Monday, 2 March 2020

The Adventure Continues

As you can imagine, it has been very challenging to update the blog on a daily basis. Although Team Faraj travelled home on this past weekend, we will continue to add to the blog until we have covered all our activities while in Kenya. Thank you for your understanding and happy reading!

February 19: Work Day at Compass:

As students and staff are currently on break, we thought it would be a good day to complete some work without disrupting classes and well... getting distracted by all those lovely and loving children. Let’s be realistic. You can’t get much done when you are talking, playing, singing and dancing!
We arrived to find members of the board, specifically the chairman David, working on the pile of desks we had started repairing during our last visit. Although they were also on break, all staff were there painting classrooms and desk legs and staining newly repaired desk surfaces. We also got help from the older current students who worked hard along side some former students, now in university. This was definitely not a typical work crew as it was a representation of the many levels of administration, staff, student body and supporters (including Faraj, once again) coming together for the success of this school and its community. 









The next task of the day was tree planting at the Crèche under the direction of David Wakogy.  We need not get into the symbolism of tree planting and its everlasting benefits to the environment to understand the significance of this ceremony. Groups comprised of a board, a staff, a former student and a Tumaini Afrika member planted at least seven trees on site. Thank you to caretaker Kevin for preparing the soil for planting and accepting the responsibility of caring for the newly planted trees. It will be nice to see how much they have grown when we return!









We finished our day with one last meeting with David and the board to review the vision for Compass school and to set goals towards growth. There are a lot of good things to come for Compass and the Crèche.


February 20-22:  Travels to the Mara

After such a packed and heavy schedule, it is time for us to take a step back to take in and process all that we have done so far and to replenish our energy in preparation for the next part of our work in the Nairobi area. The best way to do that : experience Kenya’s natural beauty both flora and fauna WOW! 








February 23

Today was a day to visit some friends : Mary Warindi and Flora Ndunge.

You may recognize Mary’s name from the Ole Warehouse where we sell some of her beautiful beadwork pillows and canvases.  She is a talented artist who uses her craft to support herself and her three children Elvis, Mercy and Daisy. During our visit, she recounted events both happy and sad including the accomplishments and dreams of her children and, tragically, the recent death of her mother at the age of 57. It was a blessing to have Judy and Bruce, two people who through their work have helped many people deal with death and grieving. They seemed to know what to say and do to help her as she is still trying to process it all. We left, knowing that this resilient young woman would be able to carry on, determined to make a better life for herself and her family. It will be nice to keep in touch and to see her again!



We made our way over to visit Flora, Steven and their new addition Baracka, now 9 months old. As you have seen in our previous blogs, Flora is our rock at Compass school.  She is the person we can count on to keep things moving forward at the school and to direct us on how to help as best we can. 

We certainly enjoyed all the snuggles with Baracka and the many conversations we had while enjoying some delicious Kenyan tea and some pieces of sweet potato and arrowroot. We were also very happy to be able to share some birthday cake to celebrate Flora’s birthday! Do you believe it was her first birthday cake? Apparently, it is not customary for them to have cake for one’s birthday. She seemed quite pleased to be able to partake in one of our Western  traditions. (And it was a sweet deal for us too ;-)




Friday, 21 February 2020

Different Sides of Nairobi

Our apologies for taking so long between blogs. As you will see, we are extremely busy and have had little time to sit down.

February 16
We experienced how people worship in Kenya by attending a Sunday service. Beautiful music and dance at a gathering of a community of faith. Wonderful!
We took the afternoon sorting through all the items and slotting which items were going to Mathare, to Mary Thamari and the Life in Abundance program and to Compass when we return both Wednesday the 19th and one last time on the February 26th.

February 17:  Mathare
Today we visited the Mathare slum. John, a resident, opened his home to us so that we could gain more understanding of life in the slums. Pictures can only give a two-dimensional image; they do not offer sounds, smells, nor anything physical like heat, humidity, etc. To walk in the area amongst the people and to sit in John’s tiny living space was eye-opening to say the least.





We were brought to the three schools we support including the Kariobangi orphanage. Rodgers, our contact with the MCO (Mathare Community Outreach), was happy to show us the three kitchens and some classrooms Tumaini Afrika has funded. A lot has changed since TA’s last visit in 2018 thanks to our many supporters and the steadfast work of Rodgers and his team! 

We also visited the dormitories at the orphanage that tragically caught on fire this past year, causing some major damage. Fortunately, no was hurt or killed. Besides the obvious damage to the structure, students’ personal items were destroyed as were the mattresses purchased after a campaign led by our Tumaini Afrika members Gabi and Carey. Rodgers and his wife Grace lived in a room within the dormitory so that they could act as parents for the orphans who lived there. Their home was also damaged and personal items lost. 
We were happy to see that they have managed to temporarily relocate everyone while repairs are made. They have replaced the roof already but a lot of work is still left to do before all can move back in. 

As is the tradition, we were treated to some wonderful student presentations. One that particularly comes to mind is the student residents’ presentation of a song called  "Never Give Up"  and a poem written by a form 2 (grade 10) student about all that Tumaini Afrika has done for them. As we listened, we came to realize that these students have become resilient citizens. The MCO, comprised of faithful mentors, has become a strong force within this community. They have been instrumental in giving hope to so many... always looking towards what they can do to change the lives of so many, one person, one family, one challenge at a time. It has validated the work the Tumaini Afrika group and other supporters have done to support their efforts up until now. They have been able to accept our hand up to make great things happen in their community!

February 18: Back to MCO schools
Today, the Tumaini Afrika team, now known as Team Faraj ;-), offered a mini-retreat to clergy by way of a discussion on grieving in today’s world, lead by our very own Bruce. Micheline met with staff members from PP1 (junior kindergarten) to form 4 (grade 12) to discuss special needs in their classes and possible strategies to help in student success. Holly gave her geography lesson comparing Canada to Kenya. Jeannine gave her lesson on the various roles we play and then followed with her music lesson on notes and rhythms, always a crowd pleaser! Judy and Linda offered their art lesson once again to a fresh group of eager learners!
After lunch, we all helped Linda and Judy present and distribute Days for Girls kits to 100 very happy young women! The girls were especially impressed by Bruce’s openness to being a part of it all. 
Once they all got their kits, the girls were all quick to strike a pose with their new gifts! Girl power at its best!!
It was a good day!









Saturday, 15 February 2020

A School Full of Valentines

As promised, here is our blog about February 14th. We have also included today’s activities so we will be all caught up!

February 14 - Valentine’s Day!

We returned to Compass school in the morning to complete our scheduled two and a half day visits. 

The classroom painting and some more repairs were completed thanks to Faraj’s coordinating the students, mixing the paint and drawing the lines for the "baseboards".  Holly and Micheline jumped in on the painting as well. A few students were even checking in on them and congratulated them on their work. Foremen in the making!!!



Bruce focused on repairs including door hinges and a few more of the many desks that require lots of work! The students will finally have something decent to write on!!! Having said that, there are still so many repairs left. 

Grade 3 students benefited from an art lesson with Judy, Linda and Jeannine. (They were a little disappointed they hadn’t had it yesterday like the younger ones.) Linda was very touched by a young girl who made her a special Valentine’s Day card... a testament to how much she loved the time spent with her.





Then came lunch!  The Tumaini Afrika crew distributed Canada and Ontario pins, peanuts, bananas, oranges and Valentine’s Day candy to all students and staff.  Luckily, the students had pockets to carry all their treats. It is important to know that they seldom get fresh fruits and treats. We cannot possibly explain who was happier, the children and staff or the TA team who witnessed the joy!






Before leaving after lunch, students wanted to dance and sing with us.  The children gathered around Jeannine and Micheline.  Jeannine started us off with « This Little Light Mine ».  WOW!! So many children dancing with happiness!  We followed with the Alleluia we had taught them yesterday. What a choir!!! 




We thought that that would be it and before we could start our goodbyes, two children started a new song that all students jumped in on. They certainly taught us a few moves of their own. No sooner did one song finish, another student started a new song with the actions and dance moves to go with it.  This kept going for at least another 15 minutes.  We all got our cardio in for the day! We finally worked our way to the van amongst children giving us hugs and saying their goodbyes. Thank goodness we will be going back and are already afraid  of how hard it will be for us to say goodbye to them before we leave for Sault Ste. Marie.  Nonetheless, this was by far the best day ever!!!!

February 15 

Just when we thought we had the best day ever...

As we shared breakfast, Holly read a message from Flora, our rock at Compass school. Here is a little excerpt:
"Compass staff spent the rest of yesterday repeating how they had seen God...You do great works, may you all live healthy long lives, we keep you  in our thoughts and prayers. Have a good day and weekend."
Compass School Staff

Thank you to all our supporters for helping us make these moments with these special friends!  We are truly blessed!

After such a great start to the day, we visited the giraffe sanctuary and had a blast feeding them. Many giraffe kisses for all. We then worked our way to Kazuri Beads to buy some handmade beads and pottery in support of a co-op of women that was created to fight poverty in the area. 






Unbeknownst to us, the best was yet to come. 

Faraj and his family invited us to have lunch at his home in the Kibera slum (1 1/2 square miles, with over 1 million people, in the center of Nairobi).  As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by his daughters, Ilham and Nusyba, his wife Fatima and his mother (We just called her Mama Faraj ).  We each got to hold their new born son, Mohammed and met Faraj’s younger sister and uncle. We shared stories about their home, their traditions and ours back in the Sault. We feasted on a traditional African meal and just enjoyed the feeling of being family. This is a moment we will never forget as it is forever etched in our hearts. A very touching experience!!
When we asked Faraj if we could post pictures of our time spent together he replied: “It is fine. You are my family.”




We are off to church tomorrow and the Mathare slum on Monday. More to come...


Friday, 14 February 2020

Our First Days in Kenya

We know you have been waiting to hear from us.  It’s been a very busy few days but are very glad to be able to share our adventures so far.

February 9 - 11


We started our travel with a major glitch causing us to arrive in Nairobi much later than planned. Due to a severe storm in Europe, we were forced to change our connecting flight to Nairobi via Dubai instead of Zurich causing a domino effect. Instead of arriving early Monday night, we landed in Nairobi just before 6 am on Tuesday morning. As you can imagine, we were all extremely tired after this extended travel with little to no sleep. But in the big picture... first world problem! 
Luckily Faraj was there to greet us, help us collect and load all our luggage and bring us over to Kijiji House to freshen up. 
You would think we would take a little time to rest but decided to hit the ground running to try and stay awake as long as possible. Off to the elephant sanctuary! Seeing those baby elephants running in to be fed and hearing each one’s story was truly a wonderful way to begin our stay!  
We headed back to Kijiji House to unpack, get our bearings and try to stay awake for as long as we could. The next day was going to be a big one! We were heading to Compass school to meet staff and students and begin our two and a half day stint to see how things were going there.

February 12:  Compass school Day 1


We arrived to some very happy children waving and yelling Holly and Jeannine’s names as they recognized them from Tumaini Afrika’s previous visits. Others giggled when they saw four new faces coming out of the van, one sporting a beard, others with hair like they had never seen. There were high fives for everyone before we were directed to a classroom to be treated to a wonderful production of songs and poems by some of the classes. 





Classroom Welcome

Performance

Holly Doing Her Thing
We were also introduced to the board members and staff members and welcomed as friends... no longer visitors. That was a very touching statement that speaks volumes to the work that Tumaini Afrika members and supporters have been doing for the past 6 years.



After all the formalities, we got to work visiting the different classrooms, speaking to staff, teaching a few classes and distributing some Days For Girls kits. 


Days For Girls Kits
Days For Girls Kits


Lunch

Lunch


Lunch


Lunch

Bruce headed to the hardware store with Faraj to gather supplies and tools for painting classrooms and repairing desks for the next day. Jeannine even got in a quick game of football (that would be soccer to us Canadians) so they could test out their new soccer balls before we left for the day. What a great day!!



February 13:  Compass school Day 2


Another busy day!  After being greeted by staff and students, we went back to work! Bruce and Faraj started painting and repairing with the help of many helpful little hands! Holly taught a geography class comparing Canada to Kenya. 




Students seemed quite happy to hear about the similarities and the differences and asked many questions. Younger students jumped right into an art class with Judy, Linda and Jeannine. Micheline met with teachers to ask about special needs in their class and help with teaching strategies. Let’s just say they have very little and need a lot!   

We spent the afternoon focussing on the Crèche, the current location for the 3-5 year olds and future site of Compass. We toured the buildings and studied the plans for new buildings to house the needed classrooms. It is certainly very promising for both students and staff. 



From there, we travelled to meet with David Wakogy, the founder of Compass along with the board members and invited guests Julia Clark, a Saultite who now lives in Kenya and Lois Shaw, our friend and trip organizer. You will all have to wait until our presentation in the Sault to find out what it was all about but we can tell you that we were extremely impressed and felt very positive about the happenings and future of our Crèche and Compass students and staff!!!







February 14 

We are tired! We will tell you about it tomorrow :-)