Thursday, July 26, 2012

From Community College to Primary School...

13 gigantic boxes of donated primary school books were delivered, thanks to the efforts of supporters in Virginia and FedEx's charitable shipping program, to my garage last week. Afretech, a charitable group based in Vancouver, BC, is preparing to get the books from North America to Kenya... but the boxes in my garage are too big for us to get across the border and into the container!

In the face of this news, I put out a call to my employer, Edmonds Community College, to see what recycled file- or printer-paper- boxes I might gather for the cause, and the response was immediate and generous. I filled my car today with gloriously sturdy cardboard boxes, and I'll go back next week for more. I'm thrilled!

Stay tuned for news of a re-packing party in my driveway...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Karibu, Cura! One Volunteer's Experience

Here's what Alyana, a recent volunteer to Cura, had to say about her visit:

I was welcomed to Cura Orphanage with open arms, smiles, hugs, and surprisingly even a quick proposal after the question had first been popped to my Dad. Within a few minutes, I knew this would be an experience to remember.

My Dad and I arrived while all the kids were still in school, so before the rush of curious kids flooded out from the classrooms Hayden and Quinn gave us a tour. We saw everything from the computer room to the clinic and lastly met the lovely housemothers picking out little rocks from beans and rice. Quinn and I tried learning, but at a snail's pace compared to the experienced mothers.

As lunched rolled out onto plates, the kids hesitantly looked over at me, questioning who I was while they wolfed down their beans and potatoes. But after the first couple brave souls introduced themselves, I was quickly submerged in a sea of kids. After word spread that my name was Alyana (Ariana, as they pronounced it) -- the girl ALL THE WAY from Canada, Quinn and I began our first task: getting all the kids to trace their hands and colorfully decorate their artwork!

Getting the first few kids was a little bit of a struggle, but Minnet, a spunky student, gladly smiled and pulled a couple of her friends in, and as soon as the others saw the rainbows of art supplies they rushed to the door clawing to get in. As we filtered everyone in, Quinn and I could see how happy all the kids were to be housed at the orphanage. Truly appreciative of everything they had, Cura became a haven of love for them and the only home they needed.

After organizing all the handprints and busying ourselves with little tasks, Quinn and I were thrilled when the kids were let out of school. They changed out of their vibrant blue sweaters and pulled our hands out to the red mud grounds where they taught us their skipping games and daily recess chants.

When my parents arrived, all the kids gathered around the car with bright eyes and a continuous hum of questions. Once all had been answered, Grace, one of the housemothers, assembled the chorus of kids and we were sent off with songs! The end of a great first day!

Welcomed by Moses on the second day, Quinn and I quickly started our second task: taking portrait shots of all the kids. Learning their names and little things about each of them, the day quickly flew by and we had every photo we needed.

But before I left, the best treat of all awaited. All the students attending the Cura Primary School, outfitted in their brand new costumes, performed their competition routine, singing and dancing traditional songs. An amazing performance, which, I was glad to hear, served them well at the competition!

The third day again was filled with smiles and songs as Hayden donated multiple sets of books for everyone at the primary school. The most unexpected gift of all was a beautiful bag given to Hayden that brought tears to her eyes. The multiple hugs of thanks were followed by chuckles as the head boy and girl thanked Hayden on behalf of the entire school, making a few nervous mistakes. Once Quinn and I were trampled by the kids hurrying back to school we started stamping the books and ended the day with a delicious meal: chai and bread and butter!

When the last day rolled around… I never anticipated crying myself. I stopped by at lunch to say goodbye and help out on any last things. I was handed letters of goodbyes (“goodbye for now” as I renamed them) and skipped a few last times before waving to all the kids as they rushed back to classes. The younger ones, who finish earlier, stayed behind and unable to resist their cheery smiles I stayed on to play and entertain as much as I could. But when the time came a couple clung on to my legs and started to cry. It broke my heart to say “goodbye for now” and I too started to cry during the final group hug– the sign of a truly memorable experience.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Norman!

Can there be any doubt that volunteers in Cura make a difference in the lives of the children in our Home? Absolutely not! Norman hasn't been back to Cura yet this year, but the children celebrate and miss him... and await his return.

Many thanks, too, to Scola -- the wonderful teacher who helped the children with this thoughtful art project!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

More shoes and computers...

Another generous shipment of needed goods arrived in Cura recently... many, many thanks to Mary and her incredible team for providing shoes and books and computers and more! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rotary Health Day and other celebrations

Many thanks to Mike Eldon, for the update from Cura below!:

I drive out to Cura, for the Rotary Health Day, the only Rotarian to make it. But before joining the over two hundred children (six hundred in all participated during the day) gathered to be educated on health matters I have Will Fort proudly show me round his almost completed secondary school building. And he’s quite right to be proud, for it is indeed a wonderful structure. It’s clearly built to last, and it’s very attractively designed and exceptionally well finished. I chat briefly to Chege, who’s been doing a fine job painting the outside walls of the pre-primary school. ‘I attended that school in 1978,’ he tells me, ‘and now I feel so good painting it today.’ 

The community is about to set up a board to move the project from its building stage to its usage, and we are all determined that the school be a centre of excellence. 

Moses, Ngethe, vicar Edwin Kinyanjui and Mrs. Mwathi, the headmistress of Cura primary school, accompany me to where the children are seated, and Edwin tells me he talked to the children about ‘you and yourself’ – just what I was doing for two whole days with the EGPAF leaders, I comment.

Moses introduces me very nicely – as a ‘son of Cura’ – and I stand up on the table I’d had them place in front of us with little if any idea of what I will talk about, yet confident my usual scriptwriter will be present and on form. I say I am not only a son of Cura but a guka too, and that I am also here to represent Rotary. I say all the right things about the importance of good health, and also about the need to take their schoolwork seriously, as Kenya is a land of great opportunity, but more so for those with a good education. 

‘You see the new school going up behind us?’ I ask, ‘Some of you will be going there, but others will not. So you have to decide if you will be among the fortunate ones.’ I then point over to the ridge to our right. ‘And that’s where our university will be!!!’ 

After watching two of the visiting experts talk about oral hygiene and about the importance of hand-washing with soap my quartet of minders takes me off for a soda back at the home, and we have a good chat about matters Cura. I then visit Norman the cow, to be introduced to her latest offspring: twins, a boy and a girl, born three days ago!