Today marks the culmination of our first month in Kenya; after four weeks of new people, environments, and culture, we are thrilled to be here and could not be more thankful for this incredible opportunity to serve others and grow in faith. Though our previous blog posts have given small insights on our day to day lives, we haven’t shared an overview of our actual work here. So, here is a brief overview of what our lives have been like for the last month, with greater detail given to those events which have occurred closer to the present time.
Brian, Sage and I had a few days to become acclimated to the drastic culture and time changes that occurred in our first 48 hours in Kenya During that time, we participated iin a traditional Masai goat slaughtering, roasting, and feast, heard the stories of the rescue center girls, and woke up and ate breakfast at a time that I would normally be falling asleep back in The United States. Then, we were quickly put to work. The first few days at Lenkai, we helped build and paint shelves for the rescue center girls and shelves for the newly built kitchen. We also began to create a library catalog for the school. Though they have roughly two thousand books, they don’t know exactly what is in the library, nor do they have an organized system for how the students should borrow and return the books. Our days in the library allowed us to become more comfortable around the teachers, and allowed the students to begin to match our names to our faces as they came and went from the room.
The second week began with our introduction to the classroom. Though the various class schedules change each day, we were regularly instructing students in classes four through eight in Social Studies, Science, Library (Reading Comprehension), Math, Computers, Life Skills, Creative Arts, Physical Education, and CRE (Christian Religious Education). Additionally, Brian ventured out with Edward and Mike, who work with Just One Africa, to administer follow up surveys for the water filter program. Eating breakfast promptly at 8:00 each morning, we traveled to school with Mama Dorcus, and received our daily teaching schedule from Teacher Oscar. We did our best to fit in time for the Library in between classes, and then we served in any capacity that was available during the after school hours. For example, I helped lead the drama club after school that Tuesday. Every Friday we have participated in a teachers vs students football (soccer) match.
Week three was slightly different than the first two weeks. Though we were at Lenkai on Thursday and Friday (since we landed in Nairobi the night of Wednesday, June 1st, I am considering Wednesday to be the beginning and end of each week) we spent the majority of the second half of the week away from school. Saturday and Sunday were days at camp/church to recuperate from the previous week, and begin preparing the camp for the arrival of the Just One Africa Team. On Monday we went to Loitokitok with about half of the student body in order to support them as they participated in their Sub-County Literary Competition. We saw several schools perform traditional Masai dances. Then, we watched students recite poems, both in groups and alone, and others participated in Public Speaking events. Lenkai swept the competition. Students grades one through eight took home first and second place in their respective events, and the school moved on to County. Unfortunately, due to the incredible expense of bussing the students all the way to Kajiado, just south-west of Nairobi, they were unable to move forward in the competition. The government is supposed to provide services or funds that will allow the students to travel to the location of the county level competition, but often times, due to greed and corruption, these funds are not given to the schools, causing the students to miss out on an exciting and educationally enriching opportunity. In this case, all of the Lenkai students that worked so hard to win at the sub-county level were unable to move on, but they hope to try again in the future. Last year, Soila placed fourth at the national level for her violin playing. She was the first Maasai girl to do this, and because of her high placement, she has automatically advanced to the national levels this year as well. The national competition will be held in Nairobi in late August after we have left, but we are encouraging and praying for her nevertheless.
The next two days, the three of us traveled roughly fifty kilometers in order to participate in the water filter follow up program. Along with Edward and Mike, we interviewed several water filter owners about levels of sickness within their families, issues with the water filters, and several other aspects of Just One Africa’s mission. Each house/community was quite different from the last, especially the communities we visited on Wednesday. These were manyattas, or traditional Masai homes, in Amboseli, and it was a drastic change from the environment we had been in the day before. (There is much more to share about this experience, but that will be saved for another blog post, I think Brian is working on it.)
Week four began with preparations for the arrival of the Just One Africa team, and could not have been more different than any other week so far. On Thursday, we stayed at camp all day, putting bed frames together and cutting curtains to help furnish and clean the homes they would be staying in. We met them at the school that afternoon, and the students were ecstatic. Old friends were reunited, and we also were thrilled to meet the rest of the team for the first time. On Friday we took a tour around the camp with the team (where we discovered a giraffe skull, elephant bones, and wildebeest horns) and then we went back to school. Though I had the chance to review only with class five for their upcoming science midterm, Sage and I played in four different football games, and we were exhausted by the end of the day. Brian spent most of the day in deep conversation with Amy and Clay Churchill, the founders of Just One Africa, about the water filter follow up program.
Saturday was spent entirely out in the field. We experienced our first water filter distribution, and got to observe this incredible process unfold firsthand. We were deep in Amboseli, and people walked for hours to get to the Olive Branch Church where the distribution was occurring. The people present watched as the filthy brown water turned crystal clear through the filter, and they were amazed and intriguied by the process. Twenty filters were distributed at the first location, and another eight at the second. That is roughly 150,000,000 gallons that can be filtered, or 750 people that can have clean drinking water for life, only using the filter for their drinking water. (Again, this event is most certainly worthy of an entire blog post, if not several, and I will let Brian expand upon it in his following posts.) On our way to the second distribution site we saw elephants for the first time, not far off from the road. The beautiful creatures moved so easily, and didn’t make a sound. Sunday began early with the children’s church service. The Just One Africa Team brought Brian’s cajon down to Kimana, so he was able to play it alongside Paul to complement the piano playing. The rest of the day was spent organizing items and distributing some of the clothing that the team had brought for the school and the rescue center students. That night we came home to a bonfire, around which a freshly slaughtered goat was roasting. Dinner that night was delicious, and we topped everything off with a strawberry ice cream and fruit salad combo.
On Monday, I was back in the classroom, this time proctoring exams in classes four and seven for Math and English, respectively. The students had been studying for the last week or so, and they were well prepared for their exams. When the school day ended, John took us to Sidai Oleng, the wildlife conservation/sanctuary that he runs with Olive Branch Ministries, alongside Pastor David Bates. We spent about two hours in the sanctuary that evening, and another blog post about that experience is coming soon. That night, we had our last dinner as a team, and then John and Dorcus treated us to traditional Masai dances and songs around a bonfire, where we ate popcorn and drank lots of chai (tea).
Now, as the children take exams, I have a moment to sit and reflect upon my experiences thus far. Finally, there is a break in the ever moving schedule, and I can rest. My thoughts focus on the big events, but easily I recall the smaller details which cause the memories to imitate reality, creating a three dimensional picture show in my mind. Writing in my journal each night aids my attempts at recollection, but mere words, and even pictures, do no justice to the reality of our experiences. Nothing can match the full experience of living here. I wish all of you could be here with us. Next time, you’ll just have to come along for the ride.