Sunday, June 24, 2012

Njabini and Goodbyes

With a lot of excitement, and even a brief prayer, all of the children, most of the housemothers, Scola, Moses, Gilbert and I set off on the bus to Njabini -- a field trip to the Flying Kites home in Njabini.  As I always do on Kenyan bus trips, I checked for my nearest emergency exits... and here was mine:

We didn't wind up needing to break any glass, but I DID worry a bit when the bus rocked not only forward and backward (in an attempt to extricate itself from the muddy rut below) but also side to side...

Wonderful Gilbert, though, led a crack team of pedestrians and other onlookers in an effort to refill the rut with available mud-chunks as we continued, inside the bus, to discuss our other transportation options. 

The gorgeous Rift Valley views from the previous hour's drive, it turns out, had energized us enough that we could all disembark and hike the rest of the way up the road to Flying Kites's compound, where our children and theirs had a bountiful picnic on the lawn!

They also had an invigorating walk through the countryside -- daring even to dip their feet into the icy river!

It was a glorious day! Many, many thanks to Brian and his volunteer team at Flying Kites for so generously hosting all of us. We look forward to many more events together!

We spent the day together in Cura, watching the rain create rivulets of muddy water and accumulate dirt into thick red blocks on the bottom of our shoes. We beaded, played Uno, and generally nursed some raw emotions as we prepared to say our goodbyes. 

It's never easy to leave, but each departure is made less threatening by the fact that promises to return are fulfilled... we're all looking ahead to the 2013 calendar for our next visit together!

With lots of hugs:

And poignant moments:

And a bag full of trinkets to distribute to pen pals... I said tutaonana tena (we will see each other again) instead of good bye.

Friday, June 22, 2012

On the Road Again

We had a Nairobi-based day today, but we'll get up VERY EARLY tomorrow to head to Cura... and then on to Njabini for a field day with all of our children and all of those who live at the home supported by Flying Kites. Watch this space for a full report upon my return to an internet connection!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Today in Cura

It was a good day in Cura today.

When Quinn and I arrived, volunteer Alyana was already there, and I had delayed a few meetings because of other commitments that ran long in Nairobi. I think my tardiness was mostly immediately forgiven, though (thank you for your patience, Scola!). Quinn was perturbed that our arrival coincided with the very last few minutes of the children's lunch break... but she and Alyana found ways to busy themselves until we were able to arrange the presentation of the new textbooks to the teachers and students at the Primary School.

Speeches were made (administrators and teachers), songs were sung (students), tears were shed (me). And then, chai was drunk and Quinn's favorite food was discovered (butter sandwich):

After school, Gilbert led a Cura United football practice, and Quinn continued to hone her jump_roping skills, but eventually I got around to handing out the new uniforms to the housemothers. I was serious when I told them that the new uniforms were just a small thing compared to the work they do every day to improve the lives of the 50 children in their care... but they sang and danced about the new duds, anyway. These women are hard-working, awe-inspiring and downright hilarious -- not to mention looking sharp in their new clothes:

The children got new clothes (tshirts), too, tonight -- a donation from a project management class at Utah State University. The Aggies for Cura shirts were a big hit!

And Quinn brought the final treat of the evening: apples! We hit up the market in the morning, and negotiated the best deal we could without taking food out of the mouths of the fruit vendor's own children...

Oh! and William and I agreed that the paint samples for the secondary school were just right...

What more could a girl ask for?? (Answer: the car not dying in the middle of Uhuru Highway on the way home. Still: great day)


On the other side of the world, some of Cura's biggest fans attended Karyn Craven's Burning Torch event -- the proceeds of which will support the work we're doing here!

Thanks to everyone who came out in support of the Burning Torch retail space and Cura Orphanage!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What's Happening in Cura, You Ask?

Well... since you asked:

Cura United FC has new uniforms and is ready to play, despite the rainy weather;

Art supplies are well-used and much-appreciated;

The crew is working hard to finish the secondary school on time and on budget;

And little tubes of bubbles make an excellent study break!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quick Update from Cura

The computer I'm on won't take my camera's memory card, so I don't have photos to share yet... but trust me that all is well here in Cura! It's wet and muddy and far too cold for most of us, but all is well, nonetheless.

Quinn and I arrived yesterday afternoon, following errands in Nairobi that included placing a large order for Primary School textbooks and a downpayment on new uniforms for the housemothers. We'll pick up those orders when we're back in Nairobi on Thursday, but until then we're here in Cura, reconnecting and taking stock of what's been going on since I was here in January.

The biggest news, of course, is the existence of a large structure where there once was none! The secondary school has its second story in place, so the next step is a roof... and lighting, and painting, and bannisters for the stairway, and chalkboards, and desks, and textbooks, and teachers, and students! Lots to think about and lots to do. But the process is inspirational!

Case in point: Yesterday, I met a friend of Scola's, Nicolas, who is currently a third year student at the University of Nairobi's business school. He told me that he went to Cura's pre-primary and primary schools as a child himself, but, as a strong student, he placed into a secondary school out of the area and hasn't been back. Now, he says, he loves coming back to Cura because the investment in infrastructure (the Home, the Clinic, the computer lab, the library, and now the secondary school) gives him a sense of pride. Though he doesn't have children himself to send to our new school, he's happy to see his hometown make such dramatic progress!

Similarly, the head fundi for the constrution project, Simon, has a daughter who is just finishing class 8 and will be in the first class admitted to Cura Secondary... every brick, every board, every gallon of paint he touches means a step toward providing an education for his daughter. Wow.

And speaking of paint... I met today with William and the painter to select colors. Floors and windowsills will be brick red; the doors will be dark blue. It's going to be beautiful!

We're doing more than just looking ahead, of course -- Quinn and I have had fun helping Gilbert distribute jerseys and blow up soccer balls for the new Cura United FC, waving around our glow bracelets after dinner, and handing out gifts from well-wishers (art work from high schoolers in Texas and toothbrushes and toothpaste from Seattle-area dentists) before tuck-ins last night.

More to come... with photos, eventually.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Books -- Please Help?

Each time I travel to Cura, I use a bit of the money we've raised toward education to chip away at the LONG list of textbooks the Cura Primary School needs for its students to be successful. As I prepare for my next trip (I'm leaving tomorrow!), I'm thinking a lot about books.

The need for them is so enormous and the benefit of having them is so great, that I am always looking for more ways to get more books in the hands of these teachers and these students!

I'm thrilled that I do have a small budget to purchase classroom sets of some required English and Science books this trip, but I'm hoping you can help: I'd like to add fulls sets of English and Swahili dictionaries to my book order. The addition of these will cost about US$200...

Use the DONATE NOW button under the "Education and Youth" section here -- any little bit helps!

I'll be certain to post photos of grateful teachers -- and of students with mixed feelings (new books? yay! more homework? boo....).

Monday, June 11, 2012

More updates on the secondary school construction

This just in from Will's blog:

"The bathroom has been finished, the interior and exterior walls plastered, and plumbing fixtures installed. The only remaining items to check off in there are finishing the tile for the urinal and the installation of the remaining electrical equipment. The exterior of the existing structure is currently being prepped for plastering, and we have finished a small portion of the building to give ourselves a picture of how it can be expected to turn out."

I can't wait to get there and see for myself!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Burning Torch for Cura... Again!

The wonderful people at Burning Torch keep Cura Orphanage in their hearts at every turn... This time, they're donating a percentage of proceeds at their upcoming Grand Opening event. We are so thankful!

Friday, June 8, 2012

New Shoes!

Coach Gilbert picked up the donation of new shoes from our couriers today, and delivered them safely to the Cura Orphanage main office (in the background) to prep for distribution. Many thanks to the generous folks in Virginia who made this possible!

Note, too, that the jersey Gilbert is wearing matches the ones that are on their way for the children. They'll be a properly outfitted team soon enough!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Seven Weeks Away

These are the latest photos from the secondary school construction site -- on track to finish by late July!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Self-Portrait with Cura Top

I'm wearing my Burning Torch Pendjari Top today, counting down to my Cura return! You can buy yours (and consider joining me there someday) here:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Good Sportsmanship

Another Saturday, another match for Cura United. Good sportsmanship and good, clean fun -- what could be better?

Matching team jerseys, you say?

Okay! They're on their way...

Library Books from Half a World Away

A retiring elementary school teacher in Virginia has donated 13 boxes of children's books for the Cura Library! We're exploring shipping options and would welcome your suggestions...