About two weeks before we left our team got our official assignment from 410 bridge. The other teams from our church had previously set up a week-long medical clinic for vaccinations and deworming as well a team that worked specially on rock removal near the well project.
Our team was asked to complete two tasks during our five days in Michura: to paint the exteriors and roofs of the school buildings and to work with 4 standards (grades) of village children. Take a wild guess which team I wanted to serve and plan. Among our team was another teacher who teaches middle school math. We worked to plan based on given curriculum but were allowed to come up with crafts and games on our own and based on what we could feasibly bring with us on the plane.
We were allowed one carry on bag and a back pack per team member so we were able to use our team checked bags to carry in supplies including fingerpaint, crayons, scissors, constriction paper, balls, bubbles, a parachute, and instant exposure film. The last item deserves it's own post about how and what we did on our final day.
Monday 8/6- We arrived in Michura and met our teacher counterparts for the week, Beatrice, mentioned yesterday, and Eunice, teacher of the Standard 1 class of 6 and 7 year olds. We were welcomed at the bus by many of the children who took us by the hand and walked with us to their classroom.
Thirty children are enrolled in Eunice's class, which is an Introduction to school class. Over our days of working with her I can dare say that she is the real thing. A teacher to be reckoned with and would easily translate into any classroom in the US. She is resourceful in ways that good teachers are, but with the handicap of having nearly none any classroom supplies. Books are few and must be shared, she distributes pencils which we collected at the end of the day. So many times Jennifer and I quickly realized that she, not we could take our frame of a lesson and add so much more with her quit wit and knowledge of her students.
The older students attend school in one of 8 classrooms. The two school buildings are the only structures in the central village area.
On Monday we found a place to hold class, not surprisingly under a tree in the shade. We set up with some of the desks from the classroom with the kids sprawled out among us. The kids learn English in class, but still have broken language and we needed help with translation. We taught a song with hand motions that we would practice each day. We did a story, Bible verse, and then craft. On the first day we made handprint hearts with the fingerpaint.
After lunch our team played community games. What I thought would be playing with the kids was quickly replaced with the men of the village "warming up" as in were running laps awaiting us to finish lunch. Most of the men played barefoot to our 6 male team members. The game lasted almost 2 hours during the hottest part of the day. Other than one of our female team members, who plays club soccer and runs track/field at high school at home, none of our female team members opted to play. Instead I found a shady tree and quickly was surrounded with children intently watching the game. Nearby some of the older girls were watching and giggling at our lone female player. I later found out that several of the girls idolized Shirley and were amazed she was playing as well as the boys.
We wrapped up the day with a men vs women tug of war. Not surprisingly, the men won. And boy did they celebrate!
We left Monday tired but exhilarated by the kids and adults we had worked alongside.
Tuesday 8/7- I was excited today that we were going to be making home visits in the afternoon to keep house, cook and share a meal with one of the village families. With the kids we again pulled out the fingerpaint and painted on a set of large cut out animals including zebras, giraffes, hippos, and elephant. We wanted to leave something that Eunice could use in her classroom.
Then came bubbles. Wow. By day two our games group now had doubled in size. Kids were chasing the bubbles, those with shoes were throwing them to burst them, the teachers and some of the adults came over from painting and asked to blow bubbles with us.
After lunch we broke into three teams to visit homes. I had the honor of visiting Beatrice's home were we where we first prayed as a group and she allowed us to tour her home. Beatrice has 12 children, 9 living and is a widow. Her walls were covered with pictures of her children and late husband. My favorite was of her in college with an ear to ear smile. Beatrice is the real deal, a leader among her community, to the women whom she leads an empowerment group leader in which they pool their money and buy a rotating member something new each month. She proudly told me of the dishes, pots, and utensils purchased in the last year.
In Michura, most homes have an outdoor kitchen where all food is prepared. Near the home are chickens, goats, corn fields. Today we would making a fish stew with ugali. Ugali is a staple in the michuran diet and is similar to cornmeal mush. In the absence of utensils, it can be formed into a soft ball to sop up food like a spoon. It's also really good and most nights at the hotel I enjoyed it with kale and sweet potatoes.
Each of us helped clean the fish and stir the ugali. We returned to inside the home to share the meal of one fish and a large pot of ugali. The food was great and being able to participate and talk about daily life including the four hour round trip walk for clean water. Everywhere you see children and women carrying jugs of water. I was most impressed with those who can carry water on their heads!
I've had several people ask about the water project which is estimated to be finished in 12-18 months. Here is current progress as captured the week we visited. The project will run pipes from the top of the mountain where the clean water exists and filter it before it reaches a large reservoir with a pump. If curious, the pond near our bus is the current town closest water source.
It can be boiled to remove some impurities, but remains dirty and brown. Rain is scarce in Michura and only 1-2 days of rain occurs each month. All homes have rain collection gutters and homemade tanks.
Something Beatrice said to me really stuck, "our life here is hard, we acknowledge this, we accept this challenge, we are called to make the best of what we have." What an amazing woman and an honor to have prepared a meal in her home.
I had the chance while we were cooking to ask her about my sponsor child, Siprin. Beatrice shared with me how she is an excellent and disciplined student with so much potential, but her family had endured much sadness. She shared with me that in 3 years Siprin will take the national Kenyan secondary school exam and that she had odds to secure a placement at one of the boarding secondary schools.
I asked if possible could I meet her parents and share our mutual desire for Siprin to continue in school. I had actually met Siprin on Sunday, but want to tell of our meeting and the amazing events that would transpire the next day in the events of August 8th. She is a sweet, shy, and loving girl. She met me at the bus on Tuesday and held my hand walking me into the village. Little did I know how much the next 24 hours would hold for our final day, but once home a week later and I am still thinking about those last few hours and am speechless.