It’s 5 pm Sunday afternoon. I’m ensconced on my bed, my usual writing site, with rolling thunder sounding through my window. It began to rain, but seems to have stopped for the moment. That’s an important issue because washing is done by hand here and the clothes hung to dry. You’d think there would be a mad scramble to bring in the dry (or drying) clothes, but the Mji kids are used to this. “Ah, they’ll dry tomorrow.” No matter that it may RAIN and the clothes may be wetter than when they were first hung. “They’ll dry. No problem.” I, on the other had went in search of my sheets and jeans, which I had given to Margaret 5 days ago. (They were dry and safely inside.)
In past years this has been the dry season, not a drop of rain, just sun and DUST. I can’t say I miss the dust, but it has also been cold. One night last week I slept with a hot water bottle. I don’t know what it means for the crops. Too little rain and they wither, too much rain and they rot. It’s an iffy life for subsistence farmers, and a good percentage of Kenyans are that.
Yesterday we held the first (annual) meeting of all the students who have been supported by Kenya Help and Empower the World. We had no idea what the turnout would be but hoped for over 50 (out of close to 200). There were about 80, which was a relief and a reassurance for us. Several indicated how surprised they were that so many have been supported. They thought there had been only a few. Several spoke of the hopelessness they had felt upon completing class 8, despite doing well on the KCPE. Some of those same people have now completed university. Some have found jobs, others are still searching. Like many other places, in Kenya, it’s important to have connections and almost by definition, poor folks have none. As we talked about what those who are able can do to help others coming up behind them, several talked about helping people find good jobs.
(These pix were taken before all had arrived)
We had had no idea how they would respond to our plea to keep this program going by making regular contributions, even small amounts. Small amounts, pooled together make large amounts. The wonderful thing is that they got it. They really got that strangers, people who didn’t know them, had given money (here they use the term sacrificed) to give them the education they so desperately wanted. They expressed their gratitude and their willingness to “pay it forward.” While I’m under no illusions that vast amounts will come pouring in, I am greatly encouraged that some will begin to contribute and I think the numbers will grow as more people find permanent employment and begin to see a few extra shillings each month. It was a great start to a more equitable funding of this project. Of course, we would love to expand it. Currently we take in about 12 high school students per year. This year there were 30 applicants for those 12 slots and there are the 3 SFG girls whose families cannot continue to pay. In the meantime more Mji kids are finishing high school. Just like in the US, college is much more, from 5 to almost 10 times more than high school. The need continues, but some small help will come from the alumni.
While we have the names of all the kids we’ve supported, Jecinta didn’t keep very good records, so we have incomplete contact info. Jecinta was a fabulous social worker, but had very poor computer skills. When she died and was not replaced, some records, such as they were, were tossed out (ARGH!!!). Some of the people who showed up yesterday may have contact info for others—a big help to us. We know that those living in Nakuru and further didn’t come, so Fr. Kiriti may form a sub-group which can meet there. Then there is one who is in the military, based far away, whom I’m sure will contribute, 2 guys were hired as election workers, with training yesterday, Lucy came, but had to leave when she got word that here 14-month old son was having an asthma attack. Dominic, in the seminary, had promised to be there, but didn’t come. I’m sure there was a good reason. Others are ending a term and are in exams. We knew we wouldn’t get even close to 100% of those we contacted.
After lunch we met with all who have completed high school, some 20+ in number. They are our best hope right now. They elected Calestor Kizito as their facilitator. He was one of our very first sponsorees. He completed Nairobi University about 2012, graduating first in his class of computer science majors. He had several lean years while he searched for appropriate level jobs, but now has a managerial IT job in a large bank. He drives a fairly new VW Passat, so must be doing pretty well. It was heartwarming to see him lead the group with confidence and ease. He is the artist who drew the pictures on the cards we offer—the light-hearted stick figure people. Many of you have these cards. Kizito has already helped us tremendously through his art, but has promised to do much more. He had disappeared from my radar for several years, and I was a bit miffed about it, but now I realize he was busily establishing himself and now that he has done so, he is ready to be with us. Sr. Irene was elected treasurer, while Kennedy Odure, now a clinical health officer, is secretary.
OOOOH, the rain has begun in earnest, strong, with more thunder and I assume lightening, although I haven’t seen it. (Word has it they go together.) The drumming on the iron-sheet roof of the church, about 100 feet from my window, is so loud I can’t tell whether there is more thunder. Water is streaming from the banana leaves so close they brush against my open window. Dust or mud? Which is worse? Dust, I think. It gets into everything. Mud stays on the floor. It’s raining harder and harder, becoming a real elephants and giraffe’s downpour! Wind is blowing, but rain doesn’t seem to be coming in the window. (Look again Margo. Stuff on the sill is getting wet.) I hated to close the windows. Love the sound. Oh, my, this is a big storm, a real tropical RAIN. In some areas, where the drainage is bad, there will be flash floods, with drowning of people and animals. Here in the parish compound, Fr. Kiriti had constructed drainage ditches to carry the excess water into the main ditches and presumably to Lake Naivasha, which may rise from this. Some years the water had encroached on houses and farms. In dry years it receded many yards from the normal shoreline.
I just heard the door blow open and found a big puddle of water in my entryway. Fortunately the floor is concrete, so I could sweep out some. Later, after the rain stops, I’ll mop it up better. At least I’ll have a clean floor. If the electricity goes out, a likely occurrence, I have a solar light given to me by my daughter and a headlamp such as we used to use when backpacking, so I can see to prepare some food. I have a gas stove, so that’s no problem. My computer, ipod and phone are charged up, so I’m safe, dry and comfortable until this stops. If it doesn’t stop soon, my stone house may float away!)
Oops, I spoke too soon. Electricity is off. The courtyard of the Mji compound is a river, flowing downhill to the ditches, but still several inches deep. Lightening is fast and furious. WOWIE! This is some storm. Electricity suddenly restored, but for how long?
7:25 pm. Rain stopped, but I still hear sounds of dripping water. Electricity is on. All is well.
More tomorrow about many visitors.