Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 6: Singing, Computers, Dancing, Laughter


It’s hard to believe that we have now been in Kenya for a full week. What’s even harder to believe is that we only have one more day with the amazing Ray of Hope community. The children at Ray of Hope look to their teacher Evelyn as a mother and their teacher Alfred as a father, many of them have only one or neither of their biological parents. And both Evelyn and Alfred look to the children as extensions of themselves. I think it was the day before yesterday when Evelyn told us that she will never leave Kawangware because her children must always know where they can find her. They are more than just teachers of these children they are true caregivers! We have been so blessed to have been allowed into their family.

Today we were told by our wonderful computer teacher, Ruben, that our blog is dull….so here is my attempt at livening it up!

Over the past week we have worked on several projects with the children, the biggest of which were “My Life” books. We took pictures of each child and printed them so that they could place this picture in the book. We also printed the pictures we took of the families we visited on home visits Wednesday. Giving the pictures to the children today was so amazing. They just LOVED being able to see themselves. And the children that got pictures of themselves and their families were even more thrilled. Time and time again I was moved to tears. It is purely remarkable the amount of happiness and joy they receive from the things we take the most for granted. When Benita made t-shirts with the kids yesterday for them to wear on the field trip tomorrow (to an animal orphanage!!!!!) they treated those t-shirts with the care and gentleness that we would treat silk. I am reminded over and over again how blessed I am and how much I have taken for granted in my life. This trip; and specifically the Ray of Hope family has forever changed my life. I will never forget the faces, the voices, the laughter, the song, and the friends this week has brought into my life.

Now for a few funny quotes of the week (we hope you find them as funny as we have)
“You just referred to yourself in 3rd person…that was strange” Kelli
“I’m a wildcat….raaarrrrrhhh” Robin
“Was it a bag of poo-poo or pee-pee?” Ruben (asking about a child’s story)
“He called it ‘mula’ he forgot the ‘pu’” Pastor Karen


Today was our last working day at Ray of Hope- it was fun, sad, and hectic, with an overriding feeling of joy. We needed to wrap up all of our projects, finish sorting through and organizing supplies, help each student finish his/her “It’s My Life” book with photos from the week, and complete the first computer training sessions for a total of 48 students. The day started and ended with song, with the beautiful voices of all of the students filling the courtyard just outside the Ray of Hope clinic. These kids can sing and dance! They all formed into a very tight group, the clapping began and energetic singing and dancing started, one song leading directly into the next without any direction from teachers- wow!

Some of the younger students were the last to visit the computer lab. They were oh so careful with the new computers, each attentive and very excited to dive in. Students here are extremely disciplined- when the instructor asks a question the responses are often prompt and in unison. A simple “good morning” will be responded to immediately by 25 voices saying good morning in perfect harmony. It was explained that computers are not in high use yet in business in Kenya, so imagine the thrill of the little ones, many who may have only seen computers from afar or in pictures. The Windows boot-up tune elicited giggles, and at the end of the lesson when the kids got to gently close the laptops and hear the lid snap closed, there were delighted grins on the faces of the youngest.

The staff at Ray of Hope never thought there would be computers for the students, and we were told that with the laptops the guardians and parents believe their kids will have a chance at success. We were also told that a computer lab will be seen as evidence that Ray of Hope is doing well, increasing the likelihood of funding and supplies for other parts of the organization, including food for distribution.

Finally, we heard of the joy of the women’s group that meets weekly at the Ray of Hope Community Center, and the Glide group’s $240 donation toward micro-finance efforts. Incredibly, this relatively small amount of money will help many women begin small businesses, including selling wares on the street. This will produce enough income to provide food to eat, often in tandem with ARVs to fight HIV, possibly saving lives.

We wrapped up our day discussing highlights of the week and areas for future focus with the Ray of Hope team. The Glide team is grateful for the opportunity to spend a week with the incredibly dedicated staff of the Ray of Hope organization in Kawangware. We learned a lot, both groups grew from the experience, and we hope there were a lot of very happy kids heading home at the end of the day.


We had a full day of wrapping up classroom activities with the children. We then celebrated over dinner with our friends, the Ray of Hope staff.

We walked to the restaurant and sat underneath a large tent. We had a Kenyan meal of vegetables, chapati, hugali, and roasted meats (including goat!).  Laughter was as plentiful as the food, as in a week's time we had become not only co-workers but family together.

Ruben and Kelli dancing to Kenny Rogers
But the funniest part of the evening was after we finished eating, as we all danced to Kenny Rogers. Dancing in Kenya to Kenny Rogers is one thing I never thought I'd be doing!


I worked part of the day in the computer lab. In a small cramped room, 15 children (3 to a computer) touched a computer for the first time. They entered the room with huge smiles and Ruben, a patient, thorough teacher, taught them how to open and turn on the computer, open the Paint program, draw and color, save the program with their names on it, and close down. We learned that computers in Kawangware are rare, and that this is a tremendous advantage for these children at Ray of Hope. Thank you, Craig, for making it possible!

It was pure joy to witness the children experience computers for the first time.


“If you don’t give them hope, you are killing them. You have to make them believe that they’re not dying, but instead that they’re living.”

These were the sentiments shared with me by Boice, the medical assistant at the clinic at the Ray of Hope, who in five short days has become an incredible friend and mentor to me. We were discussing HIV disclosure and counseling, and the challenges associated with the misinterpretation of how a positive result would effect one’s life; both here in Kenya and in the US. As it turns out, the perception of HIV and the epidemic in Kenya has begun to change. Thanks to education, personal connections with HIV positive friends and family members and family planning, the stigma that once manifested itself in the most tragic and deeply sorrowful of ways has faded, and the reality of an accepting and indiscriminate society is, for the first time, in sight. I never imagined that in my lifetime a fear and hatred as steadfast and ingrained could be so drastically transformed in such a brief amount of time and I am overwhelmed by hope. As Boice implied, and as I heard it, to give hope is to give life and that is why we’re here.


Benita, the children, and one of their crafts
Today was our last day teaching at Ray of Hope. We still have a field trip with the children to look forward to tomorrow, but it was sad to know our work week has ended. Reflecting on the past five days experiences, there have been so many moments of joy and gratitude. Tuesday I lead a craft project to coincide with the theme of ‘It’s My Life’, which involved making face masks out of paper dinner plates. I came with so much anxiety about how well my curriculum would be received. I had no idea just how much
it would mean to them.

On Wednesday our group of seven, along with the Ray of Hope staff and all 50+ children went on a tour of the community, and visited the homes of some of our students. Each home was no larger than a tool
shed and housed several people. There were no windows, let alone electricity or water. But the warmth and appreciation with which we were greeted was indescribably powerful. We were invited in with open arms and offered a place to sit and visit. Fabric hung from the walls to add insulation to what was nothing more than corrugated sheets of metal. And as I got up to leave the first home I saw the ONE thing
hanging on the wall, there just above the bench where Lawrence slept, hung the face mask he made in my class.

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