Friday, May 8, 2015

Adventures in Kenya Series - Day 5 - Project LINC

It's had to believe that I've only been here a few days. I've been so busy that it seems like months. Today was another day packed with awesome.


I started the day by walking to Havilla Childrens Center again with Livingstone. I used the GoPro camera and head mount that I have to record the walk to the school. I'll be posting that to YouTube along with many other videos when I get back home.  I had to bring extra camera equipments today because my mission today was to document everything I could as the water filters for which our Wallenpaupack students, the children in the Andover Middle School, and students in Trikala, Greece had spent the past few months raising money were installed and distributed. For more information, check out the Project LINC website.


Around 8:30, I started recording interviews of students and teachers about the water situation in Kibera, and how the filters will help them. Teacher Tyson told me about the Cholora outbreak in Kibera which has killed 7 people. One student shared a story of a friend who drank dirty water and ended up in the hospital.



At 9AM, Nancy and the Vestergaard team arrived.  All the students were gathered in the "courtyard" to learn how to use the Community Filters that were being installed at the school. There were 115 students crammed into a space about 8x20 feet. I set up the GoPro on a tripod in the back and recorded parts of the demonstration using the GoPro App on my iPhone. Hiding in a doorway to a classroom, I took the best photos I could without stepping on the "baby class" that was sitting in front of me. The kids also learned about the importance of using clean water to wash their hands, and how to use the LifeStraw Family Filters that 64 of them will be taking home. 





After the presentation, I took some pictures, recorded an interview between Nancy and Head Teacher Domitilla, and packed up all my equipment. The Vestergaard team was now headed to Cheery Children Education Center, and I asked them to give me a ride. 


When we got out of the car much deeper into Kibera near Cheery, I again attached my GoPro to record the walk.  I was determined today to document as much as possible, both for the project and because it's likely the last time I'll spend much time in Kibera this trip.  


It warmed my heart to be greeted with smiles, joy, and shouts of "Teacher Mike!" when I arrived. I took some pictures and video of stuedents learning in their classrooms and the schools as the Vestergaard team set up for the next demonstration.  The demonstration was basically the same here, but since we were deeper in the slum, you could sense a difference. The students at both schools need the filters, but the kids at Cheery NEED the filters. When you see the videos of the two areas, you will understand better. I took video with multiple cameras, took a ton of pictures, and tried to document as much of the process as possible. I've shot lots of good pictures in my life, but video is somewhat new to me, so I'm hoping I did a good job.  







After the demonstration, we again recorded a few interviews with students and teachers.  One students shared a story of a cousin who was hospitalized from drinking contaminated water, and the costs of the resulting hospital visit caused great hardship for the family.  She was very greatful to have a filter to bring home to her family.  


Around 1:30, when Nancy left with her team, I started making sure that everything was set for the 7 school, 3 continent Skype that was scheduled for 3:15, in which all the students who raised money for filters were going to meet all the students who received filters. It was hard to make any progress, though, because the students kept begging me to do other things. During the students' lunch time, I showed a few kids some math games they could play with the bag of random kinds of dice that I brought to the school. They LOVED playing with the dice, and for many of them it was the first time they had ever seen them. I had to show many of them how to roll the dice when their turn came.  We practiced multiplication and math facts through dice games.  



I told them to take the dice back to their classrooms, and to play on their own now that they knew how.  They were excited to hear that I was leaving the dice for them and not taking them with me when I left. Then, one of the 4th grade students brought me a lunch of ugali, eggs, and kale, which was very tasty.  I really do like Kenyan food. 

Where lunch is prepared at Cheery

When I finished my lunch and tried to get back to work, a few second graders came in to the office and begged me to come teach them math.  So, I went next door to their classroom and taught a math lesson for them. 

Finally, close to 3PM I had to get away to set things up for the call. Since Friday is classroom cleaning day, many of the student desks were brought to Cheery's "courtyard" and Jairus, the director's, laptop was put on a stand for the students to see. Even though I had brought them a projector for Skype calls yesterday, they need to get an adapter to be able to use it. 



At 3:15 the call started, and once we got the microphone muting squared away, each school took turns having a representative share their part of the Project LINC story.  It was great for all the students involved to see how connected they were. I ended the call by sharing how much I've come to love and appreciate the students at Cheery and Havilla that I've worked with over the past 3 days, how sad I am to be leaving them, and how the kids in Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Greece could not be helping a more incredible group of students. 




After school, Jairus again walked me back toward Barnabas's house.  We took a different route this time - staying along main roads in Kibera instead of walking by the train tracks.  I wore the GoPro again to get video footage. During the first part of the walk it was very dusty, and we coughed as dust kicked up from a passing truck.  About halfway back, it started to rain.  By the end of the walk, I was slipping on mud. 

Along the walk, Jairus took me to his youngest son's school. Since I had met his son once before on a Skpye call, his boy had asked if Jairus could bring me by the school to meet him.  When I got to the school and met him, he was very shy and didn't know what to say to me. As we left, I chucked with Jairus about how I could see my son Michael, who is almost the same age, doing something similar.

I said goodbye to Jairus near the busy road that Barnabas lives on, and thanked him for letting me work with his students over the past few days and for helping me understand life here in Kibera a little better. After meeting on Skype many times, it was great to meet he and his wife Emmily in person and to work with them for a few days.

The rest of the walk was uneventful and wet as I walked past the shops and vendors selling everything you could imagine.  I saw a shop that sold some nice looking African earings and would have liked to stop, but it was raining pretty hard and I had a backpack full of electronics, so I didn't.

When I got into the house, Livingstone was there waiting to talk to me about plans for the rest of the trip.  He had stayed at Havilla this morning to facilitate the Skype call there.  As we were sitting at the table, a class from Florida Skyped him and asked to learn how to count in Swahili.  I joined him on the call, which was fun. 

Tomorrow I have a morning flight to the Masai Mara reserve, where I will be relaxing on safari for a few days.  I'll be staying at the Mara Intrepids Tented Camp, going on several game drives, and taking lots of pictures. I fly back to Nairobi on Sunday night before heading out to rural western Kenya very early on Monday. I may combine the next two days into one blog post.