If the things around you haven’t change, then change the things around you!!
Its been a while since I post news about my shining light, Everlyne Vutage, a student I’ve been sponsoring in Africa for almost a year. I just received some great news about her and the students in her village. For Christmas this year, Everlyne along with 60 others students in her community were given solar lamps and a bag of flour as presents. The solar lamps were created specially for students in African villages, whose families can’t afford to buy kerosene to keep light going late for students who study at night. The lamps also protect their huts from danger of a fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. The flour giveaway is similar to a traditional past-time we conduct in the US with Turkeys around Thanksgiving. The agency was very fortunate to have enough resources to give to the families of every student who attends the school. The students, I’m told,were very excited although they tend to hide their emotions. Some have already begun a daily routine of reading to their siblings, who cannot attend school due to the family lack of funding this term. Of course I’m very elated to hear that my contributions are making a difference in someone life, my tenacity will continue to draw me to projects that help people and the world.
A two-week trip across the Mediterranean Sea by cargo to the United Kingdom and a 10 hour flight by plane to the Middle East was well worth the wait to get a letter from my hard-working and tenacious shining light, Everlyn.
So far I’m very impressed with how well she has done in such a short period of time. In my letter response to her, I talked about my academic career and challenges I faced growing up in my community. I share with her some things about the Unites States and Chicago, the wonderful city I call home. I included some pictures of my travels and offered some words of encouragement. I took a second glance at the letter and realized that she actually wrote it on my birthday,WHAT A GIFT, sheer coincidence it seems but very touching :)!
On my visit to Kenya, I was fortunate to tour the community and meet one of the teachers at the Primary School on Maasai Mara Reserve. The teacher, who also lived in the community, explained the daily duties that of the students in order to make sure the school stayed tidy. I learned that not all of the students on the reserve can attend primary school with their siblings, because there are simply not enough resources to teach, cloth and feed most of whom already attend school. So students who are selected are must share their teachings to their siblings once they get home after a long day in class. I listened to the daily tales of students in the 3rd grade, where I learned that each one as young as 8 years old must arrived to school thirty minutes early to help clean the school grounds before they could eat breakfast and start class. The typical instruction day last seven hours with one short break after lunch, followed by students cleaning the school grounds before the break period was up. The facility had very little electricity, running water and resources. The school recently received a generous gift of three computers, but since there are no staff trained to use them, most of the time they remained unused.
Their textbooks were in such poor condition, all the seating was falling apart and there were barely any writing utensils available for the students to use, I was heartbroken. As a young child growing up poor in Chicago, I know how it feels to not have much and feel helpless, I could only pray and hope that things would get better for my family. But after my visit to Africa, I now look back on my situation and realize that it was not at all as worst as I thought it was. I was so touched by my experience that I know it was my time to help someone to reach their goals and make their dreams come true.
After researching different agencies and speaking with friends, I learned of an agency that offered opportunities to sponsor students in the small village. A good friend referred me to a trusted organization named, URAFIKI, an organization that supports students in secondary school in Yala, Kenya. I was fortunate to have coffee with one of the organizers here and Dubai, just to get some reassurance that my child will receive every dollar I donated. I received information from our meet that I felt secure enough support a beautiful, young and outstanding student name, Evelyn Vutage.
Evelyn has just been enrolled in the Ikobero Secondary School, where she just received word that she would be getting support to help with her education. I’m told she was very excited and has already took photos to send to me along with a portfolio of some of her best classwork and letters.
Evelyn lives with both parents along and has one sister and three brothers. Her parents are peasant farmers and do not earn more than a subsistence living. She has done well on her primary exams, but seemed afraid to come forward to ask for sponsorship because her brother was already being supported and she didn’t think that they would allow one family to have two children receive help. Her brother Ben is great! He was very sick, almost died earlier in the year with TB and pneumonia. Thanks to a fellow supporter, he recovered. He wrote lovely letters of thanks and I’m sure his sister will do just the same. I learned that Evelyn had begun to give up on school and began to resigned herself to a life of poverty. When teachers had notice that she didn’t attend school in the first weeks, a fellow supporter reached out to the family and she was quickly rushed back into school. Most secondary schools in Africa are boarding schools, which is great for Evelyn, because her school is a long walk from home and that carries the high risk of being attacked. She wanted me to know that she was so happy that I have come to her rescue and, ASANTE SANA!!!
Off on a new journey……. to be continued :)!
Although it’s been almost a week of returning to the Middle East, I’m still not over my excitement of visiting Nairobi. Leading up to my trip, I questioned many of my colleagues and friends who were from Africa about things to do and places to visits on my journey. I looked at pictures on the web, watch small infomercials on YouTube but of course watching videos could never compare to visiting the country in person. There were so many special moments to treasure, from meeting new friends, to dining at one of the best restaurants in the city, to visiting Nairobi’s National Museum and learning interesting facts about Kenya. I listened as the locals, who were bilingual, communicated in their native tongue Swahili. I was impressed with how getting around the city was easy by taxi. I experienced a small taste of Nairobi’s nightlife by visiting a lounge frequented by the locals and famous for its live West African music performed by various house bands and authentic African cuisines. From there, Joseph our taxi driver took me to another club and later drove me to a spot where I was able to watch the stars shine bright over Nairobi’s beautiful skyline. I looked forward to the next day as we were off to capture parts of Kenya’s wild life and camp on the Masai Mara Reserve. On route to the game park, I stared out of window to scenes one could only see in a National Geographic Magazine. There were small African children hurdling cows, mothers walking along dirt roads with their children wrapped up on their backs and miles and miles of families working in the fields.
When we reached the reserve, there was a traditional African greeting by the Masai Warriors and later we settled into our cozy tents before setting out on our first morning game drive.
We spent two days in the game park capturing amazing photos of wild animals in action and taking up all that mother nature had to offer with conditions of the weather from bright sunny mornings to gloomy raining evenings. We were also welcome to visit their primary school facility. The village consisted of ten man-made homes with a total of 150 individuals altogether. I was happily invited to listen to a short story inside a home where I learned that each family member slept on mud concrete bedding padded with a Masai cloth. They have no running water or electricity and a small fire pit in the middle of the floor, which needed coal so that the home could stay warm. The nearest market is 13 miles away, so families only have time to shop once a week for food and supplies. A typical school day hours are from 8am to 4pm, Monday through Friday. Students must arrive 30 minutes early, to help clean the classrooms before they could have breakfast and school grounds to make space to play for their afternoon break. There are eight classrooms readily available to educate 600 students with hardly any resources and a devoted teacher who’s only paid $250 American dollars a month. My tour of the village ended as did my trip with the lights in the entire reserve shutting off to prevent any wildlife or ambush predators attacking the animals, warriors or tourists in the middle of the night. I must conclude by saying that everyone must place Kenya on you places to visit list and GO TO AFRICA!! I enjoyed Kenya and felt very welcomed and appreciated on the Masai Reserve, my experiences on this travel went well beyond my imagination and are now a part of my life forever.