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Hannah’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 11 Oct 2007

Location: Kenya


A big thank you to everyone who responded to our request for people to sponsor a child to go to the state school, we got a great response and all the children who passed their exam have been able to go! The additional sponsors we got are going to be used for the next lot of children ready to go to the school (this could be as soon as January and as many as 27 so if you still want to be involved get in contact!) We have obtained photos of all the children so will get these and details of the child you have sponsored to you as soon as we are back in the UK.

Last week Carolyn, Rachel and I also went to the public school to meet the headteacher. She was incredibly positive and encouraging about the work of the Walk, again it is really good to see long-lasting, tangible outcomes from the work of the Centre and volunteers. The headteacher also praised the feeding programme at the Walk (we serve up ugali and cabbage on a daily basis to the children who leave the Walk and go to the school, I told you I chop a lot of cabbages each morning!) She said that the volunteers provide an essential support role to the children, however she did say she would like to see more direct involvement from the families (e.g. parents rarely get involved or come to the school). As in the UK, it is important that the teachers understand any problems going on in the child's home life that affects their performance at school.

This got me thinking about our work at the Centre. We get involved in many important activities here including hospital visits with an ill child and obviously helping a child get into state school. However we strongly believe we should maintain our support to the children and their families without completely taking over and assuming the role of "parent" when this is inappropriate to do so. I think we need to carefully assess the activities we get involved in so that we continue to carry out the good work that has already been achieved but look into ways of expanding our work further to provide the families themselves with the means to support their own children. I think it can be easy to come in to a project like this with a very Western view of how things ought to be done and this needs to be avoided as it would be hugely arrogant and unlikely to be what the families actually need. Having Alex is massively helpful here as he is local to the area, lives right in the heart of the community on the edge of the Slum and knows far more about what people need in this area. I think we should continue working closely with him to come up with ideas about how we can get more involved with the families so that our work has greater long-term impact and sustainability. For example, some of the parents have said they would like to buy fruit from the markets in town for 3 shillings and sell them at the dump site for 5 shillings. We thought people wouldn't pay the extra amount but apparently they can't get into town and so they pay this. This is a simple idea but an area I'm keen to explore when we get back to the UK and prepare for the next lot of volunteers.

Anyway. I have had such an awesome time teaching the children over the past few weeks, it has really stretched my imagination and required me to be extremely creative! I've found that the best way the children in my class understand what I am teaching them is to make it into a game or involve a song. The other day Patricia asked me to teach the children a new song, right on the spot. For some reason my mind went really blank but I had been teaching the children colours so I stood next to a colour board and taught them my version of "I can sing a rainbow". There is now a class full of 4-5 year-olds who sing a very inaccurate but equally enthusiastic version of this song! I also taught them 10 Green Bottles this week as we were having a revision session on numbers. It started off well until I realised I had chosen quite a high key and we all got a tad high-pitched!!

Yesterday was a special day because one of the volunteers staying in Alex's house turned 19. We call Russ the "Orange Mzungu" because he has red hair and a previous volunteer with red hair got called an orange mzungu by someone in Nakuru!! We had a surprise birthday party yesterday for him at the house where everything was in an orange theme. Literally everything. The room was decorated orange, every present we got him was orange, his cake was decorated in orange. We even had orange food (baked beans, crisps and biscuits) and orange fanta. NO CABBAGE on the menu!! We got an orange t-shirt printed with the words "orange mzungu" on it which Russ loved, he wore it all of yesterday and made practically every Kenyan burst out into laughter on the streets! Last night we went out for his birthday celebration, we went to an Ethiopian restaurant (nice food) and then onto a dance club called Dimples. The music in there is wicked, kind of a mix between funky R&B and reggae, and man-alive can the Kenyan's dance. I am in complete awe of their rhythm, watching them dance in a club is quite mesmorising. And of course we all joined in, some Kenyan women tried to teach Rachel and I some moves on the dance floor. It was a really fun night and I will get some photos on here soon!

I can't believe tomorrow is my last day with the children, I'm trying hard not to think about it or else I will get really upset. I have never met children like those at the Walk, they are absolutely amazing to be around. Today Rachel and I spent the afternoon bulk-buying flour, sugar and salt to hand out in packets to the children tomorrow as a leaving present (these are all very valuable to their families). We also bought writing books, pencils and shoes for those children who we have seen at the centre without them. And as a special treat tomorrow we have arranged for some traditional Masi-Tribe dancers to come and spend the day with the children at the School. I am soooo excited about that and will get another chance to attempt some Kenyan dancing!

Will let you know how tomorrow goes!

Hannah x