Sue & Richard update Friday 6th November
Here’s a little conundrum about Kenya to start with. Why, in a country where no one bothers at all if you are an hour or two late for anything, does everyone, when they get on the road, drive as though every second counts?
This week went something like this:
On Monday, we went into school again to continue helping the children write letters to their sponsors. Mr Odhiambo (the Head) set us up under the trees in the middle of the school compound with groups of children. We were impressed by the care they took: these children obviously genuinely appreciate the opportunities afforded them by their sponsors. Another of today’s jobs was shooting some video of school lunches, which are sponsored by Blythswood Trust, so we can send them some up to date information. Later on we were also treated to an impromptu poetry recitation by Lydia, one of the older girls, who had been trained by James, one of the teachers (who had written the poem about corruption), for a regional competition where she had done very well. It was extremely dramatic! We then went on to visit Millicent who was still not feeling well and once again got caught in a torrential rainstorm. The flood outside Millicent’s house was so bad that Richard put his right foot down and it disappeared down a hole over the top of his wellington boot! Sue found this very amusing, but fortunately didn’t find the camera in time!
The plan for Tuesday was for Sue to do the shopping for the school and centre with Millicent. Unfortunately, by the time she’d been to the bank Millicent (still recovering from typhoid) was exhausted, so Sue ended up doing the shopping while Millicent rested. Quite an experience, going round the local market buying 18 large cabbages and some local fish which the children like. We took Millicent home in the afternoon and found a wheelchair, donated by the Lindon Bennett School, London (where a Pamoja supporter, Rachel Boughton, teaches) and transported free to Kenya by BA, which we checked over ready for a presentation the next day.
We thought, on Wednesday, that we were going into school for an hour in the morning, where Millicent had arranged for a local radio station to record children singing. We were then planning to do the wheelchair presentation (“nearby”) and return to school to do a mad games afternoon. On arrival at school, I spotted a programme that started at 9.30 with welcomes and, after various presentations and several speeches, was scheduled to end at 1! Tim sent us an e-mail that quoted the proverb “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape”. So so true!! It was a typically Kenyan occasion – most people had plenty of words – but the children performed very well, David the radio man was excellent with them, and what was said was good. Amazingly, the programme ended at 1! We then went on, with David and with a lovely man from the education department called Owen, to deliver the wheelchair to a disabled lad. After a good 30 minute drive, the last section of which was across a field, we arrived at the home. The word poverty doesn’t do it justice: a mud hut with a leaky tin roof and next to nothing inside. Mother is a widow with one disabled lad 3-4 years old, and another lad of 2 who was badly burned in a fire. We handed over the wheelchair, for which mother was very grateful. Owen (a specialist in children with special needs) helped to adjust the wheelchair properly and promised to follow up with physiotherapy. We prayed with the family and left, humbled by the whole experience. Pamoja exists because the Bible tells us to do good in the name of Jesus, to care for widows, orphans, and the poor: this is true Christian love in action. We will not forget these people: Pamoja will see what can be done to improve their situation further. David, from the radio station, was obviously moved too and is intending to highlight the plight of people in rural areas who are living in such appalling conditions.
So Thursday became the fun and games day in school – total madness (we have lots of photos and some video to prove it). The children entered into the spirit of it magnificently, and some of the teachers got the idea too. The first game, organised by them not us, was running down a course with a full glass bottle of water on your head! Amazing! It was great to see the children enjoying themselves so much, and especially lovely (a real feature of the school) to see the older pupils helping the younger ones. In the afternoon, we did another music session with them – once more being delighted by over 100 children singing enthusiastically, learning three-part rounds in no time at all.
On Friday morning, we picked up the paint from the local supplier ready for the classroom makeover next week. This was not quite B & Q: they had everything (almost) but it took over an hour to place the order and get it out to the car! After that we went into school, had a very positive meeting with the teachers where hopefully we were able to encourage them in the good things and offer a few suggestions about some things that were not quite so good (e.g. keeping the place tidy – the idea of maintenance, repair and generally looking after things is not a strong Kenyan characteristic!) Hopefully we have above all been able to encourage the teachers. In the afternoon, the Standard 8 pupils had a ceremony just before their exams, which start next week. It was moving to hear the way that they were prayed for, and encouraged to trust God for their future. We are finally realising that at events like this, someone (usually Eric) suddenly says to us “And now Sue & Richard will give a speech” – having not forewarned us at all! Parents came and spoke appreciatively of the school: all in all a great occasion which we were privileged to share.
This coming weekend, Millicent is taking us to her family home to stay with her brother about 90 minutes away on the shores of Lake Victoria. Next week, we have booked for the four of us to go to a Christian retreat centre for a couple of nights, to give Eric and Millicent a short break which they desperately need. We are also planning to take the children at the Care Centre on an outing to a park in Kisumu, as well as cleaning the classroom and organising the makeover. But plans might change…
Maybe the heat is getting to us – the other evening we wrote a song about mosquitos! We’ll put it on the programme for the next Velmore Music Evening!
Another thing that cracked us up was something Sue found in The Standard (a national newspaper). They publish revision papers for senior students. The geography question asked pupils to compare tourism in Kenya with tourism in Swaziland. Fair enough – but the given answers included facts about Swaziland including that it has a temperate climate, it is very mountainous, it lies in the heart of Europe – spot the deliberate mistake?
Four weeks seemed like a long time when we arrived in this area, but we are beginning to run out of days to do all the things we hope to do now.
As I finish writing this, Sue is in the other little room ironing socks! Why? Because although it is very hot here, it is also humid, so everything feels damp! But overall we have adjusted to the quirks of living here OK, helped by not having had a power cut or loss of water for the past few days!
Thank you for your continued interest (which you must have if you have read this far!), for your support and your prayers. It is all much appreciated.
Sue & Richard