Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Que, sera, sera...

Some of you are following my mom's blog. If you aren't, then I will paste the link to her most recent entry here, to get you updated on the situation with Pauline. My mom described it perfectly, so I see no need in repeating.


So please read that entry before reading this one, I want you all to know the background story a bit.

After that frustrating and upsetting day, I decided that there was no way I was going to let this happen to my good friend. As my mom said, I decided to pay for the school uniform. So yesterday, I went into town with the Social Worker (Stanley) to get cash and go to the school to pay for the uniform. Of course, the ATM was out of service. I waited and waited in line, and filled out paperwork, only to find out that in order for them to withdraw money for me I needed my passport. Which I don't just carry on me... So the woman at the bank pointed me towards three banks that "would work" and they were all the way on the other side of town. So Stanley and I walked across the hot, dusty town and none of those banks worked. In fact, an employee at the last bank said "Of course your card wont work here! These are all for Kenyan cards! Go to the KCB bank, its just on the other side of town", so Stanley and I marched all the way across town AGAIN, and alas, my card wasn't declined! At this point it was getting late and we were already worn out, so we took a taxi to the school, the taxi driver said he would only wait 15 minutes for us to do our transaction. We not only needed to pay for the uniform, but we had to explain why Pauline didn't arrive on the day she was told to arrive, and we had to get a receipt for the uniform so that when Pauline gets to school she can show them that it has already been payed for. But Stanley said it was okay, it would only take five minutes. I laughed, five minutes? I can't think of one thing in Kenya takes only five minutes...
Sure enough, 45 minutes later the uniform was payed for and we weren't given a receipt, but we were given a signed and stamped paper to bring to a shop in the middle of town that the uniforms come from, to get our receipt from there. And finally, the deed was done. All of this walking, being covered in dust, and sweating was worth it though, Pauline will be at school on Friday. And once again, she's more than excited to be there. I'm also glad I got the chance to see her school, the compound is beautiful, there are flowers everywhere, a huge field, and many well-built building for classes and dorms.

Aside from the uniform fee, I also came to the decision to completely sponsor Pauline through school. As I've said before, to us the costs aren't much, but there's no way she could pay for her school on her own. I looked at the finance sheet and did some calculations and it will be just about $300 per year. I'm really happy to start sponsoring her, and I'm also very glad that I personally know Pauline, and maybe someday will be able to visit her again. I have a lot of hope in her, I know she will do well.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Return of the Siyiapeians/Childrens Home to Shalom

I sincerely apologize for not blogging! As some of you may know from my mom, we had absolutely no internet connection at the Children’s Home, where we were sleeping and I have been working all day. But, we recently moved across the highway to the Dispensary compound, into a house that we stayed in for a week during our last trip. This house is named Shalom, I’m not quite sure how it acquired this name but hey, it’s a nice name. During the last trip, when we arrived at this house I remember being a little bit intimidated and unsure about the living conditions here. This time, however… I was full of joy to find out that we were going to be living here. My mom and I were laughing about how luxurious it seems now, and how a year and a half ago it was the complete opposite. I guess I should rewind a bit… When we first arrived in Siyiapei about a week ago, our bags were brought up to the children’s dormitory and my mom and I were told that we were to bunk with the kids. I honestly thought that we would be living with the Matron of the home, Evelyn. But many things have changed in the past year and a half, Evelyn changed houses (she’s still living on the grounds of the Home, just in a different house) and her husband and son have moved in with her. So there’s no way we could live with them. Anyway, I love the children here, but bunking with them was a challenge. Don’t even get me started on the bathroom and shower situation. And apparently these kids are really full of energy at 6 AM. To make a long story (somewhat) short, it was important to both my mom and I to have our own little place, to sleep, bathe, and be able to check our email/update our blogs. So we very kindly and graciously excused ourselves from bunkin’ with the kids and slipped away to our own private oasis (using that word kind of deserves a “haha”).
Some of the kids, Evelyn is on my left.

Anyway, I’m now going over to the Home first thing in the morning and spending all day including our 9 o’clock suppers over there. So, you may ask, what has happened during the week I haven’t had access to internet? Well, I’ve had the chance to catch up with all of the kids that I met last time we were here. I was so happy to find that all the same kids were here, except for about 4 older ones who moved out of the home to go to Form 1 (which is their version of high school), but I was happy to hear this news as well because I know how much school means to these children and how important it is that they have the opportunity to go to school. The first couple days were very relaxing, the kids took me to this really cool waterfall that’s only a 15 minute walk from the home, we settled by the river and watched them all swim, I’ve played all sorts of games and was able to give the kids some activity books and school supplies that they adore. When the children have been away at school I’ve been spending my time helping Evelyn and Pauline with chores around the Home and doing some filing work in the office. Pauline is a young Maasai woman, the same age as me… younger by exactly a month. Her father died about ten years ago, and her mother doesn’t have the money to support her. She was here when I last visited, but she was still in school then. This time however, being done with Primary School, she now stays at the Home all day and helps Evelyn out. I got the wonderful opportunity to take her into town and buy her most of the school and boarding supplies she needs for Form 1. She told me that she had good marks on her last exams, which means she would most likely be accepted to a high school. And just last night she received the letter that she is to report to school in town on Monday! She was so happy, and believe me, the joy hit me too, I couldn’t have been more happy when I found out the news. I’m glad I get to spend the last couple days she has at the Home with her, and that I get to share with her the moment when she leaves for school, because it is a huge deal. She’s lived in the Children’s Home for 11 years, and now she is going to take her first step into her new life. I’m sure there are going to be mixed feelings at the goodbye; I know she will be happy, but sad, excited, but nervous. But that’s life, right? Well, we’ll see how it goes!

Eddy and I at the Waterfalls
     Yesterday, Evelyn, Pauline, and I went into town again. This time the purpose was to meet Evelyn’s mother, Rosaline. She lives right on the outskirts of town in a pretty traditional looking Maasai hut. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera at all yesterday so I couldn’t get any pictures, but it was great to meet this charming, sweet, and wise woman. Rosaline served us lunch and chai, and during this time I learned a lot more about their family. Evelyn’s nephew Eddy is expected at school for Form 1 on the 6th of February. While we were visiting with Rosaline, I learned that Eddy was abandoned by both of his parents and left to live with her when he was just a baby. She has brought him up very well in a loving and caring environment, but now that he has the chance to go to school, she can’t afford to pay the expenses. Tuition itself isn’t very expensive, but the cumulative costs of the supplies he needs for boarding and schooling is too much for her to pay alone. Rosaline works at the hospital near her home, and only gets paid 4,200 Kenyan shillings a month… which is equal to roughly 42 dollars/month. As Evelyn was reading the list of supplies he needs for school and his letters to sponsorship programs, I noticed tears in both her and her mother’s eyes. Tomorrow, I’m going to talk with Evelyn and see if he has anyone sponsoring him, and if he doesn’t I hope I can pitch in and at least help him with the basic things he needs to get started. For people living in first-world countries, the costs seem close to nothing, but for these wonderful, deserving Kenyans, the costs are overwhelming.
            So that just about sums up what I’ve been up to the past week, now that internet access is easier to come by I will finally be able to update my blog more regularly. I hope all is well with all of you! And thank you all for your support, it means the world to both me and everyone I’m working with here.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hittin' the town

Its strange, I've been to Kenya 3 times now and yet I have hardly spent ANY time in Nairobi. So today, Gideon and Mwix's (the Ocheing family, who I will be staying with my last month here) neice Gloria came by the house and took me with her to run arrends. I was excited when I heard we were taking the bus... or should I say the "citi hoppa". I've also never experienced public transportation, I've always been with a group of "WAZUNGU'S" (meaning "white people", you often hear this word when traveling in a pack of them) with a private driver. So, we took the Citi Hoppa into town, which took about 45 minutes because of stops and traffic. I enjoyed the ride though, I could watch the people of Kenya all day long. In town we just ran Gloria's errands which included standing in line at a cell phone store for about 45 minutes listening to the same problem over and over again, "My internet has crashed."
"Have you reset your phone?"
Problem solved. After the cell phone madness, Gloria took me to see one of the main city council areas, where "important meetings take place" (I didn't gather much information about what goes on here... but it was good to see nonetheless). In the picture on the right, the statue behind is Kenya's first president Jomo Kenyatta.
After seeing this historical sight, we hopped back on the Citi Hoppa and went to the Real Stars headquarters where Gloria works, and I will be working most of the time when I return to Nairobi in March. This organization is connected to Gideon's work that he does in Nairobi's slums. I was able to meet the women that work there, and they gave me a brief overview of what I'll be doing, which is social work in the slums. This includes home and school visits, to talk with children and their families (if the children are lucky enough to even have parents, the majority of the parents are deceased) and gather their stories in order to set up sponsorships. For children that already have sponsorships set up with Real Stars, we still need to visit them to see how their home life is going, visit their schools to see how their grades look, bring them supplies that they need, and it also includes positive counseling to keep their spirits up. Anyways, more of that later when I'm actually doing the work. I'm really excited to start.
After this we ended the day with a nice evening out at an Njera restaurant, which is delicious, spicy, Ethiopian food. We all concluded that Njera (which is technically just the Ethiopian style bread, they just refer to the entire restaurant as Njera) is an acquired taste, I remember the first time I tried it I thought I was eating a sour mattress, then I realized you're supposed to eat the bread WITH all the spicy meats and lentil sauces.
It has been a wonderful first couple of days in Kenya, and tomorrow we head off to Kijabe for one night, then I begin my time at the Siyiapei Children's Home. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And We're Off!!

I don't have much time to write anything interesting... But I guess nothing interesting has happened since we're still sitting in SeaTac airport... Just wanted to announce the departure! I will begin my real blogging once we hit Kenya... Just wanted to officially say goodbye!