It was back to work today for everyone on the Youth Tour. The youth started the day with a tour of the Naari Dairy with the UPEI vet students. Farmers Helping Farmers has recently started working with the dairy, which acts as a kind of cooperative for local farmers. More details on that visit to come.
Meanwhile, Carolyn and I headed to visit two potential twinning schools.
Farmers Helping Farmers starting matching P.E.I. schools with schools in Kenya in 2004. Since then, thousands of Island children have written letters to pen pals here. In some cases, the twinned school in Canada has also raised money for improvements at the Kenyan school, but there is no requirement that they do any fundraising. The idea is to allow young people in both countries to learn more about each other, through the exchange of letters twice a year. There are now 18 twinned schools (and Sunday schools), including a school in Alberta.
We have been busy handing out letters and picking up new ones that will be delivered to Island students in September. Carolyn and I have also had a chance to visit four Kenyan schools that could become potential letter writing partners.
It is such fun to show up in the classrooms at these schools! The last thing they expected when they arrived at school that day was for a blonde-haired mzungu (white person) to walk into their classroom. Usually, they are quite shy at first. I explain that I’m from Canada, visiting Kenya. I talk about Canada and ask them if they have questions. What really gets them excited is if we take their picture – and even more so if we show them the picture on our cameras! They eventually get brave enough to touch my hair and hands. They love high-fives…and I have taught “thumbs up” at the schools as well.
We left two soccer balls at both the schools we visited today – one primary and the other secondary. There is great excitement at the sight on these balls. And we know why. Driving past one of them we saw that they were playing football with a rock. Hopefully the balls make it to the field very soon.
Visiting these schools has been a very joy-filled part of the trip for me…though it is exhausting! We have gathered lots of photos and information and will take that back to P.E.I. as we move into a new year of school twinning.
Carolyn and I met up with the youth at Muuti-O-Nthengeri, a primary school that is twinned with Mount Stewart Consolidated (or Mount Sweetheart as some of the Kenyan kids called it!). We knew we were in for an uplifting visit the moment we drove onto the grounds. The students and parents were waiting for us—and burst into song before we even got out of the Combis. They grabbed us by the hand and sang and danced. We have been greeted similarly before in Kenya…but we all agreed that this was the most exuberant experience yet! The students also performed a welcome song. It was then our turn! We sang ‘O Canada’ (we are getting better!) and then handed out the gifts we had brought with us. They were received by the governor and MPs of the school’s student parliament, which was kind of cool.
After the welcome ceremony, we toured the classrooms…and the new cookhouse and screen garden that were officially opened in February 2015. The cookhouse and screen garden were funded by money raised at the 2014 Souris Village Feast. There are now 8 of these cookhouse/screen garden combinations funded by the annual Village Feast. They have made a tremendous impact at the schools where they have been built. These schools are able to attract more and better students because they offer a lunch program. These schools have also had better test results, because the students are getting enough to eat, at least at school. It is such a win-win. The Village Feast also provides ongoing funding for a gardener at these schools, which means the long term benefits will continue. I always knew, in theory, that these were a meaningful project. But seeing the old cookhouses – filled with smoke and inefficient – and seeing the new ones, and the amazing gardens – I am so grateful to the people behind the Village Feast for what they have accomplished here in Kenya.
The parents and staff at the school were grateful today too. This school still needs many improvements. The ground is rocky, so they have trouble with their latrines. Like most schools, they also need more water tanks. But they are building a new Early Childhood Centre – two classrooms that will soon house their Nursery A (4 years olds) and Nursery B (5 year olds) – with financial support from the county government. So things are looking good at Muuti O, as we call it. It was a pleasure to visit there.
In the afternoon, we headed back to Buuri Secondary, the high school that we visited for Games Day and a Church Service when we first arrived in Kenya. The students were excited to have us back! The oldest ones are writing exams this week. But we were able to spend time with the Grade 9 and 10 (Form 1 and 2) students. Our students brought albums filled with 50 photos from home to share with their Buuri counterparts. The Buuri students asked if they could each have a photo…and I can report that the albums are now empty!
On the way back to Meru, we talked about how it’s sometimes overwhelming when you’re trying to explain things to the Buuri students. There is the language barrier, but also a cultural barrier. Our lives in North America are just so different in some ways. It was good that we had photos of things like snow and ice hockey and our pets, to help us explain. We also have to remember that some of these teens have only been as far as Meru, about a 20 minute drive away. Some of them haven’t even been that far.
We are all very aware that our trip is quickly coming to an end. Tomorrow we are visiting the Meru Assembly, where Jennifer our host here is a member, like an MLA, for her constituency. She is very excited to introduce us to the governor. In the afternoon, we will have a farewell visit to Buuri. Then it’s back to the guesthouse to pack!
Our long journey home starts Wednesday morning with a visit to Mukurweini, the other area where Farmers Helping Farmers works. We will visit with FHF board member and AVC student Dr. Shauna Richards. The students met Shauna at the orientation so it will be great for them to see her work in Kenya. Then we continue on to Nairobi and start our 3 flights home!
Until then, our adventure in Kenya continues.
Kwaheri – bye for now.
Asante sana, Nancy