Getting Up, Close and Personal

Day 4 in Kenya was filled with more “up close and personal” time with young people in Kenya – and a two members of the tour got “up close and personal” with some cows.

Today we split into two groups–  to head to two different schools in the morning –and to shambas (farms) and an orphanage in the afternoon.

My group went to Naari Girls School for the morning.  It’s a secondary school – an, a boarding school.  It is also one of two new twinned schools through Farmers Helping Farmers.  It’s twinned with a school in Alberta.

As part of the tour, the P.E.I. youth each raised $500 towards projects in Kenya.  They agreed before they left to do one project in Kenya, then decide how to spend the rest of the money after our trip.  The project they decided on was providing a new school garden at two FHF schools.  Naari Girls was one, along with Michaka Primary, which was where the second group spent the day.

We knew we were going to be planting seedlings in the new screened gardens at the schools. What the youth didn’t know is that there was a new water tank at each garden – and their names were on the side of the tank!  It was exciting to watch them walk up and realize that their names were there.  There were a couple of little spelling glitches, but as they say in Kenya – Hakuna Matata – no worries!

Stephen Mwenda, who works for Farmers Helping Farmers and visited P.E.I. last summer, quickly put us to work.  (Another FHF employee, Salome, was working with the group at Michaka.)  There are drip irrigation lines in the screenhouse garden because it would be far too dry to grow anything at this school without them.  We planted along the drip lines – onions, cabbages and tomatoes.  We’ll switch schools tomorrow and add carrots and kale.  Some of the Naari girls joined us to plant.

We had a tour of the school – and then the P.E.I. youth got to hand out letters written by the students in Alberta as part of the twinning project.  The girls will be writing their replies tonight and they’ll be sent to Alberta when we return.

For lunch, the staff treated us to a lesson in cooking “ugali” – which they call “Kenyan cake”.  But it is not at all sweet!  It is corn (maize – white not yellow), boiling water and a bit of margarine.  It was very tasty with the stew for lunch, but a few of the Islanders were expecting something a bit more like our version of cake!

We presented the Naari girls with some gifts from Canada and they performed a lovely thank you song for us.

Then, we were off to our second stop of the day.  The other group headed to shambas, or small farms, with the vet students from UPEI.  More on that later – including an explanation of the “up, close and personal” reference.

My group was heading to Machaka Orphanage. It was a 20 minute steep climb in the Combi to the area where the orphanage is located.  On our way, we passed through what the nuns refer to as “the slum”.  It was one of the most rundown villages we have seen so far.  There were shacks packed together, a ditch filled with garbage and incredibly bad roads.

The Machaka Orphanage itself is beautiful.  It is run by nuns associated with an order based in Italy.  They have about 30 orphans, under the age of 4.  In each of the classes, with 2 and 3 year olds, we were treated to a “performance” of cute songs in English, from nursery rhymes to prayers.  The kids were adorable but it was a bit awkward to stand and watch them.  Then, we were invited to help serve them “uji” or porridge.  And from there, the P.E.I. youth jumped into action!  They unpacked a bagful of presents, including toys, from Canada.  They played with the kids. And by the time we were leaving, their arms were all aching from carrying their young friends around.  I have to admit there was some very sad crying from the orphans as they said good-bye to their Canadian friends.  We had told them ahead of time to expect an emotional experience and it was.

On our way back to Meru, my group spotted two more elephants!  They were back in the woods a bit, not crossing the road.  They were big males, we think, larger than the last bunch and with bigger tusks.  The other group got a great look at a bunch of baboons today – so we’re definitely getting our share of wildlife. And that’s before we go on our safari starting Friday evening.

It was another jam-packed day!   It was interesting to get back to the guest house and the other group had already arrived. They were absolutely buzzing with excitement, wanting to tell us about their day, as we were to tell them about ours.  Without giving too much away, of course, because we will switch locations tomorrow.

Much to our delight, the four other guests, here on a medical mission and staying at the guest house, had cooked a spaghetti supper for us.  With garlic bread and parmesan cheese!  The Island youth were THRILLED!  (Actually we all were.)

The youth post is ready at the same time as mine today so I’m pasting it below!  Be sure to check out how they’re feeling about their day, in their own words.

Asante, Nancy

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Youth Blog Post by Sadie, Tessa and Daniel

Meeting the children of Michaka Primary was an amazing experience.  All the children were so nice and welcoming even though some were a bit timid at first.  They were very curious about us and Canada and asked us a lot questions (even though they might not have known all the right words in English).  They were fascinated by our hair and skin.  They couldn’t stop touching us and almost the whole time we were there someone was holding our hand.  It was shocking how when we were working hard on planting seeds in the screen house, that we found out that kids there believed white people didn’t work.  But we all worked together and finished our part of the garden.  It was nice to see all of our efforts in person with our names written on the water tank.  It really showed that all our hard work paid off.  We finished our visit at this school by teaching the kids the “Hokey Pokey” which was a super fun way to finish off the morning.  We spent the afternoon by heading out to three shambas (farms) deep into the outskirts of Meru.  We learned a lot from the UPEI Vet Students there and the local farmers and got to even interact with the animals (deworming cows done by Taylor and rectal exams done by Tessa and Sadie).   We learned about the difference between Canadian cows and Kenyan cows and it was cool to be able to compare.  It was really inspiring to see how much they wanted to improve their farms.  On the way back we stopped to watch some crazy baboons then ended the day off with spaghetti!!! I don’t any of us were more excited to eat but we were kind of tired of beef stew.

At Naari Girls Secondary we went in front of the class to tell the girls about Canada, especially the snow and ice hockey.  The girls then gave us great questions that were very similar to the questions from the Buuri students.  We got more comfortable in answering, what we call, awkward questions.  The girls always laughed after we left the classrooms, and we always believe they are making fun of us.  At the Machaka orphanage the kids were very shy at first then they did not want you to put them down or they did not want to let go of you, even if they had to pee.  The kids crowded all of us and wanted to feel our skin and hair.

-Sadie, Tessa and Daniel

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