Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Adventures in Kenya Series - Day 3 - Havilla Children's Center

Today was a great day. This morning Livingstone picked me up at Barnabas's house and walked me to the Havilla Childrens Center where I spent the day teaching, recording interviews, facilitating distance learning opportunities, and learning from the wonderful students and teachers at the school.


Havilla has about 115 Pre-K through 2nd grade students who all live in the Kibera Slum. The school does not have a lot of resources, but it does have enthusiastic students who love to learn, and teachers who are commited to helping them do that.




Most of the Pre-K and Kindergarten students did not understand English well enough for me to communicate much with them.  They did love coming up to me and grabbing my shorts or tugging on my arm yelling "Teacher Mike!" with a big smile on their faces.  They were very excited when I gave them the crayons and paper that my son Michael Jr. had raised money to buy for them.  We had a great "chat" about the things that they would like to draw.  They promised me to make lots of pictures and to have Livingstone take photographs to share with me. I can't wait to get them and share them with Michael.



The year two students and year one students were a lot of fun to work with.  I talked with the first graders about the English words they were learning and helped them find real examples in their classroom.  Then, Livingstone and I connected with our friend, and fellow Skype Master Teacher, Iro Stefapoulou in Greece. The children shared the English word they were learning with Iro and showed an example.  Then Iro taught them (and me) the Greek translation of the word.  After they all repeated the Greek, they then taught Iro the Kiswahili translation of the word.  It was an amazing learning experience for all of us, and luckily Livingstone captured it on video.  When I've got some better bandwidth and upload speeds I'll get that up on YouTube and share it as well as the many other videos I shot today.

The year 2 students were awesome as well.  I worked with them in their maths class - using hands on counting chips that our Wallenpaupack students had modeled with them as part of the Distance Teaching Project. The lesson would have gone on longer, but I was called out when the representatives from Vestergaard came to talk about the water filters that are being delivered tomorrow as a result of Project LINC.  For those unfamiliar, Project LINC is a collaboration between Iro's students in Greece, students from the Andover Middle School, and some of our Wallenpaupack students in which money was raised to provide clean drinking water and filters for all the children at Havilla and the Cheery Children's Education Center while in school, as well as filters for many (194) of the families at home. Money is still being raised to get filters for the rest of the families.



After meeting with the Vestergaard representatives and conducting a video interview with them about the project and their outreach programs, I went back to work with the year 2 students.  This time we had a Skype call with Amy Weems from Louisiana.  The kids shared all they knew about Kenyan foods, and "Teacher Amy" shared with them some of the foods in Louisiana.  I learned that the word "gumbo" means "okra" here in Kenya.  That's where the dish gets it's name.  Kids here found the concept of a "pig roast" to be mind-blowing.


At the end of the day, Beth Heidemann's kindergarten students Skyped with the year 2 students. They had recently had a virtual field trip to the Mitahato Teaching Farm in Kenya, and they wanted to know the names of the animals in Kiswahili.  They would tell us the animal they saw, and the kids here would then teach them the Kiswahili word.  At the end of the call, the kids in Kibera learned how to make turkey noises, an animal of which they were previously unfamiliar.


After school I came back to Barnabas's house, sent some video messages to students back home and my children, and had a Skype call with my wife.  I miss Lori a lot, and it was so nice to see her face and hear her voice.

As evening aproached, Kyrsha and I went for a walk to see the local shops around this part of Kibera. There is an amazing economy here.  I don't know how else to explain it other than it seems there are tiny shops everywhere selling everything you can imagine.  I enjoyed talking to the produce sellers and learning some new fruits and vegetables.  I bought an ear of grilled maize for a snack off one vendor to try.  Odd to me, oranges here are green, lemons are green and look like large limes, and there are lots of produce items that I've never seen or heard of before.

For dinner, I was again welcomed to the dinner table by Barnabas and his family along with Tracy from NGGE, Kyrsha, and a neigbor. I had ugali and liver, sauted pumpkin leaves, and rice.  Ugali is a lot like polenta, and it was a very enjoyable meal.  I also tried some of the local mango.  I'm determined to experience things here to the fullest.

I'm exhausted, but looking forward to my time tomorrow working with teachers and students at Cheery. I've been connecting with that school for well over a year, and it will be great to see Emmily, Jairus, and the kids in person tommorrow.


  1. Can't wait to hear your stories in person at our next class! Enjoy the remainder of your trip:)

    Kim Leibel

  2. Wow! This is really fun! I feel like I'm right there with you! What a wonderful experience! Good for you!

  3. Hi Mr. Soskil,
    It looks like you had a great day at the Havilla School! Again, we have some questions and comments:
    -What is the main language the children speak? You mentioned Kiswahili. Is that different from Swahili? Do the year 2 students speak much English?
    -Do all the children in the school wear the same uniforms?
    -What were the children being served for lunch?
    -We are so happy to see the children looking so happy and interested in the lessons and enjoying the counters. We use the exact kind of counters in our math class! Why do they say "maths"?
    -Did the kids enjoy learning about the animals? At first it was a surprise that they had never heard a turkey, but that makes sense.
    -It's great that you connected with Europe (Greece) and North America (Maine and Louisiana)
    -We are looking forward to hearing the interview with Vestergaard regarding the water filters. We are even more excited to have a live Skype call while they are being installed!
    -What were the fruits with the spiky rinds?

    Thank you again for this fabulous blog!
    Mrs. Cunningham's Class

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