What an exciting and rewarding final visit we had at Compass School today.
Since torrential rains shut down the coffee plantation we were supposed to visit Thursday, and many roads were closed, we fit in some last- minute personal shopping, and, far more exciting, we went shopping for Compass School, the heart of our mission here in Kenya. With Faraj as our advisor, we purchased about 70 litres of paint for classrooms, doors, and chalkboards, and all the necessary paint supplies. We also bought another set of gumboots, as we’d already donated the first set in hopes the early rainy season would recognize its error and go away - no luck there.
But today made up for the dreariness of yesterday. We returned to Compass ready to work, and eager to meet the MCA, Henry Kagiri. Our kids and the staff greeted us with open arms. The students immediately leapt to our assistance, sweeping out classrooms that had been inundated with mud due to the rains and nearby construction. They helped us scrub down walls and move desks, but the real excitement started with the painting. Those kids and some of their younger teachers stepped right up, arming themselves with paint rollers and putting real muscle into painting those rough, concrete walls. Over five hours, we managed to clean and paint three classrooms, and paint almost all of the chalkboards while sharing and singing with the kids.
In the middle of all of this, the MCA’s assistant, Paul, and his secretary, Evelyn, arrived almost on time but with the disappointing news that the governor had arrived unexpectedly and the MCA could not attend. We were relieved, however, to learn that Paul and Evelyn were fully authorized to act for their boss and a standing circle meeting with them, Lois, school board members, Flora, Mary Thamari, and Holly took place in the school yard.
We are very grateful for Mary’s politically astute input and questioning and for Holly’s calm diplomacy. In fact, while the rest of us have been running around doing all kinds of “fun” stuff, it has been Holly who has made the speeches, led discussions, delivered thank yous, generally demonstrated her mastery of the art of “schmoozing.” Unless you’ve taken on this role, it’s difficult to understand just how incredibly exhausting it is. We’re so grateful to Holly for the diplomacy and tact that makes her such a good leader and allows us to go about our business knowing the details are in good hands.
The meeting was very successful, and when Paul and Evelyn met with us and the Board members following the circle, we received assurances again that our concerns regarding the school grounds, fencing, and property would be addressed to our satisfaction. We were also told that a letter from the MCA would arrive via email by the end of the day. It did, and we are really pleased. See the copy of this letter attached. Wow! It’s just amazing what a small group of women who care about kids and have learned how to make valued connections and friends can accomplish.
Feeling elated after our meeting, we returned to our painting with the kids under the supervision of Faraj, who was wearing his Tumaini Afrika t-shirt because he is no longer “our driver” but our friend on the team.
After cleaning up, we delivered the beautiful pillowcase dresses made by Cheryl Mireault to the girls and more toothbrushes to the boys. It was so hard to leave today. The kids wanted to know when we’d be back and were disappointed to learn we were going home to Canada - there were lots of teary but smiling goodbyes.
Our final dinner and debrief was a joyous occasion, as we celebrated receipt of the MCA’s letter and opened our personal letters from students at Compass. We have pen pals!
And to make our Afrika experience truly authentic, we were bid farewell by an apocalyptic swarm of flying ants. Apparently, once they’ve lost their wings, they can be collected and sautéed in butter. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to try this. Gosh darn it anyway.
, we head home. We’ve seen and learned so much, had lots of fun, been moved to tears and laughter, and been forever changed. Thank you for making the dreams of Tumaini Afrika a reality for us and for the kids to whom all of us have given a hands up.