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Well, after trying SO hard this trip to be prompt with my updates, this one is going up a little late.

Day Twenty-Four:
Saturday the 14th was food distribution day and a birthday celebration, and in a lot of ways it feels like our whole trip was building up to this. This is what food distribution day is: one Saturday every month, a supply of food is given out to the guardian of each sponsored child, along with any extras a sponsor may have given money for, like chickens, goats, new clothes, text books. People all used to walk to the food distribution, now there's a matatu that runs to it, for the people who live further, or are less able to walk there and back (weighed down with food and supplies).

The day started off with a ceremony, of course. Greetings, introductions, prayers. There were some gifts from sponsors for specific kids that were given out, and photos taken to send back to the sponsors.

Then we broke for lunch. The lunch was for EVERYONE attending food distribution. Elders served first, then kids, then us mzungus. It's good to see the people who need the meal most eating first.

We had organized the food packets and supplies the night before, so on Saturday all we had to do was stand in front of each food stack and make sure each guardian got everything: cooking oil, flours, soap, maize, beans, salt, sugar, vaseline, meat, tea, drinking chocolate. So the guardians and people coming on behalf of the guardians started to arrive for food... old grandfathers, old grandmothers, young brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. The whole distribution process was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time.

And there was also the birthday party... A birthday party for 120+ for kids who have never celebrated a birthday, some who have never even known WHEN their birthday was. There were loot bags, party hats, birthday cake. And 120+ smiles

Day Twenty-Five:
We said our goodbyes in Kikima and left for Nairobi. Had lunch in Machakos, picked up a few last minute souveniers, and had PIZZA for dinner when we got into Nairobi.

Day Twenty-Six:
It was an EARLY morning. Woke up at 4:30am to be ready for breakfast at 5am, then made our way to the airport. I'm finishing writing this post as we wait for people to finish boarding the plane (which is why this post is a bit rushed, sorry).

Kenya trip successful. I will return safe and happy. Thanks for following this journal everyone! Keep following as I start posting photos when I get home!
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14 July 2012 @ 02:09 am
(This is last night's entry)

Like I promised, I went to Kyangoma - along with one of the other Canadian visitors, Emily - to say goodbye today. We timed the visit there for lunch time, so we'd create as small a distraction as possible.

But distractions are hard to avoid. I found a group of Standard 7 girls standing in the doorway of their classroom, calling me over. So I went into their classroom, to say a quick hello. The quick hello turned into me taking photos of the class, while they showed off for the camera - great big grins, silly poses, kids grabbing their friends into the photo or running into the photo at the last second. I should have some great photos to share from this day when I get home.

We intended to leave the school when the bell rung to mark the end of lunch, and the start of classes again... but met up with a teacher who offered us the period to teach science to Standard 6. We couldn't pass up the chance to teach one last class.

Ready to leave after the science class, we were once again met by a teacher and offered some extra time with the students: an escorted trip to greet some of the other classes. So we said hello to Standard 8, Standard 7, Standard 5, and also the children from the special needs section of the school. After properly saying bye, we were finally allowed to leave.

We were told we'd be welcomed back if we find ourselves in Kenya again. I'll definitely take them up on that offer.
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12 July 2012 @ 03:11 pm
We toured two water projects today. The first one we visited, we were hugely surprised to be met there by a group of people, singing and clapping. The water project is a great big cement collection area, with pipes to bring the collected water to nearby crops. Eric Walters and Creation of Hope raised the money to construct it, so the surprise ceremony there today was to thank and honor him. We were told the project was completed for $1200, and benefits about 150 families.

The second water project was one I visited on my last trip. I think I must have written about it, too: "Baraka Spring". We were told it cost about $600, and benefits over 300 families. This water project taps into a spring, so the pipes are constantly running with water that's clean enough to drink, no need to boil it, no fears about picking up sicknesses from drinking it - I even drank from it last trip, will no ill effects. The photo attached to this entry is of this project.

We visited another high school today, Mbooni Girls Secondary School, for a tour and to meet four of the girls there who are supported by Creation of Hope. This is one of the first incredibly well equipped schools I've seen in Kenya (though I've mostly toured rural primary schools, so there's really no comparison); it has a chemistry lab, biology lab, physics lab, computer lab... I was really, genuinely excited to see such a nice school. It's so good to see success here.

Last stop of the day was to the market again. All of us visitors have spent a lot of time taking photos in and around Kikima. Today as we walked through the market, I saw a man who I'm pretty sure was using his phone's camera to take pictures of US. What a role reversal!

Planning on stopping by Kyangoma tomorrow to say goodbye. That school, those kids, they're always difficult to say bye to. But it won't be as hard as the first time... I know I can, and will come back. I'll see them again.

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As I mentioned in my previous entry, today was the official opening of the new children's home building. The ceremony was scheduled to start at 10:00am... and actually started at 11:30am. Not surprising. What WAS surprising was that the ceremony actually ended at the scheduled time, 2:00pm!

There were a lot of important guests: a local bishop, education officers, church leaders, community leaders... but my favourite guests to see there were some of the girls from Suvia, and a large group of students from Kyangoma! Everyone was also served lunch, so I was REALLY glad to see my kids from Kyangoma getting a good meal. I don't know how many of them would have gotten lunch otherwise.

The kids from Kyangoma made me promise to visit them before I leave for Canada, and I of course will! I'm going to miss them so much. They're incredible kids. I wish the education system here had more to offer them, I really do.

This evening, we started on an incredibly exciting project: making loot bags for 120+ kids. This weekend, we're going to be holding a birthday party for all of the orphans supported through Creation of Hope. Many of the kids have birth dates (in some cases, birth months or birth years) that are unknown, so this massive birthday party will give them all a chance to celebrate. We are all SO excited for this!
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11 July 2012 @ 01:55 am
(This is last night's update)

We visited two high schools today: the school of Nicholas, the young man I sponsor, and the school of Mutuku, who was on the walk with us.

The visit to Nicholas' school was to pay some school fees, a total of 1500 shillings. I got a chance to meet with Nicholas again, to see him in his school uniform, and to talk briefly about school. He told me he has some exams coming up, and I told him I hope he did well. He told me he'd work hard.

I hadn't realized it before, but Nicholas is one of 3 people in Form 3 (essentially Grade 11) in the Creation of Hope program. No one in the program is in Form 4 yet. So if Nicholas does well in his exams (KCSE) at the end of Form 4 and goes to university, he'll be among the first in the program to do so! If all goes well, I'll pretty much be the proud parent of a university student while I'm in my 20s. Pretty amazing!

Next stop was Mutuku's school, for a very brief visit. Mutuku was the very first person sponsored through Creation of Hope, and the reason the organization exists, and is just such an intelligent and charming young man, that he's such an important person for visitors to meet. He's a shining example of the potential kids in the program can have, and the ability they can have in healing from past trauma and sadness.

In the evening, a few of us spent some time making pancakes for the 44 kids in residence at Hope Rolling Hills. We ended up making 70 pancakes, so one each for the small kids, two each for the older kids, and served them with honey. We hope they enjoyed them! Maybe we can get some feedback and comments from the kids tomorrow!

Tomorrow is going to be a BIG day. It's the official opening of the new building for the kids in residence at Hope Rolling Hills. The actual construction on the building isn't yet finished, but the dining hall and one of the boys' residence rooms have been almost completed and are currently in use. The opening ceremony is scheduled to start at 10am, and end at 2pm. We'll see how far the actual ceremony deviates from that schedule!
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If you come to rural Kenya like this, you can expect to give speeches. What your name is, where you're from, greetings from home, if it's your first visit to Kenya or how many other times you've been, and anything else that might be appropriate for the place and audience you're speaking to.

Today we all went to Kyangoma Primary School to hand out a huge number of text books, library books, and sports equipment, so today was one of those days filled with speeches.

As the ceremony started, I was shown the schedule, and it was whispered to me that I was in charge of giving the "vote of thanks" on behalf of all the visitors and Hope Development Center, right before the ceremony's closing prayers. I'm not good at making things up on the fly, so I started to get nervous. Thankfully, I figured I had the whole rest of the (long) ceremony to think up what I wanted to say (and in case anyone wants to know how it turned out, I was told by a few people that I spoke well!). The fact that I was chosen to give the speech made any anxiety I felt entirely worth it.

So while I'm mentally writing my speech, I was asked to help hand out the new text books to each class. I felt like I was in the way, there were so many people already helping, so I sat back down. The rest of the books were handed out, each class and teacher bursting into incredible applause as they received their books, and I continued writing my speech in my head. Then I'm quietly asked, "Do you want to say a few words about the books?" and without much chance to answer, I'm sent to stand up in front of the assembly of students and teachers, incredibly confused, and terribly nervous. Eric Walters started a speech, about how I'd taught at the school, known the kids were bright, but realized they were struggling without enough text books. Being mentioned in Eric's speech was an absolute honour, so I'm standing there, and I start to lose it. There's tears in my eyes, I'm starting to choke up, and I'm PRAYING that I won't have to haltingly croak out this surprise speech. And then I'm asked to speak. I managed a coherent, though brief, speech with tears still in my eyes. I think of Ktangoma as my school, the kids as my students, so being able to play a role in presenting the text books was SUCH an emotional experience.

Along with the text books, the school's community library was given 600 books. The school was also given some new sports equipment: a javelin, discus, and shot put (and also a volleyball net). I'm wondering what kind of use they'll get out of these things, but I'm sure that even having these new pieces of equipment will be a great source of pride for the school.

The rest of the ceremony's speeches ran long, despite the assurances that things would be kept short. "Short" speeches here don't mean the same thing as short speeches do at home. After speeches, finally, we found that the teachers had cooked us a huge, fantastic lunch.

So there you go, a ceremony in Kikima, Kenya. They frequently start late, run too long, and surprise you when you're expected to talk, but they're always memorable.

I actually had a lot of trouble trying to get photos; we had the ceremony in a church, so the light shining through the windows makes most of my shots hard to look at. I did get some beautiful photos of kids in the library on my camera, to share when I get home.
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08 July 2012 @ 03:17 pm
Not much of a schedule today. No photos, sadly.

We went to church again, as is expected of us. We got to church an hour late... and still ended up sitting through a 3 hour long service. There were two special collections at church today: one to raise money for Creation of Hope, and one to raise money for people affected by the recent church bombing in northern Kenya. There was also an announcement during the service, letting us know that 'because of the insecurity in the country, AIC (Africa Inland Church) Kenya advised having guards at their churches'. So there was a guard outside our church during the service, and we were told to look at the people beside us, and if we saw someone we thought looked suspicious, we should not keep quiet.

I've mentioned before, we're safe, in a safe area. But guards at churches are a sad precaution to have to take, and a sad reminder again of the dangers and sorrows in this country .

Tomorrow we attend a ceremony at Kyangoma Primary, to distribute school supplies, sports equipment, and lunch to the entire school. I'm SO excited. I expect I'll end up with a few photos to share!
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07 July 2012 @ 04:19 pm
Last night a group of about a dozen other people arrived in Kikima. They're getting similar tours to the ones we got when we arrived earlier, but the tours are so amazing that they're fully worth doing again.

The new visitors were taken to Suvia Children's Home (we've been told "suvia" means "to take care"; beautifully fitting name, isn't it?), and I went with them. There are things in Kenya that no matter how many times you see or experience, the emotional reaction is just as strong as seeing it for the first time. I'd already met the girls at Suvia, heard their songs and poems, seen their dances... and still, everything they performed today had me holding back tears (of heartbreak, of awe, of hope, of appreciation). We were told to mingle with the girls while we ate lunch outside, and we were told we'd be welcomed back if we find ourselves in Kenya again in the future. So I'm very much hoping I can take them up on that offer one day!

Friday is usually movie night at Hope Rolling Hills residence, but the recently arrived visitors were way too tired last night. So movie night was held tonight instead. Strangely, the kids here apparently get bored and fall asleep during animated movies, but love live action. Tonight's movie was "Home Alone", which the kids were seeing for the first time... and they LOVED it. Laughing, cheering, clapping. And they were THRILLED when we told them there was a sequel, that we'd show next movie night.

Church again tomorrow. Looking forward to some wonderful singing again!
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06 July 2012 @ 09:50 pm
(This is yesterday's blog entry)

Today was the third and last day I was assigned to teach at Kyangoma Primary on this trip. It was a pretty good day to end on... we played one of the huge, glorious, chaotic football games I remember so fondly. Two classes, Standard 5 and Standard 6, somehow had Phys Ed scheduled at the same time, so we ended up with a gigantic game of Standard 5 vs. 6. Imagine about 50 kids on each team, playing on an uneven field half-covered in tall grass. Kids playing in shoes, plastic sandals, or barefoot. Girls playing in long skirts. Tons of laughter, cheering, and grins.

Best part of my day though? Bumping into some of my former Standard 5 and 6 (from 2010) students at break and catching up with them. I don't want to say I had favourite kids, but there were a few girls with better english than most, who were bold and curious and constantly making jokes. I found they still had these great qualities. I met up with some of them again near the end of the school day, when they were in the yard sorting maize and beans, and they called me to sit with them and help. It was so strange, in a wonderful way, to see that these kids have gotten taller, smarter, and advanced in their classes. I got to see how my former students have been growing up! Pretty incredible.
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05 July 2012 @ 04:09 pm
We spent a 2nd day teaching at Kyangoma today. Same grade, same subjects.

The kids have breaks during the day (so basically recess), and it's pretty funny to wander around outside on the field with the kids. I ended up with a mob of them half surrounding me, looking at me expectantly. One of the kids piped up, "Kate, they want you to run". I asked what game they wanted me to run as part of, and I just got another affirmation that I was supposed to run. So I took off across the field... and the pack of kids started chasing me, screaming. I guess the game is called "Chase The Mzungu". They wore me out pretty quick.

After school, the younger kids back at the Hope Rolling Hills residence had their own invented "game": hiding in stack of tires and giggling. These kids are amazingly inventive when it comes to toys and games and finding ways to have fun. I'll try to do a post, with photos, of some of the toys I've seen the kids constructing here. They're all REALLY impressive.
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