Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Adventures in Kenya Series - Less than a Week to Go

(Image - Wikipedia Commons)

Last spring I applied for and was approved to receive the Helen Villaume Education Enrichment Grant from the John and Helen Villaume Foundation.  My proposal had three goals: to develop a Distance Teaching Project collaboration between our students and children in the Kibera Slum of Nairobi, to travel to Kenya to document the benefits of peer-teaching service projects, and to present the project and documentation at ISTE and other conferences afterward.  The Distance Teaching Project has since grown to include schools in China, India, Venezuela, France, and around the United States. Also, our students have joined children in Greece and Kansas to raise money for water filters and school supplies for schools in Kibera through Project LINC. I have been invited to share these projects, as well as others our students have collaborated upon, as part of a talk on the power of partnering students with social innovators at the Africa Summit 2015, which will be held at the University of London this July.

Within a week I will embark on my trip to Kenya to document the Distance Teaching Project, to learn from teachers and students in Kibera and Kimilili, to share my expertise with teachers at three different schools, and to create some amazing leanring opportunities for our students back home in my home district.  Since I anticipate this to be an experience that is potentially life-altering as well as the adventure of a lifetime, I plan to blog daily to share with all of you just as I blogged our family trip to Europe in 2012.  This is the first post in the series.
Kibera Slum (Image - Wikimedia Commons)

One development that has happened since I wrote the grant is our students' involvement in Project LINC.  Wallenpaupack children have raised over $800 for water filters and over $600 for school supplies for kids in Kibera.  Overall, the project has raised over $6000 for water filters, and the Vestergaard company that produces LifeStraw filters has generously agreed to donate 7 large community filters for the schools in Kibera with which we have been working. I am excited that these water filters will be delivered to families and installed at the Havilla Children's Center and the Cheery Children Education Centre while I am there.  I will be able to shoot video and pictures of this event and I plan to do a live Skype call at that time with children from Greece, Kansas, and home who participated in the fundraising.

I am appreciative to my good friend Livingstone Kegode, who has helped create the projects mentioned above, and has helped me plan my upcoming trip. None of this would have been possible without his guidance. I am so happy that I will get to recipricate when he visits the United States in June/July to present the Distance Teaching Project with me at ISTE.

As of right now, here is my anticipated schedule for the trip:

Sunday 5/3 - Depart Newark for overnight flight to Amsterdam

Monday 5/4 - Layover in Amsterdam. Since it's Remembrance Day in the Netherlands, I am going to do an interview with a Dutch friend to answer questions about this holiday and the Canadian liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazis in WWII.  Also, take a canal tour and have lunch at a nice cafe by a canal.  Maybe buy some clogs.  Overnight flight to Nairobi.

Tuesday 5/5 - Arrive Nairobi. Shop for school supplies.

Wednesday 5/6 - Work with teachers and students at the Havilla Children's Center. Filters will be delivered to the two schools on this day. Shoot footage and pictures to document Distance Teaching Project

Thursday 5/7 - Work with teachers and students at the Cheery Children Education Center. Shoot footage and pictures to document Distance Teaching Project.

Friday 5/8 - I will be spending time at both of the forementioned schools working with teachers and students, and documenting the instillation of the filters.  If all goes as planned I will facilitate a group Skype call with Wallenpaupack students, children from Andover, Kansas, and children from Trikala, Greece to let them see how much good they have done through their project.  There is no better feeling as a teacher than seeing your students experience the joy that comes from using their learning to help others.

Saturday and Sunday 5/9-10 - For my birthday, my wife got me a one-night flying safarin to the Masai Mara.  I will be leaving Nariobi Wilson airport on a tiny turbo-prop plane and flying into the Mara, where I will spend two days on game drives.  My children are excited because this is the same location that "Big Cat Diary" is filmed that they sometimes watch on Animal Planet. I fly back to Nairobi on Sunday night.

Monday 5/11 - Livingstone and I are leaving way before dawn to drive the 5-6 hours to Kimilili, a rural area of western Kenya, where we will spend time working at the HIP Academy.  This school opens for the first time next week.  I will be taking hands-on math materials to the teachers there and giving them training in how to use them with students.

Tuesday 5/12 - We will spend the morning at HIP Academy, and then travel 3-4 hours east to Lake Nakuru National Park, where I have arranged to stay for two nights at the Naishi House - a former Game Warden's residence in the middle of the park that is run by the Kenyan Wildlife Service. There are no fences around this house, and animals literally are all around where we are staying. Lake Nakuru NP is famous for it's huge number of Flamingos, as well as other traditional safari animals like rhinos and lions.  We will use the house as a base for exploring the park.

Wednesday 5/13 - While at Lake Nakuru NP this day, I have arranged for a game warden to meet us at the Naishi House to record an interview about the park and the animals in Kenya. If we can work out the timing and internet connectivity we will do this interview as part of a live Skype call with Wallenpaupack students and others from around the globe who wish to join.  If not, I will record the interview and post it online for students to access.

Thursday 5/14 - I have an 11PM flight out of Nairobi to come home.  There are a couple of options before I fly home.  Either we will come back to Nairobi and see a bit of the city, spend some time at Nairobi National Park within the city's borders, or stop at the Mitahato Teaching Farm on the way back to the city.  The Teaching Farm is a location about 45 min north of Nairobi where a 1/4 acre farm has been engineered to provide food for an entire community. Kenyans travel from rural areas to learn here how to replicate this in their own villages.  Mitahato has agreed to partner with our students next year as we build a community garden that will grow food for our local food pantry, so I would like to stop there if we can.

So, this is the plan.  We all know how plans go.  I fully expect that flexibility will be needed during my travels, and that the unexpected will happen at times. Regardless, I hope that I can do some good during the trip, learn lessons that help me grow as a teacher and a person, bring experiences to our students at home, and make connections that lead to future projects. I know that I'll meet lots of people and add many teachers to my global network.

In the next few days before I travel I'll share my packing list.

(Image - Wikimedia Commons)