Through the night, massive rains cooled and humidified the morning air. Before the sun was up, some of the team members set out on a morning run followed by several sprints, normal behavior when you have to keep up with the training regimen for upcoming NCAA seasons this fall. The men, on the other hand, decided to do “Insanity” on the front porch—a combination of running, jumping, pushups, and cardio. Shortly after, everyone met in the dining room of the guest house for breakfast, where they gobbled down the freshly made pastries and popcorn before setting out for the Uluthe Primary School.
Upon our arrival at the school, we saw the children, ranging from ages 2-13 years old, outside playing in the fields during their morning break. It didn’t take long for the students to spot us and immediately sprint over to say hello and stare in wonder, questioning why we were there and who we were. Of course, the school headmaster, Phillip, was expecting our visit, but to the children, it was a great surprise. After a few photos followed by excitement from the kids from seeing themselves on the camera screens, we assembled into a great big circle and played one of their favorite games. The game was very similar to follow the leader, where one person claps, recites a children’s rhyme, dances, or does a combination of the three, during which we all follow along. The next game was one of ours— Red Light, Green Light. The children quickly learned how to play and were overjoyed with excitement and laughter. Of course, no trip outside of the USA is complete without playing some football (‘soccer’ to the typical American). Cari, a talented sophomore on the CSM soccer team, dazzled and wowed the children with her lightning-quick footwork, ability to dribble and move with ease, as well as her stamina. The last games consisted of several small groups teaching the children how to play other games such as “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Simon Says”. The children were then called back to class, and reluctantly returned to complete their morning lessons.
After the children settled back into class, Phillip took us to each classroom and introduced us to each of their teachers. Each class was very courteous and respectful of Phillip and the entire Invictus group. The children from each class presented us with a song. The team couldn’t help but smile and clap along, feeling honored to be a part of their warm welcome.
Before departing from Uluthe Primary, we scheduled a study skills workshop and the Annual Invictus Soccer Match with the students of Uluthe Secondary school for later in the week. The team left the school and set out to visit the Uluthe Dispensary. The Invictus Initiative had worked together with the clinic in past years; one of the major projects completed included providing electricity via solar paneling installed on the roof. The staff at the clinic greeted us with a warm welcome, excited to meet the new team. They informed us that they would be receiving electricity from the local utility provider in the next three months, but that they were planning on keeping the solar panel and battery system installed as a backup.
The clinic had several patients waiting to be seen and evaluated. We discussed the progress the clinic had made and the current issues they were facing with Janet (the clinic administrator). It is very interesting to note that this clinic, although recently making a switch and becoming public, still charges a very small fee to dispense medicine, whereas the clinic in Sigomre is entirely dependent on the government for funding, and often run out of their annual drug allotment early in the year. By charging a small fee to dispense drugs, the Uluthe Dispensary has been able to buy more drugs and in turn, treat a larger number of patients. Unfortunately, this more sustainable approach is to be cut off in the coming months due to a decision made by the Kenyan government, which seeks to put an end to their charging system and instead make the dispensary completely dependent on government support. They will likely run out of prescription drugs far earlier than their needs require, and patients will go most of the year without any medicine. It is important to note that the Uluthe community voted in favor of keeping the fee system and that the government ignored the request of the local people. This is an obstacle that not only clinics face, but the people of Kenya face on a yearly basis; local and federal governments are supposed to act in the best interest of the people, but instead, they implement policies and programs that fall short of meeting the needs of the people. It’s because of this reason that The Invictus Initiative invests so heavily in building relationships within the community, so that we can better understand what the community members actually need.
At the guesthouse, Jane and Sarah prepared another stellar lunch consisting of chapatti, rice, lentils, beef and gravy, and fresh organic avocados. With our renewed source of energy, we set out to meet Peter Ndar at St. Patrick’s Primary school before heading to the construction site for the vocational school. During our time at St. Patrick’s school, we were introduced to Margaret, the headmaster at the school.
Following a short discussion with Margaret, we identified a big need and a possible future partnership project with the school. The school’s biggest need is textbooks. Since the school has received the same government funding since 2003, the money allocated for the purchase of learning material simply isn’t enough to accommodate their growth in recent years. In many cases, a single book is shared between eight individual students. We left the meeting with plans to brainstorm a few sustainable solutions to help the school. Our next stop would be the future site of a vocational school that was a part of a project that George was working on.
After a long walk, we arrived at the location of the future vocational school, which was still under construction. The vocational school will provide a workspace for community members to receive training in various technical skills. These technical skills can be utilized within the community and will provide viable jobs for those that receive the training. Rather than outsourcing skilled labor to communities outside of Sigomre, individuals within Sigomre can be utilized for learned skills such as masonry, carpentry, farming and irrigation, and welding. The hope is that the Invictus Initiative will be able to partner with those working at the vocational school and offer various workshops on topics surrounding business planning, agricultural techniques, sustainable fundraising, and other community initiatives.
Once some great dialogue with George and the community representative in charge of the vocational school site development was completed, we took a short walk to Pascallia’s farm. Pascallia is the owner of a large organic farm and offers many opportunities for community members to be trained in organic farming techniques. With a relatively large farm, Pascallia has started reserving small parts of her land for training other farmers to learn how to use a very small area to plant a garden that would provide enough food to feed a family and have enough surplus to sell the rest at the market. This initiative is a great benefit to the surrounding community because it dispels the belief that community members need several acres to be successful farmers. The reality is that they can produce an abundance of food on a rather small plot of land if they employ proper organic farming techniques.
After a non-stop full day, the group was running on fumes, so we headed to a local shop for an ice cold Coca Cola to refresh. Back at the guesthouse, the team took time to reflect on everything they had experienced that day. Some members discussed future projects and partnerships that could be established at the primary schools, the vocational school, and Pascallia’s farm, while others caught up on their journaling before settling in for the night.