2016 – #20 The Social Butterfly

We’ve finally held the joint meeting of Empower the World (ETW) and Kenya Help (represented by me). The 9 am meeting began at 11 am, due to a very unusual circumstance—Fr. Kiriti was late. You must understand that generally you could set the clock by his arrival, but somehow he was detained. It turned out we had a conflict with a festival of performances by members of the small Christian communities, so some of our members couldn’t make the meeting. Nonetheless, we sorted out a number of issues, priorities, plans for the future, with or without Margo. No I’m not planning to quit, but the future is looming. Who knows what? The discussion included how to get young people who have either been sponsored, or who have attended my tuitioning classes through the years so step up to the plate to help those coming up now. Stay tuned for further activity on that score.

ETW BD mtg 2016

The meeting adjourned at 1, after which we reconvened at Joyce’s restaurant, which is becoming the in-place to meet. Sorry the pic is so dark, but the whole country had a blackout that day! ARGH!

Fr. Ngaruyia joined us and gave his assessment of SFG, what’s good, what needs to be done (painting and fixing up, tightening up purchasing etc). He has been in the parish only 3 months, but already he has put his stamp on it, beginning with painting the church, which was beginning to look a bit ratty, now looks natty, laying gravel in the driveway (really reduces the dust) and taking a very hands-on approach to the schools, SFG and Ndingi. By next year the whole place will be transformed.

Late that afternoon I was visited by Antony Ng’angn’a, who was in my very first tuitioning group back in 2006. He has now completed university and told me an amazing tale of finding a great job, but first working as a printer repair tech (for which he was promised, but never paid). He worked extra hard, made himself known to the customers and eventually was hired by one of them. He now is in charge of systems (whatever that means), loves his job and is still working extra hard.

He’s a very positive, idealistic guy who hopes to become a mentor for high school kids in his spare time—perhaps even a motivational speaker. He has really thought through what teenagers need to do to make the best of their lives, regardless of circumstances. He had some help from a KH donor for university, but he still struggled, scrambling for odd jobs and learning how to take care of what little money he had. We talked, (well, he mostly talked), for maybe 3 or 4 hours about his dreams for “paying it forward” in appreciation for what he has received. He promised to be one of the folks who will donate to ETW to help other kids. Way to go Antony!!!

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Today came Regina, my old Ndingi math teacher buddy and her daughter, Jenny, who, at age 14 still says virtually nothing to me. Can’t figure out why she is so shy. They came at Jenny’s request b/c she wanted to see me. Or maybe it was the peanut butter toast I always give her. I also tried to make Kenyan tea but my milk was just on the edge of turning and when I heated it, it became a curdled mess. UGH! Only other milk was frozen solid.

Regina and I always chat about how her kids are doing. She’s a cracker-jack math/physics teacher who cracks the whip, but she’s stuck in a rural school with kids who are pretty far down academically. She’s still enthusiastic about teaching and very positive.

Later came Mithlet, who knows Regina from Ndingi. Mithlet was in the last class that had girls. We did a lot of reminiscing “do you remember XXXXX?” Mithlet knows a lot of those Ndingi kids and as we talked, she offered to form a group that would support ETW. We found names of virtually all the sponsored kids from the very beginning (all my compulsive making XL spread sheets has paid off!) Regina offered to help as much as she could and we worked out some initial plans, which included a reunion during my 2017 visit here.

Mithlet worked for some years after Ndingi, partly in the Catholic Bookstore here in town. She was an excellent worker, while trying to go to night school to learn accounting, but the school wasn’t very good. Finally Fr. Kiriti nominated her to be a scholarship recipient. She attended Strathmore University (a really good school) and is now working in her first post-graduation job. Like everyone else, she’s had to take a rinky-dink job (the Kenyan equivalent of flipping burgers) just to pay the rent and feed herself, although she is helping a niece and nephew go to school too. She was in that first tuitioning group, along with Antony, whom she remembered after we found a picture of the group. In those days she rarely smiled. I often wondered why she was so angry. She later told me she wasn’t angry, she just had a hard time understanding my accent. Yet she attended every session for 2 years. Near the end of the second session I was taking pix of the kids and I got her to smile. She’s been smiling ever since.

Jenny, Margo Mithlet, Regina 2016

I walked down to the gate with them and on the way back encountered Fr. Ngaruyia and my buddy Simon Peter Mungai, great math teacher and chairman of the parish council (also big booster to get Mji Wa Neema filled up with more kids). We chatted about that and I reminded Fr. N that he owed me a dinner for all the marking of math papers I did for him. “Why don’t you come tonight?” “OK, what time?” About ½ hour later I trotted down to the rectory with some cookies (aka biscuits), my camera and my old backpacking head lamp, which is the only flashlight I have. As it turned out the other 2 priests had gone off to Nakuru (Monday is their off day) so we had a nice dinner, with lots of time to talk about SFG, Mji Wa Neema, math teaching, and share a bit of personal history. He’s very personable, open, positive and energetic—a different personality from Fr. Kiriti but sharing that same ethic and passion for his work. They are good friends.

Fr Nguruyia

I mentioned that I couldn’t figure out a vector question on the mock math exam the form 4’s just finished, so when I left he walked back up to my “house” so he could see the question. (Also reminding me that I’d promised to leave my head lamp for him on my departure) He said he’d work my problem and let me know the answers, but it’s now well after 11 pm and I’ve not heard from him, so maybe it really is a hard question, or maybe he just got tired. He puts in a very long day, especially on Sunday.

Here he is in the newly painted living room of the rectory. It was fun to be back there. Long-time readers will remember I stayed in the rectory for the first 3 summers I was here, until Fr. K moved me out to the children’s home. At the time I thought I was being banished, but it has turned out very well. I love my own little house here.

Tomorrow is Monday and I’m wondering whether all 31 will show up again—maybe more. That’s what always happens. In the meantime I’ve recruited 2 of the older Mji Wa Neema boys to help out. Patrick is in his first year of university, majoring in math and physics. He has agreed to do some physics tutoring. David Mungai (just finished training as a community health worker—almost an MD, but not quite) will do some biology. I had bought some “revision” books for physics and bio for the girls, so Patrick and David will have something to work with. I’m very pleased how this is working out. More tomorrow.

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