Watoto Tumaini: The Kids of Tumaini [Round 2]

Alright I know it’s been a while, but there are more children to meet and more stories to tell, so here goes!

Rose Nyokabi


Last year Rose was a bit of a grumpster – good luck picking her up without a good cry, much less a decent smile. But this year we got to see those beautiful teeth on a daily basis. One of my favorite things about Rose is definitely her smile.  A full-blown smile would light up the day, but if you got her to pose for a picture, her grin looked an awful lot like the Grinch’s. This pic happens to be a combination siding more on the genuine side!






Elija Ngigi

Elija Ngigi

Elija may look like your average and adorable goof-ball, but don’t be fooled by those innocent eyes – there’s mischief lurking behind them.  He and Uncle Charles are “the terrible two” – seeking trouble at every turn, then dazzling you with that precious face and tiny little giggle. Let me tell you, discipline can be hard to implement, but staying mad is absolutely impossible!







Mercy Muthoni


Mercy isn’t quite a teenager yet, but she has maturity beyond her years and the attitude to prove it. But behind that confidence is a shy and sweet sweet girl with an incredible voice!  It can be pretty hard to get her to sing in front of people, but let her think you’re not listening and I promise you’ll hear the voice of an angel.  One night during one of our many sleep-overs she and I got to harmonize a little bit to one of her favorite songs, Here I Am to Worship.  It must not have sounded too terrible because pretty soon we had some of the boys trying to peek into the common-room window of the hut to see what was going on!




Elizabeth Nekesa


Nekesa doesn’t like me.  It’s sad but true.  Last year she and Wahu were my girls – it was rare to see me without one attached to each hand. The problem was that neither liked to share and would get pretty upset if I played with another kid and would push them away. I of course tried to mediate as much as possible and one day Nekesa got so mad that I was playing with the other kids that she just walked away.  The next couple days we spent painting a mural away from the kids and when I came back Nekesa would have nothing to do with me! This year she didn’t completely ignore me, but I certainly am no longer on her list of favorites!





Issa is nothing but tough on the outside and sweetness on the inside.  He likes to play Sorry the board game, but only if he can be red, and only if you’ll be on his team.   He also loves hide & seek and being chased.  One night we spent probably a couple of hours taking turns hiding my camera case and chasing each other around – all more than worth it for that twinkle in his eyes.




Francis Nene and Dennis

Francis Munene

Francis was most famous this summer for his ‘President’s speech’ and desire to grow up and be president of the United States.  His signature line was pretty catchy: “Don’t kick your brother! Don’t kick your sister!”  I think he’s got a good shot! Francis also has some pretty great dance moves – flips and tumbles and karate kicks all included.  He can be pretty shy at times, but when he gets his goof on you’ll be rolling on the ground laughing.







This is Angelina as we made bead bracelets and necklaces.  She can melt your heart with that smile,  and she’s always good for a laugh.  I don’t know anyone who can come up with as many silly faces and songs as Angelina!







Dennis Mwangi and Dennis MainaDennis and Dennis

They don’t always wear matching sweaters, but they are the best of friends.  Even at age 8, I think the two of them could run the Tumaini household all on their own!  Both of them can be shy to start out, but even then you can see their love for their siblings.  Dennis Maina will be the first to quietly comfort a crying child, or gently guide them to where they need to be.  Meanwhile Dennis Mwangi makes sure you eat all of your dinner and are in bed by just the right time.  Don’t worry, it’s not all business with them – they love to run and jump, play soccer, and they really love their puzzles too.




Grace and Hanna


These are the two best friends that anyone could have – inseparable by every definition. To be honest I’m not quite sure how it happened, but at some point Grace decided to latch on and if Hanna wasn’t in sight the first thing out of Grace’s mouth was inevitably, “where’s Hanna?” But aside from her attachment to Hanna, Grace’s most memorable attribute is her laugh. Oh I could pick that laugh out anywhere!  It’s loud and explosive and impossible to keep from laughing yourself whenever you hear it.





Albert and Ester

Albert Raju and Ester Mura

Albert is the eldest brother at Tumaini, and he takes his job as role model and care-taker very seriously.  He plays with and cares for the kids, but will also discipline them when it’s needed. And somewhere amidst all of this he keeps up with his chores washing the bus, laundry, doing school work, and soccer.  He’s one of the people I admire most at Tumaini.  Over the last couple of years we’ve gotten pretty close. I try and help out when he has girlfriend problems, and he’s taught me how to play Kenyan poker and roast corn on the fire.

Ester Mura on the other hand took quite some time to warm up to me.  She can be pretty finicky but seeing her smile makes every moment worth it.  I got to help take care of her quite a bit this summer – in fact she induced my first Kenyan-diaper-changing experience, which unfortunately came in handy all the time!




Griffin Mwenda


Difficult to say for sure, but Griffin just might be one of the most adorable kids in all of Kenya.  He has a wink and a grin that will melt your heart in .3 seconds flat. He and I would play hide and seek an awful lot, but I think my favorite time with Griffin was story time.  He would hand me his school writing book (most of whose pages were empty), sit in my lap, and then listen while I told a new story of frogs or fairies, or maybe elephants or trees.  Every once in a while he would interject with sound effects or a plot twist, and each story time would of course have to end with the singing of a silly song.  🙂



Micah Kariuki

Micah Kariuki

Micah has both a captivating smile and a perfected puppy-pout.  He loves piggy-back rides and playing chase, although usually he would want to help me chase the other kids, rather than be chased himself.  He definitely loves to be the center of attention though. I can remember countless evenings when the kids were getting ready for bed in their designated rooms (each room has about 7 kids and an Auntie), and Micah was sure I was in the wrong room.  He would come and find me, take my hand, say “Eileen, come” and lead me back to his room for bedtime stories and superman jumps off of the top bunk and into my arms.


I hope that perhaps you’ve gotten a glimpse into my everyday life in Kenya, and that maybe you’ve fallen in love with these kids just like I have.   As I’ve slowly been writing about each of the kids from here in the States I’ve been reminded again and again just how much I miss them.  They grow up so quickly and I can’t wait to see how much they’ve grown as I head back this summer.







~ by eileendekker on January 21, 2012.

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