Monday, 14 April 2014

Day 3

Kibera scho
Current  School


Day three starts on Monday and not Sunday. That was my rest day. So today, Monday I was up and about as early as 5:30 to get things in place for the day. Today was the day I returned to Kibera and worked with the form four students of Riara Education Centre. This centre is currently undergoing construction in the building of a new wing for the students. This project is funded through the GEMS Foundation. Many schools very much like DAA which come under the GEMS umbrella have lead initiatives to raise funds for this additional building at this school. The notion that " kids will do this for other kids is amazing to me" explained Paul, the school"s head principal. We were on a tour of the school as it is and the additional wing that is the pride and joy of the Kibera students and community.

New GEMS classrooms

After the tour and chat with Paul about the approach I planned to take with the students, the day really got started

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Day 2

Today I was up at 5AM bright eyed and full of excitement because we were going to find a youth group to work with. I had explained to Maggie, my host thus far, that I am a drama teacher eager to do work with the youth of Kenya. She immediately jumped on board to make it happen. We agreed that her support would involve " reaching the unreachable". First stop would be about two hours outside of Nairobi in an area called Kajiado. Here we met almost fifty young ladies from ages six to  nineteen who were at this particular center for one of four reasons. The Kajiado Adventist Rehabilitation and Education Centre rescues girls from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); early childhood marriage, economic orphans and those whose parents are no longer with them. These girls are predominantly from the Masai communities and find refuge at this center with the hope for an education and a better chance in life.

As we arrived, they had all just finished attending church service and were crossing over to the main building for lunch. They were to get their bowl of rice and peas and head over to the hall where we would meet and greet. This was my first opportunity to see my dream of being my work to Africa come true. I could not believe it was actually happening. We chatted for a bit and then got into some activities. I must say that I did not expect everyone's English to be as polished as it was. When we got to the improv activity one young lady in particular shocked me with her storytelling abilities. I then realized what true potential lay before me. And then felt a heavy weight of reality smack me silly. Because of time and place and circumstances many of these amazing talented gems will never see their true potential come to fruition. We can live in hope though and do what we can to help even one of them realize their dreams. At the end of the workshop the girls asked me to sing for them so I chose a favorite which speaks of hope. I shared with them the best rendition of Bette Midler's The 
Rose I could give. They listened intently and applauded politely at the end. As they started to ask me 
to sing again I redirected the focus on them and asked if they would share their singing with me. They did and it was effortlessly entertaining. In the end several of them sat with me to ask questions and to share their stories. 
"Naima,  I thought you were a boy when you first came in!" blurted the first statement from a quiet and unassuming fourteen year old named Tiffany.
"Well, I am a tomboy" I replied and they all laughed out as though they fully understood the reference.
" Are you married Naima? Asked Evelyn.
" Do you have children?" Jane pushed in.
" No am not married and no I have no children of my own but I consider all my students my children. So now you are my children"
Jane sat just to my right and eyed me cautiously soaking in all I had to offer. I could see her in my 
periphery and knew she was the one. In all the excitement and array of questions I quietly leaned in to her and asked,
" Will you tell me your story?"
She nodded yes and indicated that she would only do so privately. I then returned my full attention to the group and slowly brought our session to a close. Jane took my hand and led me away from the group to share with me that she had been orphaned when her parents both died of illnesses for which they could not afford to seek medical attention. Being the last girl of eight she was separated from her siblings and brought to this home. She expressed how lucky she is to be there and how hopeless her life had seemed only three years ago. 
" Will you come back to us Naima?"
"Yes I will Jane" 
"You must come back Naima. You have to do your work with us!"
" Jane, this is not the last time you will see me. Thank you so much for sharing with me and know that I will return.  I then removed the blue rubber wrist band she had been playing with during our conversation and gave it to her. It reads " TODAY I CAN DO ANYTHING!" in bold white letters.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Day 1

I landed in Africa for the first time and had quite an unexpected euphoric experience. As the EK721 flight  descended I quickly jumped into the vacant window seat next to me to get a better view. All I could think was " wow... I'm actually landing in mother Africa" my eyes welled and my heart pounded harder and harder in my chest with the anticipation of connecting with the "homeland".
I always pondered on the rhetoric of Marcus Garvey and others and thought home for me was Trinidad and Tobago. I must now confess that Trinidad is more like the house where I live and Africa is the bed in which I rest.

I arrived on the night of April 10th. Albanas greeted me with a warm smile and took me off into the night life of Nairobi as we headed for the Hilton. I stayed the night there and had unexpected company of a good spirit share my nest for the night. At first I jumped when I felt its presence and then I reminded myself of where I was and opened myself to its return. I managed to slept the whole night through.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have absolutely no sense of direction. So it was no surprise to me that when I came out the wash room of the arrivals  hall at the airport I turned myself around trying to find the exit. As I finally found it I was faced with my first of many interesting dialogues with a Kenyan.
"Stop!" He said as I purposefully aimed for the exit. I, of course stopped in my tracks with much bewilderment.
" Where are you going and why are you here?" He questioned as if he had the right to do so. I then scrutinized him carefully because he was not dressed in any official wear to warrant the intrusion.
" and who are you exactly?"
" oh I am sorry sistah, I am the police" and he raises his ID for me to see. He then apologized for scaring me and assured me that he wanted to help because I looked so confused walking around in circles. This was my introduction to the Kenyan personality of wanting to always help and support in a moment of seeming uncertainty.

April 11th brought a fair share of new lessons and eye opening experiences. Albanas took me to  sites the first being the infamous Kibera Slums.
Even as I write the word infamous I cringe. You would think such a place would no longer exists because of its infamous status. Stepping into the Kibera slums also known as chocolate age for its mud caked dwellings and rusted galvanized roofs, conjures up an array of emotions for me. The first being a mound of anxiety as I process how the hell I'm going to make it up and down the path ahead.

We were on a mission to find the VGF GEMS Kibera School. It's a new school and no one seemed to now where it was. Albanas pressed on anyway and finally after many muddy tracks and encounters of very eager to help but essentially helpless locals I entered an Internet cafe. Now for any of you that may have just envisioned an Internet cafe as you know it please erase that image from your mind. This is literally a whole in the wall with the most prehistoric computer you will find anywhere. Nonetheless, the mission was accomplished on said dinasors. I got the email I needed that informed me that I will be meeting students and teachers on Monday and the exact location was sorted out. At that point, Ben Blaq "with a Q" one of the several useless helpers said his good yes and we were off to the National State Park to visit with the Masai.

The visit to the National State Museum was short and sweet. I was mainly interested in catching a glimpse of the Masai. These men work at the museum and are happy to dress you and include you in a moment of Masai traditional chant, dance then jump. Of course I got all in d people ting and had a blast!

Later that evening the final stop for the day was the shopping for more things in this world that I don't need. Anyway, I did so with much excitement and managed to learn a thing or two. Now I learnt the name of the East African drum when our Week Without Walls London trip went to a drumming workshop in  February . This drum originates from Senegal I believe and it is called the GNOME drum. So here I am in this souvenir shop in Nairobi and walk straight into said drum. Of course the name escapes me and I am asking the workmen the name of the drum. Needless to say the dialogue turned into yet another experience!