 pads total, giving us enough to make kits for 200 women in Lodwar. Many of you donated underwear and soap for our kits, as well. We ended up with SO much soap (more than enough to fulfil our needs) and more than double the pairs of underwear we needed for our kits. You are all amazing and generous and we could NOT have accomplished any of this without your help!
Here's what I have been up to since March:
Shortly after posting the tutorial for the pad design, I began getting together with groups of volunteers to cut, sort, and sew the components for making the pads. Over the following months, we were able to continue our work at home, cutting at kitchen tables and turning points while sitting on the couch watching our favorite shows. We built a great little community, all working together toward a common goal. I was especially grateful to have my mom's help. She was (and is!) the last stop in our pad making production line. She carefully and meticulously inspected each and every pad that we finished, pulling out the ones that needed some more work and adding snaps to the top quality pads. Even though we ended up with 602 pads, there are still some that need a little more attention. They are sitting patiently, waiting for me to finish writing so I can fix them up for her to snap. I just handed her three more tonight!! (And she thought she was finished snapping... :) )
Mom at Sewing Day
A little road trip unpicking. Family vacation to Oceanside, CA this summer.
Some of the pads I got back needed a little TLC, so a few of us spent some time unpicking pads and remaking them so they could be taken with us to Lodwar. I learned a lot in this process and have been planning to redesign the pads to make them easier to sew and more efficient for the recipients. I'm hoping to utilize the Days for Girls pattern, but I need to speak with our public health specialist to find out if the change will be helpful or not. Their pattern uses a trifold insert that, when hanging on a line, resembles a washcloth. Much more discreet and may use less water to clean, which is helpful, especially in the desert. I also have a couple of extremely intelligent and talented friends who have offered to help me with the redesign, so I'm hoping to get together with them when I return to hear their ideas.
Start-to-finish, it took about 20 minutes to make one pad. Of course, when I made them I used an assembly line method, cutting down the time per pad, but if you were to create one from scratch, it would take about 20 full minutes. Maybe a little more. The volunteers worked tirelessly to make all these pads! I had such a fabulous group of helpers and donors! Creating 600 pads is no small task!
As you can imagine, cutting the material for over 600 pads resulted in a ridiculous amount of scraps and thread trash. Rather than throw all those bits away, I made dog beds out of larger pieces of donated materials that could not be used for the pads (knit, terry cloth) and had my daughters stuff the dog bed shells with the scraps we created. It was a great way to use what would have been headed to the trash bin, and it gave my girls a hands-on job in the process. I try to include them in as many ways as I can. I want them to grow up to have a heart for helping people. I want them to understand how blessed we are and how wonderful it is to bless others. In total, we stuffed 15 dog beds to donate.
I also had the girls help with other tasks, like folding the pads to stuff the kits!
At some point over these past months, I reached out to my friends on Instagram and Facebook, asking for donations of women's cotton underwear and travel sized soaps. The response was overwhelming! We couldn't even get into my craft room for a while there because of all the packages and donations. Thankfully, my mom bailed me out and offered to let us use the closet beneath her staircase to store all the Kenya Pad Initiative related materials. After taking it over to her house, we worked together to organize and count so we could keep track of what we had, as well as what we needed.
Just this last week, I loaded my car down with all the things she was storing and took them up to CrossRoads Nazarene Church where a group of women and young ladies from the youth group helped us get the pad kits together. Each kit includes three pairs of underwear, three pads, and one travel size soap, all held together in a muslin drawstring bag. The bags are all labeled with the size underwear and packed away, ready for us to take on our trip next week.
Packing pad kits in my craft room. I don't have the pictures of the volunteer group helping stuff the other kits yet.
Meanwhile, I have been preparing myself for the trip. I had all my shots and immunizations. I applied for my eVisa, which is a thing now if you plan to travel to Nairobi, and was approved. I went to Passport Health. I have attended meetings and talked with many people who have travelled to or lived in the region we will be visiting. I helped pick out crafts to bring to the children. I bought a floppy hat to keep the sun off my face.
And I bought bug repellent.
Lots of bug repellent.
I think I am just about ready to go. I have a small backpack that will carry all my necessities for the trip. While in Nairobi, I can wear jeans, but in Lodwar, I have to wear a floor length skirt and shirt that covers my shoulders. I have my unscented shampoo and conditioner and soap and I have duct tape to fix any holes in mosquito nets. I still have to wash my clothes in the special mosquito repelling soap, but I have my converse packed! Apparently there are very large, sharp thorns in Lodwar that will puncture the soles of shoes. I'm wearing my converse because they have the hardest soles of the shoes I have. Maybe if I ever go back to Kenya I'll invest in a pair of hiking shoes! I'm trying to pack as lightly as possible so we can save the weight for more water filters or medical supplies. I AM bringing my Kindle though. 36 hours in a plane (one direction) is a long time. I'm hoping to get in some reading!
Fueled by coffee.
To fund the trip, I did two things: I wrote a letter to friends and family asking for donations and I opened a business. I am so grateful to everyone who donated! At this point, I have $50 MORE than what the trip costs. This is before I put in the money I have raised from my editing contracts and my new business, which is awesome, because now that money I've raised can go toward the trips of the other people on the team! If I had any doubt that God wanted me to go on this trip, those doubts were silenced when God provided everything I needed! I have a fully funded trip. I have all 200 kits. My husband was able to take the time off work to stay home with the girls. I am healthy and strong! God is good!
The business I started is called Lily and Maze and you can find it on Etsy or at lilyandmaze.com. This all started because of Kenya:
My booth at the Bloom Boutique. I also made that quilt on the wall to be raffled off to raise money for the youth group!
I began making these bangle bracelets for friends. I never intended to create a business out of it. But one day, my friend Stacey asked me to sign-up for a booth at the Bloom Boutique in Chandler, AZ. At first I told her "no", knowing I had my hands full prepping all the pads for the Kenya Pad Initiative. Then, a few days later, I found out I was actually GOING to Kenya, something I didn't think was possible. I called her back and accepted her offer to sell at the boutique and I made my bangles. I didn't sell extremely well at the boutique, but I had so much fun doing it, I decided to keep making and selling them, putting the profits away to pay for my Kenya trip. Then I had more people start asking me about my bangles and wanting to know when I was going to open shop on Etsy. So, after discussing with my husband at length, I decided to do it. I applied for a business license, got an EIN, and opened an Etsy. It has been so fun owning a business. I love making these bangles and necklaces for people, and I get to make ones I like: nerdy, crafty, book geek and Disney inspired! Right now, all proceeds are going to the Kenya Project, and after this trip, I am going to continue giving a portion of the profits to the Kenya Project. It's the only reason I started the business. It only seems right. You can see my shop story here. This link has lots more information regarding the creation and running of my business. I will be closing my shop in a few days as I prepare for my trip and will remain closed until I get home.
We will be flying to Washington, D.C. > Brussels, Belgium > Nairobi, Kenya. Lodwar is another plane ride from Nairobi, but it is a small plane with weight restrictions. We will have a stopover in another town to refuel before we can make it to Lodwar. We will be going from Lodwar to Kakuma Refugee Camp. This leg of the trip will be made in a vehicle over rough terrain and will take us about 3-4 hours to reach Kakuma. Going to Kakuma was not originally on our itinerary, but we know they have needs we might be able to help with, so we are going. I hear the movie "The Good Lie" is about Kakuma. It stars Reese Witherspoon, although I haven't had the time to rent and watch it yet. I'd like to when I get back. Kakuma is home to many Sudanese refugees, about 186,000 people. 18,000 of those people are orphaned children, sent on the 100 mile trip across the border into Kenya by their parents who felt their chances of life were better than if they were to stay in Sudan. From Kakuma, we will return to Lodwar, the stopover, then Nairobi. Then we will fly from Nairobi, Kenya > Brussels, Belgium > Chicago, IL > HOME! We leave early on September 21st and return home October 1st. We will be leaving Nairobi the evening of September 30th. I give you all this information in hopes you will pray for us, for safe flights and emotional strength.
I think that is what I am most concerned about: emotional strength. Before I had kids, I never cried about anything. My grandma, my favorite person in the whole wide world, died, and I didn't shed a tear. Now I cry at car commercials and radio announcements and my daughter's picture books! I like to be compassionate, and I want the people we are visiting to know I care about their circumstances and their lives, but I don't want to cry all the time. I've already teared up a few times writing this! I'm emotionally attached to these people I've never met, but I don't want them to think I pity them. I don't want them to think there is something wrong with them. So one of my biggest prayer requests is that God would give me peace and strength throughout the day and allow me to deal with my emotions back at the sleeping quarters or in our personal debrief.
So that's it. My very informative but slightly ineloquent blog post. I'm hoping to write more when I return (I won't have internet while I'm there) and, as always, follow me on Instagram at @dheyen or on Facebook with the user name Danny Hambrick Heyen. You can follow my shop at @lilyandmaze on Instagram as well. I post a lot of different pictures there regarding the Kenya Pad Initiative since it is such a central part of my business. You can also check out any of the following hashtags: #lilyandmaze #kenyapadinitiave #lodwarlove #crnazpads #crnaz
Please pray for us, the entire team: Heidi (our leader), Lorenze (our videographer), Dr. Andy, Molly, and me.
I appreciate you all so much. Thank you for the kind thoughts, positivity, encouragement, donations, and friendship throughout this whole process. I love you all!