#26 A Visit with Kennedy and a Few Bits of Trivia July 30, 2015
Exams are in full swing at SFG, so there isn’t much for me to do. I stayed home today, spending most of my time rereading Harry Potter. I’m well into year 6 and hope to be finished with year 7 by the time Mary Anne Rodgers arrives on Sunday with the final installment, year 8. It has been sufficiently long since I read them that I have forgotten much of the details and am still as amused, thrilled, (scared?) and stretched as I was when they first came out. The good part about doing it this way is I don’t have to wait for J. K. Rowling to finish the next book! I’m again astonished at her imagination, creativity and sense of humor. Sometimes I laugh aloud and sometime my heart rate doubles in the scary parts! Great books. Mary Anne, a member of the KH board, is coming for 4 days with her daughter, Emily and friend Sam to visit SFG and to help form 4 students “revise” their English mocks. I’ll be working with math, of course.
What is known as the short rains have begun, which means weather is varied most days. Often skies are clear in the morning, but begin to darken later, usually with great dark clouds and a nice strong, but short rain. This keeps the dust down which is very nice! The downside is the rains bring ARGH!!!! Mosquitos!!! As I sat here on my bed tonight, editing a business plan proposal for Joy Venter’s Joy’s Delights, I found myself slapping at the pesky guys and was forced to put down my net. I just hope all of them are outside when I turn off the light for sleep. My bed, BTW, looks like it belongs to a princess, except the canopy is a net, not some frilly whatever. As much as I hate sleeping under the net, I am very grateful for it. I’ve had a few bites, but by and large it has protected me very well.
You may recall my writing about Teresia (# 23) and her birthday. I had given her some money with the thought that she might like to have her hair done. We had discussed that, vs getting a chair for her room. Yesterday she came to see me. This is what she did with her gift. She looked gorgeous! You can see she has a real sense of style.
Kennedy came to see me this afternoon. He is a young man whom I met some 10 years ago when he came to the rectory door asking to see me. This was when I still stayed there, before moving to Mji Wa Neema (about 200 yards away). I had announced my intention to give free math “tuitioning” to any high school student who was interested. Fourteen year-old Kennedy wanted to know whether he could join. On the first day he knocked at the door again to accompany me on the 30-minute walk up the road to Archbishop Ndingi High School, where I gave my classes until “tuitioning” was outlawed by the Education Office. In vain I argued that I wasn’t really doing “tuitioning”, which by definition involved the payment of “tuition.” I was offering a free service, but the principal feared retaliation by the district education office, so I switched to the dining hall at Mji Wa Neema (but that was later).
Back to Kennedy, every morning he called for me at the rectory door and gallantly carried my backpack, often heavy with math books, which I used for reference. I found him to be quite an interesting young man, idealistic, full of questions about everything under the sun, thoughtful and determined to make a change in the world – he wanted to be a doctor.
Then came the clashes after the election in 2007-08. Kennedy’s family is of the Luo tribe, while Naivasha is predominately Kikuyu. Fortunately his family was in Luoland for a family funeral or they might not have survived. As it was, neighbors with whom they had been good friends looted their house and burned it. This happened all over, where friends became instant enemies and crazy young people were killing “other” tribe members simply because the elected president was from a certain tribe. Whether he was legitimately elected or not will never be known, but the deaths of over 1300 people and the loss of millions of shillings in property damage provided a major wakeup call for everyone. Next election was quiet violence free. Below is Kennedy in 2006.
So Kennedy’s family lost everything. His father had been employed in the men’s prison here in Naivasha, but he had no job in Luoland. Kennedy is somewhere in the middle of 6 or 7 children. No money for school fees. Finally he wrote to me, telling me he was attending a day school, but even those fees were too much for the family. Could I please help. Because I was asked so often to pay school fees—sometimes stopped by perfect strangers—I had made a point of saying “no”. Any money I had was going to help build SFG. But I remembered Kennedy and the potential I saw in him as we hiked up and down the road for those 2 years. To him I said “yes”.
Now he is in his 4th year of med school, doing clinical medicine. It’s like an undergraduate degree and when he completes a 1-year internship next year, he will be a physicians assistant. Only now am I beginning to understand this. Before I thought the 5-year program right out of high school was all that was required to be a doctor, but I’m glad to report that isn’t the case.
He would like to go on to become a full-fledged doctor and I would love to see that. It will take another 4 years after he completes this course, but as he sat in my kitchen today and told me all about what he’s learning and how much he loves it, I know this is right for him. I just hope I last long enough to see him through. He glowed with passion and excitement as he told me about working with very gifted doctors in his clinical rotations, how much he learned from them and what a privilege it is. After spending time in a number of different specialties, he now believes he is meant to be a surgeon. He told me about inserting an IV line in an infant with veins almost impossible to see. He was working with another student from Tanzania who was amazed that Kennedy could see those tiny veins and get it right the first time.
Kennedy shares a room with David Mungai, of Mji Wa Neema who is 1 year behind him. (See # 21) It’s great for David because Kennedy is so bright and so dedicated he can help David, although David is also very bright. You may recall I gave Abraham Verghese’s book, Cutting for Stone, to David a few weeks ago. If you’ve read it, you will understand why it’s such a perfect book for these African boys to read. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so. It’s one of the best books I know. I’ve read it twice and have listened to it severally on my iPod. It is so rich in culture, medicine and interpersonal relationships that I still find things that had previously slipped by
I encouraged Kennedy to look into med school in the US or even the UK. My impression is that some schools seek foreign students and will even support them. It would be a great opportunity for him to expand his medical education as well as his life experiences.
Here is Kennedy today, age 22.