Saturday, September 25, 2010

News article about Brayden Christensen's Eagle project

A local Vernal paper published this article about Christensen's summer trip to Kenya:
Brayden loading finished desks to be transported to Dzivani, Kenya
Vernal resident Sherrie Christenson inspired her son, Brayden, to help others after she first donated to the Utah-based humanitarian organization Koins for Kenya.

Sherrie donated money earned from her nonfiction book, “The Power of a Penny,” to Koins for Kenya, a foundation that has been helping rural Africans to overcome poverty through education projects since 2003.

Sherrie’s donation was handled by Brett Van Leeuwen, Koins for Kenya chairman, whose son had built school desks for the organization as an Eagle Scout project. Brayden thought it would be fun to go to Africa to help build school desks for the children, and chose to build desks for his Eagle Scout project as well.

The Christensons left for Kenya on July 22 and stayed for 15 days. “It was awesome,” Brayden said.

While in Kenya they stayed in the village of Mnyenzeni in the Kenya Community Center, a place where volunteers reside while working on projects. The first day the Christensens were in Mnyenzeni they were greeted by hundreds of smiling children that were happy to see them.

“We were overwhelmed by the student’s responses when we told them we were going to give each one a brand new pencil. Who knew a measly old pencil could bring such happiness?” Sherrie said.
Kids gather outside Windridge school, showing how desks are used
There were five or six children squeezing together to sit at desks that were built to accommodate only three students. The children squeezed together so no one would have to sit on the dirt floors with chiggers and bot flies. Sherrie said the need for desks was obvious.

Building desks for the school was not an easy task. There were complications caused by lack of wood and screws. Finding wood was a problem because in Mnyenzeni there is not a local lumberyard, and the only way volunteers could get more was by buying a tree and then waiting for it to be chopped down, split and planed.

The volunteers had to travel to the village of Mombasa, 30 miles away, to buy more screws. But because of heavy rains, the roads were washed out and travel was slow.

When the volunteers reached Mombasa, the shops were closed, and the Christensens as well as other volunteers had to find other things to do while as they waited for shops to open later that afternoon.

After much effort, the desks were completed and ready to be delivered to the schools using a tractor and a trailer donated to Koins for Kenya. The majority of the desks Brayden worked on were taken to the new Austin Frampton School in Dzvani.

In fact, the Austin Frampton School was dedicated while the Christensens were in Dzvani by a KFK volunteer, Dallin Frampton. The school was dedicated in honor of Frampton’s 10-year-old brother, Austin, who has Down’s Syndrome.

Frampton built a mud hut in Dzvani and lived there for five months while he helped villagers build the school. “The villagers embraced Dallin and loved him,” Sherrie said.
Brayden sitting at finished desk with rose brand, to be used in Dzivani classroom
Frampton raised all $10,000 to cover costs to build the two-room school by performing a concert in his hometown, Holladay, near Salt Lake City, in October. Roses were branded into the desks in honor of Frampton’s friend, Sophie Rose Barton, who helped raise money by singing at the concert. She died in June.

The Christensons were not only affected greatly by the dedication, but also by the entire experience. One night the Christensons were sitting with other volunteers when a young 12-year-old boy, Charo, died no more than 50 feet away from where the volunteers were sitting.

“Charo and his uncle were trying to get to the dispensary to get medical help. They had walked for several hours and had been turned away from two other villages because they didn’t have any medical personnel available,” Sherrie said. “They were from the village of Gona. Charo was still dressed in his school uniform.”

Charo had gone to school earlier in the day despite his headache because he didn’t want to miss out on the end of term testing. By the time Charo’s mother had gotten home, he was seriously ill. After being turned away from the second village, Charo’s family took what little money they had to hire a motorcycle to drive them to Dzvani, but it wasn’t fast enough.

“It was hard to go to his village the next day to hand out pencils at the school, it was hard to know that they were all experiencing the loss of their friend, but they were still so welcoming to us.” Sherrie said.
Gona schoolchildren welcome Koins visitors to their village school
The volunteers were escorted to a small area where the students performed a program of tribal dancing and singing; local dignitaries came and talked about the importance of education.

At the performance, the chief of the area presented an envelope to a KFK board member that was filled with 10 percent of the money that’s needed to build a new school. Raising money was difficult for the people of Gona because most of them make less than $300 a year.

“On one of the last days we were in Kenya I had several students from the middle school come and help me make Christmas ornaments out of wire and beads so I can decorate a tree for the Vernal Trees for Charity event in November,” Sherrie said. “We are donating it in Charo’s name and hoping to raise money to put towards his classmates’ new school in Gona.”

Brayden said he is more grateful for the educational options in the U.S. now that he has helped a less-fortunate country with their schooling issues. Brayden said his goal now is to continue to help other countries.

By Liberty Montague, Vernal Express

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ingrid's Kenya Journal, Part 5, August 1-2, 2010

Sunday, August 1

We had a leisurely morning, which was really nice. We started sacrament meeting a little early, but we were all there, so it was perfect. It was cool to have Paul and Curt bless the sacrament and Brayden pass it, right here in the KCC. We followed the normal script for a fast and testimony meeting, with Mike conducting the meeting (he is in the bishopric at home). It was a very good meeting.  I think we all enjoyed hearing from most every member of our group. It was emotional at times, heartfelt and open. It was the best sacrament fast meeting I have attended in a long time.

I think the thing I love about being in Kenya is the people in our group. I love how this humanitarian work brings out the best in people.  And I mean the best in whatever they are.  Some people are naturally good at interacting with children, some with different cultures, some are good with their hands and building, some are organizers,  but by and large, all have good hearts and are here for the right reasons.  I know I should be loving working with the Kenyan people, and enjoying that cultural interaction, but I find it awkward and difficult at times.  I really don't understand the culture, I am offended often by the way the women are treated and that sometimes makes me uncomfortable with the men.  Bret is just the opposite, he loves the work, he is comfortable with the men and being in a position of power here.  He interacts well with the children and has a way of getting the women to respond to him.  I often feel the discomfort of the men when they work with me, as a woman, but knowing that as wife of "Baba Bret" they have to treat me with respect.  Being here really puts me outside of my comfort zone, on so many levels.  Another issue I am dealing with is that after more than a week, my night time combination Ambien and Malarone starts making me restless and nightmarish. My dreams are becoming very vivid and strange.
Buffalo demonstrating borehole well at Mwache

Marcie at Mwache borehole well
Jason, Austin and McCall
Our group walking to the well at Mwache
Leigh getting crazy climbing the tree
Paul getting crazy climbing the tree
Anthony Yama's parents met us on the path near Mwache

Kendy faces her fears in the cornfield
A village woman, preparing food and caring for her children
 After the service, we had a sandwich lunch, cleaned up, then a few of us got in a van and went to Mwache to see the bore hole well in action.  There are 3 bore hole wells that LDS Humanitarian built  in 3 different villages in 2009.  It is quite amazing to see them pump clean, unlimited water so effortlessly.  Anthony's parents walked from their home up the trail to visit with us.  His father is sick with malaria, and his mother is recovering from a terrible foot injury, so it was with great effort they came to see us. 

Chakaya, the nervous groom

We returned to the KCC and the wedding guests started arriving. Chairs were brought over from the secondary school, and the front yard of the KCC became the gathering place for about 200 people. Chakaya arrived, and we joined the crowd in the yard as we awaited the bride. It was kind of comical how they blended American traditions and who knows what other traditions for this wedding.

Women cooking for the wedding crowd
Women singing to greet Kwe Kwe, the bride
Kwe Kwe arrives and is escorted to Chakaya
The bride's father and sister
Chakaya and Kwe Kwe prepare to be married
Kwe Kwe reacts to a comment of Bret's during ceremony
The bride and groom kiss (not a typical Kenyan public behavior)
And they are married (notice the interlocked pinkies...)
Our group made an arch for the newlyweds to walk through

As Kwe Kwe arrived, the women from the kitchen came out singing and dancing and welcoming her and her entourage. The rest of the women in the crowd joined in. As she was escorted from the car by Dallin and her bridesmaid, there was a line of women that threw rice at her. She walked up to the porch of the KCC, where Bret and Chakaya were waiting, and Bret asked her father to come up and give his daughter to Chakaya. Then he proceeded with a ceremony that blended traditional US wedding vows with kind of a "make a new start, don't do what Kenyan men typically do" recommendations. It was interesting to watch the reactions of the crowd to this different kind of wedding. Kwe Kwe seemed embarrassed at some of the things Bret was saying, but I think ultimately she was excited about getting married, in her shy Kenyan way. The funny part was when they cut the cakes we bought, and fed a bite to each other, then another bite, then a bite to their best man/bridesmaid, then the parents and then all the guests. I had to leave. It was just so funny. Shortly thereafter, the music and dancing started and didn't stop until about 8:00 p.m.. Lots of pilau was served along with ugali, and most guests stayed outdoors, although Johnson's wife and kids and Lucy, Anthony's wife, and kids came inside and ate and played games and had fingernails painted by our group.
Austin and Catelin dancing

A large pot of pilau, ready to serve to the wedding guests
 Our group was pretty exhausted by the time the last guests left. We bypassed P&P because of our testimony meeting this morning, and had an early bedtime.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Everyone was up early preparing to depart for the safari in Tsavo.

Bret and Anthony left for Mombasa. I deep cleaned the KCC, and with the help of the kitchen staff we washed and bleached every single dish, table, surface, and tidied up inside and out. I began washing my clothes, and Emily took over for me. She kind of laughed as she walked up to me, asked me if I used a machine at home, to which I responded "I have a machine for everything at home!"  I hate to admit, but I was happy to have her finish washing the clothes for me.  I showered and spent much of the rest of the day in the KCC updating my journal and getting caught up on Koins work.  All day one of the board members was outside the KCC watching over me. I didn't mind staying in. It was hot outside and I had a chance at quiet and cool productivity sitting in front of the fan.
Foundation of the new clinic in Mnyenzeni, just in front of the dispensary

In the afternoon I took baby blankets up to the dispensary, and took a few photos of the foundation of the new clinic being built.  It is quite exciting to think what it might offer to these villagers.  It looks to be about the size of the KCC. 
Tool crib in workshop
Workshop, neat, tidy, organized and in good working order

I walked over to the workshop with Buffalo, Chief Tuku and Eliud. They showed me around, pointing out all the work that had been done since we had been here. The workshop really looks great, Mike and Curt have done an incredible job with that building.  It is tidy, the tools have been organized, hand tools labeled and marked where they should be stored.  The workshop workers have been trained by Mike and Curt how to care for the tools, the building, how to sharpen blades, replace broken parts, keep track of tools.  What a difference from when we arrived.  Curt has agreed to take on the role of Workshop and Construction Management on the Koins board.  It will be wonderful to have him in charge of the workshop on a full time basis, and for him to get our construction costs down to a science. 
Sewing center workes busy making Koins purses
Bret arrived and started a discussion with the Kenyan board members about how they had done the electrical work in the workshop. I walked over and checked out the sewing workshop. They were busy sewing our bags and pajama pants.

Bret and I accompanied Chief Tuku to Mnyenzeni, and we went to the home of Peter Mrabu (Purity's dad) and spent some time visiting.

Back to the KCC for dinner, just Bret, Paul and I. It was nice and quiet. We finished our pilau and fruit with hot scones and honey, then cleaned up and headed off to bed early tonight.

Tuesday, August 3

Up at 7:00 this morning. Sometime during the night our netting came untucked, we had mosquitoes in our netting so all night I was getting buzzed by them. It was very annoying and I woke up to blood spots on the sheets, and as I smashed a few of them there was blood on my hands.  No itching though. I don't know where they bit me. Not a pleasant thought, with the prevalence of malaria here.

I took a morning shower, then we had breakfast with Purity's dad and discussed his desire for his son, who is high in his Form 2 class, to receive a scholarship.   He missed qualifying by 5 points on his exam.  Bret told him to retake the exam and we would be happy to take care of his scholarship once he qualified.   He is a nice man.  We discussed some American customs, like Bret accepting our son-in-laws as extensions of our family, having dinner with them, traveling with them, being friends with them, and he had a hard time understanding that.  It is so not Kenyan custom to be friendly with the son-in-law.  It is as if they lose a daughter when one gets married. Bret encouraged him to try that new idea out when Purity is married in the future.  He looked doubtfully at Bret, but didn't say he wouldn't do it. 
Rain coming off the roof of the KCC
Bret on the road with a boy tending goats
Local bread delivery
Brand new baby at the dispensary
Young mother returning to her home with a bucket of water from the river
A man we crossed paths with carrying chickens (alive)
Woman and her daughter cutting wood

A heavy rain came down for a few minutes, then Bret and I went on a walk through the countryside up to Chikomani. Along the way we shot some photos and observed Kenyan life.  As we were heading back we came across two women cutting sticks with machetes and binding them and putting them on their head. It was interesting that the first thing that happened was the younger woman asked us for money for taking her photo, then she asked for Bret's shirt and his sunglasses.  We offered them candy and I gave them a bag of dried mangos. They seemed happy with that and didn't mind that we followed them back towards their village.  They even seemed to be encouraging us to stay with them.   They spoke in Duruma and only knew "give me 50 shillings" in English, but I showed them photos as I took them and that seemed to please them.
Woman with her baby, cutting wood
Pregnant woman who was cutting wood.
Women carrying wood back to their village

We got a call from Johnson asking about going to the Massai village on the way back from safari.  Bret has had bad experiences with the Massai, who are used to dealing with and abusing tourists.  He has had experiences with people spending way more than necessary for trinkets, and also with a couple girls being cornered and groped on a previous trip.  He didn't want the group to go, but the majority ruled and he just warned Cindy to keep an eye on things.
Matuwa on the roof of the KCC

The monkey, Matuwa, who is Dallin's pet and an occasional nuisance, keeps running on the roof of the KCC.   It makes an amazing racket.  He was tied up behind the bathrooms in his little shack, but eventually he chews through the rope and then runs around like crazy. The local kids tease him and he chases them and grabs and bites their ankles.  Both sides seem to feed off the attention.
Anthony's portrait from Rebecca Peery

The group returned from safari about 4:00, so we caught up with their activities as some headed to showers. We had a lot of rain today, so it is really muggy and sticky tonight. We presented Anthony with a portrait painted of him by Rebecca Peery, an artist and friend of Koins.  She want to Kenya with the March expedition. Anthony was so happy with the painting of himself.