Washington D.C. and travel to Kiamuri
Our trip started off eventfully as we got to the airport and there were approximately 200 people in line at the United ticket counter at 5:30 am. Only 2 ticket agents were checking in passengers. Luckily (or not) our plane was already delayed 2 hours due to the crew arriving late and required to rest for 9 hours. We finally took off 3 hours late. This of course caused problems with our tour of Washington D. C.
When we finally arrived our bus was waiting and we took off on a whirlwind tour of the sites of Washington D.C. We literally ran from the bus to the site, took a few quick pictures and then ran back to the bus. This repeated for about 3 hours but everyone still enjoyed it.
The next morning we checked in at Ethiopian Air and I jokingly said to the agent that she could upgrade me to first class. 15 minutes later she asked for my passport and one other leader’s passport. I gave her Jerika’s and a few minutes later she handed me two tickets for first class for Jerika and I. What an awesome way to fly on a 13 hour flight!
We got to Nairobi with no problem and our buses were waiting for us. We barely fit on the buses and they had trouble fitting all our luggage on top. I asked about the other vehicle they were supposed to have and they said they would be fine and it wouldn’t be a problem. That turned out to be completely wrong. On the way to Meru one of the buses broke down 3 times. Part of the problem was the weight and it couldn’t make it up the hills so it overheated and blew some of the hoses. The other bus could barely make it up the hills and it took us forever to get to Meru. Of course we were very late to our dinner with the Meru Rotary. We had to send the one bus back to retrieve the other members of the group and bring them to dinner and then make two trips to take us to Gitoro Center for the night. The next morning the two buses showed up with another truck to take the luggage which they should have had in the first place. This was only the beginning of the problems with the bus situation.
The next morning we traveled to Kiamuri and I told the driver of the 2nd bus to follow the other bus because Sister Mary was on that bus and knew the shortcut. He instead followed the truck with the luggage because the driver had a map and of course we wandered around for 3 hours and stopped for directions 3 times before we finally made it.
After arriving in Kiamuri we got our luggage unloaded, ate lunch and then walked to Holy Family for Opening Ceremonies. The students performed for us and then the women who received the microenterprise loans came up one group at a time and thanked us for the loans they had received and proceeded to give us gifts from their profits. We were given 6 chickens and bags and bags of fruit and vegetables as well as a box of several dozen eggs.
We had a reception afterwards with the community leaders and the school headmasters. We had fruit and sodas and had to time to visit with them. During this time I had the opportunity to talk to them about the agenda for our time there and discovered that the first week all of the schools had their end of term exams scheduled and we couldn’t do much teaching at all. So as was to be expected the schedule had to change. We changed all of the Microenterprise meetings to the first week, and focused on getting as much of the construction done as we could. We were able to do some teaching for a couple of hours in the afternoon after their exams were over for the day and completed one of the schools on Friday. (exams ended on Thursday)
We met on Monday with the community leaders in charge of the Microenterprise loans and they informed us that they had 100% of all monthly payments through June and had most of the July payments. Some of the loan payments weren’t due yet in July and they weren’t anticipating any problems with the rest of the July payments. We schedule the remainder of the meetings with all the groups for this week.
The problems we did have for the Microenterprise committee were that the women were typically 2+ hours late each day for the lessons. We had to reschedule some of the lessons and learned that in the future it may be best to conduct these meetings and lessons in
the afternoon as the women are doing their businesses first thing in the morning and won’t sacrifice that time to come meet with us.
I spoke with Sister Mary on Sunday night about the construction of the rooms at Gikuuru and Kauthene. She informed me that there had never been any communication about a room at Kauthene and that both were being built at Gikuuru and were already under construction. At this point not much I could do. We arrived at Gikuuru on Monday to find that they had already built half the walls of both school rooms so they were well on the way to being complete.
I went to Kauthene to see what was happening with the water tanks and also to order the blocks and sand for the bases. The tanks were not there due to the truck breaking down. I ordered the blocks and sand and while I was there the headmaster informed me that the parents had pooled their money and had ordered another load of blocks and sand to eventually build another classroom. I asked John, the headmaster, if that was enough to build a
room and he said it would take one more load of blocks and sand. The cost was only $160 so I had him order another load. Due to us not being able to teach in the schools we had so much extra manpower I arranged to send a group of our students the remainder of the week to start on this classroom. 2 years ago a foundation was built but they ran out of money and hadn’t been able to continue it until we came. We sent a full crew almost every day and were able to build the room up to the point of starting the roof. Hopefully since they are this close they can come up with the remainder of the money to put a roof on the room and get one of the nursery classes out of the rooms built entirely out of tin.
We also built the bases for both water tanks and the tanks finally arrived the day before we left. The chemical used to seal the base wasn’t dry yet so we couldn’t put the tanks in place yet.
Since we had so much extra manpower I sent people to help start another classroom at Kiamuri Primary. The parents had purchased the block and sand and were ready to start digging the foundation so we helped them dig the foundation and get started on a room there.
Of course the biggest project was Gikuuru where we worked to finish off the two classrooms. Steve and Bryce were great resources there. They worked tirelessly every day on construction and we were able to complete the one room and have the second room ready to have the roof put on. That second room should now be complete.
One of the things I have been most looking forward to since last year’s trip is being able to tear down that old building at Gikuuru. On the last day in Kiamuri we were able to tear down one of the rooms of that old building.
Once we were finally able to teach lessons in the schools everything went great. The education team was phenomenal in their ability to adapt to all the schedule changes as well as dealing with many team members getting sick on days they were supposed to teach. Everyone pitched in and we taught hundreds of classes in 5 different schools. Shelly got sick one of the days and her team jumped in and scheduled all the classes for her and did a fantastic job and allowed her to stay in bed and recover.
One of the other fun things we did along with teaching at Kiamuri Secondary was to play their students in a soccer game. We first played girls vs girls and the Kiamuri team won 1-0 in extra time. The boys played but since we only had a few we recruited some from the locals and it ended in a 2-2 tie. Not bad since last year we lost 8-0.
The medical team had quite the experience this year. Right off the bat some of the girls got to help Dr. John deliver twins as well as another baby the first day we were there. Things only got more exciting after that. The second day, Mikell had a possible encounter with a bat and so she and Dr. John left the next morning to get a rabies shot in Nairobi after it was determined it was the nearest location where the rabies vaccine could be obtained. They had quite the adventure with getting kicked out of the embassy and their phone dying and not being able to contact the driver to pick them up. Word quickly spread through the community of nuns and Mikell became infamous as the “bat lady”.
Then began the 24 hour flu bug that hit 28 of the 37 members of our group. One by one the vomiting and diarrhea made it’s way through the group, including Dr. John. Kayleena got so sick that she had to get 6 liters of fluid through IV’s in the hospital ward and Dr. John put 2 others into the hospital ward overnight as well to keep them from infecting others. We also had plenty of blisters, asthma problems(due to the extreme dust) allergic reactions and a nasty bug bite that caused some crazy looking blisters on Bryson’s neck.
The medical team was able to help with Neonatal resuscitation classes, delivering babies, conducting clinics with children where they got to weigh them, take vitals, and treat some conditions including malaria. They were able to witness along with many other members of the group a woman who had been beaten by her ex-husband and had to have 52 stitches, an infant girl almost die due to malaria but Dr. John was able to save her and many births. They were also able to teach maturation classes to the girls at each school and pass out the feminine hygiene kits that we collected. We had over 300 kits that included underwear, 3 envelopes and between 15 and 20 inner pads. The total we took was over 900 envelopes and over 5000 inner pads. Several womens groups throughout the Wasatch front contributed the fabric and sewed them. The girls were thrilled to receive them since they have nothing available to them. This is a fantastic project that should be done every year.
Cultural committee had several projects they completed. One was the Mondo Art project where they were able to do the art exchange at 3 of the schools.
Two other fun projects were the 2 murals. The first mural was painted in the Form 4 classroom that Youthlinc built last year. Our students along with the students at Kiamuri Secondary school came up with the concept of a 2 sided mural with the left side representing our students and the right side representing the Kenyan students. They both combine to strive for success through education. The concept was very inspired and turned out fantastic.
The second mural was completed at Holy Family on the outside wall which faces the road. The leaves on the tree are handprints of the students at Holy Family.
The cultural committee also put on the fun fair and closing ceremonies. The fun fair included kite flying, jump roping, face painting, fingernail painting, kickball, soccer, and bubbles. Everyone had a great time leading up to the closing ceremonies. The students again danced for us and expressed their appreciation. We performed several songs and dances including the Macarena which we had taught the school kids throughout our time in Kiamuri so we had them join in with us. They also requested that we sing our national anthem. After all the performances we gave gifts to the nuns and all the teachers and headmasters. We had Youthlinc T-shirts for the headmasters and Kenya/US flag pins for all the teachers. They then gave each Youthlinc member a necklace and all of us old guys a piece of Kenyan fabric to wear either as a skirt or around our shoulders.
One other fun thing we did was distribute shoes to the children at the farms around St. Luke’s. We sent out two groups with bags of shoes. Each farm that we went to we handed out a pair of shoes to all the small children. Within a half hour word had spread that we were doing it and dozens of kids came running from all directions to get shoes. Several hundred pairs of shoes lasted less than an hour after we started handing them out.
The last thing I wanted to share was I visited the site where they are building the water collection system in Gikuuru. The tank and side walls are under construction and should be completed within the next 30 days. The residents of this area are very excited about this being completed as it will help greatly with their water situation. I visited with the construction foreman as well as the Gikuuru Primary School headmaster and they took me on the full tour.
What a great trip! It was very eventful but extremely rewarding. We were able to accomplish more than we planned on by building the extra classroom at Kauthene. The members of the group were fantastic, the mentors were unbelievable in their efforts to complete all the projects, and I had the greatest alum leader in Youthlinc history. The safari at the end was a wonderful reward for all their hard work. The only real negative was the transportation issues. The inadequate buses were frustrating and the inability to reach Moody to discuss those issues was equally frustrating. All in all a huge success in my opinion. It is sad to not be going back to Kiamuri as we have many friends there but we have given them a huge boost to help themselves better their way of life. Youthlinc Kenya 2011 was awesome!
Thanks to Judy, Julia, and Miriam for all your support,