Thursday, May 7, 2015

Adventures in Kenya Series - Day 4 - Cheery Children Education Centre

There is so much to tell about that happened today. I hope I can remember it all.

The day started with a drive into the Kibera Slum. After a short 200 foot walk, Tracy Hansen and Kyrsha from NGGE, Livinstone, and me came to the Cheery Children Education Center. Livingstone had previously taught here, and Tracy has spent a lot of time with these children, both in person during the past month and virtually where she has been teaching them via Skype. Tracy and Kyrsha left after a half-hour to do attend to some NGGE business.

I have Skyped many times with Emmily (the Head Teacher), Jairus (the director of the school), and Livingstone here at the school, and finally arriving in person was special.  Most of the students recognized "Teacher Tracy" immediately and had big smiles on their faces. 

Jairus and I said our hellos, and then Emmily took me on a tour of the school.  They have over 300 students in grades Pre-K through 4.  Most of the students are in the younger grades. Each of the classes in grades 1-4 greeted me with a poem.  One was in Swahili about the need for cleanliness, one was about the importance of education, one was about the need to pay attention. Many of the students in grades 3 and 4 recognized me as "Michael" from previous Skype calls and the Distance Teaching Project Videos.

After introductions, grades 3 and 4 crammed into one small classroom to have a Skype call with Iro in Greece.  There are so many classes that want to Skype with the kids while I'm here, but unfortunately with the time change, it's difficult to make it work with many of them. Since Greece is only an hour different than here, it has been easy to connect with Iro.

The children told me that they were studying English nouns, so we brainstormed a few nouns to use for our call. They chose "school, teacher, classroom, desk, and sock."  When we Skyped Iro, she taught us the Greek translation of the words, and the chidren shared with her the Kiswahili translation. We had a lot of fun with the word "teacher," which has two translations in Greek depending on the gender of the teacher.  

Afterward I interviewed a couple of children about the call.  They were a little nervous on camera, but afterward they started playing with my camera and pretending to interview each other. They wanted to be the interviewer instead of the interviewee. First they pretended to interview Livingstone, then they wanted to interview me.  So, I turned on the camera and let them interview me. It was so much fun! I can't wait to see that video - I've got so much video footage that I haven't even started going through it yet. And, it's only day 4...


Next, I brought the hands-on math materials that I carried over with me in my luggage to the 3rd and 4th grade classes.  We spent some time playing multiplication games with the dice, modeling subtraction with cuisinare rods, and using base-10 blocks to model addition problems and to build understanding of our number system.  Most of the materials that I brought are modeled by our Wallenpaupack stuents in the Distance Teaching Project Videos that we've been making.  I got a request from their teacher to make a few videos on division, since that's a topic with which they struggle.



For the second day in a row, my math lesson got cut short by a visit from Vestergaard.  Today they were delivering the filters to the schools.  When they arrived at Cheery I again thanked them for their partnership with Project LINC and took a few photos.



After the people from Vestergaard left, the older students were playing in the small courtyard with a eucolyptus tree. Some of them had jump ropes.  I joined them and (poorly) jumped rope. When I asked them if any of them could do tricks with the jump rope, they didn't know what I was talking about.  I pulled up a YouTube video on my phone of 30 jumproping tricks.  We took turns trying them out.  It was loads of fun.

After a nice lunch of rice and beans, Steve Sherman and a group of students in South Africa Skyped in to talk to the older students.  We started with Mystery Skype and the kids at Cheery tried to figure out what African country they were talking to. We brought in a globe, and eventually they figured it out.  Then, the students on two different parts of the continent got to know each other with a few questions and answers.  Both sets of students supported English Premier League football clubs, which made for a fun moment.


Next, Beverly Ladd Skyped in to Cheery's second grade class with a few of her second grade students in North Carolina, USA. The kids here taught her students to count in Kiswahili. When I met them in the morning, I had promised them the chance to be my teacher today, so I played the part of student as well and tried to pronounce each number correctly.

At the end of the day, Emmily led a Skype call that she had previously set up through Skype in the Classroom. The children at Cheery have been connecting with kids from all over the world to teach Swahili and about their lives in Kibera.  This call was with a class in Florida. Since Jairus had told me that Emmily was shy about being on camera, I snuck my GoPro camera into the back of the room and used the app on my iPhone to record parts of the call without her knowing it. She got a good laugh when I told her afterward.


When the school day was done, Jairus and Livingstone walked me back to Barnabas's house through the Kibera Slum. I had asked to walk instead of driving. I knew that avoiding the uncomfortable parts of Kibera would also prevent me from understanding why I am here. As we stepped over sewage water and rubbish, passed children playing a game that looked a lot like running bases with a ball of garbage, and walked on the railroad tracks, I asked as many questions as I thought polite of Livingstone and Jairus to try and learn more. I took a few pictures after asking them if it would be appropriate. Jairus kindly showed me where he lived and explained about the different areas of the slum, and the different kinds of dwellings. Seeing pictures before coming here did not come close to complete experience I had today that included the smells, sights, sounds, and vibes that you get from really being in a place.  What I had seen around Barnabas's house on the edge of Kibera was not at all indicative of the way people live just a few minutes walk away.




This evening there was a large group of us at the dinner table.  A few friends of the family joined us, and we had an interesting conversation about politics, both in African countries and in the United States. The Kenyans were shocked to hear that much of the political system in the US is heavily influenced by money from large corporations.  I was enlightened about much of the goings on in Africa that I had no idea about due to the lack of international coverage from American news outlets. When one of the men at dinner mentioned that he came from President Obama's home village, I mentioned that I had met the President. That got a very enthusiastic reaction, and they got a chuckle when I brought up POTUS's very soft hands.

Today was incredible. At each place I go, I wish I had more time to work with the kids and teachers. Tomorrow promises to be pretty amazing as well.  I will be at both Havilla and Cheery as the water filters from Project LINC are installed, and I will be leading a 7 party group Skype call with both schools and all the students from around the world who helped raise money for the filters as they are passed out to children to bring to their families. I'm excited to let our students in Pennsylvania, as well as the others in Greece and Kansas, see the product of their great work in this project.

One of the highlights of the day was definitely getting video messages from my daughter and my wife. I miss them so much, and seeing their faces and hearing their voices makes me so happy.

Tomorrow will be a busy day.  It's time to clean up and go to bed.