Friday, June 20, 2014
#7 So Many Things Happening
It’s hard to keep up the writing about all the things we are doing. We spend so much time doing I have no time for writing, but here goes for the past today.
I’ve been here for more than a week and have hardly taught any math! I’ve taught 2 sessions of form 1 B and one of form 1A. Today I taught Form 4 A for the second time but when I went to form 4B the teacher said he thought I’d forgotten, so he planned something else. ARGH!!!
Maybe it was good b/c it gave me a few minutes to read emails and to retrieve some pix for Ruth Kahiga for possible inclusion in the new school brochure. She and I spent almost 2 hours going through my more than 6000 pix to see what she might want. I hope to bring back a stack of the brochures show. Ruth needs them to take to Mombassa for the annual meeting of school principals. Yes, the very same Mombassa where el shabab has been running rampant. They will be there for a week and I hope el shabab has other things on its mind!
I have given graphing calculators to the 3 new math teachers and today we had our first session on all the great features. As they began to get comfortable with getting around, what some of the buttons mean and the power it has they got more and more excited, but I know from personal experience it’s better to give them a small bit, let them play with it, then give them some more. Otherwise it is pretty overwhelming. These calculators, so common in our US secondary schools are virtually unknown here. Such a shame b/c they reformed the secondary math curriculum, taking out a lot of the drudgery and allowing time for more interesting stuff. I’ve dreamed of a reformation of the math curriculum here, but I’m about to wake up from that dream and see it disappear as dreams do. RATS!
After the picture marathon, I gulped down my lunch and hopped in the car. Took Ruth to town to get a modem, after exacting a promise (almost signed in blood and sworn on her mother’s grave) to be more conscientious about email. I will push her to get help from Elizabeth, the secretary, who is quite handy with a computer. Stopping by home to get some money I found Daniel Kantai, formerly one of the Mji Wa Neema boys. He left here under a cloud not entirely of his making and let’s just say he fell out of favor with the powers that be. Judy and I, ever the mothers, have always loved Kantai and have missed his impish mischievous ways. He’s a nice kid and has now moved to Nairobi to live with an aunt. Some of his relatives were paying school fees, but the uncle lost his job and can no longer pay. He came to see Judy and then to talk to me. We are hoping to get his fees paid so he can get back to school. We called in the new social worker, Ann, whom Judy is now working with. They (Ann, Judy and Agnes) will go to the aunt’s home, to the school and verify that he’s in a good place. If so, we can sponsor him. It’s only about $200 to let him finish form 4 and take the KCSE. It’s this sort of thing that brings us back. Sometimes we can cut through the barriers and make things happen.
While Judy and I talked to Kantai, Wanjiru from Life Bloom came with a young woman, Janet, who had just been released from prison. Catherine had wanted me to hear her story and I must say I was incredulous, as I suspect my readers will be after I tell it. It is Job-like.
Janet has 2 boys, 5 and 7. She was working in a salon, doing hair and supporting her boys when the owner announced her husband had been transferred and she wanted to sell the business. Janet raised the money and bought the salon, but soon afterwards her older boy, then aged 3, was kidnapped. She searched and searched for him, the business went down and she was out of a job as well as missing the boy. He was gone for over a year when her mother heard a radio announcement that some kidnapped boys had been discovered in a certain area and pleading with parents of missing children to come find out whether they could identify any of the children. Sure enough, her son was there, but was so traumatized that he had stopped speaking. He is now speaking, but still is not up to age level emotionally nor in his behavior. He has never been to school. So here is this single mom with a traumatized son, and no job, so she went to work in a saloon, tending bar. She had been there just a month when the police raided the bar because the owner had allowed his license to lapse. Owner was not there, so they arrested Janet. That in itself seems crazy, but they tried and convicted her, claiming she should have known the license had lapsed. She was jailed for 1 year. At that point I was fuming, but there is no recourse except for her to pick up and move forward.
Fortunately at the time of her release, a group of Life Bloom women were making a visit to the prison and encountered her. As they learned her story they realized she needed a good deal of support, in true LB fashion, took her under their collective wing. As she recited her story to me in Swahili, translated for me by Wanjiru, I could see she is traumatized herself and has no idea what to do now. Her boys were with the grandmother while mom was imprisoned. We talked about how to get help for the oldest boy, perhaps at Helping Hands School, which I have visited several times. It serves physically disabled children, but I’m not sure whether they also serve the emotionally disabled. We also talked about St. Teresia’s center for abused children, built and run by Fr. Makarios. (Will write about that sometime) It’s a residence center, which she wouldn’t want, but maybe he could take the boy for counseling on a day basis. We just brainstormed anything we could think of. Wanjiru is a real cracker-jack and will follow up to see whether anything can come of this.
After hearing her story and talking about possible approaches, I invited them into our house where Judy and I have our stash of donated books and some small toys. I gave her some beginning readers and Judy gave her toys for the boys. We don’t have a lot to offer but I think it helped her to know someone cared about her and wanted to help.
This left only a brief time before the meeting of the Mji W Neema children’s home committee. Judy had requested they meet so she could plead her case for taking in more children instead of closing down the home, since there are just 4 left, 2 of whom will go off to high school in January. Judy is nothing if not dogged. She is one determined lady! She spoke from he heart and she was heard. While they didn’t make a decision tonight, we felt very confident, as person after person spoke that they wanted to keep it open. It’s not as if there aren’t many, many orphans needing a home like this. In the end a number of members talked about how much they appreciate all we have done. They thanked us profusely. We promised Kenya Help educate any new children as long as we can. How long that may be is questionable, but we are a couple of determined old broads. Did I mention that we met in 1954 when I was 14 and she was 15. We learned we shared a birthday and have been friends since then—60 years. Sometimes I think we are the Energizer Bunny, we just keep going and going!
I apologize for no pix. I was so absorbed by all of the day’s events I didn’t give the camera a thought. Promise to do better—sworn in blood on my mother’s grave!
Love to all, Margo