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Friday, August 27, 2010

Ingrid's Kenyan Journal, Part 2, July 27-28, 2010

Homemade Kenyan Soccer Ball

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Visiting Miguneni Primary School

Gifts from scholarship parents

Early this morning a couple of women arrived at the KCC bearing gifts for Bret, Cindy and I.  They were scholarship student mothers, and they brought corn, a woven mat and a woven basket.  It is really a sweet gesture by these very poor people, that they acknowledge our help and want to give something in return. 
Answering questions from an 8th grade class in Miguneni

The group loaded into the vans and headed off to Miguneni, so I hopped on the bike with Bret and experienced another frightening ride. I don't know why I am so scared. Last time I was here I don't remember even thinking twice about riding the motorcycle with him, in fact I remember enjoying it. We arrived at the school, and shortly the vans arrived. There was singing and greeting, we headed over to see Kris Kimball's school building, then the painting and teaching groups broke off to do their work, I started wandering around to shoot some photos. I saw Steve speaking to a young man, and as I was listening to their conversation I heard the boy ask Steve to present a composition to the class. Steve looked puzzled and I suggested that perhaps we could go to the classroom and answer any questions the students might have for us. We proceeded to the form 8 classroom, where the students were sitting quietly in their desks with no teacher. I introduced myself, then asked them to start with the questions. Some of the questions I received:

1. What is the staple food of America?
2. Is a man allowed to marry a man?
3. Do you raise your food in your garden?  Which led to a discussion of how most Americans get their food at a grocery store.  In rural Kenya, people live off of what they grow, with very limited access to either a store or the cash to purchase items at a store.
4. Is a man allowed more than one wife? It is a common practice in Kenya for a man to have more than one wife.
5. If a man's wife dies, is he allowed to remarry? I explained that if a husband dies the wife does not become the wife of the brother, which is customary in Kenya, but is allowed to remain single or remarry someone of her choice.  This was heard with surprise and approval all around.
6. Do you have a pet?
7. What do you do if your pet eats your neighbor's garden?
8. Are teacher's allowed to beat their students? They are allowed to do this in Kenya, and do it freely. Children are often fearful, especially of the male teachers. I then explained that men were not allowed to beat their wives or children in America. This brought some interested looks.
9.  Are their wild animals in the U.S. similar to Africa, lions, elephants, hippos, impalas?   We discussed the landscape of the U.S, and what kind of animals lived there.

I then launched into a commentary about Equal Rights, then The Golden Rule. I felt like I lost the boys there, but I found the girls to be quite riveted. I kept asking the girls to ask me a question, but all the questions came from the boys. The girls remained silent but very attentive. Kenyan women are universally considered second class citizens.  Only the educated city women behave differently.  Typically a Kenyan village woman will speak softly if at all, will seldom show her teeth when smiling, will not look you in the eye when speaking to you, and is hesitant to approach or ask questions.  We try to change this behavior when we interact with them.  We encourage the girls to continue their education and strive for excellence in their school work. 

I totally enjoyed this discussion. I felt that they were very interested and very uninformed about America in general. Most of what they know comes from the media, so they often think of Americans as gangstas and reality TV characters.  I think this question/answer time is a good idea for future teaching opportunities, especially in the Form 8, the equivalent of 8th grade but actually ranging from about 13 to 18 years in age. Their understanding of English is generally good enough that they can communicate and understand us.

The magnet lesson teachers from our group came into the classroom then, so I took a few photos then wandered off to other classrooms with lessons in session, and the painting of the Mary T. Lund school by the Kimball family and others who weren't teaching.  I walked over to the school latrine area with Bret and Leah, the representative from Safaricom, who had come to see the latrines that had been built in several of the schools, sponsored by Safaricom, the equivalent of Verizon Wireless of Africa.  This is a big deal for us.  To have an African company be the sponsor for a project benefiting 7 of our village schools, then come out to visit us and see what we are doing, is wonderful.  Leah lives in Nairobi, but understands village life and the difficulties faced by rural people in Kenya.  She spent 3 days with our group, was inspired by our efforts and we hope to partner with Safaricom in future projects.
Ingrid and Leah outside the new latrines provided by Safaricom at Miguneni
The old latrines at Miguneni

What is important to understand is that these latrines are used by several hundred children a day.  They are pit latrines, so essentially there is a hole in the cement floor and a deep pit below to hold the sewage.  A latrine such as the Safaricom latrine will service the school for many years.  As I left the latrine area, I walked by the school kitchen.  There was a line of kids waiting to be served the boiled corn that is a staple for all village schoolkids in Kenya. Often the noon meal is the reason a child will come to school.  The corn is generally provided to the schools by either the Kenyan government or a humanitarian organization.  It is boiled and served to the children each day.  They bring their own bowls, and generally eat the corn with their fingers.  Some children will have bowls with lids and bring what they don't eat home with them for younger siblings not yet in school.   Sadly, if the corn supply runs out at school, the attendance at the school will drop. 
Lunchtime at Miguneni Primary School

We have been eating on the road the last couple of days, so we had our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a room of the new school building, then we gathered under some trees for the presentation of the classrooms to the school.  Kris, Jason and Sara all received Duruma names, then the school presented the Kimballs, Bret and I and Anthony each with the gift of a goat.  Kris made a little speech and explained to the students and parents in the audience that her mother had passed away while she was in Kenya last summer with Koins.  Her mother was 99, and a teacher by profession.  She started her teaching career in a one room school house that taught 1-6 grade, so in some ways similar to some of the village schools we see.  Her mother highly valued education and Kris was honoring her memory with the building of the classrooms for the village. It was quite touching.
Gift from parents of Miguneni students

School kids from Miguneni Primary school
Garland for school celebration
Kris, Sara and Jason, opening of the Mary T. Lund School at Miguneni Primary
The presentation and celebration was short, then the unveiling of the plaque on the school took place. The school had done a great job with decorating, tying strips of kanga cloths to rope like a garland. Shortly after, we were back on the road headed to the KCC.

While a group walked to Chikomani, I stayed at the KCC to charge batteries and download photos, then walked around the workshop and to the watering hole behind it to take some local scenery photos. It is interesting how many women wave me off of taking photos when it is just me and them interacting.  I don't like to intrude on people, so I usually just walk away. A man came across me on the path and asked me if I was selling the photos in America, and I guess the women thought the same thing. In fact, many of us were met with negative reactions and a request for payment for taking photos of the people.  Someone has perpetuated the myth that we take photos of the villagers and sell them for a profit.  I explained to him what Koins for Kenya does in Kenya and he was immediately okay with me taking photos. I had a few more encounters with people, one large man who was quite curious about us, asked a lot of questions, asked me to come with him to his house (which I hastily excused myself from) then and asked me to find him an American wife. I think the questioning came because I was on my own instead of with a group.

Using the planer in the workshop
Mike in the workshop
Brayden, Eagle Project desks
Boy gathering water at pond behind the Koins workshop
Man who spoke to me about getting an American wife
A note about the photo above.  A group of us walked over to the water hole before dinner, and the man I saw earlier in the day that wanted an American wife came running out with a water bucket.  He asked us to get him water.  We just looked at him like "what?", so he threw his bucket into the pond and told the woman getting her family water to get water for him.  No wonder he is still single.

Sam cooking scones in kitchen

We had a mini-crisis with dinner, when we realized the cooks had used our dehydrated hamburger but had not added any tomatoes or other stuff to make the spaghetti sauce for dinner and the small amount of hamburger sauce they had made wasn't going to feed many people. Jami, Cindy and I got in the kitchen, quickly made some sauce up, had the cooks heat it, then fed the masses at nearly 7:30. Considering our situation, the spaghetti and sauce turned out quite delicious.

Dallin performs during a peaches & pits gathering

After clean up and showers, we were ready for a small concert from Dallin about 8:30, followed by P&P. It takes a bit to get everyone into it, but many contributed tonight. I am seeing everyone in the group understand Koins and what we are all about, and realize how much has been accomplished in the past few years. Having people be here from past expeditions makes that reality even more pronounced, as they see the progress being made and the work we are doing here.

During P&P news came from Anthony to Bret that a boy had been brought from Gona, the family was hoping to get him to the dispensary for care, as the other 2 dispensaries they had gone to had turned them away or were closed. As they were just in front of the dispensary in Mnyenzeni, just a few hundred yards from the KCC, the boy took his last breaths and died. It was quite shocking to hear it, and within a few minutes wailing started and we knew the mother had arrived and discovered the loss of her son. It was a reality check for all of us as to how close and easy death is here in Kenya. We found out later than the 10-year old boy had received a head injury falling off a truck a few months ago. He had recently not been feeling well, and that day had come home from school early and slept. He went back to school since they were doing final exams, then came home and slept some more. His mother found him sleeping and sent him off with his uncle to the dispensary at a neighboring village, thinking he might have malaria. They made their way to another dispensary then on to Mnyenzeni, where he died under a tree without having received help. We are thinking it was a concussion or some kind of lingering brain injury from his fall. He was top in his class at the Gona school. It was a sad ending to the evening for us all.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Visiting Majengo (South Summit), Mwache and Gona Schools

Mama Fatuma, volunteer preschool teacher

We loaded the vans up this morning and went to Mama Fatuma's preschool. She voluntarily teaches 150 children in a preschool building Cindy built for her a few years ago. We gave the children pencils, they sang to us, then we headed out to Majengo, to see the South Summit school. It was the school that was finished and dedicated last summer, so Kris, Jami and Robyn were part of that experience. Mishi Matano had done such a good job with the leadership of the school, she is the head teacher. It is currently only grades 1-2, but there are hopes to expand it a grade at a time. The grounds were clean and the children well behaved, plus they had a wonderful shamba out back.
Back of South Summit School, growing trees for schoolyard
Cindy, Sam and Mishi Matano, head teacher at South Summit School in Majengo

We then headed to Mwache. I have always felt Mwache is kind of lacking, in facilities, in learning focus, in the expectations that the kids will do well...I have not understood it, but today it lived up to that feeling. We arrived to paint and open Robyn's school. We broke up into groups as we did yesterday at Miguneni. I repeated the question and answer thing, but this time with Lacee and McCall helping. They were more of a distraction than a help, and it was almost comical how the boys literally couldn't take their eyes off of them. They are the blonde, blue eyed American dream girls. There were few questions, and those asked were along the lines of "How does one such as myself begin a relationship with someone such as you?", obviously these boys would have been delighted to be the boyfriend of either of those girls. Johnson, one of our drivers, who grew up in Mwache, lived for 10 years in the UK and has returned to live in Kenya, came in to help us interpret. These kids didn't speak enough English to really communicate with us, or if they did they wouldn't speak it. I got quite frustrated with the lack of effective interaction and wandered off to take photos, leaving Johnson with the girls to continue visiting, which dissolved into the boys posing like gangsters while the girls took photos of them or with them.

McCall and boys from Mwache
Robyn, Jason and Dallin paint Robyn's school at Mwache
Robyn dancing at celebration
Bret playing along with "U" prank.

The painting of the classrooms was progressing well.  We then gathered for an opening ceremony, where Robyn and Lindsay were honored with Duruma names and the school was turned over to the community. It was an emotional experience for Robyn, as it always is for someone sponsoring a school, especially honoring a family member.

It was a big deal that the school was painted red.  Robyn and her family are UofU fans, thus the choice of red.  Someone slapped the U on Bret's back and he good-naturedly left it on during the celebration. 
Robyn with Anthony Yama, Koins Director, and his father, a previous headmaster at Mwache
Robyn and Lindsay in front of school
Group having lunch overlooking valley
Kids from Gona running out to meet us on road

We loaded the vans and headed out. We stopped at an overlook point, sat on a water tank overlooking the valley and ate lunch. We snapped a few photos then back into the vans to Gona, where we expected to simply see the latrine built by Safaricom then be on our way. The kids in Gona saw us coming from far off and ran to meet us. They literally ran half a mile or more to meet us, then ran back along the vans until we stopped outside the village. It was a bit sobering to realize that this was the village the boy who died last night came from. First we went to see the latrines made by Safaricom, which we had done at the other villages we had visited so far. They provided latrines to 7 schools in our area. Leah, the representative from Safaricom, has been staying with us for past day and traveling with us to the schools we visit. We thought we were just going to leave pencils with the headmaster then depart, but there was a big deal going on. They had a covered awning with seats for us and other special guests, including a representative from the board of education. We were given water, soda and cookies (a special treat for Kenyans) and the speeches, dancing and singing started. Bret, Leah and I were given kanga cloths, Koins was honored for its work, and then the local representative called Bret back up. He reminded Bret of the Koins promise to help build schools where the communities raise the required 10% of the cost, and are willing to provide unskilled labor for digging the foundation, providing sand and water for the building project, and then presented him with an envelope with 50,000 ksh for the community portion (10%) of a new classroom. It was a good faith effort, and probably why they had all the dignitaries there to witness it. It was pretty impressive for them to have raised that much money. Now we need to find a sponsor to build the classrooms in Gona.
Bret and I received kangas from the Gona community
Bret receiving 10% for a new classroom at Gona

Sue and I compare our kanga cloth patterns
 After the celebration in Gona, we returned to the KCC. Leigh, who is studying to be a nurse, had been at the Mnyenzeni dispensary all day, so Jami and I walked up there. It was almost deserted as it was near closing time. Leigh was preparing medicines to give to some waiting people, mostly for malaria. Naomi, the lady in charge of the dispensary, showed us around. It always amazes me how backward and marginal their healthcare is. It is just amazing that anyone is ever cured of anything here. They have a system like we use to wash dishes at the KCC with 3 baths, wash, bleach rinse, lighter bleach rinse, for disinfecting tools.  There is a layer of dust on everything all the time. The reality is that the dispensary is really for the dispensing of medications, not a true healthcare facility.
Leigh dispensing drugs at Mnyenzeni dispensary
Leigh giving a shot

There was a construction site in front of the dispensary. I asked Naomi about it, and she informed us that the government was putting in a women's health center that would treat women and children, provide a delivery room and trained health officials. What good news!  She said there would be 24 hour health care available there, which is hard to imagine. This news takes the burden off of Koins now to try to fund such a large project. Matt Reinhardt, who came to Kenya with Koins in the summer of 2009 had hoped to raise funds for such a project, but now he can focus on something more reasonable and manageable. The reality of funding healthcare in Kenya is that it is a bottomless, and expensive pit of need. Our organization is just not set up to handle such a project, nor is it our focus. Our hope is creating self-sustaining projects that will provide long term benefit to the communities (such as schools and the workshop). I am really looking forward to seeing how it will be built, and how well trained and able the healthcare officials will be.
Foundation of future clinic in front of Mnyenzeni dispensary

I returned to the KCC and did a video interview of Mishi Matano, the headmistress of the South Summit School, for Marilynn Clark, who has an organization called Inside Out Learning that has come to our area of Kenya to teach the teachers more advanced ways to teach their students. Mishi has attended IOL seminars and has used the program in her classroom and feels very positive about it.  I have a different perspective on Marilynn's work now, as I feel the students here need more than what they are getting in just lecture and memorizing of lessons. I will give the interview to Marilynn to use for her organization.
Leah, Dallin, James and Anthony have a Kenyan snack of ugali and greens, eaten  Kenyan style
Robyn helping make potato balls for dinner
Emily, our hard working head cook, preparing carrots for dinner
We had a great dinner: fried potato balls with hamburger, beans, rice, carrots and green beans. I think everyone is enjoying the food, and there is enough variety that everyone can have more of something if they don't like everything that is available. I don't think Bret initially liked my idea of bringing dehydrated meat and other food storage items, but it is really helping us expand our menu choices and provide protein.  The available sources of protein here are skinny chickens and goats. 
Jami and Leigh demonstrate how to wash clothes

P&P was held outside again. Our group is really getting it, there is gratitude for being here and the experiences we are having. I find the ones with projects really are affected by the responses of the people. There is gratitude and appreciation shown in the villages, and of course the kids are always willing to be played with and enjoy the attention of our group.

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