Heri Ya Krismasi!


Lucas hiding


We slow down rapidly on a main road through Nakuru, oh no, it looks like the guys in front have a problem with the car, then I realise they are indicating to turn off the road. From behind our tinted windows I couldn’t see a turning off the road, just piles and piles of rubbish. Smoke seeps through the endless plastic scraps, the stench is unbearable and already flies are gathering all around. We follow our friends in the pick up off the road into the repetitive expanse of rubbish, two young faces bob up to welcome us and point down the path lined by waste. The car is never going to make it down there and the thought of breaking down leads us to turn around and find a different route.

We arrive at the dumpsite having only just managed to get the car over the barely existing road. The pickup is parked up just ahead of us with 14 of 90 bags full of food. George goes ahead in to the dumpsite where many families live in the midst of Nakuru’s waste. We’ve been to similar places in Egypt and Peru, the stench is unbelievable (we were far enough away not to get the full sensory impact). The horizon is covered in rubbish with a few homes scattered amongst the continual burning waste. The smell of burning plastic has become familiar to us.

As we get out of the car I’m on full alert, Lucas is in my arms and my back pocket is loaded with antibacterial wipes, my maternal instinct screams at me to get out of here. We are here now and can’t go back, not yet. We overlook the ‘dump site’ where a few hundred Kenyans live and work, we have come to help a friend who has organised for 90 bags of donated food, each to feed a large family for Christmas, to be distributed. My instinct wants to hold on to Lucas to keep him clean, he wriggles and struggles to run free like the other children who are observing us from behind a parked car. I can’t restrain him any longer and he starts to wander around saying hello, I watch him like a hawk!

George returns with four Mamas from the community, several young guys and kids are in tow, they wait to see what this group of Mzungos (foreigners) have come for. We hand over their Christmas hampers and they look delighted. For today at least they will eat well. They laugh and giggle amongst themselves then come forward to greet and thank us. Lucas high-fives them all, he sees no difference between himself and the guys stood in front of us. We follow his lead and shake hands and hug, Lucas is picked up and hugged by all of them. In that moment the thoughts running around my head, the fear of disease, illness and injury dissolve away, these are our friends and we are privileged to be in their community and humbled by their gratitude.

Christmas Dinner.jpg


dumpsite food bags.jpg

two mamas.jpg


Lucas being Father Christmas and giving out some gifts to our security guards

presents for the guards.jpg

A last it feels like Christmas! Christmas eve was spent with Kate, Jonny and their big family sharing a whole range of American, English and Kenyan food by candlelight (power cut) followed by a bonfire and carol singing, it was just so lovely!

candlelight Christmas dinner.jpg

by the bonfire.jpg


*The slit lamp apparently was on a Christmas Eve flight to Nairobi, maybe Father Christmas was delivering it on his sleigh? If it has actually arrived then hopefully we will have it between Christmas and New Year – let the fun begin!*


We want to say a big happy Christmas to family and friends, you have all been such a support to us and so we made you a few mini films to say thank you! Which we hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them. Heri Ya Krismasi/Merry Christmas!!

Lots of love to you all beautiful people,

Madeleine, Andrew & Lucas xx

The Trailer

Christmas Movie

Here is one we made earlier…

If the videos don’t appear here then you can copy and paste the URLs/web links

Countdown to Christmas, Mango and Almond Biscotti


I listen to our Christmas songs and dance around with Lucas, it is fun and momentarily I forget the ache in my chest.

I’ve made mince pies a couple of times now, we have even enjoyed eating them with hot mulled wine, the rosemary “Christmas Tree” is up and we are counting down to Christmas with our homemade advent calendar.  The sun shines most of the time and I’ve found a worthy replacement to my apple addiction – pineapples. I barely remember what wearing a jumper feels like but if I’m honest it feels like we have been pretending it is Christmas.

The ache is relived by regular baking, a daily run or hypothermic swim – must be the endorphin release! I am incredibly thankful I am with my two beautiful boys but I can’t shake off this feeling.

We said goodbye to Lyds Chris and Estie at the beginning of the week, we had had such a wonderful time with them, immediately we missed them and Lucas kept on asking for “bebe Estie”… sooo cute! Part of me wished I was returning to the grey, wet (very wet from what we hear) and cold England, Christmas seems to have this pull to bring me to be with all the family.

My emotions have been on overdrive. I think it is because I can not hide from life around me. We are living alongside people with only the most basic amounts to eat and standard of living that is hard to accept as normal. My emotions swirl between feeling deep hurt at a world that seems so unfair and equally humbled by how much we have (health, family, education to name a few). The problems just seem too big, when will it end? I’m not sure what to do with all these feelings but for now I just quietly process them and try to be open and real. Maybe it’s the delay with the slit lamp and not having started the 100 village countdown… I try and remind myself why we have come here and however small what we are doing is, we can at least make a difference for some people and we will try and do it right, even if it doesn’t all work out at least I know we have tried.


The slit lamp….!!!! It has been a very complicated process but in short it has successfully undergone an inspection (yay!) in London which means it won’t have to go through the same process here on Kenyan time and at a cost of £2000! Crazy import rules! It’s now packed up with its numerous certificates and countless documents and has a seat (probably won’t actually get a seat) booked on a British Airways flight tomorrow, the 23rd, so it may just be in Kenya for Christmas! We hope!! There will still be some time before we can get our hands on it here though.

The study team are great and have been so patient. We ran another teaching session this week including simulating glaucoma and loss of visual field by wearing two empty toilet rolls, one held up to each eye, lots of fun. They all clumsily bumped in to one another and got a real appreciation of what it would be like to lose vision from glaucoma.



I made mince pies for some festive cheer and we gave out laminated training certificates with a little Christmas pressie of almond and mango biscotti.

We were warmed to hear from one of the study team that despite the project not having started yet we have strengthened our relationships with them. No one directly tells you how they are feeling but always through a third party. A very sweet third party shared with us that they are all really enjoying the baking and that we value them enough to make the effort. There have also been comments that they feel valued at being part of the team and treated as equals. I think they expected Andrew to fulfil the doctor role (they are used to being told what to do and publicly embarrassed if they make mistakes) and play the hierarchy game but as this has not materialised they are all contributing more and slowly being more open with us. The new year looks positive.

We hope you are all enjoying the festive cheer, we are inside our third floor apartment, particularly when the music starts, Lucas is one star at dancing to Christmas cheesy classics!

Recipe – Almond and Mango Biscotti


350g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp mixed spice

250g caster sugar

3 eggs beaten

coarsely grated zest of 1orange

85g raisins

85g dried mango

100g whole almonds


1.     Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

2.     Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.

3.     Put the flour, baking powder, spice and sugar in a large bowl, then mix well.

4.     Stir in the eggs and zest until the mixture starts forming clumps, then bring the dough together with your hands – it will seem dry at first but keep kneading until no floury patches remain. Add the fruit and nuts, then work them in until evenly distributed.

5.     Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 pieces.

6.     With lightly floured hands, roll each piece into a sausage about 30cm long.

7.     Place 2 on each tray, well spaced apart. Bake for 25-30 mins until the dough has risen and spread and feels firm. It should still look pale.

8.     Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack for a few mins until cool enough to handle, then turn down the oven to 140C/fan 120C/gas 1.

9.     Using a bread knife, cut into slices about 1cm thick on the diagonal, then lay the slices flat on the baking sheets.

10.  Bake for another 15 mins, turn over, then bake again for another 15 mins until dry and golden. Tip onto a wire rack to cool completely.

11.    Store in an airtight tin for up to one month.


Lucas having fun on the roof

Lucas on the roof.jpg

Lucas trying to fix the broken slit lamp…


Mince Pies and Mittons

mince pies.jpg

I hear the smooth slight twang of an Irish accent coming up the stairs and the babbling of a baby: Lydia, Chris and baby Estie have arrived on the their way home from their 3 month stay in South Sudan. We are so excited – we have been looking forward to have the Mitton’s stay since we arrived.  They have had a very busy and tough time after working in Juba, teaching for 3 months with Estie, a non-sleeping 9 month old! (That’s hard enough in the comforts of the UK but in 40°C heat and communal living space that demands serious respect!).

They come up the 3 flights of steps looking exhausted and covered in vomit. It seems the journey from the airport took it’s toll on Estie and she decided to share her lunch with her Mum and Dad and the taxi’s upholstery.

As the week has gone on Lucas and Estie have had great fun – she is not quite walking but he tries to take her by the hand and lead her to the toys. Lucas soon realises that Estie is not on her feet so he begins to crawl after her. They talk, chat, giggle, and shriek!

Estie wakes at 3.30am and will not be convinced to go back to sleep (somehow they have survived doing this for months). When they’ve not been catching up on much needed sleep we help them load up on good wholesome food and coffee (a necessity with non sleeping babies!). Lucas is actually much better now that he only wakes up 2 or 3 times a night and will settle quickly. For us this is a miracle and we are very happy!


*Slit Lamp Update*

Andrew is non-stop in phone calls and emails trying to arrange the slit lamp through customs (it’s a very long complicated, laborious procedure with different answers and different suggestions depending which official you speak to). Currently we are awaiting an agency in London to inspect the slit lamp and produce an importation certificate. Once this is issued it can be collected and put on the next plane. Hopefully the inspection will take place this Monday (17th) and the certificate issued by Wednesday. It might just be possible it will be sent to us this week, we will have to wait and see.


We’ve really enjoying being with close friends and have managed to have some fun including a trek up the Menegai crater and two trips to the local Ethiopian restaurant (so yummy and they eat a rice sourdough pancake like bread that takes 4 days to be made from start to finish!). Chris, Andrew and Stew enjoyed some “bromance” watching the football at Oyster Shell Restaurant with some beers and the now staple fish masala with turbo naan. Chris was not let down by the masala despite the preceding hype and we were brought back a couple of portions to enjoy on their return.

After we sort the slit lamp (and we pray it will be with us before Christmas) we have to organise our visas and residency. We didn’t think this would be a problem, but it turns out to work as a volunteer here we will have to pay £2000 each per year for a visa! We are looking at other options… Anyway, for now we are playing some classic Christmas tunes sat around our Rosemary Christmas tree enjoying home made mince pies and mulled wine (I stashed a couple of sachets in a luggage when we moved out).


This recipe is from Holly Bell (Great British Bake Off Runner Up 2011)

Ingredients to make 24


– 250g plain flour
– 50g icing sugar
– 125g butter
– zest of one orange
– 1 large egg


– 411g jar of mincemeat

Biscuit dough

– 120g soft butter
– 30g icing sugar
– 100g plain flour
– 20g cornflour
– half tsp cinnamon
– pinch of nutmeg


1. Add flour and icing sugar into your bowl, chop cold butter into 1cm cubes and add with the orange peel, rub with your finger tips until it becomes a fine breadcrumb consistency.

2. Add the egg and mix in with a blunt knife.

3. Cover in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. In the meantime make the biscuit dough mince pie topping.

5. To make the dough mix the very soft butter with the icing sugar in your mixer with the flat beater. Mix until really light and fluffy – about 4 minutes. Then add all of the other biscuit dough ingredients and mix again until combined and fluffy.

6. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and pop in the fridge.

7. Roll the pastry onto a floured work surface to about 3mm thick and cut rounds out using a pastry cutter. Pop into your non-stick bun tray then place a teaspoon of the mincemeat into each pastry case.

8. Roll the biscuit dough to about 0.5cm thick on a floured surface and cut into desired shape or use a cutter.  (I used a holly leaf cutter, another stashed item when we moved!).

9. Holly placed them in the fridge for 10mins at this point but with 48 to make for the Mittons and the team and one tray, they were in and out the oven quickly!

10. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/Gas 4 for about 15 – 20 minutes until just starting to brown at the edges.

11. Enjoy warm with a mulled wine, good friends and some christmas classic tunes!

The Mittons.jpg

By lake Elementita.jpg

Andrew taking one in the crown Jewels from Lucas…
By lake elementita and getting kicked in the crown jewels.jpg

Lucas and Estie.jpg

We sampled the “Chef’s Special Desert” in a lodge nearby. It turns out the pastry chef was experimenting – what arrived was chicken string, pineapple, green beans, deep fried bread cubes and tomato. Not quite the pastries we are used too!



African ladies...

We will miss you Lydia, Chris and Estie…Runny runny weeeeee

Enjoying Chocolate Macaroons with my Macho Man

Chocolate Macaroons

I am driving in our car, the gear stick has been getting stiffer and stiffer, I find myself driving in second gear for as long as I can bear the high revs screaming back at me, I come to the very bumpy part of the road and have to drop into first gear, as hard as I can I push the clutch into the floor hoping the gear stick will move, my teeth are being worn down as I grit them each time I try to change gear, eventually it submits and we carry on.

Lucas is in the back and merrily chatters “tuk tuk, tuk tuk, moo moo” as he spots the passing scenery. We come to a tarmac part of the road and I gain some speed but as soon as I push the break pedal down, it decides to ignore me! Eventually the car slows in time but I realise that this car is not feeling very well. I gently continue home in first gear being overtaken by people walking the same stretch of road to avoid the need for any quick brakes, I am so thankful to be safely home.  We decide its high time we see a mechanic.  Andrew takes the car down to the garage at snails pace, expecting the worst and at best an expensive new clutch and breaks.  Later that day the mechanic phones us, 4000ksh/£30 for replacing the entire break system, a new clutch cable and steering fluid…….we are relieved and the best bit is the cars drives so well now! Better then ever.

Local car garage

Our car really made me think how many people here view healthcare. Any treatment comes with a cost and like us with the car we put it off and off until the car does not function and is unsafe before we got it checked out and fortunately fixed. Healthcare for many seems the same here, when people begin to become unwell, they hope they are not and carry on, then they realise they are and they ignore it, eventually they are unable to work or function and they are pushed to the point of seeking help. Like us with the car, they have no idea how serious it might be  and to make this worse treatment is not an option if they are unable to afford the transport and hospital fees. Understanding it from this perspective helps me see how so many people can present with advanced illness slimply through fear of how much they may have to sacrifice just to get to the hospital. It’s a different world we are living in.

Andrew has spent more time in the hospital recently as we await resolution on the slit lamp. He has often come home shocked at the lack of support the staff have. There is one ophthalmologist in the hospital (which is the only public eye care unit for 1.6 million people) who is off for the whole of December and is rarely present when not on holiday. This leaves the eye unit run by non-doctor staff who are very able but so over worked and under supported that unfortunately it seems the majority of patients are not getting the correct diagnosis or treatment. This is so hard to witness when some have travelled so far only to leave having spent small amounts of money they do have on treatment that will not work.

We have decided rather than pick fault at a system which is clearly not working, whilst we can, we will do our best to support the staff in a way that will hopefully have a longer term impact. The temptation for Andrew is to get stuck in seeing the queue of patients but this is simply pouring water in to a leaking bucket. We have now decided to establish a regular teaching sessions to provide the team with knowledge and long-term skills to equip them beyond our time here. It is not going to be easy so it is lots of role play (encouraging staff to talk to the patients rather then just shine a torch in their eyes), practical sessions and interactive teaching. It’s great for me, my wannabe Blue Peter presenter skills are all being used.



My macho man is of course my beautiful husband, but not because he came to save me when the brakes failed on the car but in fact because it translates from Kiswahilli in to my “Eye man!” We finally started Kiswahili lessons this week and “Macho” means “eyes” much to our amusement! Lucas is getting to grips with the language and knows where his nose, eyes and ears are in Kiswahili! We had fun today as he impressed a waitress as he pointed out Kenyan animals she asked him in Kiswahili!

After feeling so gutted last week, we have been amazed by the support offered by family and friends (you guys!). The support of the guys at the International Centre for Eye Health in the Tropical School where Andrew works has been amazing. His supervisors have been so helpful and the head of department has incredibly generously  lent us her slit lamp ear marked for a now delayed project in India. Andrew and the team, especially Jyoti (amazing) have been working really hard to get it sent out next week. It is over 80kg, big and expensive and the customs system here is still to be navigated through.

Andrew and Stew (app designer) have been working really hard to make the apps for the phone tests smooth and more useable… I tell you I’m glad I’m not a computer programmer… it’s a long laborious job and Stew realised by the end of this week he had not left the apartment for a full 6 days but the outcome is looking great and we are all very excited at the potential this has.

I’m not really sure why I made macaroons this week, probably because I’ve always wanted to and I felt in what has been a challenging time I wanted a challenge to conquer, also with the disappointment of last week these chocolate almond meringues certainly helped!

We now also have our rosemary mini Christmas tree… it is not quite what we are used to but it smells nice!

Rosemary Christmas Tree.jpg

Recipe – Chocolate Macaroons

Ingredients – macaroons

50g cocoa powder

400g icing sugar

225g almond paste (we don’t have any of this so I ground down almonds)

250ml egg whites

100g sugar

Ingredients – ganache filling

100g dark chocolate

140ml double cream

20g cocoa powder

40g unsalted butter

10ml water


1. Pre heat the oven to 160°C.

2. Sift together the cocoa powder, ground almonds and sugar.

3. Beat the egg whites till they start to peak. Whisk in the sugar.

4. Gently fold in the sifted ingredients.

5. Put the mixture in a piping bag.

6. Pipe small rounds on to a baking sheet, I also used a silicone mat both worked well.

7. Once a tray is piped bang the tray on the surface to remove any air bubbles and leave for 10minutes to form a film which then makes them more shiny.

8. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, they should lift cleanly off the mat/baking tray, cool on a wire tray.

For the filling:

1. Bring the cream to the boil over medium heat

2. Gradually add the chocolate to the cream, beating it with a whisk as you do so. Continue till all the chocolate has melted and formed an emulsion

3. In a separate bowl stir the water and cocoa powder together till smooth. Add the unsalted butter to the bowl and combine until smooth

4. Add the chocolate-cream emulsion to the butter-coca mixture, combine until smooth.

5. Fill the mixture in to a piping bag

To complete:

1. Sandwich the macaroon halves together with the ganache in the middle.

2. Serve with hot cups of tea – delicious!….macaroons conquered!

Lucas met a friend

Lucas reading

Chapatis, green gram and heart ache


I watch from three stories up as the Slit lamp in a tattered brown box is unloaded below our flat window. Finally it has arrived and all the hard work getting the various items of diagnostic kit here has come, the project can begin!

Lucas is far more interested in the tuk tuk that has just arrived with it’s engine spluttering and shiny red chassis, he has no idea how important this delivery is. Andrew helps unload and carry the slit lamp up to the office flat.   I am chasing Lucas around our flat to change his poo filled nappy. Andrew returns from the office looking gutted.  After eventually finding a customs clearing agent through a friend (we are assured this is normal practice here) we were hopeful this saga would be over.  The initial cost for the clearing service was £450 but Andrew negotiated it to £300. This included DHL charging for “storage” even though they’s lost it in Uganda for some time?! Andrew opened the box to find a much older version of the slit lamp than expected, which if not damaged with important bits missing would still not have been suitable for the project. After a month waiting with a fully trained team ready to to start on the 100 villages we are back to square one… no slit lamp, no project.  Some of the project team have given up jobs (which are hard enough to get here as it is) and two others have taken time out of their studies to be involved. There is no budget currently for a £12,000 slit lamp and how we get one here is another issue, however the challenge  is under way and to be continued……..

Although feeling gutted and let down with the slit lamp and some other issues (for another blog) there have been a few proud and great moments, including my first attempt at the national Kenyan bread,  Chapati accompanied with “green gram”…which is basically mung bean stew. This is actually very easy to make, tastes great and is healthy!  I did feel proud when I served up a plate of chapatis and green gram for the boys! I hope it softened the blow a little.

I’m still getting my endorphin hit in the freezing pool, you’d think I’d be used to it by now but every time I come out Andrew thinks I am going to pass out. We put the heart ache of last week behind us and enjoyed the weekend together. We had a nice long walk in the sunshine, Lucas admiring passing tuk tuks and animals and found a good place to watch England destroy New Zealand in the rugby whilst enjoying a fish masala and turbo naan (naan bread covered in green chillies). It doesn’t feel like Christmas here but I am doing my bit and have made an advent calendar full of surprises including some home made chocolate coated almonds and coffee beans (no longer a surprise). We have a small rosemary bush growing on the roof in a water bottle, this may be our Christmas tree. We’ve just made an angel to go on top of it out of a toilet roll and Lucas has managed to get glue in his hair!

Andrew and Stew have made some great progress on the EYE-Phone app and it has highlighted how important a cheap, portable solution to diagnosing eye disease could be when just getting the usual equipment in to the country is so difficult.

Next weekend we have some great friends (Lucas’ godparents and their daughter) joining us for 10 days following a 4 month spell teaching in South Sudan, we are really looking forward to having them stay with us. Sounds like they need a break – we hope the toilet works now.

If you would like to try real Kenyan food, this is so easy to make and yummy! I’ve got to confess the chapatis do taste good but they are coated in oil and I much prefer to dry fry them, however when dry fried I think then they are actually called tortillas!

Lucas is a fan

Recipe – Chapatis and Mung Bean Stew

Ingredients – Chapati

4 cups (340g) chapati flour (this is a mix of rye, amaranthus, millet and wholegrain wheat) – you can just use wholemeal flour and should get the same result

2 cups (280g/ml) warm water

Half tsp salt

Ingredients – Mung bean stew

1tsp olive oil

Finely chopped onion

2 cooking tomatoes (large)

Salt, pepper

Approx 300g Mung beans


1. Soak mung beans in water overnight
2. Boil until mung beans soft
3. To make Chapati – mix the flour, water and salt, bring together into a dough and knead for 7 minutes until dough soft and elastic.
4. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick and brush olive oil all over surface.
5. Cut oiled dough into 10 strips, then roll each strip up into a coiled ball.
6. To roll out on a lightly  floured surface, place the concentric rings upwards and roll until desired size and about 1-2mm thick.
7. To cook, heat a non-stick frying pan, place the chapati dough onto the pan for about 1-2 minutes until just lightly cooked and you see slight bubbles in the dough, turn over until lightly cooked, do this again lightly brush a little olive oil over the chapati on both sides, cook for a couple of minutes on each side until it looks like the picture.
8. Repeat 7 for each chapati
9. In separate pan, saute onions in olive oil and when soft and clear add chopped tomatos and a pinch of salt
10. Cook until tomatoes soft and beginning to become paste like then add in the soft mung beans and water you don’t need to drain.
11. Simmer on a low heat for 20-30mins until you are happy with flavour.
Happy Advent