Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tears of Joy

Date: Saturday June 27 to Sunday July 5
Day 26 to 34
Quote of the day: "They are corrupt at the top out of greed, and they are corrupt at the bottom out of necessity" - Chris Hirst, Ongiya Disi Preparatory School sponsor

This was the most INCREDIBLE week of my trip so far and it was an emotional rollercoaster that I will never forget. I shed tears of happiness for the first time in my life on two completely different occasions. The first life changing experience for me was on Friday when we visited Ongiya Disi Preparatory School located on top of a hill in a small village called Ringa. We have met many children and visited a school before but Ongiya Disi is truly something very special. With 227 children and 9 teachers (plus the head teacher, kitchen staff, and maintenance) the school focuses on teaching the children integrity and empowering them out of poverty.

Ongiya Disi was built by an amazing woman named Risper Saituni...the Mother Teresa of Kenya. She has a huge heart and has devoted her life to building hope for the country she loves with this school. The school is currently surviving on the good will of the staff and the local community as they realize that education is their only hope. The teachers are practically volunteers with such a low salary and they are keeping this school alive without corruption (unlike all the government funded schools here). Upon our arrival we received a tour of each classroom and each group of children had a different song or poem for us. The youngest class, age 3 to 5, was definitely my favourite as the children belted out different songs in English led by 1 very young confident girl. Our tour ended with the most amazing song and dance performances by the children, speeches from Risper and Chris Hirst (sponsor who brought us there), and finally speeches from us. As soon as I began to speak my emotions took over and I began to shed tears of happiness. I tried to hold my tears back as I thanked Risper, the teachers, and the children expressing how incredible they all are in every way.

I truly believe that these children can make a difference and that they will be successful in their lives. It is something you really have to experience to believe in which is why I have really good videos for all of you to see! Children are the future and we must start with them to change the world.

Now the project and my second emotional experience...
This week we had 3 Yoghurt Mamas from the Fiti Yoghurt kitchen in Tanzania (up and running for 4 years now) in Oyugis training our Yoghurt Mamas on production, quality control, and hygiene. These women were truly inspirational and I am so proud of them for everything they have done for themselves and everything they have taught our Yoghurt Mamas. The 6 days of training were very successful and I was very impressed by the hard work, dedication, and desire to learn from both women's groups. On our last day of training speeches of thanks were given by the 3 Yoghurt Mamas from Tanzania, one of our Yoghurt Mamas, Roy, and the interns. Again as I started to speak my emotions took over and I cried uncontrollably. I was just so happy and inspired by the Tanzanian Yoghurt Mamas, their incredible leadership, and everything they have accomplished for themselves.

Project Accomplishments:
• Purchasing the necessary lab equipment and supplies for production
• Branding the kitchen FINALLY! We painted the front and side of the kitchen which includes "Jiko La Jamii Dairies", the project title, a dairy cow, and "processors of high quality healthy yoghurt". We also used blackboard paint inside the kitchen and have been using it for production records.
• Training by the Mwanza Yoghurt Mamas is finally complete! Although many of our Yoghurt Mamas were late on the first day of training their attendance and timeliness improved over the week which I was very happy about. I am very proud of all them for their huge amount of self-sacrifice when they leave their families and come to the kitchen for the whole day with no pay and no lunch.
• We have electricity!

• Every day we are faced with the challenge of dealing with people who want to use our phone (and therefore credit), buy them something, give them money, etc. The most difficult part about this is when they are our friends or acquaintances and it is hard for us to say no.
• Another similar challenge is replying to our friends/acquaintances when they ask us how they can get to Canada or to help them get to Canada. Unfortunately almost everyone here believes things are better outside of Kenya in the Western world and they all have dreams of going there. Every time we meet someone I dread this question being brought is very difficult to answer and Kenya is way more beautiful than Canada anyway.
• Changing the stereotypes that everyone has about us. We are staying in the most expensive hotel in Oyugis and we have to purchase every meal out since we don't have a kitchen to cook for ourselves. We would prefer to live in an apartment with our own kitchen especially so people don't judge us as white "cash cows". We also buy a lot of water which people ration here.
• Communication! The biggest communication challenges are with the project work since Roy is the ONLY one in the kitchen who speaks Kiswahili, English, and Luo fluently. Roy was a translating machine this past week and not only was this very difficult but I'm sure many things got lost in translation. I love learning Luo, it is simple and usually white people never learn the language which makes us unique, but Kiswahili is the national language so it is probably more important for us to know that language.

Most Memorable Moments:
• ONGIYA DISI PREPARATORY SCHOOL!!!→ I also saw my first traditional African dance put on by these children :)
• Our 1st customer at the kitchen!!! A small child (about 5 years old) in her school uniform came into the kitchen with money for yoghurt. We gave her a packet for free since the yoghurt was not high quality yet.
• Chasing the young children as they run away screaming and laughing. They love it!
• Kennedy (my favourite soccer friend who is 13 years old) setting up an email account and sending his first email ever to me!
• Celebrating Canada Day decked out in red & white and temporary tattoos, stickers, and flags. By the end of the day we had many children, friends, and the hotel staff all wearing the temporary tattoos and was awesome!
• Jen's birthday celebration! We spent Thursday night enjoying Tuskers (Kenyan beer) with our local friends and Saturday we had a fabulous trip to Lake Victoria! Lake Victoria is East Africa's most important geographical feature and the best part of this trip was the sweet boat ride we took on a really old gorgeous wooden sailboat (without a sail...just giant paddles) :)
• The Tanzanian Yoghurt Mamas thanking us for our self-sacrifice and commenting on how difficult it is for our parents to let us come here.
o Also, when we held elections for the kitchen positions one of our Yoghurt Mamas nominated me as Secretary as a joke

Life in Kenya:
• The average elevation of Oyugis is 1420 meters, about 4686 feet, compared to Toronto at 270 meters.
• WOMEN: Hair maintenance is very expensive so many young girls have their heads shaved and sometimes we have trouble distinguishing whether some children are male or female.
• CHILDREN: Jen and I observed the children and discussed the young ones looking after the babies as usual. We realized that when parents have more children it really isn't more work for them because they just have their older children looking after the young ones. Children grow up so fast and mature at a very young age learning to cook, look after their younger siblings, do the laundry, clean the house, etc.
• SCHOOL: A field trip for many children in Kenya is a trip to the supermarket where they learn to shop, pick an item, take it to the checkout, and make a purchase. This is something I would have never imagined but for these children it is educational and an important thing for them to learn.
• There is a sign that says "HIV/AIDS keep off or use condoms" at a junction near the market and kitchen
• We have been told that witches exist in Kisii (30 mins from Oyugis). They eat human corpses (by tapping on the grave and the coffin just comes up) believing that it gives them strength. They also use human hands as stir sticks when making alcoholic brews.
• Our hotel guards use a bow and arrow as their weapon. I have now witnessed one of the guards bring it out twice now after our friends were at the's nice to know that we are protected but I get really scared when they are pointing them at our friends!

Quotes and memories:
• INCREDIBLE is my new favourite word. Everything here is incredible and in every video we have I am saying that word.
• Singing along (very loudly) to Dilemma by Nelly and Kelly Rowland in the Matatu to Lake Victoria
• "Education is Life! It gives bread and wine, for those who are clever and wise, they never fail in life!" - Children singing at Ongiya Disi Preparatory School...just wait until you see the videos :)
• I got bit by a really isn't that bad at all and it barely broke skin but it’s funny because I'm the only intern who got the rabies shot. My co-intern Rani got a kick out of this...
o "Amanda's rabies shot - $800...Amanda getting bit by a dog - PRICELESS"
• Our friend wrote a cute message on Jen's birthday card and added "T-H-U-G→ True Homies Under God"
• "How do they hold the pot when it is so hot?" - Interns to Roy about the Yoghurt Mamas
"They are women, they just do are not women." - Roy

1 comment:

  1. just like i thought....talking bout work and stuff, nway i found it interesting this time round