I’m somewhere, in the future…

It is our last week of project and we are amazed at how fast our time here has flown by! This past week we finished up our mental health lessons and did some positive self-esteem boosting with our favourite “rap”: “I’m somewhere, in the future, and I look much better than I look right now!”. We had lots of fun with the students singing along and dancing to this empowerment song and even had a little fun with a drum Liz bought from the craft market in Kisumu!

This week, we are reviewing the curriculum we taught with the students by playing a QHO version of the popular trivia game show Jeopardy! Testing students on their knowledge of Life Skills, Sexual Health, HIV/AIDS and Mental Health, we have had a final chance to debunk any myths and emphasize the important take-aways from our lessons.

We recently had Margaret and Sarah over for a Canadian/Kenyan fusion dinner that we prepared, consisting of spaghetti and meatsauce, curry and rice and for dessert, macaroons and chapatti apple tarts! We wanted to attempt to return the favour to COHESU for being so hospitable and welcoming to us during our stay.

This past weekend we had the opportunity to meet with Diana from COHESU in Kisumu to discuss plans for a final workshop at the end of the week. The workshop will consist of guest speakers and small discussion groups to tackle the issues of HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination, income generation for community and school groups, and overall leadership and empowerment. We anticipate teachers, counsellors, students and community members to attend the workshop and our goal is to spark some interest in the various topics and encourage these leaders to act as role models in their communities. We think this will be a great way to end our time here in Chavakali and continue the momentum of our education program after we leave.

We’ll be sad to leave our home here in Kenya, but we are enjoying our last few days with the students and the community members we’ve met during our stay.

Cheers to the future!

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Re-United and it Feels So Good

The Sabatia crew (Kirsten, Liz, Brittany B., and Brittany G.) was waiting for us as we pulled into Migori on Friday afternoon after going out to Lake Victoria for the day! We all jumped out of the car, ran to greet them and then split up again to do some much needed shopping for the weekend. We brought them back to our home in Mikei – eager for them to see where we live and meet all of the wonderful people in our town. All the kids surrounded the ten of us as soon as we arrived, they were VERY excited to have new people to play with them. We had a big dinner and did a lot of catching up, as we had not seen them for about four weeks. Saturday we woke up early so a few of us could have a meeting with Edward, Duncan and De Gaul to talk about the upcoming football tournament, while others went into town again to get some propane. Later that day the whole group went to Madame Elizabeth (the head teacher of Mariba Primary) and Tobias’s (the head teacher of Mikei Primary) house for a delicious lunch! It was very kind of them to invite us over considering what a big group we were. After lunch we were personally escorted home by Madame Elizabeth. We took many short cuts, and would not have found our way without her. Later that night we made chapatti pizza – a recipe that Sabatia has recently adopted! Unfortunately everyone from Sabatia had to go home early on Sunday so they could get back in time to teach on Monday. It was sad to see them go, but we will be seeing them again very soon!

Bananas Unite!

Friday was a National Holiday (Kenya’s independence Day) which meant there was no school. Although we were disappointed that we would not be able to see our classes, we decided to celebrate this holiday right with a visit to Edward’s Daughter’s boarding school! We were able to meet three of Edward’s daughters: Devina, Mavus and Sheryl (unfortunately there was not enough room in the car for his two youngest daughters to join). Mavus and Edward accompanied us on the journey from Migori to the boarding school that was conveniently located on beautiful Lake Victoria. When we arrived, we were welcomed by the head teacher and Sheryl (Edward’s eldest daughter). We were very excited as Sheryl lead us to her classroom – as class 6-8 still had remedial work. We met Devina (Edward’s second eldest) outside of the classroom because she had just come from the boarding area (class 1-5 were lucky and had no school that day). Here the QHO team gladly embarrassed themselves with a great rendition of the banana song (a song that quickly became the favourite for every school we visited), the hokey-pokey and we even attempted the Oil Thigh. We are obviously lyrical geniuses. The students at Kirunda School for girls thought they would show us how it’s really done and lead us to the field. We all sang and danced for about an hour…and the girls did both way better than we ever could! We had a wonderful time meeting the students and especially enjoyed getting to meet three of Edward’s beautiful daughters! We were also lucky enough to enjoy an awesome tilapia lunch right on Lake Victoria with Edward, Mavus and Jack. We could not have asked for a better day!

Nyango

Today marks one month since the Co-Directors and Project Directors got on the plane from Canada. Time sure does fly! This Saturday we visited three community groups: St Monica’s Woman’s Group, Kared Fod Womans’ Group, and the Nyatike Interior Women’s Group. At Kared Fod, we were lucky enough to see the dispensary that is being built to serve the community. The construction is very exciting. The Nyatike Interior Women’s Group in Nyandema were also incredibly welcoming. While sharing our HIV lesson plans with them, Edward and Duncan were very helpful. Our Luo leaves a lot to be desired, so we are fortunate to have such skilled translators!

We don’t always have Edward and Duncan on hand. We’ve made some pretty funny mistakes as we acquire smatterings of Kiswahili and Luo (“mother tongue”), which we take every opportunity to practice. We’re becoming friends with kids in the neighbourhood, and the other day Jenny decided to say goodbye to them before we went in to make dinner. She enthusiastically waved both her arms and called “Hapana! Hapana!”—which unfortunately translates in Kiswahili as “No! No!”. Whoops. Nice try Jenny! Our friend Jack has also been helping us with our mother tongue. We learned how to say a greeting the other day: “nyango”. It’s one of about five Luo words we know, so for the past few days we’ve been waving “nyango!” at everyone we meet. On Tuesday, Jack informed us that our pronunciation is slightly off—what we’ve been saying translates as “Why?”. We’ve probably left some rather confused people in our wake.

We have been teaching about reproduction, sexually transmitted infections, and condom use in the schools. The ten steps to correct condom use always gets a few giggles out of the class! Students are becoming a lot more comfortable and familiar with us, as their questions both in class and in the anonymous question box have demonstrated.

On Tuesday, Class 7 and 8 students from three of the schools we teach were gathered at a nearby school for an exam. We missed them in class Tuesday morning, but enjoyed teaching the class 5 and 6 students nonetheless. When we stopped for a lunch break in Nyandema, we were surprised to see a crowd of our Class 7 and 8 students! Their testing was nearby, so we still got a chance to stop and say hello.

This weekend, Brittany Brittany Kirsten and Liz are coming to visit us from Sabatia. We are very excited to see them, and introduce them to all the new friends we’ve made in Mikei!

Mwalimu

Despite all of our hard work during the school year at Queen’s, nothing has seasoned us more than being in the classroom and experiencing it all first hand. So far we have completed our introductory Life Skills lesson in over thirty classes and combined have taught upwards of 1500 students. One of the schools we are working with called Ivona has even put us on their staff roster as honorary Mwalimu (“Teacher” in Kswahili).

Each new topic we address is a learning experience and this week we have been experimenting with different teaching styles and methods to better deliver the content of our sexual health lesson. We are still trying to find the most effective balance between providing enough relevant content and information, while still allowing an opportunity for students to ask questions in an open discussion.

With this balance in mind, we hope that students can retain information that is relevant and applicable to their daily lives. We have spent a lot of time reflecting on how we learned about sexual health in high school and what kinds of techniques have really stuck with us throughout our adolescence. In order to provide a refreshing take on sexual health we hope to capitalize on our peer-to-peer learning environment and we have found that students are more open to engage in discussion after meeting for a second session and have been encouraged by the amount of participation, especially for uncomfortable topics such as contraceptives and STI’s.

We look forward to building more trust with the students and continue to have open discussions about some of these taboo topics. Next week we are faced with the challenge of teaching HIV/AIDS in a short 40 minute lesson. Sub topics for the lesson include viral transmission, treatment, prevention, stigma and discrimination and with such a short amount of time, finding our teaching balance will only get more challenging. Despite the time constraints we are looking forward to tackling a topic that has had such a devastating impact on the community where we are living.

This week we also had the opportunity to meet with the St. John’s Ambulance Club at Chavakali Boys High School on Wednesday. Many of the high schools students we teach are involved in extra curricular activities and because we have all become so passionate about our own organizations at Queen’s we were delighted to be able to sit and chat with these boys about their club, school, interests, and hobbies. We found that we had a great deal of common ground and both parties were able to learn a great deal about student life, politics and social issues. Because we gain so much from this informal discussion we are hoping to incorporate more participatory learning in our classroom lessons.

This weekend we are looking forward to watching our schools compete in a football game at Chavakali boys high school as well as a choir competition between the local high as rivals Moi Vokoli Girls and Keveye girls compete for the title! Stay tuned for photos!

Goodbye for now!

Liz, Brittany² and Kirsten

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

Disclaimer: We’ve decided to start celebrating holidays from throughout the year on project. The 24th was Christmas eve and the 25th was Christmas day. In the spirit of the holidays this post is in Christmas rhyme. Get excited for all the holidays to come!

‘twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

many geckos were stirring and perhaps a mouse?

The clothing was hung on the clothesline with care

Too bad the rain was soon to be there

The migori team nestled all snug in their beds

While visions of Africafe danced in their heads

Meg in her pjs, Jordan in his tank

Just finished the dishes—we have them to thank!

When from in the hall there arose such a clatter

We sprang to our feet to see what was the matter.

Away from the doorway Meg flew like a flash

From a unidentified insect, which we killed with a bash

Banana pancakes for dinner, expertly grilled

Were a delectable treat—our tummies are filled!

Teaching today, they didn’t expect

To demonstrate condom use—ten steps are correct!

Early morning each day, teaching time grows near

The neighborhood kids know we’re sure to appear!

More rapid than cheetahs down the hill they came,

We smile and we wave and we call them by name!

“Hi, Maggie! Tim, Elvis! Vasti and Jofflet!

Typhene, Tony Elvis, Churchill and Juliet!”

To the top of the hill, we all walk along

“Let there be Peace, yeah!” are the words to our song.

As off in the distance the lightning bolts fly

We watch as the sunset ignites the sky.

As the water boils over, the tea sits and steeps

We reminisce on what’s passed so far this week

This evening’s rain fall waters six trees in Mikei

Primary school, planted just yesterday!

With help from Tobias, the head teacher there

Go ahead, call us horticulturalists extraordinaire

Before teaching puberty, we have the class shout

“VAGINA” and “PENIS” to get sillies out!

When we sing peel bananas, we all look like goofs!

The kids act like monkeys and swing from the roof!

In the month to come we’ve compacted the best days of the year

With our Christmas in May, of the grinch we’ve no fear!

In our blog posts to come we’ll share our festivities with you

We eagerly await comments from Cindy-Lou Who

Now we say to you, to end this blog right,

HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!

santa!

There’s always room for one more!

There's always room for one more!

Getting cozy on our way to teach!

This Little Light of Mine!

 

A great day with the Nyamunga church group!

We have definitely had an eventful weekend! We went into town during the week and found something we had only dreamed of…CHEESE! It’s a rare commodity here in Migori, so we did what any self respecting Canadian would do when they find cheese; have a PIZZA PARTY! We made chapatti (a thick flour tortilla), tomato sauce, an assortment of toppings and mounds of melted mozzarella cheese. We made it an extra special occasion by dressing up in our finest clothes (or the clothes with the least amount of dirt) and proceeded to take “nice” pictures of us all dressed for the occasion. These “nice” pictures mostly consisted of us attempting to create a pyramid in the 30 seconds allotted to us by the self timer. We know you are all itching to see if we actually accomplished such a difficult and impressive task, so we promise to incorporate pictures as proof! No need to thank us…

Saturday was equally as exciting! Edward came for a visit and we got to see two community groups. With Edward we started our planning for a soccer (or football) tournament and VCT testing day we are going to have at the end of project! Later that day Meagan, Paige and Jenny went down the road to visit Mikei Women’s Community group. The women were absolutely hilarious and one women was very interested in our condom demonstration! They were all very energetic and welcomed us with delicious sweet potatoes and tea. While those three were at the women’s group, Jordan, Jeanette and Camille went to Goodwill Culture Self Help Group. Along they way they were stopped by the rain, so they ducked into a near by house and waited for 40 minutes until it stopped. This community group had a great adult literacy program that focuses on learning practical skills (basic arithmetic, market language and other applicable phrases). They were incredibly welcoming and shared with us the history of the organization. It was inspirational to be able to learn from such a dedicated community group!

The six of us also had the chance to visit the Nyamunga Pentecostal church. For a lot of us, this was our first time in a Pentecostal church and we were able to give an entire lesson on HIV/AIDS! We were also asked to sing for the congregation, so we made an attempt to sing “this little light of mine”. Our voices must have been amazing that day because the pastor mentioned that he was moved by our performance! Everyone was very welcoming and excited to have us there. We were invited to stay for the entire service; the girls sang and danced, we were taken on a tour of their property and we heard about the many initiatives they were taking on to pay for school fees and uniforms. It was wonderful to see such a dedicated group of people working together! We spent the night reflecting on the weekend and preparing for the busy weekend ahead.

Later Days,

Migori’s Musical Masters

Home Sweet Home in Mikei!

 

Nothing like a cup of Africafe to start your morning off right! Not a bad view either…

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