Stories from the Blogs
The blue links are to the blogs where the stories are mentioned. The stories are all told from Margo’s point of view. We decided to rotate them (to not have all up at the same time).
SFG Girls Support Other Girls in the Area—Prevent 40 Missed School Days
#2 Getting Settled and to Work June 2, 2011
Jecinta and I have talked a lot about inspiring the girls to contribute to the school after they graduate, go to university or whatever and have some small means. Then she told me this story. She had had a meeting with the principal of a nearby elementary school to discuss a problem with a girl she had taken in and really supported (another Jecinta!!!) In the course of that meeting he mentioned the problem that poor girls have all over—missing school 4 days a month b/c they couldn’t afford pads. Upon hearing this story, the girls of SFG started a “fund” of extra pads, soap and other necessities. They had done some calculations, that each girl was missing an average of 40 days a year. Many of them have had this same experience. At SFG, such necessities are provided for those who can’t afford. I was so touched that our girls, in their adolescence, in their push to prepare themselves to face a life of challenges, have reached out to their younger sisters to give them a hand up. WOW!
A Stethoscope (and Hope) for a Future Doctor
#4 Saturday in Nairobi Saturday, June 25, 2011
Cyrus and I traditionally spend at least one evening deep in conversation. The oldest of the orphans, he is impatiently waiting to hear whether he has been accepted to medical school, either at Nairobi University or Kenyatta University. We sit in the kitchen with our tea and chat about things, and as usual, he eventually begins to share. He wants this so much, and while his brain (and mine) tell him his chances are excellent, he’s beside himself with the waiting. He earned A- on the national exam, considered to be a very high mark, but just a few points under the cut-off for government sponsorship. This means he has to pay, but we have found wonderful folks in the US who will sponsor him. Because he was so close to that mark, it is highly unlikely he wouldn’t be admitted.
He told me a wonderful story of his arrival at a really good high school. A math competition was held the first weekend, attended by some 18 – 20 schools, each bringing a student from each form. Cyrus, who had yet to even be issued his math book was chosen to be the form 1 representative. Puzzled, confused and yet proud, he went with his fellow students, but didn’t imagine he could do much, as the contest pitted forms 1 and 2 against each other, while forms 3 and 4 had a separate set of problems. Afterwards the students wandered around, waiting for the results to be announced. Pretty soon he heard teachers asking, “Who is Cyrus Kariuki.” “Oh, no, I’ve done something wrong, I’ve broken a rule, I’ll be punished, sent home in disgrace!!!” As it turned out, he had had the top score among form 1’s and 2’s, beating out all the form 2’s who had had a year of high school math!!! He was so stunned, that when his name was called to be recognized he just sat there until he was nudged forward by the other boys. Standing in front of the assembled students and teacher advisors, microphone thrust in his face, he froze, could say nothing, except mumble “thanks” and rush back to his seat. Now, 4 years later, he is a grown up 19-year old, confident in his abilities and just wanting to get on with it.
Several years ago I had brought my stethoscope from my nursing school days, thinking I’d give it to Lucy, a nursing student. I’d been too late, she already had one, so it stayed here, waiting for the right person. Several months ago I had had the flash, of course I should give it to Cyrus. I’d planned to present it as soon as he had gotten the word, but as I sat listening to him I just couldn’t wait. I fetched it and told him I’d brought him a present. I started to tell him about nursing school, wanting to lead up to it, but he was dying to know what was hidden behind my back. When I brought it out it was like an explosion of wonder, joy, amazement, delight. I wish so much I had had a picture. I did get his picture, but the look on his face is recorded only in my memory. It was worth millions. He sat for the next ½ hour chatting and fiddling with the stethoscope, listening to his own heart and maybe believing a bit more strongly that it will happen.
The Story of Elizabeth Nyarach
#16 Sudanese Students Sunday July 12, 2011
A few days ago I noticed a form 4 girl who was peering and squinting at the board and was immediately reminded of 14-year old me, who didn’t realize that other people could see much better than I could and that I needed glasses. When I spoke to Jecinta (p) about it she told me of 2 other girls who need glasses. Why wasn’t something done? Africans are often philosophical about such needs. I’m so aware of my differences with that. If something doesn’t work, I want it fixed! Not now—yesterday! It’s the way I was brought up. Everything worked in our house b/c my father knew how to fix things. This was a problem needing to be fixed, so I asked who had the authority to permit me to take them for eye checks. Esther (matron) arranged it and off we went. They were very quiet and I wasn’t sure how they were processing the whole thing. In retrospect, I think they were a bit overwhelmed to actually be getting glasses, with the prospect of being able to see, of not having headaches, and feeling eyestrain.
On the way I explained that the price of the lenses is fixed, but there was a great range in frame prices. “This isn’t about looking beautiful, it’s about being able to see.” Fortunately the least expensive frames were quite nice. Each girl was tested and chose a frame. We had hoped to get the glasses today, but all three have complicated corrections, so the lenses must be made in Nairobi. That in itself confirmed the need. We’re hoping to get them tomorrow afternoon or Monday at the latest. Two of the 3 are on scholarship and the single mother of the third girl struggles to pay the fees and is in arrears. The scholarships from the US (almost all of them are) include a cushion for just such needs and I am so happy that these girls who have struggled for 4 years b/c they couldn’t see well are at last being helped. One of the girls, a very shy one was close to tears as she got out of the car back at SFG. Her appreciation was more than evident. Later Jecinta (p) told me she is one of the top students in the class, usually 1, 2 or 3. Imagine how much more she might have learned had she had glasses from day 1.
I’ve suggested that the school might do a preliminary eye test each year—the one with the E’s. That’s how it was discovered that I was quite near-sighted. The test was administered by the teachers every year and in 8th grade I suddenly couldn’t do it. Anybody know where I can get one of those old E charts? They’re all done with mirrors and fancy machines now. But if we had a chart, it could provide the initial indication that further testing is needed.
I had forgotten to get pictures of the 3 girls who are now happily seeing in class. Here they are: Elizabeth, Mary and Carol. I noted a change immediately in the attention and involvement in the classwork, now that they could see. I’m just sad they had to wait so long. Despite the handicap, Mary has always been among the top 3 performers in her form. Now I’m looking for #1!
June 12, 2012
Shortly after I retired to my bed to begin this blog, there was a shy knock on the door. “Come in. Who’s there?” In came Joseph, the youngest child here in the orphanage and his best bud, Jackson. I had met Jackson on Sunday when he came to sit with Judy and me in mass. He snuggled right up to me, although we had never met and when I put my arm around to cuddle he snuggled even closer. His clothes are tattered and in need of a bath, as is his body, but he is so engaging those issues don’t seem to matter.
As they appeared in my door way, each holding 3 or 4 books that Judy brought and has left on a chair in our entry for anyone to read (and bring back!). They looked so cute I asked, “Would you like me to read you a story?” Jackson reads very well, but Joseph has not yet deciphered the coding. He’s in first grade and everyone is concerned about it.
Two heads nodded. “Take off your shoes and climb up with me” I said, patting each side. Shy giggles. Off came the shoes and soon we were settled in, reading books about bridges, bears who became friends, “A is for Africa” and one of my favorites, “The Little House”.
I first met Joseph and his older brother, Lucas, last summer when they came to join us at Mji Wa Neema. Their father had died some time ago. Mother was HIV positive and died last summer while the 2 boys helplessly looked on. Neighbors had notified Jecinta, who collected them and brought them here. Joseph used to run to me for a hug whenever I’d appear in a doorway, spending much of the rest of the time crying and sucking his thumb. Now he is in school, still sucks his thumb, but finding Jackson seems to have alleviated some of his loneliness. Lucas had been a wonderful brother to him, but is dealing with his own loss and grief.
Stories like Joseph and Lucas’s really bring home the tragedy of the AIDS crisis in Africa. J&L are among the lucky ones, landing in a loving environment, where school is encouraged, food is plentiful there is a very loving group of (now) older brothers and sisters who have taken them under their collective wings. There are literally millions of children who don’t have a loving orphanage, with a warm bed (don’t have to share, even) sufficient food, clothes, school and lots of love.
Third Annual Scarf Giving Day
From the blog: #9 Scarves, Millimani High School and Nairobi + Margo’s BIG DRIVE
27 June, 2012
Last week was the 3rd annual scarf giving day for form 4’s. Thanks to Anita Dippery and her gang of “knitting elves”, as well as my own fingers, I arrived with over 60 scarves, enough for each form 4 and each new teacher who didn’t get one last year. As a courtesy I offered Ruth Kahiga, our new principal, the first pick. Unable to make a choice, she talked me out of 2. Esther, the matron and dear friend, had not received one last year, so I asked Ruth to call her into the office. It was evident from her face that she wondered what was going on, but when I explained she had the privilege of 2nd pick, she beamed as only Esther can beam.
We gathered all the form 4’s into one classroom. They were very excited, each having chosen a number, 1 to 50, determining the order of choosing. Most of the scarves were made from bright-colored, fringy yarn and were very popular. Most of my offerings were made of granny squares, with which I used up baskets of left-over yarn. To my surprise, they all were chosen too. I had had just enough white, red, green and black (Kenya flag colors) for one scarf, which was “scarfed up” immediately. It was actually a bit of a mob scene.
Sister Cecilia’s School
(an organization supported by Kenya Help)
After serving in Central America, Spain, and England, Sister Cecilia felt called to leave her missionary order and return to Kenya to build a school in a poor area outside of Naivasha. Her elementary school provides education to children who would not be able to attend school otherwise.
Once the school was established with eleven day-school orphans, she took in ten more orphans to be boarders at the school, but lacked sufficient funds to buy uniforms, shoes, blankets, tables, chairs, and cooking equipment. She has some financial help from a group in the UK, but they are unable to meet all the needs, as their sponsors deposit only about £300 ($450) to pay the teachers every month. Now, with boarders, Sister Cecilia has employed two more teachers, a matron, a gardener, and a watchman, raising the total staff salary to KSH 75,000, or about $680 per month. She hopes in the future to have paying students to help support the orphans and make the school self-sufficient, but needs help in the meantime.
She is trying to do alone what Kenya Help has done with a whole group, so the Kenya Help board of directors has decided to give financial assistance to her school. Kenya Help supports her desire to wipe the poor orphans’ tears by giving them love, hope, and a future through education and a decent life.