Sponsor an Umoja Staff Member for Christmas

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Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya are setting a target of 100 Sponsorship pledges before Christmas. To find out how to be involved see the latest Newletter.

Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya sponsored by Rotary Australia

Help promote Umoja Writing Competition

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We always give this competition plenty of time for entrants to write and send in their entry. Don’t leave it too late though, and miss the deadline. Get working on your entry today. The theme is ‘Peace’ and in today’s world there’s plenty of scope to find a story within our theme. We all want a peaceful world and umoja is all about unity and peace. The small entry fee goes directly to the Umoja Orphanage Kenya Project.

If you would like to help us promote the competition please download the flyer and distribute where you can, your school, university, workplace, gym, library, local book store – anywhere you may find writers. Thank you in advance.

Umoja Writing Comp 2016 Flyer

Front of Umoja Writing Competition Flyer.
Front of Umoja Writing Competition Flyer.

The countdown continues

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The countdown continues to our winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015.

We’ve already announced third and it was Judith Howe’s ‘Cup of Water’. Hopefully you’ve already read and enjoyed Judith’s entry. Now we announce second place. The quality of entries was very high and again we’d like to thank our judges Deborah Lawrence, teacher and literacy consultant (and also the sponsor of our trophy) and Shanyn Limpus, communications officer for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to judge our entries.

Another drum roll please (African drums), ta da da!

Second place: WINTER by Denise Krklec.

A big congratulations to Denise from Rochedale, Queensland. Here is her entry:


The fireman shut down their hoses and trudged through the whiteness to stow their equipment. The snow was already masking their trucks, blanketing the scene quickly as if to cover the horrors of what sizzled and spat behind them. There were no words between the men as they went about their duties, just as there would be no more sounds from the bodies found in the smoking ruins of the house. There was nothing left – just irregular hisses and crackles as the house succumbed, groaning its last words.

There remained one fireman in the snow, rolling the last hose, numb with cold and sorrow. It was a small community and he knew the house, the driveway, the letterbox, and the family. As he turned in salute a final time toward what now ceased to exist, he heard a noise that didn’t match the destruction before him. He went to investigate.

His torch penetrated the darkness, searching under beams, exploring the ruins, casting light on devastation. He moved toward the sound, unsure of its location or origin. An animal? Perhaps a kitten? It was a boy. A boy with melted skin and frozen limbs and no words.

Six weeks later the boy still had no words. All he had was loss – a mother, a father, sisters, toes, fingers, muscles, eyebrows, ears, lips, hair, and all his vitality. Body parts not burnt by the fire were frostbitten from lying in the snow. He wanted to be held, with arms outstretched and tears snaking down damaged skin but there were too many wounds, too many bandages, and dressings, and tubes. And the wrong people. His eyes continued searching for the right people even after the professionals explained his loss in three-year old language. He was stuck in memories of winter, under the window, in the snow, a burning house behind him, and dad rushing away from the window towards screams.

He entered my domain unannounced, in the arms of an aunty. She had confused the appointment time and arrived as I was switching off lights, ready to return to my world of no words. A world thousands of kilometres away from heartbreak and emotional torment that still fitted like a glove. At least I could escape to a new world of new friends, new activities, and a new job, but one look at the boy and I knew he couldn’t escape anything. Even surrounded by the love of his extended family his eyes remained disinterested. I, to him, represented more pain, more trouble, more work and no compensation for his loss at all. We were both far from home – I, travelling the world on a working holiday, and him, with only the hospital to call home – and yet our paths had crossed.

We set a recurring appointment. Twice a week the boy taught me things I was not prepared or willing to learn. He forced me to examine my cloak of issues and to decide what was worth fighting for – what things were worth keeping wrapped around me, and what could be discarded and should be discarded forever. I taught him how to move again despite his scars and fears and pain. Together we found our words.

A three-year old taught me that despite losing everything, you could still smile. Sometimes the smile was through tears as his skin stretched and his muscles fatigued, but it was still a smile shining through the scars. I discovered it sometimes really hurts to be stretched and you want to kick and scream and yell ‘no’ to the things that make your life hard, but if you have someone you trust with you through the stretching there are opportunities for smiles.

He taught me that even though your arm won’t bend and you don’t have all your fingers, you can still give high fives. It was just a matter of adjusting thoughts and patterns. While the losses were still present and keenly felt, there were times when a high-five was required. No question asked. An accomplishment, something to be proud of, something deserving a kind word, or a victory dance with what did still work. Followed by a high-five.

The boy showed me that even if you trip over your swollen feet, you could still run to find the prize. The prize wasn’t big or even valuable but to someone who had lost so much the prize was worth every ache, every tear, and every effort in the fight to gain the prize. Even better if the prize was something the boy had chosen – a goal to work toward, something again to live for and strive for, damning those losses to a place only examined at the appropriate times.

I learnt from the boy a hug still means ‘I love you,’ even if you can’t squeeze tight, or lift your arms high enough, or maintain your balance while reaching out. A hug meant that we were in it together even through the pain and the tears and the yelling. A hug meant all was forgiven. A hug meant despite the losses there was still the capacity to love, to experience, to communicate, and to receive.

Our words taught me the value of friendship – despite the differences in age and life experiences, and despite what the future might hold. Our words right then meant the world.

Come back to see who takes out FIRST place.

See more about Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

The countdown begins

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The countdown begins to our winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015.

This year we’ll announce third and upload the entry for you to read. We’ll then post second and, finally, first place. The quality of entries was very high and I’d like to thank our judges Deborah Lawrence, teacher and literacy consultant (and also the sponsor of our trophy) and Shanyn Limpus, communications officer for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to judge our entries.

Drum roll please (African drums), ta da da!

Third place: A CUP OF WATER by Judith Howe.

A big congratulations to Judith from Coombabah, Queensland. Here is her entry:

A Cup of Water

by Judith Howe

The small being crouched in terror as horrifying scenes of war unfolded around her. She heard terrible noises and explosions the smoke and found smells choked her. Terrible screams penetrated the blackness. She was alone. The turmoil stopped while darkness engulfed her.
People shadows moved quickly rescuing survivors. This helpless being was just one of thousands caught up in the destructive mess left behind by man and his war. Small forms merged with hers as they gathered and jostled along.
The frightened child heard voices and sounds she didn’t understand. Waiting and squatting in the dirt with the others ‘little one’ was mesmerised by the patches of filtered gold sunlight which flicked in and out of the rubble near her feet. Eventually her treasure was blotted out and the magic disappeared.
Moments later she was lifted, squashed and pushed in among other helpless, not, wriggling and smelly beings like herself. Some were crying. She wasn’t. She felt sick and her arm was sore. There were loud noises again, movement, then rocking and bumping and a roaring mechanical sound that went on and on as did the distress of the mass of humanity she was contained in. Their bodies fused as they endured the long rough journey to freedom.
There was a jolt and a screeching of metal. The movement and bumping stopped. The casualties of war cried out fearing the unknown. ‘Little one’ couldn’t her throat was aching and dry.
Humanity moved and slowly and gently she was lifted up then set down on the sweet-smelling grass with the others and positioned in line. Her legs moved automatically along the path. Then there was a halt. Fearfully she looked around. Other eyes mirrored her own. The faces all looked the same. Frightened, bewildered, sad, strained and dirty.
People shadows came near her, one crouched beside her and clasped her hand. A soft voice spoke in sounds she had heard before. She slowly raised her head and with heavy-lidded watery eyes she saw a smiling mouth. Kind eyes nodded at her. She tried to move her tongue to say something but words couldn’t form.
The warm hand guided her to a large room where other beings like herself were bathed and showered. Stood motionless. These shadows were people with kind eyes and soft smiles, some wore white coats and uniforms, they were helping everyone. To ‘little one’ this was a ‘happy place’.
Her feet were cleaned and the cut toes bandaged. The arm examined and now wrapped in a big firm white bandage. A lady person with smiling eyes helped her to dress. The dress was cean and had bright yellow flowers all over it. The under-things were of the same material. She rarely wore under-things because her family were poor. Though she still hung her head she could see piles of dirty rags and clothing in the far corner of the room.
‘Little one’ had never owned a brush or a ribbon. Another smiling lady person tied the ribbon and chuckled as she saw the delighted response. The child remembered her mother from the other time and stroked her dress with affection. The cloth felt clean and nice.
After the bathing, dressing and medical treatment the group of children stood together in a long hall-way. Several younger grown-up people appeared and led them to another large room bathed in sunshine and brightness. There were rows and tables and benches where many small beings or children we can call them now, were already eating and drinking.
‘Little one’ sat down at one of the tables, the bench seemed smoother than the one she used in her village home. Her own had splinters. Her father had made it long ago before the blackness and horror.
The smells were different here. There was a familiar fresh bush smell, a smell of cleanliness or disinfectant as we know it and above all the smell of food. The smell of death and destruction was erased. The shock of past happenings, the violent separations had left this small child exhausted and numb yet she still responded to help and love. Fragments of her previous life were with her. She existed.
Food was served on a plate before her. Another lady person with smiling eyes helped the food to her mouth. It was good. Around her other small beings ate, talked and laughed. She wasn’t sure if she could talk because her throat was too sore from screaming and crying during the horror.
Another helper placed a mug of water near her plate. ‘Little one’ nodded and managed a weak smile. The water held her interest. It was almost invisible. She could see the bottom of the cup. She put her fingers in it and to her delight the surface rippled. She had never see water like this. It wasn’t brown and dirty. There was no rubbish, twigs or goat droppings floating about like her village water. The smell was different. She glanced up and down the long table, other faces had their mugs up to their mouths enjoying the taste of real unpolluted water.
She did the same. Smiling eyes came closer to her face. Her own lips moved and her eyes responded. She felt life. The fact that she was alone in the world would come later. She was blessed and pure like the water, innocent yet a product of the evil carnage man had brought to her world. Her life had been saved but could her soul be healed, would she recover, only time would tell.

Come back to see who takes out second place.

See more about Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

Winner of Umoja Writing Competition Announced Soon

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Keep posted as the winner will be announced within the next month. Thank you for your entries and we hope this competition is bigger and better next year.

If you would like to donate directly to the wonderful Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya please  visit their Chuffed page at: