Another week in Magina
It’s been a busy week! A mixture of fun times with children, doing practical things, chatting and listening – and a few unexpected moments that remind us that we are not in Hampshire! So, here is the week’s diary.
Monday: School day. We spent the morning organising sponsored children to write their thank you letters, an important link and a good reminder for the children that someone in UK who has never met them thinks enough of them to put their hand into their pocket. By the way, Pamoja is always looking for new sponsors so we can help even more children, so if you know anyone who would be interested, please get in touch. The morning was well organised by the teachers, which was a great help. The afternoon had a slightly different feel about it, as we took the whole school out on the field (in 30+ degrees of heat) and organised a round-robin of games including tug-of-war, sack race, obstacle course, a water game etc. It’s an interesting challenge trying to explain unfamiliar games to a large group of children in what is not their first language, so there was plenty of chaos, but also plenty of fun! We went back to our tin house very hot and exhausted – a theme that recurred this week….
Tuesday: Morning prayers for the candidates who will be taking their final exams next week. That is, the whole morning, not just a few minutes at the start of the day. Brevity is not a Kenyan characteristic. It was scheduled to begin at 9, so we walked to the Church at 10 to be there at the start. It was in fact a very moving occasion: it is so good to acknowledge and ask for God’s help before this important period in the children’s lives. It was great to see teachers, children and parents (including Regina, ‘mother’ to three orphans from the Care Centre) coming together to pray. In the afternoon we took a trip into Kisumu, the big town near here, for some shopping, and were pleasantly surprised to find it had been tidied up considerably since our last visit.
Wednesday: Another school day, this time for the end of year closing ceremony and the Nursery graduation. I’ll try to put some pictures up of the little ones in their gowns! Once again, it was not brief…by the end of the morning even the Head was playing with a balloon, evidently having lost interest! The tolerance of Kenyan children never ceases to amaze us – they will sit for hours, not necessarily engaged with what is happening, but always quiet. In a way this is commendable, but there is also a kind of underlying passivity that can, later in life, translate into a kind of apathy and acceptance… ”That’s how things are, so that’s how they’ll always be”. This is a problem when it comes to tackling some of the big issues, like corruption, that everyone agrees is something that needs to be dealt with.
Thursday: School, but this time in scruffy clothes, to decorate a classroom. On previous visits, we’d either decorated seven of the eight rooms ourselves, or had organised them to be done, so we gave ourselves two days (before the exams start and no one is allowed on the school premises) to do the last one. The challenging climate means that rooms very quickly get covered in dust and mud, so it was a hot, dirty task to prepare the room. Mosquitos also tend to hide in the corners! We were grateful of our friend Emmanuel’s help – he’s such a willing worker, always getting on with every task with great good humour. By the end of the day, we were ready for a nice hot shower (oops, no chance of that!), and were driving back along the road to our base when I had to avoid a lamb wandering in the road. This is nothing unusual, but Kevin (Millicent’s son, who had joined us at the school), exclaimed: “That’s one of our lambs! Stop!” So we pulled off the road, slid down the steep bank and between them, Sue, Kevin and Emmanuel rounded up the lamb away from the busy road and bundled it into the back of the car! Sadly, next to the road, we also found the mother sheep who was badly injured, having been hit by a vehicle. We made room for her in the back of the car too, and so completed our journey with two very wet, smelly sheep accompanying us. Having reached home, Mama sheep died shortly afterwards. Eric and Millicent were sad, but sentiment doesn’t last long here, and a large knife appeared very quickly to butcher the sheep. Only the skin is not used: the intestines are evidently regarded as a particular delicacy (we found a newspaper article claiming that they give virility!), and this morning, when reclaiming a loaf of bread from Millicent’s freezer, Sue found the sheep’s head looking at her! This too is apparently one of the best bits. We love our Kenyan friends dearly, but we don’t share their taste in food!
Friday: First thing, we visited the local Technical College, where two of our Pamoja students are on building and electrical engineering courses. We were very much impressed by the college, which may be lacking in facilities by European standards, but is well organised and has a wonderfully positive feel about it. The students and staff are enthusiastic: we hope to encourage more of our Pamoja people to go there. Then to school, to ask teachers to write reports on sponsored children, and to finish decorating. Once again we ended the day hot, itchy and tired! But it felt like a good day’s work. As we were watching the Kenyan TV News with Millicent and Eric at the end of the day there was a short item that mentioned that 60% of Kenyans live below the poverty line. We asked how the poverty line was defined, and were told that it is the classic ‘dollar a day’. Eric says that the people who work in the rice fields around here are typically paid 80 shillings for a day’s work; that’s about 65p. It is a fallacy to think it’s cheap to live here: the kind of goods you and I would buy in supermarkets here are about the same price, or sometimes much more expensive that in UK. Local food in the market is also becoming expensive: we simply don’t know how people survive. The extremes of wealth and poverty are very much in evidence here. Pamoja exists because we believe God has a heart for the poor, and He has asked us to care for orphans and widows. We can only scratch the surface, but we know the work our friends here are doing makes a difference to some, both in material and spiritual terms.
Saturday: A slow day! I think the week caught up with us! Eventually went into Ahero, the local town, where the poverty I have just mentioned is in evidence in the form of people who beg for money from us, I fear because we have white faces. (We’ve only seen two other white faces since arriving at Magina: two Swedish lads who are doing a flood management project.) It’s hard to say no to those who ask (and we do sometimes find a few shillings) but it’s better to give to projects like Pamoja where we know the money goes to those who really need it, rather than to random strangers.
Next week, please remember the children all over Kenya doing their Standard 8 exams. These are regarded as really important – security is crazy, with an armed guard assigned to each school! The headteacher has to collect the papers from a central point at 5.30 am each day to bring them to the school! The children from the Care Centre who are doing exams are Victor, Billian and Mourine.
We have just come back from the Care Centre, where we gave them a film night and enjoyed some singing and other activities with the lovely kids.
We’re enjoying the company of our friends here and we’re surviving, though we can’t pretend life here is easy! We just do it for a few weeks, in relative comfort (electricity most of the time, a fridge, a fan, a concrete floor etc.). Many people around here are without any of these luxuries, and it’s the same for them day in day out, year in year out. Thank you to all of you who give to help such as these. And thank you all, once again, for your continued interest, support and prayers.