Sue & Richard in Kenya: update Monday 26th October
First of all, thank you for finding this and reading it! Secondly, apologies that the update has taken a week. Here in Ahero, near Kisumu, we are finding internet connectivity intermittent, and even as I write this I’m not sure when I’ll actually be able to post it! Unfortunately there is no chance of uploading pictures at the speeds I’m getting– fast broadband is something that we take for granted now in UK, but it does not exist here in rural Kenya. Picture to follow when we’re back in Nairobi and UK.
We finally travelled to Kisumu on Wednesday, having first of all been delayed by a day in Istanbul and then by another day as Richard was not well in the early part of the week. The journey from Nairobi to Ahero is just over 200 miles and took the best part of 7 hours, with a couple of stops along the way. The road is tarmac, apart from the odd section of dirt around roadworks, but mostly single carriageway so progress can be slow when sharing the road with large lorries. Inevitably there was also the usual Kenyan ‘interesting’ driving to contend with at times. We were grateful that we didn’t get lost, and were pleased that Eric and Millicent met us in the Mier Pamoja Care Centre van (amazingly still running!) on the outskirts of Ahero and showed us to the Catholic Pastoral Centre where we are staying.
We have two rooms, one kind of kitchen lounge diner (Sue is cooking on a single burner on top of a gas bottle in the corner), and one bedroom with en-suite: I don’t think the shower wiring would pass British Safety Standards, but we haven’t been electrocuted yet. In fact there has been no chance of being electrocuted for most of the last 24 hours, as we have had a power cut! But it’s back on now – who knows for how long! We already appreciate much more the modern conveniences we have at home and have great admiration for many Kenyans who live in circumstances that are considerably worse than the ones we are in.
What have we been doing? (Power has just gone off again!) The diary so far looks something like this:
Thursday: Eric came to meet us and we drove together to their home and from there on to the nearby Mier Pamoja Care Centre and School. The initial impression is of a large number of happy children. We spent some time talking to the Head, Mr Milton Odhiambo, about how the school is running, before seeing a few of the younger classes in operation. The older children are busy preparing for exams at present, but one of the challenges the school is facing is that three teachers left suddenly, having been attracted by offers from government schools. Millicent, as Pamoja Trustee in Kenya, is well aware of the problems as well as the good things that are happening, and one thing we hope to be able to do is simply to have the time to sit and talk, and pray with Millicent and Eric.
On Friday, we went to the Care Centre and spent time sorting out the donated books ready to share between the Centre and the School. We also walked around the site, identifying practical things that need to be done in terms of maintenance and improvements. From there, accompanied by an increasingly torrential rainstorm, we moved on to the school where the choir was waiting for us. They sang two songs in impressive African style, while virtually the whole school (about 200 children) crammed around the room and hung through the windows listening! We then got the keyboard out and taught them a couple of songs, which they learned quickly. We returned to our little home by nightfall, cooked and settled down for the night….only to discover that Friday night is music night! A choir (practising for the Pope’s forthcoming visit, apparently), began rehearsing in an open room directly across the small courtyard from us at 10.30 pm, and continued until 2.45 am! Commendable dedication, but not great for the neighbours! And after they had packed up, the frogs started. We don’t like frogs now: they are VERY LOUD!
On Saturday morning we again spent some time talking with Millicent and Eric: their dedication to the work they do and their love for the children is amazing. Millicent is a Pamoja worker, but Eric simply does what he does to support Millicent, and because he cares for the children, becoming like a father figure to many. We then joined the 26 children at the Care Centre for the afternoon, enjoying drinks with them, sharing out some clothes, playing games with the large parachute we had brought from UK and enjoying time with them. They then sang to us, the girls danced, and we enjoyed a poem written and recited by one of the older girls, Juliet, about corruption. It was very dramatic. As we were leaving, the singing started again, accompanied by Charles playing an old plastic tub as a drum, with a great sense of rhythm. We returned ‘home’ again, to find that we had no electricity! It returned for a couple of hours, but then was off again for the night. This meant no water either, as it’s all pumped! The staff here provided us with large pots of water, though. We were grateful that it the weather was not quite so hot and sticky last night, as we had no fans.
On Sunday, we joined Eric and Millicent at the local church. Eric was there in his capacity as bishop, but I doubt many bishops attend services in a makeshift tent in a field next to a slum. We were welcomed and invited to take part in the service. Afterwards, we had a ‘chilled’ day together.
Today, Monday, after the plumber had been in the morning to restore our water supply, we returned to the school in the afternoon (they are busy with exams in the morning) and spent time with three classes, telling them the ‘Jungle Doctor’ story of the Great Wall, with musical accompaniment on the keyboard to illustrate the characters in the story and with Sue drawing pictures on the board. The children listened and took part well, showing that they understood the Christian message behind the story very clearly.
Living here is a challenge. We are finding it thus even for a few days, but seem to be surviving! Next week the plans revolve around spending more time in school, helping the children write letters to their sponsors and taking recent photos, helping Millicent with some of the admin tasks associated with Pamoja and hopefully getting to know the children at the Care Centre better.
Thank you for your interest and your prayers.
Sue & Richard