Blog » Summer 2010
Shona's Final Blog!
Kings’ bags arrived before they did but the students followed soon enough and we had our introductions, room sorting and welcome meeting to be getting on with.
Monday morning saw a return to normal for the project days with a group heading off to teach, play and observe at Ombeyi schools, feeding centre and health centre and the second headed off to get their hands dirty at Alendu. By all accounts the students had a great time and there was very positive feedback from the schools in particular. It can be a nerve wracking experience getting up in front of large numbers of school pupils where anything has the potential to happen. However while it may be one of the scariest project activities, it is often one of the most rewarding. Students frequently report a great sense of achievement when they have encouraged initially quiet pupils to fully engage in the lessons and having begun the class in whispers are shouting out the answers by the end.
Meanwhile I was having my very own project visit with VIMA. I had been invited to attend a self-help group, made up of some of the VIMA children’s caregivers. The name of the group is ‘Reopache’ which means ‘unity of minds. The women have set up the group in order to organize some income generation activities so that they can guarantee their own income to support themselves and their families. I went along to the chairwoman’s house where 12 of us sat in on 6” by 3” room talking about investments and business plans. They are quite the bunch of inspiring individuals and it was an honour to join them for the afternoon.
The end of King’s first day saw a surprise birthday celebration for Sita with “interesting’ balloon displays, crepe paper decorations galore and of course – those cakes! Happy Birthday Sita!
The group also spent some time sorting through the masses of donations that they had kindly brought over from home. There was a great variety of items from stationary and clothes to toys and uniforms. I have been constantly impressed by the generosity of students this summer. On top of raising cash all year so many have brought over extra items that they can either use within their project activities or donate to the projects beneficiaries. A little goes such a long way here in Kenya and the amounts of additional donations this summer has gone even further.
The next few evenings were jam packed with activities. We had Kit Mikayi for an impressive hike up to the sunset point, including a few nerve wracking (for me) jaunts up and onto the edges of precariously perched boulders. Unfortunately the sunset was hiding behind clouds for most of the evening but it was nice to spend time with each other and chill out for a bit up there anyway. After a quick bite to eat back at the hotel the previous evenings birthday cakes had built up the anticipation and we went to Laughing Buddha for sizzling hot chocolate brownies and smoke rings…
Then there was the quiz. Now this is the same quiz that I have been running all Summer and while it has been met with general enthusiasm (aside from Cardiff who were distracted by the tinfoil episode…) (and the dispute over the Scottish question that I don’t like to talk about) the Kings group took this to a whole other level. Maybe it was the passion fruit prize that so encouraged peoples participation, maybe it was the promise of glory and pride that was at stake, maybe it was the tuskers, but the excitement throughout and up until the nailbiting ‘2 points in it’ ending was intense. The triumphant winners did backflips and breakdancing for crying out loud – enough said!
Thursday night brought the final (sob) karaoke. Some people seemed slightly reluctant at the start of the evening but the drinking games put a stop to that soon enough and there were fabulous renditions of all sorts of songs. Special mention should be made here to Marti’s version of ‘Like A Prayer’. While we have sang this a few times this summer she seemed to save the best till last and the adlibbing vocals went down a treat. Look out Madonna, Marti has your number! 2 become 1, buttercup and I just can’t wait to be King were some other favourites from the evening. The only let down was that they played the wrong version of 500 miles but we sang over the top of it anyway and that seemed to go down well. Me hogging the mic? Never! As it was our last night a quiet word with DJ.P himself (no comments needed) led to an impromptu mega mix of everything from ‘who let the dogs out’ to ‘waka waka’. Cramming 50 people into a space that normally holds about 7 is always a sure fire way to get people jumping and dancing. Note to self: when dancing crazily in small places after a tusker or 2 – must.drink.water.
We had a bit of a difference with the Kings group in that we have had 4 extra volunteers staying and working with us. Chris and Adam have been helping out with impressively speedy painting, interacting with the delighted kids at the feeding centre and Adam has been teaching classes at a nearby school. Meanwhile Jen and Lucie have been working on the girls programme with HOVIC in a variety of useful, insightful and productive ways. Sadly Chris had to leave us half way through the fortnight but having the others here has leant a new dynamic to the trip and everybody has loved having them around. Thanks for all your work guys, it wouldn’t have been the same without you – the students and me all expect to see you at the ball. Sawa Sawa?!
After a day at Kakamega rainforest with hill hiking, monkey spotting and bat cave shrieking, there was a chance to chill on Friday evening as we had an early Nakuru start the next morning. I’ve managed to avoid these 5AM wakeups for the past few weeks but Jen, Lucie and I tagged along so that we could visit the nearby Menengai crater. We waved all of the students off at the park and left to the sights of monkeys and the sound of screeching. The monkeys made a bit of a racket too! The crater and the walk around town was good fun but it sounds like the students had somewhat more of an adventure with one group getting stuck in the mud. Getting stuck in the mud is one thing. Getting OUT of the matatu to grab onto a rope and pull the vehicle out of the mud while there are potentially lots of WILD animals about is quite another. Haven’t you guys seen those youtube videos?! The girls managed it though and they all went on to have a great afternoon full of animal spotting and general safari banter. Plus it was Helen’s birthday and being on safari strikes me as a pretty awesome way to celebrate it. In fact I’d go so far as to say it could only be topped by being serenaded by a certain ‘Shobit the Singing Sensation’ - Happy Birthday Helen!
I seem to have covered a lot of the social aspects from this group and I don’t want to neglect the project days as so much valuable contributions were made here too. With almost everyone saying that they wish they had more time at HOVIC the impact the Kings students made here was fantastic. Some students also had the chance to spend more time at the night shelter with the girls. The experience at the night shelter is often similar to that in the schools in that the girls can be quite quiet and shy when you first meet them. Considering what they have been though this is understandable but a variety of activities has brought them out of their shell over the summer and they have got really involved in certain tasks. One such task was decorating the night shelter over the past few weeks. It looks like a completely different building now and, like Kochogo Feeding Centre, is just so much brighter and more inviting. Good work to everyone who picked up a paintbrush or pair of scissors! Lucie and Jen have also been doing some art work with the girls in terms of painting and getting them to design Christmas cards. Look out for yours coming to a KOP webstore near you soon!
Sunday morning saw the different groups visiting various places of worship; all of which were incredibly welcoming to their foreign visitors. After a tasty lunch at Mon Ami we all headed to Oasis of Hope secondary school. A corporate KOP donation allowed for the school to be built and the students had moved in just the week prior to our visit. As the student programme doesn’t directly fund this particular school it has not been part of the programme for the Summer. We may have only visited for this one day but the impact the students (both KOP and school pupils) had on each other was quite remarkable. We started off with an intelligent and enlightening debate from the students on issues raised in the new constitution. Some of the pupils could certainly stand their own in the House of Commons! This was followed by a variety of presentations from the children. There was a hilarious sketch which created laughs while still managing to portray a serious message. We were also treated to a variety of songs and dancing and one or three of us got up to join. I’m not sure they were convinced by our do-si-does but everyone seemed to have fun. A kind donation from Danone in the UK meant that we were able to supply the teachers with a number of textbooks to put to good use in the school. I’ve never heard a cheer for a physics textbook before but it makes you question how much we take for granted our access to education and the necessary materials.
Later on in the day we split up for some football games with the boys sizing up their opposition for a male match and the girls taking it in turns to run at the ball and kick it off the pitch in our own female match. A slight confusion about who was on my team led to me tackling the ball away from Marti on several occasions but in the girls’ game at least, nobody seemed too bothered with the score. The boys who had split up and were on the losing side may have wished nobody was bothered with their score but everyone took it in good spirits and it was a great end to the afternoon.
There was something special in the atmosphere at Oasis of Hope School. There was a sense of pride amongst both the staff and pupils which just seemed to create a positive ethos around the people teaching and learning there. The school motto ‘never ever give up’ certainly rubbed off on many. That the aspirations of such bright and engaged pupils may have a real chance to be realized was incredibly encouraging and once again was a sign that with the right support, investment and care people have more of a chance to achieve what they should be entitled to. It was a real honour and pleasure to spend the day with staff and children alike and our KOP students were pretty reluctant to leave.
The next week brought more visits to Alendu, HOVIC, VIMA and the hospitals. While the first two proved fun and hands on the latter two in particular were more humbling, eye opening and sometimes shocking experiences. As has been the case all summer the chance to witness more than one side to Kenyan life and to see a variety of organizations at work in Kisumu has led to a well rounded and balanced experience.
There was time to reflect on all of this at Kiboko Bay where we more than made up for the cloud covered Kit Mikayi evening with one of the most stunning sunsets of the Summer. There may not have been any hippos but the sky was spectacular, the company lovely and the atmosphere chilled and positive. There were further chances to chat and share experiences at a second Laughing Buddha visit. Just can’t stay away from those chocolate brownies! As people have been returning home one thing I often hear is that they find it difficult to really get across the whole experience to friends and family back home. While people are interested and care about the work that is being done over here it is often difficult to fully understand what it is like unless you have been here yourself. Which is why having the chance to discuss things you have seen and done out here with people who have also been through the same thing is so important. Keeping networks alive back home is vital to this too and I for one am looking forward to numerous reunions and get-togethers over the year. Glasgow anyone?!
The fortnight ended with the final project party. This time hosted by the Commander himself. While the evening got off to a somewhat dark start the generator soon kicked in and there was time for talking, eating and then, dancing. Some boys from HOVIC joined us and after an impressive fire dance show the students got in on the action too and the dancing ensued. Once again it was the perfect end to a fortnight full of wonderful experiences. It was quite an emotional night with far too many goodbyes for my liking.
I’m not sure if the atmosphere was different because it was the final group of the Summer or if it would have been the same saying goodbye to Kings at any point over the past few months but there was a definite feeling from me that this would be the final goodbye. However, even now, as I sit at Manager Steve’s computer desk I’m not quite sure I believe it is over. It is 3.30AM and I have finally finished packing and have to catch a flight in about 4 hours but something in my brain is telling me another group must be arriving soon. We’ve had our final sunset in the rooftop bar, said farewell to all the project partners and the boards have now been wiped clean of university names but I’m pretty sure I’m still in denial about the whole thing!
King’s, you really helped create the perfect end to a fabulous summer, you’re enthusiasm, commitment, sensitivity and fun were all terrific and it was a joy to be part of it. People keep asking me which my favourite group has been but I am being honest when I say that each group was so different with such different dynamics that you can’t really compare. Maybe we’ve just been lucky but each group has genuinely been fantastic and brought something special to their time here. We’ve seen 11 universities and 146 students, we’ve had over 50 project days, 7 days at Nakuru, Kakamega and Kit Mikayi and at least 37 trips to the Aga Khan hospital! You’ve had 3 drivers, 3 minders, 2 coordinators and have helped far too many people than I can count up here.
It’s been interesting keeping a blog this summer. With so many students it can be difficult to make sure you’ve covered everything that has happened. As I’ve said it can also be tricky to capture everyone’s experiences as it is so personal to each individual. However I hope you have enjoyed reading about the summer as much as I have enjoyed laughing and smiling as I remembered and wrote about all of the exploits. KOP are always keen to hear your version of events so if you do have thoughts or comments, think I’ve missed anything important out or just want to share with us your experience now that you’ve had a chance to reflect then please do so. We’d love to hear from you.
In the mean time, I wanted to say thank you once more to each and every student that I’ve met this summer. You truly are a bunch of characters and each brought something unique and special to this trip. Being involved with KOP means that you are part of the community that keeps it going, making a real and important difference to the lives of all of KOP’s beneficiaries. It has been an honour to be part of your summer. I think I can honestly say I’ve loved every minute of it. Aside maybe from that time I tripped over my own trousers…
And one person who has really made this summer happen is a certain Miss Martina Gant, AKA: Marteasy/Boss. To say she works hard is an understatement. She works tirelessly over the year to put together a student programme which I hope you agree is a comprehensive, organized and insightful opportunity to experience Kenya and Kisumu in a way that few others have the chance to. I’m not quite sure how she did it alone last summer but the care and attention she puts into the activities here on the ground is what enables you to have such a fantastic time out here. I’ve been lucky enough to have most of the fun parts of the student coordinator role and her job is not always an easy one but the amount I have learnt from her over the past few months has left me quite inspired. Marti, thank you for being a great teacher, colleague and friend.
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened? I’m pretty sure a few tears will be shed when I leave tomorrow regardless. It’s been a rollercoaster ride of emotion, fun, laughter, eye opening experiences, chances to see things you never thought you would; good and bad. There has been sunsets and sunrises, matatus, dancing, singing, digging holes and falling into them, there have been lions and baboons and the occasional hippo, there has been sunspot and chocolate brownies and there has definitely been karaokAY. There has been teaching, hospitals (planned and not), dodgy stomachs and grazed knees. There were quotes and ugali and football matches. Lasting friendships have been made both here and at home. It has been a pleasure, rarely a pain and now it is time to say Asante Sana and Oriti Uru.
KOP 2010 – what a summer!
Shona's Blog: Week 9.
14.08.10 to 21.08.10
The 17 remaining students from Bristol and Leicester spent Saturday at Nakuru with each of the buses having a somewhat different experience. Namely one group saw lions and the other group turned their vehicle into a party bus on the way home. Hmmmm, vodka or lions, vodka or lions?!
Once people had recovered from their safari…we set off on Sunday for Kiboko Bay. Sunday’s are in the schedule as rest days but with the variety of activities available and the numbers of students wanting to do different things relaxing isn’t really the word I would have used for them so far this summer. However Brester played the day of rest card well and we spent the whole afternoon chilling by the pool at fancy pants resort Kiboko Bay. Aside from the hippo boat ride that is, which Marti and I “advise against” but which was apparently a great little trip. Aside from some delay with the food (honestly, I’m over it…) a bout of jumping photos into the pool and an intense round of new KOP card game favourite; Irish Snap (I hate it and love it all at the same time!) it was one of the most relaxing days I’ve spent since I got to Kisumu and that was really rather lovely!
Despite some delays over the following mornings (and thank you again to the students for being so patient and understanding that T.I.A) the rest of the project days went well. The hospital visits were largely met with approval and people, while often shocked by the differences seemed to value the experience and learn a lot. Some visits to see the girls at HOVIC night shelter were met with great response. After initially slow starts in talking to the girls, some patience and encouragement led to some interesting discussions and when the Indian style dancing started there was no looking back!
I was pleased to be spending some time out in the field again this week and went along to Kochogo Feeding Centre (KFC). It was great to be back and see the staff and children again. As I said earlier the difference the painting has made is quite remarkable but I did get rather emotional looking over all the hand prints from the summer. Over the past few months students that visit the centre have been adding their mark to a KOP mural and it was so nice to recognize all the names and reflect on some of the experiences from this summer. I am warning you now that this is only going to increase over the last couple of weeks!
It was an eventful day at KFC with the Bristol girls adding to the artwork with a Kenyan country map/flag design while the boys washed up. We then prepared the maize by removing all the kernels so that they could be pounded into flour. I have the blisters to prove it! Not that I went on about this at all of course… After lunch there were a few hours left to play the parachute ballgame, ladders and football, have a round of hokey cokey and heads, shoulders, knees and toes, cover each other in stickers, learn the names of all the parts of your face in Luo (with a variety of success) and just enough time for the boys to pick people up and give piggy backs…to Joe and Josh!!
There was a lot of fun to be had in the evenings during the week too with trips to Sunspot, Laughing Buddha and Marti’s house for a rather special party…
Sunspot had dancing, the afterparty had alcohol that seemed to appear from nowhere (a bit of a theme from this trip eh RASH?!), Laughing Buddha had cake, Wednesday had threading and henna painting and the 19th of August had Marti’s birthday! It was a great night with good food, good people and good music. There were party games like pass the parcel and pin the trunk on the (rather stunning) elephant, complete with prizes and the earned respect of your fellow man. There was guacamole and satay sauce and a big chocolate cake (laden down with a particularly heavy amount of candles…JOKE!) There was banter, there was singing, there was fun and there was a guitar. There was also an extra special birthday present for Marti as we learned that the nurse from Kadinda health centre had just given birth and named her new baby Martina, beats perfume doesn’t it?! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTI!!
Leicester left us pining for them early the next morning when they headed back to Nairobi. Later that same morning we realized we were obviously refusing to process this properly when we sat on the steps waiting for them for half an hour before we realized they wouldn’t be coming for projects that day.
A relaxed evening of fruit salad and ice cream (whoooop!), a never-ending round of Irish snap and a game of ‘Who am I?’ brought another week, another group and another trip to a close. In many ways it felt like this group had just arrived but before we knew it we were downstairs again waiting on the matatus to take them back to Nairobi. My job description never warned me about how sad it would be to keep having to say goodbye to people. But then it also didn’t make it exactly clear how truly fantastic this summer would be.
And now I’m sitting in Steve’s office waiting for the King’s group to arrive. We have two weeks left and I’m not sure I quite believe that. The summer so far has been fantastic. The project visits have been truly worthwhile, the numbers of people positively affected by KOP students involvement quite huge and the fun had by all involved pretty immense.
No pressure Kings!
Shona's Blog: Week 8.
09.08.10 to 13.08.10
The next week was quite different for each of the university groups with Leicester and Bristol seeing a return to the normal student programme with visits to Alendu where they taught lessons, played sports with the kids and dug a lot of holes, and to Kochogo feeding centre, health centre and schools.
Students also got stuck in with more artwork at Kochogo feeding centre with Leicester adding designs covering diversity and a rather dashing ‘height giraffe’. At the start of the Summer Kochogo feeding centre had dull bare walls. Now there are bright paintings on everything from health and nutrition to the alphabet with some sun inspired clocks for learning the time and a pair of Mr and Mrs friendly condoms! It’s amazing how much of a difference it has made to the whole centre so a huge thank you to all of those who have painted, designed, mixed paint and coloured in.
On the other side of Kisumu the Warwick/Cardiff/Lucia group was trying something a bit different by spending 4 full days at Kunya Primary School. They did a variety of activities here including gardening, teaching the lessons they had prepared the previous week and using the additional time to get to know some of the pupils better. At the end of the 4 days a generous donation from a UK based school allowed the Warwick girls to purchase over a hundred new plastic cups to give out to some of the children which seemed to be a big hit! Kunya also gave some of the students an opportunity to experience the more traditional types of food that the local people eat. This was met with mixed reviews but overall people seemed to appreciate the chance to see a less touristy side to Kenya, even if they were looking forward to their home cooked meals back home.
After another talk for the new group from the project partners that evening we headed out for a couple of hours socializing time. An outing for pudding was replaced with an outing for beer to local bar Kingellis but people seemed ok with the change of plan!
Tuesday was another project day followed by a trip to see a gorgeous sunset in the evening at Kit Mi Kye. Marti and I were as judges as sober to welcome the students back for dinner that evening. This continued throughout the evenings quiz and was only called into question when screams of ‘my door handle, my bed, my windows, the mirror, my toothbrush, the toilet roll, my shoes, my bag, my shower, my jewellery, everything’s COVERED in tinfoil!!!” could be heard coming from my room! And with that, Warwick, Cardiff and Lucia cemented their place in the KOP 2010 history book as the jokers of the summer.
The “New Life Orphanage’ is a facility housed in nearby Milimani and Marti and I had the chance to visit and meet the staff there later that week. It was an excellent centre and it was so positive to see those facilities available in Kisumu. It really showed what a difference the right investment and the right staff can make to the lives of children who need that help the most. Many of the children have been abandoned or have lost their parents to HIV but with the treatment and care they receive at New Life are able to lead happy and healthy lives and have a real chance at a new start. While I wish that the access to a facility like this was available as a right to any OVC (Orphan and Vulnerable Children) the fact that this orphanage exists was hugely encouraging.
Our visit was made all the more special by the remarkable reunion between Marti and Seth; a boy she had meet while in Kisumu the previous year. Marti had first seen him on a hospital visit with some of last year’s students where he had been abandoned and was very weak. With the involvement of VIMA they had managed to find him a place at New Life and it certainly looked like he had gone from strength to strength since his arrival. One can only imagine what might have happened without that intervention but seeing how happy he was brought home how important organizations like VIMA and New Life are to the children of Kisumu. A small number of the students were able to spend the afternoon at the orphanage to interact with the children and help out the staff and from all accounts it was a very positive experience for all involved.
With the crossover of the student groups we had to have the project party in the middle of the (self titled) Brester fortnight. However while it was a fond farewell to Cardiff, Warwick and Lucia it was also a good opportunity for Brester to meet with more of the project partners and think about what was upcoming in the week ahead. Ogra were our charming hosts on this occasion and offered up some great music, fantastic food, lively speeches and groovy dancing! This was also a final opportunity for us to practice our strictly style dancing steps, much to the amusement of the local Kenyan staff and children. There were a few personal twists added from Brester with a Wurzel inspired jive routine. Classic!
After the party it was off to karaoke for some more classic moments with some good tunes made all the more classic by the rather drunken performances. It was a chilled night for some and a large night for others but in general everyone seemed to enjoy. Then it was back to the hotel where Cardiff, Warwick and Lucia squeezed the most out of their final night and took the last chance to talk about Macualay Culkin, cotton cloud catchers, the inequality with men’s chip portion sizes and pterodactyls. Don’t ask!
Friday evening was a much more chilled affair with another sad goodbye to Cardiff and Lucia in the morning, a day at projects for Brester and Warwick and a relaxed evening on the rooftop bar to make the most of the sunset, reflect on the past week, play mafia and get an early night before a bus to Nairobi (Warwick) or Nakuru (Brester) the next morning.
Shona's Blog: Week 7.
1.08.10 to 08.08.10
The seventh week started and ended with human bingo.
Well, actually that's not strictly true. It started with a welcome talk that may have been more than a little incoherent given Marti and I had returned only 7 minutes previously from a (fantastic) weekend safari on the Masai Mara.
Hopefully the first impressions were forgotten when we joined the new group from Warwick, Cardiff and Lucia from Manchester at breakfast the next morning.
The groups got stuck in right away, making the most of their time on projects as this was more limited due to the imminent referendum. The feeding centre seemed a definite favourite with the students helping to prepare and serve the food in the morning and then playing games with the children in the afternoon.
We managed to fit in a variety of extra curricular activities before becoming hotel bound during the referendum with some students visiting the museum (remember – the one with the crocodiles help back by chicken wire?!) There was also a trip to Tilapia Beach restaurant, which has become a firm favourite over the Summer. Laughing Buddha for their 'veggie burgers that taste like chicken', Green Garden for their steak and samosas away from the hustle and bustle of Kisumu's streets, Mamba's for their traditional Kuku choma with ugali (barbecued chicken) and Mon Ami for their pizzas are also up there. Sorry for that somewhat random tangent into the culinary options of Kisumu – a bit of a recap for those of you who have been already and a taste (geddit) of what's to come for those of you setting off soon. Anyways...I was talking about Tilapia Beach – the delicious fish place, right on Lake Victoria where you pick a fish or a chicken and have it cooked straight away and served fresh 30 minutes later. The chicken option not being so popular given they are so fresh that they are still running around the yard when you arrive. This particular trip involved Pete attempting to eat the head in true 'Luo man of the household style' and ending up dissecting the whole thing while I was trying to eat my lunch. Bloody medical students!
It wasn't long before the first major social of the trip with a celebration for Katie's birthday. It was a pirate themed surprise party. The party being a surprise for Katie and the sheer enthusiasm for children's party games from a group of young adults being a surprise for me. It was a fantastic night though with a vicious game of musical chairs, intense rounds of the 'balloon game' and a quick fire round of human bingo. A prearranged (Dave?!) limbo pole brought a twist to the evening and an impromptu lesson from KOP's very own strictly dancing extraordinaire Dave followed.
The programme was quite different for the Cardiff and Warwick students (sorry, you too Lucia!) and I would personally like to thank them all for their patience and understanding. With Kenya's referendum taking place on the Thursday we were advised to stay within the safe walls of the hotel as a precaution on voting and results days. This meant that the students had to prioritize more with what they wanted to see.
However, that also meant that there was lots of time for other activities and the group certainly made the most of the time that they had to fill. We started off the day with a workshop to sort out the next weeks teaching plans. As I mentioned briefly in an earlier blog, KOP are contemplating introducing a more in-depth element to next year's student programme. University groups would spend more time at an individual school to work on health and nutrition teaching which would culminate in a community health education day. The more time we spend here in Kisumu the more we see that one of the best ways to affect real and sustainable change is to concentrate on education and to have a positive influence on people's lives while it has the chance to make a lasting difference. We would really appreciate any thoughts or feedback you have on any of this which you can email direct to Marti or leave on the facebook page.
Over the two referendum days we were also treated to talks from the leaders of HOVIC and VIMA. Both were really interesting and gave a fascinating insight into the lives of some of the people KOP is trying to help and an opportunity to learn more about how these organizations work and the impact they are having. We were also delighted to be joined by two of the boys from HOVIC who came over to give us a language lesson. Despite some very 'interesting' attempts at spelling from our KOP scribes it was a great chance to pick up some Luo and Kiswahili phrases to use while staying in town and working with the kids. I can now count to 10 in Kiswahili but as I posted before, I maintain that there are about 17,000 different ways of saying "hello, how are you?"
There were plenty of chances to chillax too, although the kickboxing lesson from Pete certainly put a stop to that! Spending an afternoon kicking students was not something I expected to get out of this summer but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't great fun! The press-ups that came half way through the lesson were not so much. This time I would be lying if I said I wasn't hiding behind a pillar during those particular requests.
Happily I can report there were no issues over the voting in Kisumu and with a huge majority a 'Yes' vote was cast for accepting the new constitution. Many people had actually left the city to make the most of the public holiday and go home to their villages to vote and so everything was very quiet. It was fantastic to see so many people so committed to and enthusiastic about democracy and using their vote. Perhaps another difference between here and home? In fact things were so peaceful that we left the confines of the Duke of Breeze and visited the local Masaai market to purchase a variety of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, key rings, paintings, soapstone carvings, sandals, bags and a rather large giraffe.
Friday saw a return to normal (i.e. coca cola trucks rattling past my window at 6.30am...) and it was another positive day at the projects with people visiting the hospitals, Alendu and VIMA. With an early start planned for the next morning we decided to have a quick bite of cake at Laughing Buddhha and then head back to the hotel. With the smell of sizzling chocolate brownies drifting through the air it wasn't long before everyone was tucking into cake, sundaes or kitkat milkshakes. The early night seemed forgotten as we found ourselves in local Kenyan nightclub The Grill for a spot of dancing. Not sure the locals were convinced about our salsa and ballroom steps but we certainly had fun!
Saturday was another Nakuru day and once again proved a big hit. Zebras, giraffes, rhinos, baboons, warthogs, monkeys, buffalo, birds and flamingoes were in abundance. Having now done my own I can say with more authority that there is certainly something special about doing a safari in Africa. Note to self: playing 'Circle of Life' from The Lion King really loudly can only add to the experience – there's just something about that first AaaZeeeeeeeWennnnnnnYaaaaaaaa that can't help but bring a smile!
A group trip to HOVIC started off a Sunday crammed full of activities. It was a chance for everyone to meet the boys who use the day centre, talk with them, play some games, share in a soapstone lesson and of course, pass on our new found dancing moves! After a group lunch at Tilapia Beach it was time to don the shorts and trainers and head to the playing fields for a football match against the boys from HOVIC. There was quite a crowd there to see the boys pretty much destroy us... To be fair, there were some sterling performances from the KOP team and full marks would be awarded for enthusiasm. However, once again, despite a lack of shoes, it was the younger boys team that came away victorious.
A rather sweaty matatu load of students next headed off to see the equator. It was a case of drive to the equator sculpture, get out of the matatu, take lots of photos, attempt the water experiment, attempt the water experiment 10 metres further down the road, and another 10 metres down the road, and another 10 – do you see a pattern here? There were opposing views as to how successful this was - at the equator the water is supposed to spiral in opposite directions depending on which hemisphere you are standing in. Then we got back in the matatu and returned to the hotel and to meet the new students from Leicester and Bristol universities.
The evening was pretty chilled and gave people the chance to get to know each group a little better. There was another round of Human Bingo complete with yet more outstanding one time only, exclusive prizes...! The evening closed with a mammoth game of mafia which had become a regular fixture on the Warwick/Cardiff/Lucia schedule. It was pretty intense, not just because I was finally a killer instead of a normal villager, but mainly down to the fact that we played with 39 students. As villagers were killed off and the mafia were uncovered it all got a bit much for some students and they retired with a tusker to recover.
Shona's Blog: Weeks 5 and 6.
I'm not entirely sure I know where to start with this group's blog. I could mention fun and inappropriate chat (and singing - Laura!) and banter and sunsets, and outrageous characters and hospital feet issues and moving VIMA homevisits and fancy dress and digging holes and karaoke madness and marriage proposals and emotional hospital trips and awesome HOVIC kids and a party matatu and skint knees and school lessons and awards and TOES and tilapia fish and temperamental showers and a controversial quiz question, but that's not even the half of it!
Marti and I should have guessed things were going to be different with this group when they turned up early!! They obviously hadn't got the memo about Kenyan time and so were waiting for us on the rooftop as Marti and I rushed back from the other end of town. It was 'hakuna matata' though as the students sorted themselves out into rooms and made the most of the rooftop bar before gathering for dinner and our initial welcome meeting. Only a few concerns were raised about the future of the medical profession when some girls reported broken fans (they hadn't turned the switch on) and some guys mentioned having no mosquito nets (turns out they just didn't realize what those big white net things hanging above each of their beds actually were...).
With 39 students from 3 different universities we figured some ice breakers and getting to know you games were in order and started off with a round of human bingo followed by 'speed dating'. It was an absolute racket but above the noise we did manage to learn some interesting facts about people, such as who can lick their own elbow (demonstrations required), who thinks Scotland is not in the UK (ahem...) and who might call the Queen 'Auntie'.
After a quick Monday morning stop off at the airport to pick up a student who had forgotten a passport and therefore missed a flight...cough...Emily...cough, the students got off to a fantastic start, going out to build at Alendu, teach, play and observe at Kochogo and get involved with a variety of activities at HOVIC. The hospital group seemed to have an interesting and insightful morning which was topped by seeing a baby being born as they toured round the labour ward. There was great discussion about the lack of noise made by the mother and the difference between the facilities in the UK versus Kisumu but all in all it seemed a very moving experience. Not to be out done the VIMA group took the hospital baby delivery and raised them one new born by visiting a home of one of the children VIMA support. A new born baby didn't have a name and so the family opted to name her after Leeds student Sophie. For want of a better phrase – how cool is that?!
The reviews of the hospital visits were different to the last few weeks. While District Hospital is seen as having poorer facilities than Provincial there were reports that both seemed less crowded than previous trips. To a certain extent the impression you have of a hospital will vary dependant on the day that you attend and whether it meets or is far from your expectations. One group earlier in the fortnight reported quite distressing scenes as they witnessed an autopsy while another student who had been in a previous year reported that things seem to have improved and were less crowded than before. One thing that does strike me is how important it is for medical students to have some experience and opportunity to witness how different medical care can be in other parts of the world. On a visit (of the unplanned variety) to the private Aga Khan hospital I spoke with a doctor who was a locum there in the evenings but worked in the Provincial hospital during the day. I can only imagine the frustration he feels when treating daytime patients and knowing that the equipment or drugs that they vitally need are only 200 yards down the road yet completely out of reach. If a student gets sick or injured it is the Aga Khan hospital that we visit and I have been getting a rather unexpected in-depth look into their facilities with students who have needed some medical attention. It is a rather swanky hospital and they have all the usual, up to date equipment and services that you would expect from any UK based hospital. However, this is not the norm for most Kenyans as it is far too expensive for them to even contemplate having treatment there. Seeing the differences between the two vastly different levels of care really makes you appreciate how much we so often take for granted at home.
Programmes are in place in Kisumu though to help improve people's health and KOP are increasingly incorporating this into the student programme. I'll write more on this in a future blog but I'd like to take a moment to say something about the work of a certain Dr June.
Dr June is a leading researcher in the field of HIV and AIDS prevention and the students were treated to a talk by him during their time here. To give you a very brief and non medical explanation of his latest incredibly important findings: he has contributed to studies that demonstrate that male circumcision can significantly reduce the rate of female to male HIV transmission. This is particularly interesting in this area as the local Luo tribe is one of the only tribes who do not practice male circumcision as an automatic 'right of passage' imbedded in their culture. When you look at the rates of HIV and see that they are around 15% in Kisumu compared with the 7% approx rate in the rest of Kenya you begin to understand why this research and consequently the free male circumcision programme that Dr June is running here in town is so important. Our two returnees Pip and Naresh had the opportunity to visit one of the clinics and despite a little queasiness and likely not the most comfortable experience for the male member of the duo, they both seemed to get a lot out of the opportunity.
As a returnee, Pip also had the chance to work more at HOVIC and spent a full week there helping out with medical issues and health education. From all accounts this went down well and both Pip and the team at HOVIC benefited from the chance to spend a bit of extra time getting more involved in depth with the programme there.
With such a large number I didn't have as many opportunities to visit the projects with the students as with previous groups but from what I heard everybody both enjoyed and learned from each of them. There was a tremendous amount of intense hole digging at Alendu, tied with more than a hint of sexual innuendo, mammoth sports matches against the kids, lots of productive teaching at the schools, this time on subjects such as HIV/AIDS and child rights, emotional home visits with VIMA and fun, games and ugali stirring at the feeding centres.
It would be misleading to say there wasn't a large amount of socializing with this particular group and while this never took away from the important work that was being done day to day and how seriously everyone took the projects they were working on there was a good balance of fun and banter thrown into the mix too. And all this on top of happy family card games and Harry Potter reading sessions!
In the last blog I gave you an insight into some of the feedback from Southampton and Barts universities. In this blog I thought I'd share with you a different kind of comment. Each group has a quotes page where they are free to record funny, insightful or downright stupid things people have said during the trip. BarLeeChester (as Barts, Leeds and Manchester became known) had three pages! I'll leave them mostly anonymous but some of the culprits are easy to guess. The following may give you a snippet of what I had to deal with:
"I'm so hungry I could kill a man and eat him alive".
"I need to use an ATM, because I need shillings...but my card is from home, so won't the ATM give me pounds?"
"Nothing kills a party more than homeless people".
"Someone told me hippos were the biggest killer in Africa.
So it goes 1)Hippos 2)Malaria 3)AIDS?"
"Did you see John dancing last night? His hips certainly didn't lie!"
"I'd rather you didn't do that, I'm about to have diarrhea".
In reference to a highly infectious round of love bites after the first social night:
John: What's that on your neck Ed?
Ed: It's a bruise...I got my neck stuck in a door.
John: OK, because I have seen almost every student with one.
Ed: We're very careless...it's a drinking game.
On arrival at local nightclub Sunspot:
"Shall we go for a walk about?"
"OMG, there's a walkabout?!"
"I'm from the hood...well, a cul-de-sac".
TOES, Mount Nav, schweffing, sharking, an unknown comment regarding me, my job and Zebra's and too numerous to record inappropriate mentions of chief hole pokers, holes being filled in and variations on this theme were also noted. I sincerely apologise if any of these offended you, rest assured this is the VERY edited version – I am scarred for life I tell you!
In addition there was the usual trips to Kit mikayi for an incredible sunset, Nakuru for a safari which I luckily didn't have to get up early for...did I Kate?! Apparently the baboons particularly enjoyed themselves – they liked seeing the monkeys too! (sorry – Dad joke!) That's not forgetting Kakamega and the equator which were all squeezed into one weekend but certainly seemed to be a bit hit with everyone enjoying themselves, despite the bat cave! We also went along to Kiboko Bay for hippo spotting and sunset watching. Both activities took a backseat somewhat once the intense round of water volleyball started. Despite distraction from some interesting sunburn and several 'LOOK, A HIPPO' moments, it was a close match which I couldn't possibly report the score of, even if I thought it was a good idea.
There was also a quiz. I like to think it was a good quiz. This is a fact that is met with some debate. Without wanting to give too much away for future groups I would like to point out for the record that in reference to the Bonnie Prince Charlie question, that Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart was born on December 31, 1720 in Rome. Charles Edward was also called the Young Pretender, the Young Chevalier, Charles 3rd and later, Bonnie Prince Charlie. He was not, at any time, known as James 1st. I cannot explain how much it pains me to be wrong about Scottish history to a group that includes someone who thinks Scotland is not in the UK. But alas, I admit it, I was wrong. My dad is not going to be happy!
There were a number of other social shindigs both within and outside the hotel, highlights included karaoke at Mon Ami, Sunspot and a safari-animal themed fancy dress party on the final night.
Karaoke is becoming a regular spot on the KOP social calendar, not only because I have recently become obsessed with it! Once again it took no time at all for the students to scramble for the songbook and put their requests in for their favourite cheesy tunes. This time only a few 'unique' voices could be heard above the din as everybody stayed singing for nearly every number. We could have done with a return from Nott's Viola as choir master as the KOP choir took to the floor and pretty much refused to give it up again. Something went right though as amongst the renditions of Circle of Life, Wonderwall and boy band power ballads, BarLeeChester received the first ever 100 points score! Congratulations guys, your hoarse voices, sweat and tears certainly earned it!
Local Kenyan nightclub Sunspot once again proved a big hit with a great night of African music including some skills from the DJ (!) some superb dancing with a special mention to 'hips don't lie' John and matatu-driver-dancer-extraordinaire Ambilla, good chat with the locals and only one case of mistaken identity – right Emily?! I would tell you all about the continued party back at the hotel where things were reserved and kept to a respectful noise level. But I missed it as I was sound asleep and not involved at all and besides, my potential noise pollution arrest prevents me from doing so...
The project party which marked the beginning of the end for the BarLeeChester 2010 crowd was this time hosted by Omega. We were treated to a lovely meal and a live local band which was fantastic. Despite the onset of heat exhaustion for some there were a number of great movers and shakers on the dance floor, throwing some shapes and all that jazz! A number of kids from VIMA joined us and seemed more than a little bemused/amused by our attempts at African dancing, spinning and a wee bit of highland fling thrown in for good measure. The project party was topped off nicely by a giant conga line. Again, maybe not the most serious of activities but there is a time and a place for fun and being able to share the evening with children, colleagues and students from such different cultures and backgrounds was truly special.
The evening finished up with a final calm and quiet get-together and took the form of a fancy dress party. Most of Leeds were dressed as Limas (or Zebra's or crazy convicts as some hotel staff members remarked) and Ed was the lion in honour of his birthday. There were a few other animals represented too from 'BarChester' with some caped tigers, a secretary bird, Rafiki the baboon (after some awesome painting skills from Pip) and many others beside. Despite no plans to dress up so that I could maintain my professionalism... there was also an appearance from a leopard or 3, or were we cheetahs?! We were also treated to a surprise guest appearance from a fully kitted out Masai warrior in the form of the hotel manager Steve. What. A. Legend! It was a great night filled with awards, dancing, regrettable photo taking, tuskers, facepaint, an orange and mango sewn onto a small tree, banter and good fun with good people.
The departure of Barts 2, Leeds and Manchester marked the half way point for our time here this Summer. I swear it flies past quicker with each day that passes. As an organization we have seen so much over the past 6 weeks and I personally, have learned a great deal; about KOP, about that the work that we do here and about the future direction of the organization.* It has been an honour to meet and work with all involved, both those based here in Kisumu and those who call the UK home. The difference that has already been made both throughout the year thanks to the incredible fundraising efforts of the students and during the fortnightly visits that take place is astounding and the impact KOP is having is a hugely important one. I'm not sure what I expected when I first heard I would be spending the Summer in Kisumu or even over those first few days I spent here but it has certainly surpassed anything I could have dreamed up. Times have not always been easy and this job is certainly no walk in the park but it is an honour to be involved and I can't wait for the challenges, experiences, new friends and new opportunities to make a difference that are ahead of us, just around the corner and over the remaining 5 weeks.
Before I get completely carried away I would like to end by saying the following - One of the best parts about my job is meeting all of the students. But it can be bittersweet and with every group that we have to say goodbye to it gets that little bit harder. Now that I have settled into this role properly I find that I have more and more time to really get to know the people that are coming out here and making such a difference to the work that KOP does. And for that reason you guys may come as students but you leave as friends. I encourage all of you from all of the different university groups to stay involved in whatever way you can. The connections that you make and the positive impact that you have will simply strengthen with continued involvement, so stay in touch and don't be strangers – to KOP, to Kisumu and (on a more selfish and personal note) to me!
Shona's Blog: Weeks 3 and 4.
Jambo/Sa Sa/Idhi nade/Nang’o. If there’s one thing I’m learning about Kisumu, it is that there are many many different ways to say hello. Not only do you have pronunciation to deal with but there’s the added complication of deciding if you should go for the Kiswahili option or the local Luo dialect. Honestly, the amount of times I think I’ve got the hang of it only to be introduced to a completely different word or informed with a laugh that the reason the kids are looking at me like I’ve got two heads is because I’ve just been shouting ‘cloth’ at them for 10 minutes. (“Nango” being cloth, “Nang’o” being hello – you can see my problem).
Not to worry, Hello did just fine for the arrival of the 2nd batch of 15 KOP students from Barts and Southampton universities. With only 3 hours between the Imperial and Notts guys leaving and the new group arriving there wasn’t a whole lot of recuperation time. In order to be on top form for the official start to the programme on the Monday we welcomed the 14 girls and 1 boy to the hotel and confessed the need to go and sleep in a corner for 24 hours. As Southampton’s group leader Jade had been in Kisumu the previous year we reunited her with minder Thomas and she took charge and it sounds like the group had a great first day. They went to Kiboko Bay and not to be deterred or disheartened by the fact it was shut, proceeded to local hotspot the Grill for lunch and the market for some shopping. While Marti and I proceeded to curl up in a corner and sleep for a few hours.
It seemed to work as on Monday morning we were all bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to commence with the next round of project visits. I joined the Barts girls as they went to teach at Ombeyi and Kiliti primary schools. Not that I didn’t respect teachers before this trip but there is something about standing in front of children trying to keep them entertained/under control for several hours at a time whilst also trying to teach them something worthwhile that makes you realize just how challenging a job it can be . Add to the mix the fact that there are 50+ children, limited paper, pens and other learning materials, the fact that English is often not their only or even their first language and that the teachers are from a different culture and country and therefore just opening their mouths and speaking can be met with giggles and you have a rough idea of the added challenges the KOP students are met with. The guys did a sterling job though and after initial shyness from some of the pupils, they came out of their shells and by the end of the lesson were happy to answer the questions posed to them. The sweets may have helped slightly with this.
I also had a chance to visit the feeding centre and health centre at the Ombeyi site. The feeding centre has a similar set up to the Kochogo site and the Southampton students got stuck in with washing dishes and preparing the days lunch, with some top class ugali stirring from Adam! Don’t worry Adam, I’m sure it’s harder than it looks…
As before the students on the Ombeyi project days all had the opportunity to come back to the feeding centre for lunch and interact and play with the kids. Balloons, beach balls and bubbles seemed to prove a big hit. Though the unexpected balloon bursting seemed to startle some of the younger kids, much to the delight of the older ones!
The health centres represented to me the biggest difference between Ombeyi and the Kochogo sites. While they are both in rural settings and serve a vast amount of local people, the Ombeyi centre is miles ahead in terms of care provision. They have a fully functioning laboratory, a larger number of well trained medical staff and students, more beds, medicines and general medical equipment. It seemed like an excellent facility and an invaluable resource for the local community. It struck me that with more investment, support and development, this is what Kadinda health centre at Kochogo has the potential to become. It makes me hopeful though, seeing facilities available like the Ombeyi health centre, that prove with support and development people in these communities can receive the best possible health care they need and deserve. This won’t happen overnight in Kisumu but with the commitment of the people here and the support of organizations like KOP it is hopefully, only a matter of time.
I accompanied other students on some more project visits over the next two weeks and had an opportunity to learn more about HOVIC and VIMA.
I’d seen the HOVIC centre most days when I dropped the students off in the morning but I had the chance to go along to the night shelter one day with Monica. The shelter provides a safe space for 30 boys to sleep and spend the night when they have nowhere else to go. Various activities also take place during the day but in this case, the girls rule the roost. When we went along they were in the middle of a tailoring class and were learning how to make clothes by practicing on Singer sewing machines with makeshift paper clothes. We were impressed enough with the complex designs and skilled workmanship (or should that be workwomanship?!) but this only increased after my dismal attempts at sewing a straight line onto a square piece of paper. Fail! The girls spend a year or so doing the course until they are ready for their tailoring exams and they are supported in this whole process. They also take part in life skills classes and learn about everything from health issues to business skills. There is a demand for other classes such as computer skills and the ever popular beauty therapy course which will hopefully be introduced and available in the future. With pressures from family, friends and general circumstance tied in with a high rate of pregnancies amongst the girls, the support and counseling available from HOVIC staff and local healthcare professionals is vital in keeping the girls involved.
The other project I visited with this group was VIMA. VIMA is one of the only organizations that KOP works with that only receives support and funding from KOP and not other external bodies. It helps children whose families cannot afford to send them to school by providing either uniform and stationary for those they support ‘halfway’ and uniform, stationary, school fees and food (for the whole family) to those they can afford to support fully. It’s a fantastic organization that is making a huge difference to the lives of the people they are helping. I am constantly meeting people in Kisumu that have started with nothing and through sponsorship and opportunities from charities etc have been able to reach their full potential and are now hugely successful themselves, often putting large amounts back into the communities they have come from. The opportunities that VIMA are offering to these children are providing them with a real shot to make more of their lives and not be trapped in a cycle of poverty that they otherwise simply would not have. Now that’s pretty awesome in my book!
VIMA’s Edward took Aoife, Adam and I to visit two of the homes of children they provide uniform and stationary to. First up was Tyson, he lives in Obunga which is the 2nd biggest slum in Kisumu and is home to 70,000 people. To get to his home we had to pick our way over a rubble and rubbish strewn road and step over a stream of open sewage flowing right beside peoples homes. There is something incredibly humbling about being invited into someone’s home in Kisumu and allowed a glimpse into the other side of the children’s and families lives. You are always aware here that people have less than we do. Signs of the poverty are always around you, in the holed clothing that the children wear to school, in the desperate states people wait for until they allow themselves to visit the hospitals, in the numbers of children who visit the feeding centres or turn up at HOVIC because they have nowhere or no-one to turn to or can’t afford to go elsewhere. However, it is easy to be distracted from this when you have so many people being so incredibly positive around you, making the most of what they do have in the hospitals or with the singing, laughing and smiling children that greet you at the other projects. When kids are delighted with the toys and sweets you give them or just seem happy to spend time with you it is easy to forget that things aren’t always that simple and comfortable at home. There is something about being in someone’s home that takes it back to basics and offers a window into their lives that only being there first hand can provide.
Tyson lives in a small two roomed hut in the middle of Obunga slum. There was no electricity or provision for water or sanitation at his house. We were met by his mother who kindly invited us in and spoke to us about Tyson, who was still in lessons at the local school. He sounded like an incredibly bright pupil who is a keen and committed student. The family home is located next to some buildings that are used for local breweries and so there is often lots of noise and people fighting outside in the evenings. She told us that sometimes Tyson will get up in the middle of the night when it is quieter so that he can study in the peace and quiet. We were shown his school books and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such meticulously neat handwriting, and this on subjects and topics I’ve never even heard of including some battle in America that came as news to me!
The second home we visited was for a young girl, also at primary school who lives in a one room hut with 6 other family members. In many families the costs involved mean that a choice has to be made about which children will be sent to school and which will have to be kept at home. Although primary school is supposed to be free in Kenya there seem to be a number of hidden costs involved and this added to the costs of things like uniforms and school books can often keep children at home.
After a bit of an awkward attempt at driving out of the slum – the bottom of the car got kind of wedged on a rutted stone on the road, which was inexplicably solved when the 3 of us alighted from the vehicle and were told we shouldn’t have eaten so much at lunchtime! – we headed towards Vincent’s house. Vincent was one of the founding members of VIMA and set up a kind of half way house for children VIMA support that also need somewhere safe to stay when they are not at school. Wherever possible children are encouraged to stay at home with their families but this extra level of support provided to those who really need it is an important resource in place to help those who would struggle even more to attend and continue with an education.
As always though there were times for the students to relax, socialize and see another side to Kenyan life and culture. First up was Kit Mi Kyi, basically a tonne of rocks piled on top of each other that you climb up to watch an incredible sunset from. And then continue to climb over, seemingly dangerously close to the edge and consequently freaking Shona out until she has to close her eyes, lie down on a rock and pretend it isn’t happening. We attempted to sign out K.O.P with various people’s arms, legs and other limbs, I’ve seen the photos now – is it harsh to say it just looks like we are doing misshapen star-jumps while attempting simultaneously to do those bunny hop things they made you do in P.E at primary school?!
We also went along to Laughing Buddha again for dessert. People ate sizzling hot chocolate brownies. Sizzling hot chocolate brownies. No more comment is needed.
Nakuru was another excellent day out with lots of animal spotting and photo snapping. We were lucky enough to see zebra, giraffes, a family of white rhinos, a hippo (I’m still not convinced it wasn’t a rock), a mass of pink flamingoes, monkeys, pumba the warthog (there’s a chance that wasn’t his name), birds, lions (though only if you took a picture and zoomed in on it), and the infamous baboons. Despite trying to ban anybody from eating all day just in case of crumbs and taking the careful precaution of stashing all the food we did bring in the other groups matatu the baboons still gave me the heebie-jeebies (I was wondering if that was just a Scottish word but Microsoft word has recognized it with no squiggly red line or anything – this makes me smile!) Not that any actually jumped into the vehicles on this trip but I did whimper slightly and reach for the door handle whenever one came close.
On the way back to Kisumu we had to make an impromptu stop due to an overheated engine. Some of us girls used the opportunity as an unscheduled toilet stop. Only we were at the side of the road and there weren’t exactly many local toilet facilities. The alfresco/behind a hedge approach could have worked well were it not for the hoards of children surprised to see a bunch of UK students walking along the road and therefore taking great delight in following us wherever we went wanting to see what we were doing. By the time we got on our way again there were around 50 children crowded around the bus singing ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’. There’s nothing like an unplanned stop at the side of an African road with Kenyan children trying to follow you while you simultaneously try to hide and pee discreetly followed by a singing lesson to add that little bit extra to your day on safari!
Kiboko Bay was well received again and after a lovely morning service at a local church one of the hotel staff had invited us to or pedicures and manicures as the alternative option, we all settled down for an afternoon of sun soaking, swimming and hippo spotting. This time I am pleased to say they definitely weren’t rocks, though the guys fishing mere metres away surely mistook them for this. We enjoyed another tremendous sunset and then the first group headed back to the hotel. Five minutes later a family of hippos actually climbed out of the waters and made their way up onto the banks where we had previously been sitting. A mummy hippo, a daddy hippo and a little baby hippo. Marti will have to tell you all about this wondrous event though as I’d already left with the first group and didn’t get to see any of it. Not that I’m bitter… Hmphh.
Local Kenyan club Sunspot once again provided an opportunity for the letting down of hair, one or five tuskers, over enthusiastic dance routines (that one may just be Marti and I…) and important muscle observation exercises, didn’t it Martha and Sophie…?!!
As a fitting end to the fortnight we had another project party, this time hosted by VIMA. We were treated to a series of impressive and mature performances from some of the children with many poem recitals and speeches being made. The adults got their chance too with some moving words from each of the project partners. With a thank you to all involved from Marti it was time for a fantastic dinner and an opportunity to dance the next few hours away with the children that VIMA support. I always seem to get a bit emotional at these events. As I said last time there is just something special about the students who have worked hard all year and all fortnight dancing together with the children they help support when everybody is enjoying each others company that makes you forget about the differences that separate them and instead lets the evening just be about having fun.
It was a great fortnight and another fantastic group of students. Having only 15 students led to a completely different experience as there was more opportunity to get to know people individually and things weren’t quite as manic as they had been for the first 2 weeks. The smaller group allowed more time for things like a (rather American sounding) ‘reflection circle’. In the first week we got together to discuss what people thought about their experiences so far. Personally, I think that being able to talk about and share experiences can help you process and understand the things that you have seen. However, for many I think you won’t be able to really comprehend or appreciate it all until you’ve been at home for a while. You’ll be sitting at home in the UK or doing something completely ordinary and it may suddenly hit you. Certain first impressions remained though and I thought I’d share some of this feedback with you now:
“I loved the Ombeyi Feeding Centre – truly a wonderful establishment and the children are so lovely – I am glad they are receiving some support. The health aspects were fascinating. VIMA is one of the most amazing organizations and I was overcome with the amount of love that goes into it.”
“It is hard to see the poverty and the level of medical care available to these people – a very humbling experience.”
“I love seeing the kids, seeing how the fundraised money is used in the different projects. I loved playing and teaching the kids. I just loved it!”
“Well I can’t begin to explain all what I’ve learnt but I’ve had one of the most amazing, eye opening experiences of my life.”
“I learnt how much of a difference even one person can make. Meeting these children and seeing how they live and yet are still so happy has been an incredible eye-opening experience. I would really like to continue to contribute to these projects in the future – thank you so much for this experience.”
“Healthcare in Kenya is better in some ways than expected. Far too much to have processed it all yet!” (Told you!)
It’s almost impossible to cover everything that happened in one blog entry. I haven’t even begun to include details of Kakamega, nights spent on the rooftop playing Mafia - a card game that involved lots of shifty eye glares and people being murdered in the night (or, just for Aoife – Werewolf). I haven’t mentioned the evening of great food and live music at Marti’s house (thanking you!) or coke floats and random Rotary club parties spent dancing outside as Kisumu was in powercut induced darkness. And I’ve said nothing about one group shoveling poo for days on end and a certain Jigga flea infection…But facebook photos and students own stories can update you on the rest. I’m off to sleep in a corner for a few hours…
Shona's blog: Week 1 and 2.
Perhaps I should introduce myself first. My name is Shona Morrison and I’m the new assistant student coordinator for KOP’s Student Programme in Kisumu, Kenya. From June until September I’ll be working with Martina on location in Kisumu and will be endeavouring to keep you posted on all of the goings on as we welcome new students and returners to work with our project partners, observing, volunteering and all playing their part in the important work going on here.
We’ve just reached the end of the first two weeks and said cheerio to the students from Nottingham and Imperial Universities. It was a fantastic start to the summer with 34 students giving all they had to make it a real success. There was building work, teaching, hospital rounds, reflection, an immense football match, socialising, dodgy stomachs, outreach, balloons and bubbles, digging holes and cement mixing, karaoke, late nights and early mornings, new people, new sights, new food and new friends, there was ugali and there was an alpha male baboon...
The guys arrived only slightly later than planned which is impressive given they were now working on ‘Kenyan time’. After a few wrong turns the bus made its way to the Duke of Breeze Hotel, and the students’ home for the next fortnight. Waiting on the steps for them, I had felt a real buzz of excitement, it was hard to know what to expect, and with 34 students anything had the potential to happen. And then they were here, all 34 of them, 7 girls from Imperial College and 27 from Nottingham University. All piling off the coach, all looking to us for keys, instructions, room allocations and lost wallets (bad time for me to drop and break my phone then...)
After dinner we held a welcome meeting for everyone to go over the basics, introduce ourselves again and explain the programme. Then it was up to the rooftop bar (a very welcome addition to the hotel from last year) for well earned cold tusker beers and banter.
No rest for the wicked as it was straight into the programme schedule first thing the following morning. Everyone was down for breakfast bright and early (not a trend that continued I may add...) and on board the matatus for the journeys to the various projects that KOP support.
As, like many of the students, this is my first time in Kisumu, my first two weeks were a bit of a crash course in all things KOP and I tried to fit in as many project visits as I could. I went along with the Kochogo group for the first couple of days.
Kochogo is a 3 day project visit where students alternate between the Kochogo Feeding Centre (KFC if you will...) the Kadinda Health Centre and both Kagimba and Disii primary schools. The extended time spent there really allows students to get to know the staff and students and gain a comprehensive understanding of how the projects there work. At the feeding centre the first group got stuck in with washing dishes and preparing lunch while those at the school taught subjects such as malaria and schistosomiasis. The activities at the health centre varied from day to day with some students helping in reception and the pharmacy, others sitting in on consultations or assisting with basic medical tests and one group helping to deworm over 100 children!
Each day the groups joined each other for lunch at the feeding centre with the children. With those on the allocated feeding centre day serving meals such as rice and beans and giving many of the students their first taste of ugali.
Ugali is one of the main staples in the Kenyan diet. Made simply from maize flour and water it has an unusual texture and no strong taste. It’s something everyone should try at least once and goes down well when you mix it with sauces. I won’t say too much more about it here but let’s just say there is some division of opinion when it comes to ugali.
After lunch there was always time to play with the children which was a hugely popular activity. They entertained us with songs and dances and the students returned the favour with activities as varied as bubbles, ball games, art and musical statues.
Kochogo was also the sight for the artistic members of the group to don their Van Gogh hats and reach for the paint brushes. Marti had set all KOP students a challenge to design a mural for the walls of the feeding centre which were noticeably bare and uninteresting. Zainab and Colleen from Imperial College led the way with a design for teaching the children about what to eat as part of a balanced diet. Over the two weeks a number of students helped with the painting and added more designs such as handprints and alphabets to the other walls. The difference was remarkable and it has made the place so much brighter. Seeing the kids gathered around the paintings each day learning from them makes it all the more worthwhile – good work guys!
KOP students also each spent a day at two of the local hospitals; Provincial Hospital in the morning and District Hospital in the afternoon. While I haven’t been on these visits myself the students often shared their experiences with one another each evening. I think it is fair to say that these were not always easy days for the students and many saw things that they struggled with. With facilities, availability of medication and care provision so different to that in the UK, there was a lot to take in. Despite this, the overall impression that I got from hearing the students discussions, was a positive one. There were so often tales of how people were making the most of what they did have. I lost count of the numbers of students I heard swearing they would never again bemoan the NHS. The strongest sense was that the medical staff were incredibly resourceful with the little that they had and while it’s not always possible to give all the medication, time or treatment that the huge numbers of patients need, people ultimately receive the best possible care under these difficult circumstances.
The other site that I did have a chance to visit in these first two weeks was Alendu Primary School, where students are assisting with the construction of the administration block for this rurally based school on the outskirts of Kisumu. This is the other project that students get to spend three days on and as a result have more of an opportunity to really get to know the staff and children well and get stuck in with the building work. I went along on the third day of ‘Team LAD’s’ visit. Lots of work appeared to have been done over the first two days and I was told that moving all those bricks and pieces of stone from one area of the school to the giant pothole they had filled in on the entrance road took all day... apparently it was a lot deeper than it looked. (-;
There was lots of digging holes and hoeing and preparing materials for the roofers at Alendu. As the work progresses over the summer then the jobs that KOP students will be able to do will also vary. Digging holes and fetching water may sound like mundane tasks but they are just as important in constructing these buildings as plastering or painting the walls will be when we get to that stage. As for the student who shall remain nameless who chose to dig his hole separately from the rest of the group’s rather tidy line formation, I couldn’t possibly comment. Pointing and laughing is probably also an inappropriate way to respond to the female student who fell into a ditch…three times.
While at Alendu students also got a chance to teach at the primary school and visit and interact with the older pupils at the adjoining secondary school. And then there was the football match. There had been a few kickabouts over the first few days, largely involving 100 children chasing the KOP boys for the ball. On the final day Willis, the head teacher of the primary school organised a proper match against the 12 KOP students and it was game on. I can report that there were nerves a plenty over lunchtime and serious talk of tactics before the kickoff. As official match photographer I was exempt from play, which was probably just as well. Out came 12 Kenyan school children, many with no shoes on and the match began. In fairness to Team KOP, they weren’t as used to the heat, the long grass of the pitch or the lack of sidelines which meant an extra large space to play on.
I won’t pretend that I am a qualified sports commentator but I can confirm that the match was a blinder! There were some stunning saves from Vicky in goal, outstanding kicks from Viola and a number of elegant tackles from Kerry (aside from that one time she fell over..) The boys also played their hearts out which wasn’t easy in the heat or with the huge numbers of children in the audience all cheering for the opposing team (and some of the girls!)
Half time was called and there was just enough time to grab water for drinking and pouring over heads before the second half resumed. With the first half lasting about 10 minutes we’d expected more of the same but 25 minutes later the KOP side were definitely lagging. There were distinct groans to be heard when the referee blew the whistle for a foul and not fulltime. With Kish retiring to goal for a rest and signs of heat exhaustion on the horizon we called it a day. Score: Team KOP 2 – Alendu Pupils 3. The ball was given (to much delight) as a prize for the wining team and team photos were snapped to immortalise this historic event.
The match was a lot of fun and certainly put the evenings World Cup game between England and Germany to shame (if I’m allowed to say that as a Scotland fan). It was a fantastic end to Team LAD’s time at Alendu and left everyone in very high spirits, albeit sweaty ones. What really made the moment special in my view though, were the comments made by Willis at the end of the day as the KOP students were leaving. He took a moment to explain that with the help, fundraising and support of the students the school had gone from the derelict shells of buildings we could still see outside to a comfortable and professional environment the pupils were now sitting in, more conducive to their education and learning experience. After the highs of the football game Willis’ words really hit home about why the students were there, it brought us back to the reasons for all their fundraising over the previous months and the difference they are actually able to make to the children of Kisumu. It was the perfect conclusion to the students’ time at Alendu.
There will be more to report from projects such as VIMA, Ombeyi and HOVIC over the next few weeks and months. For more information on these, and all of the projects that KOP supports you can check out the website or look out for testimonials and comments from the students who have been here on the facebook group.
It wasn’t all work and no play either with a number of trips to the market, nights sampling tuskers on the rooftop and evenings partying at local hotspots such as Laughing Buddha (gooood dessert) and proper Kenyan style nightclub – Sunspot. Only in Kenya can a remix of My Heart Will Go On and Who Let The Dog’s Out go down so well.
There was also a quiz hosted by Nat with some really tricky questions (do any of you know what a squirrel’s home is called?), an evening spent at Kiboko Bay watching the sunset, splashing (loudly) in the pool and hippo spotting. Then there was the karaoke night, with everyone dressed in makeshift school uniforms. Sometimes groups like to build up their confidence before nominating themselves for a song. Not this group, they were straight in there with requests for Disney, Boyband and other classics such as Madonna. Then someone got completely carried away singing Buttercup by The Foundations. But we won’t talk about that…
The trips social schedule culminated in a party hosted by project partners at HOVIC. There were speeches, excellent performances from some of the kids with skits and singing and dancing, some of which involved audience participation (check out facebook for the evidence). This was followed by a great meal and some fabulous dancing to round off the evening. HOVIC put on a great party, the children and students alike seemed to have a ball and it was a huge success. There was certainly something about all the students, children HOVIC supports and project partners dancing together to blaringly loud music, outside under the stars in Kenya that made the night a special one which I don’t think anyone involved will forget in a hurry.
There were a few smaller ‘outings’ to local places of interest such as the museum. The museum is an interestingly eclectic mix of stuffed animals (including a lion in full ‘attack mode’ and a large vulture hanging from the ceiling like a freakish children’s mobile), a reptile house, a fascinating exhibit on Luo culture, including a reconstruction of a typical homestead, complete with an individual hut for each of the husband’s three wives… The boys were impressed by this, the girls less so. To top it off there were tortoises and crocodiles to keep visitors entertained. Not in the same pen I might add, but I had a horrible feeling the crocodile’s enclosure was probably less restrictive than the one for the tortoises. Chicken wire and ideas of petting zoos spring to mind, not what I’d go for with a crocodile enclosure. Perhaps one of the reasons some of us stood well back in a state of mild panic when the guide tried to ‘encourage’ the male croc to move. Or was that just me?!
Some of the girls also attended a local church on the Sunday morning which was a very welcoming experience. For those coming over the next few weeks and months there are a variety of places of worship located in Kisumu and all denominations and religions seem to be covered. On this particular Sunday there was a lot of great singing and many members of the congregation encouraged the students to get involved.
Trips that went a little further afield included Nakuru and Kakamega National parks.
Nakuru came first with a very early start and a three hour bus journey to deal with first. By all accounts this was completely worth it though with the group seeing a variety of animals including giraffes, buffalo, the famous flamingos and hyena. There was also an incident with a large alpha male baboon. Inside the bus. Note to self: don’t open a bag of food when near wild animals…
Kakamega was the trip for the second week and despite some typically Kenyan ‘ticket issues’ and some high pitched screaming in the bat tunnel (and that was just the boys), students seemed to enjoy the trip. Was the view from the top of the hill that we sweatily staggered up worth it? It was stunning.
I’d certainly say my first two weeks with KOP was a baptism of fire. There was always going to be lots to learn, but what was great for me is that for a lot of it I got to learn with the students, who were patient with me when I knew very few of the answers and had to use them as guinea pigs for ironing out any first week kinks and teething problems. Before all of the students arrived the hotel owner Machiel gave me a kind of knowing look, he wished me luck and advised me to get my last good nights sleep of the summer. After numerous project visits, market days, hospital introductions, nights out, nights in, social shenanigans, dodgy stomachs (and there were quite a few), sprained ankles, and more hospital visits of the unplanned variety I now fully understand that knowing look. If I may I’d like to give a personal thank you to all of the students from Imperial and Nottingham. They really were a great bunch who got a fine balance between the social and more serious reasons for why they were here. On a number of projects, you get out what you put in and the students went over the call of duty to make the most of their time here. It wasn’t all plain sailing but it was a great start to the summer. Marti and I can’t wait to see the rest of the students over here for their chance to see where their fundraising has gone, have an opportunity to learn about a different culture and the medical situation in a country and society so different to the UK and make their own bit of difference to the lives of the people that they meet here, whether it’s a friendly chat, medical advice, cultural exchange or support.
Asante Sana everyone. Oriti for now.