building unconquerable relationships

Summer 2012 Kenya – Day 7 & 8

We woke up and relaxed most of the morning.  Since arriving in Kenya, we’ve walked long distances and met with many people with hardly a chance to process all that we’ve seen, heard, and felt.  In an effort to recharge, the team spent half of the day on the grounds of the Harambee guest house journaling, reflecting, and discussing where we felt the best opportunities to impact the community are, and creative ways of doing just that while here in Kenya – stay tuned.

While the team rested at home, Katie and Peter (our friend and guide) hopped on the back of two motorcycles and made the bumpy 40km journey to St. Catherine’s Primary & Technical Vocational Institute for Mentally Handicapped.  While Peter was going to visit his 16 year old son, who attends the school, Katie, who works with severely handicapped children in her hometown of San Luis Obispo, traveled to the school to assess the needs of the one of the largest vocational schools in the country.  Despite the fact that the government portions out a substantial amount of money to the school, Katie iterated the fact that the school’s most pressing needs where still unmet.  While touring with the headmaster, Gladys Orlendo, she learned that the autism training most of the onsite staff received remains years behind where it should be, and as a result the children are the ones that are paying the highest price. 

Reflecting on her time away from the team, she was moved to have the opportunity that day to witness the heartwarming interaction of a loving father and his son, halfway around the world.

An interesting side note that most of you back in the United States will appreciate is that during the African winter months where the temperatures are in the low 80’s, most motorcycle drivers wear large down puffy coats as they navigate the uneven red dirt roads that crisscross the Kenyan landscape.  While the American visitors swagger around in their tank tops and board shorts, the locals remained bundled as if planning to be swept up by one of Vail Ski Resort’s chairlifts.

While Katie was on her adventure that day, Gabe, Emily, and Martin (the hired local electrician) were at the clinic taking measurements and assessing project parameters necessary to begin the solar project that everyone in Sigomre has been so eagerly anticipating.  After they had completed their preliminary work, Eric, one of the admins at the clinic, invited Gabe and Emily back to his house where he showcased his 7 acre homestead.  What is most impressive is that Eric does all organic farming and maximizes nearly every inch of arable space for the production of crops ranging from Corn and Sorghum to bananas and beans.  The farm is complete with cows, goats, chickens and nice fluffy rabbits which they will one day eat;)

Later that afternoon, the group traveled down the familiar path towards Uluthe Primary school.  Here we met our friend Lucas and the headmaster of the school to learn about the hurdles facing both faculty and students.  Although some of the pressing issues faced here are similar to other schools we’ve toured, it was interesting to learn that this headmaster had what he believed to be several positive steps toward increasing the waning mean test scores of the school.  Among those steps was the creation of healthy competition between students – stay tuned.

Wrapping up our meeting with the headmaster, the team had the pleasure of meeting individually with all of the grade levels at the school.  In addition to hearing each grade sing their favorite songs, one of the most memorable moments was when a young 6th grader named Mary read a creative story written entirely in English demonstrating the new headmaster’s proficiency in enhancing teaching methods – we’ll post the video when we get the chance.

“Bakaloo, Bakaloo, can you do the Bakaloo!?!” was the chant some 75+ children and the team sang aloud in an enormous circle as we all goofily shook our booties and laughed at each other while learning the local playful dance.  Oh how fun it is to be kids again.  Kassi also occupied the attention of the schoolchildren as she offered up an inspired interpretive dance that had the schoolchildren in stitches.

The sun began to set and we headed back to the Harambee guest house.  Another fabulous meal of the exact same food is enjoyed, but how could we complain?  Sara and Jane are wonderful cooks and have attended to our voracious appetites more than adequately.  We retired early as the next day would have us heading into Kisumu to pick up the remaining solar equipment and drop David off at the airport – so much accomplished, so much more to still do.

Day Eight

Wake up, we’re going into the city!  The guest house erupted in chatter and movement as everyone collected and packed what would sustain them on the overnight excursion to Kisumu.  Leaving the community, even if just for two days and a night, would be difficult but welcomed as a change of pace to shake things up is always fun.  The two hour drive in Raphael’s van, a.k.a. “Raphael Airlines,” felt less crammed this time around, with less people and luggage it was actually quite spacious – then again, maybe it felt that way because we hadn’t just spent two days flying in a hot metal can.

Prior to entering Kisumu, we stopped at the Moi University campus.  With some 24,000+ students enrolled in eleven schools which offer diversified academic programs for undergraduate, Masters, and Doctorate levels, the University has been at the forefront in expanding educational accessibility to more Kenyans.   It is also important to note that one apparent difference between this campus and a majority of those found in the United States, would be the abundance of cows grazing the school’s sports field.

After arriving at our Kisumu hotel, we checked into our rooms.  The place resonated of classy, and the fact that each room was named after a different species of fish only added to its grandeur.

For lunch, our friend and guide George took us to a resort on the shore of Lake Victoria, where everyone enjoyed a foot soak in the pool, the cool breeze and spectacular views, and of course a fresh fish dish; most likely caught earlier that morning.

On our way back to the hotel, the team stopped at a downtown Kisumu solar store that George had recommended and picked up the remainder of the solar equipment needed to complete the project in Uluthe Mungao.

Back at  the hotel, the team had a few hours of relaxation before piling into Raphael’s van and  heading to Duke Breeze, a rooftop bar and restaurant atop of one of Kisumu’s highest buildings.  The team spent some time swapping stories with fellow NGO nonprofit groups, making new friends, and showing the British the true meaning of “cutting a rug” – Amercah.

Later that evening, we stopped into a local late night snack spot and made a large to go order of chicken, fries, and extra hot sauce.  Having our fill back at the hotel, we all retired happily with full bellies and satisfied hearts.

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