Feeling refreshed and recharged from our time in Kisumu, the team rose before the sunrise and enjoyed another lovely breakfast consisting of toast, oatmeal, fruit, and Africafe (delicious instant coffee drink). A few other teams members continued their training regimen and were able to knock out a 5 mile run guided by the light of a headlamp in order to dodge the vast amount of potholes in the road.
The team set out to meet with Invictus community partners John and Daniel to learn about their plans for the community farm they are starting. We took piki pikis to Got Osimbo, and from there, set out on foot to visit the farm. The farm sits on about an acre of land and is currently being leased for 3 years. The farm itself has about a ten degree downward slope. At the base of the farm, the plans are to dig a trench about six feet deep by two feet wide and 30 ft long. The trench is continually fed from a natural aquifer, as well as rain water, and stays full nearly year-round. The water can be pumped out of the trench and up to the upper part of the farm. The farm is laid out in tiers, consisting of five total. Each tier is level, and the next tier below it sits about 12 inches lower than the upper tiers (very similar to how the Incas farmed in Machu Picchu, on a much smaller scale of course). This allows each garden to be planted with various crops and gives the community a chance to come learn about different agricultural techniques and the advantages of this system. Once the system is proved successful, the hope is that community members can replicate this farming system and utilize it in similar geographical areas. This also provides an opportunity to explore bringing Invictus interns with an agricultural background into the community to partner and develop a master plan for how to further develop the farm and implement various techniques for community development in farming.
Shortly after seeing the community farm, the team hiked its way through the rural community and met with one of the community elders to tour his beautiful banana plantation in Got Osimbo. The flourishing plantation sits on 5 acres and is a great example of what can be accomplished with proper farming techniques.
Once things finished up at the banana plantation, we quickly left to make it to our next meeting scheduled with the village elders of the 11 sub-communities in the area. The Invictus Initiative worked with representatives from each sub-community on last year’s trip to identify and map the communities, landmarks, roads, rivers, water points and land contours. We were excited to present the completed map to the community members and teach them how to use it. It may sound surprising, but this entire area has never been mapped and doesn’t exist in a database such as Google Maps. This would be a great step towards connecting the communities and giving them identity about their community by really “putting them on the map.”
To our surprise, none of the village elders showed up to our meeting at the Got Osimbo church, but rather a few representatives that were self-appointed “map administrators.” The administrators were under the belief that they would have full control of the maps and would distribute them on their own accord. Although this can be fairly common in Kenyan culture, it is our desire to break down these barriers and give people within each community equal control and access to these maps, rather than having to get them from the administrator. To their surprise, we did not issue the maps and made it clear that this was a partnership and the village elders from the 11 communities would need to be present at the meeting in order for any map distribution to take place. It was absolutely vital that everyone had equal access and control of the maps, and that each community have equal stake in the mapping initiative.
The short meeting gave us a chance to get back to guesthouse and enjoy another pleasant meal prepared by Jane and Sara. As we ate lunch, each team member got mentally prepared for our upcoming soccer match with the Uluthe Secondary School students.
We set out on foot for Uluthe Secondary School. Much to our surprise, the clouds had rolled in and cooled eveything off, making for what would be a very comfortable afternoon. The students were busy finishing up their afternoon lessons when we arrived. We spoke with the headmaster and began setting the stage for our study skills workshop. The students gathered around The Invictus group, with chairs by the hundreds, shaded by the branches of several large trees to engage in an interactive study skills workshop. Gladys, an Invictus team member, was born in Kenya and completed her education in Kenya up through secondary school, before going to University in Michigan. Kenya’s education system is based off of the British education system and is very different from what a typical school day would look like for an American student. We were amazed to hear how long the days were for the students, most waking at 4 am to do their preps before classes started at 6 am. Between their morning lessons, a lunch break, afternoon lessons, evening preps, and evening class, some of the students didn’t get home until 7 or 8 pm. From there, many of them had to attend to the farms, help with work around the house, or prepare meals before they eventually would have time to study, before starting up again at 4 am the next day. Needless to say, the typical school day for a secondary school student in Kenya is anything but easy. Gladys offered insights into how she faced these challenges every day, and inspired and awed the many students with her academic achievements.
Shortly after the workshop, we broke into small groups where the students could come to each of us and ask us more questions about our academic and career backgrounds, or seek further advice. It was a very intimate setting and nothing was off the table for questions. Questions ranged from “How can I get better at physics?” to “Are you a prostitute?” (Apparently piercing your nose is something that very few people, and coincidentally, prostitutes do in Kenya). Some groups were engaged in conversation for the full hour, while others groups began teaching their students various dancing numbers and ensembles. It was a very rewarding session for both the students as well as the Invictus group. The students gained some valuable insight and advice regarding their education and ways to improve, while the group gained intimate knowledge on what life was like for these students, something that took many of us by surprise.
One of the small groups consisted of students that won sustainable study lamps from the prior Invictus trip (read about it here). Each of them sharing the impact the solar lamps had made in their lives, the overall feedback was extremely positive. These new light sources had literally changed each student’s life. Allowing them to not only read and study after dark, but to build confidence that made the possibility of scoring a high grade on their 12th grade exit exam a reality. Something that could result in a real shot at a college education, and a true transformation in circumstances that would bring them out of the poverty they had known their entire lives. However, out of the 50 lamps distributed, many had not lasted more than 6-9 months, as the lamps were very susceptible to the harsh Kenyan environmental conditions. With new assessment data and proof that the study lamp initiative was working – The Invictus Initiative committed to investing the time and energy to bring back a better product on one of the future trips.
Shortly after the study skill workshop and breakout session, everyone was eagerly awaiting the much anticipated Annual Soccer Match with the secondary students. Unfortunately, The Invictus did not have enough people to field a full roster (some people didn’t get the memo that we were playing soccer and didn’t have the proper tennis shoes to play in) but the students were generous enough to offer up a few players from their team to add to our squad.
Historically, The Invictus Initiative has not fared well in the community soccer matches, whether it be in Brazil or Kenya. The most recent soccer match was a 7-1 beatdown, taken on the chin from young community members in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. With the bitter taste of defeat lingering for the Invictus, we were eager to get back on track and taste sweet victory. At the opening pass, we couldn’t have had the ball in play for more than 15 seconds when some keen passing, swift footwork, and great teamwork launched the ball into the back of the net! Invictus 1, Uluthe Secondary 0! A few team members celebrated like they’d hit the lottery twice and ran around with their shirts off, hooting and hollering. Hi-fives and hugs were exchanged; many people had tears of joy running down their faces (well, not quite). Needless to say, we were excited to jump out an unexpected early lead.
The Uluthe team battled back and was able to put in 2 goals to take the lead late in the game. At this point, everyone was exhausted (except for Cari because she is a pro on the CSM Women’s soccer team) and we were itching for one more goal to even things out. With determination in our eyes, dirt on our faces, and grass stains up and down our sides, we persevered and capitalized once more, evening the score at 2-2. The whistle from the ref blew, and he announced to both teams that the next score would win the game. After another grueling effort from both squads, neither team was able to score a goal. It was decided that the game would be settled on the best-out-of-five penalty kicks. Each team went through the first four rounds without missing a goal. In the 5th round, the Uluthe students scored their 5th and final goal. The Invictus team needed to make the 5th goal to tie, and force sudden-death penalty kicks. With everything on the line, and tensions running high, Drew stepped in and blasted a rocket of a kick at the goal. Unfortunately, the ball went 30 ft above the goal and was launched about a half mile away (well not that far, but it was one heck of a boot). Uluthe Secondary defeated the Invictus team on penalty kicks. Feeling somewhat let down, we were still happy with our performance and the good effort from both teams. We were so close but just couldn’t get it done. Oh, did I mention that the Uluthe team played the entire game barefooted?! We were amazed at how fast they could run, and how hard they could kick the ball without anything but a little bit of dirt and some tough skin on their feet.