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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Move Over Martha Stewart


A post by Karen Timothy, July expeditioner with Koins for Kenya.

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A typical Koins meal of chipati, rice, beans, veggie stew and fruit

One of the unknowns about our trip to Africa was the food.  As it turns out, there were four African women who cooked for us at the KCC and they did a great job.   We had heard a lot about ugali and chapati and weren’t sure there would be much we could or would want to eat.  We absolutely loved chapati , though, which is just like Indian flatbread or a thick tortilla and it was made fresh for us each morning. Ugali is the staple food there.  It is simply cornmeal mixed with water then cooked until it is firm enough to cut.  They like to dip it in sauces or eat it with cooked vegetables.  We only had this as part of our dinner one night so we all got to taste it and it really wasn’t bad.  When an African man asked a small group of us how we liked ugali we told him that we’d only had it once but we liked it well enough.  He smiled and asked us how we’d like it if we had it 3 times a day every day of our lives.  Not so much.  The sad thing is that so many WISH they could have it three times a day!  This year’s corn crop is failing due to drought and many will go hungry – again.  (See the Koins for Kenya blog about Candace’s experience with water.)

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Emily in her kitchen

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Ester (notice the cell phone holder around her neck)


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The Koins kitchen

            The cooks worked day and night feeding such a large group 2 meals a day plus boiling water for us to shower in.  They made a bean and corn dish we all liked as well as a savory one with plantains (look like bananas) and potatoes.  We had stringy chicken one night (5 of our group, including Tara, killed a chicken for dinner) and mystery beef another. I probably spent too much time in the kitchen so I had a hard time eating the fruit everyone so enjoyed.  After cutting it up, all of it was rinsed in a weak bleach solution to prevent any of us from getting sick.  I could always taste the bleach so I went a couple of weeks without much in the way of fruits or vegetables.  

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One of the cooks many jobs is providing hot water for our bucket baths

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Tara holds the main course for dinner

            The real bright spot for the head cook, Emily, was that after we’d been there a few days, Baba Bret bought her a 4-burner gas stove with an oven!  Up until now, they had been doing all of the cooking over a fire….for all of their lives!!!  I seriously doubt there is another range in the entire string of villages since there was some electricity required to run it and the KCC is one of the few places that have electricity.  I believe the purchase was inspired by Anthony’s craving for pizza.  Anthony is an African man that is on the Koins for Kenya board.  He has been to America and tasted pizza and can’t get enough of it.  (Costco pizza, no less!) He so wanted us to teach mama Emily how to make pizza so Bret bought an oven.  I had to smile….there were no numbers on the dial to adjust the temperature - you just turned it to the picture of the big flame or the little flame or somewhere in between!  They’ll get the hang of it – it’s not all that different from working over a fire.


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Emily in front of her new oven, with a pizza baking inside

            My sister, Sue, took charge of this new bakery.  She managed to have some recipes sent to her phone and was able to find most of the ingredients she needed to make Lion House rolls, banana bread and pizza!  Cute little Emily told her that she hadn’t been able to sleep the night before cooking lessons began because she was so excited. The first thing we made was a banana cake from a box mix.  Bret had purchased a cake mix along with an assortment of baking pans and with a ton of over ripe bananas at our disposal, we substituted most of the liquid with mashed bananas.  The cooks were puzzled about how this was going to make a cake and were quite surprised to learn that the box mix had sugar and leavening already in it.  I doubt they even knew box mixes existed.  

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Emily with a pizza ready for baking
            All of the bakery goods turned out superb – even the pizza!  Anthony was in heaven, as were a couple of Americans who had been there much longer than we had.  But the crowning jewel was the moment Emily stepped proudly out of the kitchen bearing 3 beautiful loaves on banana bread on a plate.  We were just about ready to leave for home and she wanted us to see what she had baked.  We all “oohed and aaahed” but it was Burt that started the auction!  “I’ll give $20 for a loaf of this banana bread,” he shouted.  Well, that started an auction that ended in Emily receiving $61 for a small loaf of banana bread…the first ever to be made in the village.  I wish you could have seen Emily’s face.  She is not a smiler and it was all she could do to keep from busting into a wide grin.  She just kept asking, “ For one loaf???”  She was incredulous.  What fun it was to watch Cindy pull out $61 dollars then proceed to give everyone a bite.  As Emily turned and walked the other two loaves back to the kitchen I know I saw a smile spread across her beautiful face.  She could only be thinking, “Crazy Americans!!!”


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Emily proudly holds her first batch of banana bread

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Goin' to Gona

A post by Karen Timothy.

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Sue and Curt in front of the Gona classroom they funded

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Gona Classroom

    And now for the real purpose of this amazing trip to Africa….we were going to Gona, a small Kenyan village, whose history had left little marks on the hearts of those who were there the year before. 

    Gona was a typical African village with typical African people and typical African children that sang typical African songs.  The summer of 2010, however, set their school apart from the typical African school….Koins for Kenya had built them a lovely pit latrine!!!  There was a big celebration planned and much ado was to be made over the whole thing. 

You can read about the 2010 Gona activities here.

    Just a day or two before the celebration, one young Gona school boy wasn’t feeling so good.  It was time for his exams, however, so rather than miss school, he suffered through his tests and the rigors of getting to and from school with little to eat and reeling with sickness.  That evening when it became apparent that the boy needed some serious medical attention, his uncle walked him to the nearest dispensary but found no help there.  They quickly decided to try to reach the Mnyenzeni dispensary but it was getting dark and the boy had little strength left.  Night had fallen by the time they reached Mnyenzeni and the Koins expeditioners were sitting outside, sharing what they called “Peaches and Pits,” –  stories of the good and bad things that had happened that day.  They noticed a disturbance under a nearby tree and someone went over to check it out.  There under a big tree, not 50 yards from the dispensary, the young boy died, having suffered a painful death from malaria. 

    Even if this sweet boy had made it to the dispensary in time, there would have been nothing they could have done for him.  As I’ve mentioned before, while the government does have medication that will cure malaria, they will not give it unless the patient has had a blood test confirming the disease.  The Myenzeni dispensary had no way of performing that test because they didn’t have a microscope.  You can imagine how sobering that night was for all who had witnessed such a tragedy.  In typical African fashion, the women who had gathered around the young boy began to make a loud, trilling sound that filled the black night, indicating that someone had just died.  It was that sound that informed the boy’s mother that he had passed away.  She could not travel as quickly as the others and had not arrived with them to see him take his last breath under the tree. 

    There was some question about whether or not to go ahead with the Gona celebration with this sadness hanging over everyone but the preparations had been made and it was decided to proceed.  During that celebration, Koins was given an envelope containing 10% of the cost of a new school building.  While they had several buildings on their makeshift campus, they needed more room and were asking for help with a new 3-room building.  Sitting there in the heat, choking on the soda pop and cookies that must have cost the villagers a fortune to provide, Sue knew that she was the one who was supposed to build the new school in Gona.  She says she groaned inside but if she did, it was just the groan of someone good getting up out of a comfortable seat to do something hard and wonderful.

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Microscope funded by Cindy's class being used at Mnyenzeni dispensary

    Upon their return home, Sue began a year long journey of raising the money to build the classroom in Gona and Cindy went back to school with a determination that not one more child would die of malaria on her watch.  Sue and Curt enlisted the help of friends, family, neighbors and boy scouts and raised not only enough money to build the school but also desks, water cisterns and a latrine…with money left over to put towards another school or project of their choosing.  Cindy welcomed a new classroom of students at Windridge elementary with her infectious enthusiasm and spurred them on to raise $1,500 to buy a microscope for the Mnyenzeni dispensary.  That was the microscope that arrived earlier this year which, in the first week, saved 6 lives by identifying malaria in 6 out of 8 blood samples.

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New Gona latrines under construction

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Curt painting inside the Gona classroom

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Karen painting in the Gona classroom

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Variety of paintbrushes used to whitewash Gona school

    By the time we arrived in the village this summer, the Gona school was almost ready.  The celebration was about 5 days away and it just needed to be cleaned and painted.  My ears pricked up!  I quickly confirmed what I had already suspected…. painting an African school does not resemble the faux painting I do at home. The primer seemed to be sheet rock dust mixed with water and the brushes we painted with were nothing short of hilarious!  Some had such long heavy bristles that it was like painting with a wig on a stick.  Other had been chopped off so many times that the ½” bristles barely stuck out of the handle.  Worse…once we got that awful primer on, the school folks stood back and proudly said, “There!!”  Whoa!  You could rub that stuff off with your shirtsleeve but that was all they were putting on the inside walls.  Fortunately, they have this style going where everything is 2-toned so we were able to paint “below chair rail” – minus the chair rail – a bright blue, which greatly improved the overall look.  Then we went outside to paint more blue and noticed that the white primer had been smeared over some of the brick.  We were told that the bricks would get a coat of white paint the next day and the alarms in my head started going off.  Sure enough, we got all the blue painted with the edges nicely cut in and – to make a long story short – the next day 50 kids and parents with buckets of how-the-heck-they-got-it-I’ll-never-know white OIL paint finished painting the school, obscuring the fact that there had ever been blue paint anywhere near the building! I can only imagine the whole scene.  These people are used to painting with the watered down primer and somehow they had gotten their hands on oil paint.  They were told it would come off with water but it won’t. I don’t want to see their school uniforms.   I can’t imagine their little hands, and legs, and feet!  They had flung it high and low so even their heads must have been covered!  Curt and Mike about died when they saw it.  After a bit of stomping and fuming and a couple of diet cokes, they resolved to go back the next day before the celebration and repaint the whole thing.  They did.  It was beautiful.  Life goes on.

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Mural and cistern and the Gona classroom

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Sign from main road leading to Gona school

    I was happy to be in the van with Sue on the drive to the celebration because she had not yet seen what the rest of us had.  The road to Gona had been renamed, “Curt Tingey Drive.”  I knew she’d die and wanted to see the look on her face.  She was a good sport about it though and was just glad they hadn’t named it “Mama Gona Drive” like Curt wanted!



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Curt and Sue being honored at opening celebration of Gona

    At the celebration Curt and Sue were given Duruma names and wrapped in beautiful kanga cloths as they were adopted into the Duruma tribe.  Next it was Bret and Ingrid’s turn, then Mike and Cindy’s.  They then asked Tara to stand and they gave her a Duruma name – Raziki.  That meant “Gift from God.”  They told the rest that they’d get back to us with our names and by the end of the ceremony we had all been given a Duruma names and kanga cloth and were properly adopted by our new family. 

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The entire group received new kangas and Duruma names

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Dancers at the Gona celebration

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Some of the Koins sponsored university students are honored at the Gona celebration

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Bret receives 10% funding from Bofu, the next school to be built by Koins

    Next came the dancers and the presentation of the Koins sponsored college students, and the headmaster of Bofu school with his 10% for next year…and the little girl who gave a poem about AIDS and how it is a killer.  Sobering.  About 10% of the population has HIV/AIDS, and other African countries have a much higher percentage. 

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Kenyan girl recites a poem about AIDS

    It was quite a celebration all in all.  We had many adventures getting ready for it – 3 in particular we won’t soon forget.

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Purity with her sponsor Kim, and Abel, Kim's nephew

    1.  Purity is a young woman who is being sponsored through Koins to attend the university in Nairobi.  Since her sponsor, Kim, was with us, Bret flew Purity in to meet her and attend the Gona celebration.  We weren’t really surprised that she had never been on an airplane before and it had obviously made her quite nervous.  We were surprised, however, that she had never been to Gona before.  Purity was raised in the village of Mnyenzeni where family still lives.  Mnyenzeni is the village where Koins has built its “headquarters”, kitchen and shop.  It was from Mnyenzeni to Gona that the half marathon had been run.  Do the math….Gona is only a half marathon away from Mnyenzeni and yet this girl had never been that far from home!  There’s even a short cut if you’re not driving but for some reason – lack of curiosity, lack of need, lack of energy…whatever – this was the first time Purity had been the 13 miles away from home to the village of Gona.

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Car batteries are used to charge cell phones when no electricity is available

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Cell phone charging is a Koins microbusiness

    2.  There is a strange phenomenon there.  You can be watching a woman take a pan off the fire using her kanga as a hot pad, thinking you’re in the stone age, and her cell phone will ring!  Tons of people have cell phones and it’s quite the status symbol.  All of the Kenyans on the Koins staff live by their phones and Eliud had his in his pocket while we were painting the Gona school.  Well, nature called but forgot to leave a message that he ought to take the phone out of his pocket before he entered the latrine.  Sure enough, his phone went down the latrine and he was beside himself!!  He was frantically dashing about, looking for something to retrieve it with.  REALLY?  Would you believe he finally got a teacher to reach down and haul it up??  Surprise….it didn’t work!  After all that, they had to get him a new phone.  That really stinks!

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    3.  The most tender moment was the day a tiny little woman showed up to see Cindy.  There is another phenomenon there.  If you need something to happen you just say it out loud and it happens.  Well, Cindy had said out loud that she wanted to meet the mother of the little boy who had died under the tree the summer before.  Sure enough, the woman showed up at the school the day we were painting and Cindy got a chance to visit with her.  She was able to tell this lovely, weathered, miniature of a woman that she was so sorry her son had died and that she had thought about her all year long. She told her of the children in her school class in America who brought their money and went without parties (she would have no idea what a party was) so that they could buy a microscope to put in the dispensary her son had tried to reach.  She told her that even though he could not be saved, because of him, others would live.  It was a sacred time and one I’ll never forget.  You could see the relief on Cindy’s face that she had finally come full circle with this mother and her story, and that she had finally been able to let her know that her suffering DID matter and that her son’s death was not taken in stride.  At the end of their visit, Cindy gave the woman a basket filled with food and other things she might need.  It was large and heavy and the woman was so grateful.  Not knowing how far the woman was from home, some of us started looking around for a van to drive her but before we  even had a chance to try, she had hoisted the heavy load up onto her head and turned towards home.  She was a vision of strength in so many ways.
   
   
   
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The Koins group in new desks in the new Gona classroom
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The story of Gona is a true Koins for Kenya success story.  Tragedy was witnessed, an opportunity was seized, determination and effort were put forth, and great rewards were experienced by all, both those who gave and those who received.  Not only were the Tingey's able to fund the classrooms at Gona, but they raised enough money to build latrines and a new cistern, desks and teacher tables. 

Koins now has the challenge to fund a similar project for the community of Bofu, who have raised their 10% and given that contribution to Koins.  We hope to have a similar celebration at Bofu during the summer of 2012.

If you are interested in contributing to Koins projects, you can be assured that 100% of your donation goes directly to the projects in Kenya.  You can make a one time or monthly contribution safely and simply here.

Asante sana,

IVL

 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Science Box Project

A post from Karen Timothy, a July 2011 expeditioner:


    One of the great things expeditioners get to do is come up with some sort of project they would like to do while in Kenya.  While most of us chose to teach in the schools as part of that, we also chose other projects that would benefit the villagers in some way.  Tara and I pooled our money with that of Tingey’s and Workman’s to make science kits for the schools. While some of the supplies were purchased at home and taken over, most of what we got was purchased in nearby Mombasa.

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Karen and Sue with boxes ready to fill

    It took a little doing to get everything we needed but finally it arrived and the task of assembling began. The boxes themselves were bright blue trunks roughly 2 x 4 feet in size.  In each one we were able to put a microscope, litmus paper, beakers, test tubes, magnets, charts, batteries, and other sciency stuff.  We had just spread it all out on our dinner tables when Buffalo came in and stopped short.  Buffalo is a man, probably in his 50’s, who serves on the Koins board and has been a lifelong teacher there in the village.  He is a bright, pleasant man and a great advocate of the students there. I was so humbled as he approached the boxes laid out on the tables.  He had heard we were going to provide science boxes to each of the schools but he hadn’t thought about what that meant.  As he peered into the first box he literally caught his breath.  “Microscopes?” he asked.  “You are going to give every school their own microscope?”  When we nodded our heads, his eyes filled with tears and he spoke almost reverently.  “Not even the secondary schools can have a microscope.”  He picked up each item we had placed in the box and marveled that we could think of such a fine gift to give the 10 nearby schools, including his.  (Cindy gets full credit for thinking of this.  She really has a grasp on their needs.) He just kept shaking his head in amazement and grinned from ear to ear as we finished filling the trunks.

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The headmaster of the Bofu school receives a science box

    Again, I was reminded that because we have so much, we sometimes lose our “awe.”  As we delivered these boxes to the schools you could see Buffalo’s reaction repeated by each new headmaster or teacher who opened it up.  At one school, Cindy took it into an 8th grade class to open in front of the kids.  As the lid was lifted and they could see the picture of the microscope on its’ box, they erupted into cheers and clapping while the teacher just jumped up and down!  I wish you could have seen the joy you brought to these students.  They will now be able to learn in a whole new way and the possibilities of where it will take them are limitless.

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Buffalo explains the science box contents

    To understand how valuable a microscope is you need to imagine the frustration of the people in the villages who get so little help from outside.  While the Kenyan government has medication that can cure malaria, patients can’t receive the medication until they have a confirmed diagnosis of the disease.  Never mind that they drink from the same watering hole that cows, goats and sometimes elephants do ( and they don’t just drink there, mind you…) or that they have all the symptoms of malaria.  If they have not had a blood test confirm malaria, they get no treatment.  Being painfully aware of this after 8 trips to Africa, Cindy spent last school year helping her students raise money – about $1,500.00 – to buy a microscope for the dispensary in Mnyenzeni.  The first week it was in operation, 8 patients were tested for malaria.  Six of them had confirmed cases and were able to get medication to cure it, literally saving their lives.  While the microscopes you and I provided were not strong enough to detect malaria, these students will learn how to use one and hopefully spur some of them on to a course of study that will improve the quality of their lives by providing more competent health care.

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Cindy observes the microscope in action

    When my uncle, Bill Seliger, heard of the need for microscopes, he changed his mind about selling his on ebay and instead, let us take it to the village and place it in the dispensary.  I should say he let Tara take it.  He had carefully packed it in a small case,  providing photographic documentation and explicit description so that we didn’t keep getting held up in airport security.  It was a 23-pound treasure and Tara hand carried it through 5 airports along with her own 50 lb. bag making sure that it didn’t get bumped or disturbed.  We were all glad when it found its new home in the dispensary.  While they did have the microscope from Windridge, it is electric and that can be a problem.  For some reason that we never came to understand, the government randomly cuts off the power and they can go from hours to days without it.  While most villagers would never know it happened because they don’t have electricity in their homes, we experienced it for a little over a day and found it to be really irritating.  While it doesn’t affect the air conditioners – because they don’t have any - it does wreak havoc with the refrigerators, power tools, sewing machines, and the one microscope Koins has placed in the village.  With this additional one, the power outages will no longer have such an impact on the sick.  

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A microscope for the clinic that doesn't need power

    Thanks to all of you for helping provide science boxes for these 10 schools.  It really was Christmas in July.

Karen Timothy
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During our July trip to Kenya, I spent a morning in the dispensary, working with the lab techs who use the microscope.  I had a chance to talk to them about the importance of the microscope, how it is used to detect a variety of diseases, and more importantly, gives them the ability to accurately treat patients who arrive sick at the dispensary.

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Medicine at the dispensary

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Antibiotics to treat malaria

I watched with great interest as the lab techs washed and disinfected slides to reuse, and talked to me of their training and work history.  They showed me in the microscope how to detect malaria in the blood.  It was fascinating to see order and procedure take place in an area of the world where so much is chaotic and rudimentary.

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Villagers waiting to be seen at the dispensary

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The well baby area of the dispensary

Mnyenzeni is the only dispensary in the rural southeast coastal area of Kenya that has a microscope.  It has greatly increased the traffic that flows through the dispensary.  At any time on any given day, there will be 25-50 people outside the small building, patiently waiting their turn to be seen by the nurse.  The dispensary has the ability to take blood and urine samples, test for diseases, do prenatal and postpartum checks and well baby checks, and prescribe drugs.  There is a large clinic adjacent to the dispensary being built by the Kenyan government.  We are hopeful that upon its completion, health care in the Koins service area of Kenya will rise a notch.

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Clinic under construction in Mnyenzeni

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Clinic being built right by the dispensary in Mnyenzeni

With the addition of the microscope at the dispensary, Koins has helped save lives.  In less than 6 months, there have been many lives saved by the detection of malaria, tuberculosis, bilharzia, cholera, and other diseases that can be found in the blood or urine.

We are hopeful that upon completion, the clinic will provide an opportunity for Koins to bring in medical doctors that can treat more complex issues.

Asante,

IVL

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Michel's Family Dental Trip to Kenya

After the Koins July expedition departed Kenya, there was a group that came in, organized by Lisa Michels, the mother of Sean Michels, and the one responsible for the idea and the funding of the Sean Michels School for Special Needs Children.

Lisa and her family have made several trips to Kenya, but this trip had an entirely different focus.  They brought dentists with them, with a plan to set up a dental clinic on the porch of the KCC and take care of as many dental patients as possible in the time allotted.

It was a stunning success.  There were many, many Kenyans who had fillings done, teeth repaired and pulled.  Most of those had never been to a dentist.  Many came to the KCC in desperation, having dealt with tooth pain for months, and sometimes years.  With no access to a dentist, the villagers have no option but to deal with the pain and sometimes even resort to pulling out their own teeth.  We hope this is the first of many dental trips.



Click here to read about their trip and to watch slideshows of their experience.

Asante, Lisa.  Your organization and planning paid off in a big way for our villagers.  Many are sleeping better, feeling better and looking better, thanks to your dental group!

IVL




Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Utah College Student To Build Second Africa School

Utah College Student To Build Second Africa School

(click on link to see KUTV news video)

Dallin Frampton may be nearly old enough to order a beer---not that he would necessarily---but the young Utah college student with the teen idol looks is planning to build his second school in Africa.

Over the weekend, Frampton set the stage for a fundraiser to help make the school become a reality. Then he took the stage with his band, the "Down Harmonies," and played for donations.

It was a concert outside his family's home in Holladay for friends, neighbors, and anyone with a soft heart for impoverished kids a half a world away.

"I'm actually going back to Africa on September 12th," said Dallin, who made his first journey to Kenya nearly 18 months ago. He traveled with the group Koins for Kenya, and in a small village with hardly any of the comforts of home, erected a cinderblock school. Dallin raised money for the building---up to $10,000---partly by an earlier cul-de-sac concert which drew a crowd and the police.

This time, the music ended at 10 pm, but the quest for helping craft better lives for African children plays on.

"I get a good feeling from helping people who have nothing, and just trying to do my part, in helping out the world I guess," said Dallin, who has not done it alone.

Koins for Kenya was started by Utah's Bret Van Leeuwen, and according to its website, became a private, non-profit organization five years ago. The group said it has built 20 schools, constructed water wells, and organized libraries in Africa. "We have no overhead, no paid staff, and no administrative staff that come from the foundation," said the Koins' site.

"We're seeing hundreds of children now getting their education," Van Leeuwen told 2News. "We have 19 people at universities, and those people will continue to uplift the community."

Dallin's efforts are also aided on the home front. Noted Utah vocalist, songwriter and musician Tessa Barton, and others, performed at the latest concert.

(Copyright 2011 - Four Points Media)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Best Senior Trip Ever! (Morgan's Reflections on Kenya)

This blog entry was written by Morgan, one of our younger expeditioners.

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Morgan and a young Kenyan

As you all know, during the summer after your senior year of high school, a lot of kids go on a “Senior Trip.”  My parents had been making arrangements to take me on a European tour - Germany, Austria, Switzerland, etc.  As the school year came to an end, classes got harder, AP tests started, and I complained about school more and more.  One Sunday during church, a lady in my ward named Sue Tingey mentioned that she went on a humanitarian trip to Kenya.  My dad confronted her about it, and asked if her and her husband would come over the next day and tell us more about it.  At this time, we were just interested with no intention of actually going.   They came over with a slide show presentation, and it hit home.  They showed us their pictures, and told us about their experiences.  Before they left that night, I knew that I needed to go.  Two months later, I found myself in a place of beauty, poverty, and utter amazement.

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Morgan and her dad, Burt, during layover in Amsterdam

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The last flight of the trip, flying from Nairobi to Mombasa

After a long journey of flying and layovers, driving through streets of poverty and extremely bumpy roads, we finally arrived in Mombasa, Kenya where we would spend our first night.

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Bombolulu worker making jewelry

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Wheelchair and hand-pedaled bike workshop at Bombolulu

Once we arrived, we went to a place called Bombolulu, a community where disabled individuals work in workshops to make merchandise so they can earn their room and board.  We went through the workshops to find blind, deaf, people without limbs, and others with miscellaneous disabilities.  Although they were disabled, they were making beautiful things - woodcarvings, hand pedaled bikes, jewelry, clothes, handbags, and various items.  As we went into the workshop where they made hand pedaled bikes for those who couldn’t walk, Bret informed us that if we wanted, we could buy a bike for someone in need.  Everyone in our group insisted that they wanted to help by giving bikes to individuals in need, with an understanding that they wouldn’t meet the person who received it.  My dad and I decided that we would buy one for someone.  Soon after we started the paperwork, we noticed a young man crawling into the workshop on his hands and knees.  We asked if we could give our bike to him, and we did.  We presented him with the bike, and he was ecstatic.  Although he didn’t speak English, we knew how grateful he was.

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Morgan and the recipient of the specialized bike

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It is obvious the need this man has for a specialized bike for mobility

The next day we drove on miles and miles of bumpy dirt roads to the village of Mnyenzeni; our home for the next week and a half.  Upon arrival, we were greeted like rock stars.  Any feelings of loneliness or rejection vanished.  In a matter of seconds, I had fifty new best friends.

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Morgan, Tara and students from the secondary school

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Walking to the school in Vikolani surrounded by students

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Morgan makes a new friend at Miyani Primary school

One of the highlights of my trip was really getting to know the people.  We didn’t jump from place to place sightseeing, but we lived in the village, and I got to watch and experience their everyday life.

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Several of our group after teaching at the Windridge school

Every morning at 7:00, the children run to school yelling “Jambooo!” as they pass with a bucket of water on their head, a stick to give so they can build a fire to cook their lunch - if they are lucky enough to get lunch, and a small plastic container so they can put their lunch in something if they get it.  The women do their chores, which would consist of making breakfast - they have to peel the maize (corn), pound it, sift it, dry it, and then grind it.  They then boil dirty water and stir in the corn flour until thick to make the staple food of Kenya, ugali.  They take numerous walks to the watering hole so they have enough water for cooking, laundry, and cleaning.  They go to their “shamba” (garden) and weed and till the rock-hard dirt.  They walk miles to chop down branches with dull machetes so they have fuel to cook their food.   And, they hand-wash all the clothes. This is their day… everyday. 

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Morgan and her grandma, Claudia, spent a day shadowing Betty

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Girls from the expedition became friends with Koins sponsored university students

I had the opportunity to go to the Secondary School and play games with them, and talk to each other like we’ve been friends for years.  I learned how differently we live, yet how similar we are.  We all want the same things - we want to feel beautiful, to feel loved and accepted.  One thing I learned is that school is precious.  Primary school in Kenya is free of charge, but once you get to secondary school (high school), tuition is $300 per year.  Many children don’t make it to secondary school because they can’t sacrifice the money. In some cases, an extended family will save their money to send one of the many the children from that to school.  And only a fraction of those who make it to secondary school will make it to the university level, which is $1,500 per year.  None of those students can afford to pay a university tuition, and are completely dependent on sponsorship to go to university.  I will never complain about school again.

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Morgan and Burt and the secondary student sponsored by their family

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Morgan and her dad teach about airplanes and rockets

Our main project while we were in Kenya was teaching in the in the primary schools.  My dad and I taught the seventh and eighth graders about airplanes and rockets.  We showed them how to make paper airplanes, and they were amazed.  We brought a simple rocket launcher and a rocket, and they we so excited!  Everyone would gather in a circle, count down from ten, yell BLASTOFF and everyone would scream as the rocket flew into the air.  Not only did the whole school come to watch, but also all the teachers would gather around.  We went from shooting into the sky, to shooting their headmaster in the behind.  I was amazed at the things they knew, and didn’t know.  They knew the whole solar system by heart, but couldn’t make simple folds in a paper. 


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A student prepares to launch the rocket

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The rocket takes a different trajectory

Words cannot describe the experiences I have had, before I had seen pictures and heard about it, but you have no idea what it is like unless you experience it first hand.  In the words of Anthony Yama, “You have no idea.”

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