The Kinder Kits finally were cleared through Kenyan customs by the Israeli Embassy one and a half weeks after we arrived. We were so happy this day finally came. The boxes were stored for one day at the Nairobi Synagogue and then picked up by Marafiki in a lorry for delivery to the many schools, orphanages and kids at the IDP camp.
Marafiki guys unloaded the many boxes of Kinder Kits at the schools, orphanages, IDP camp for distribution. It was costly to rent the lorry so it was decided to do the drop offs in one day and then the actual distribution of the Kits to the kids after the weekend.
Before the Kits arrived, Marafiki took us to visit some of the places where the Kits would be distributed.
This IDP (internally displaced persons) camp is near Maai Mahiu (I finally learned how to pronounce it!), about an hour from Nairobi. People have been living here since the crisis of 2007 when it was not safe for them to stay in their homes. Some families are still living in plastic tents, initially provided by the UN.
Some three-bedroom stone houses have been built, with help from Habitat for Humanity, and the aim is to shelter everyone in a stone house.
Izzo, our main Marafiki contact, has been involved with the IDP camps for a few years. Marafiki was there helping the people when the government didn’t. He’s really good with the kids, who flock to you and slip a hand into your hand as you walk!
This little fellow looked about four years old. He’d just picked up all the corn cobs, put them in a bag, slipped the bag strap around his forehead, and took it inside his tent. Corn cobs are used for fuel.
Mark and his “assistant” videotaping an interview with Dorene, the headmistress. Such trust and interest by the little ones.
Southern Cross Academy, is a new school built by volunteers, and about 300 kids from the IDP camp attend the pre-school/grade 1 programs. The walls and roof are made of corrugated metal sheeting, the floor is hard packed earth, there are some windows. Children sit three of four on a long bench attached to a long wooden desk. There’s a large blackboard at the front of the room. A few school “charts” for alphabet, numbers, are made from maize burlap bags and stitched with the letter, numbers, etc. Children go to school from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30. The plan is to have kitchen attached to the school to provide lunches for the kids; then they’ll be able attend school til about 4:30.
Dorene, the grade 1 (class 1 or standard 1) teacher is also the headmistress for the eight-room school. Before the crisis of 2007 she had had her own school.
Before the Kinder Kits arrived, Mark distributed some extra notebooks he’d brought along; his company, ecojot, donated all the notebooks in the Kinder Kits. Kids were delighted to get them.
Kids at their desks.
Cynthia, an 11-year old, who seems much younger because of her height, asked me for my e-mail address! Surprised me to think about someone having e-mail access in this place. There are about 2000 children in the camps and like some of the older kids, she goes to the town school where she has Internet access. I watched her walk with such a confident stride and can only hope that her life will get better.
In addition to distributing Kinder Kits, I had a personal objective: to help women start a knitting project. I’d taken 12 pairs of knitting needles with me from Toronto and purchased some acrylic knitting yarn in Nairobi. At our home stay in Maai Mahui, Stella, our second “house mother”, had arranged for me to meet with some of the women at the IDP camp with whom she works as a counsellor and who were interested in knitting. We gathered in Veronica’s stone house and when I asked who knew how to knit, every hand went up! Turns out they learn to knit in Home Sciences at school. With a pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn, their fingers became busy knitting and purling, while they chatted and sang. Something positive for them to do when they’re not busy in their garden plots, doing laundry and other household tasks.
On a visit to the IDP camp a few days later some of the women had knitted baby booties and one had made a baby hat. They were full of ideas about what to knit that would sell at the twice-weekly market in nearby Maai Mahiu. We talked about the cost of the yarn and the need to make a profit. They had already talked among themselves about opening a communal bank account once they sold a few items.
This group of disadvantaged women now had some Hope, as one of them said. And for such a small monetary investment on my part.
Little ones looking after even littler ones!
Lisa is good with the children. They flock to her, wanting to be picked up, quietly putting a hand in her hand as they walk.
Lisa taught some of the kids at the IDP camp a circle game.
One recess at Southern Cross Academy, Lisa and a teacher got the kids involved in circle games.
Our home stays were pretty basic; more like hostels. In the first one, there were three bunk beds to sleep six people. Fortunately Lisa and I had the room to ourselves, except for the time that Mark and Thomas had to give up their bunk beds and share this room. Showers had cold water; or if you wanted, a kettle of hot water was added to a large plastic basin for a warm sponge bath.
At Stella’s in Maai Mahiu I did some laundry outside in a big plastic tub and hung things on the line to dry in the warm sun.
In Nairobi we visited a school in the Kibera Slum. About one million people live in Kibera.
Lisa is walking along the hard-packed earth “corridor” of this Kibera school. The rooms are small and not well lit. There’s a damp feel to the place.
Twice a week this Kibera school has a lunch program for the kids. This day each child got some corn kernels for lunch.
Compass School is another school we visited and will receive Kinder Kits. Most of the kids are refugee kids, mostly from Sudan, and orphaned because of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. There are about 300 kids, aged 4-20. It started as a feeding program, the main reason the kids went to the community-based day school, and gradually academic instruction was introduced. The deputy teacher told us that sometimes, because of funding problems, there’s no money for food and the teachers don’t get paid for several months. Yet the staff somehow manage to put together a bit of money to provide food for the students. I was impressed with the school and the staff.
Finally, our first Kinder Kit distribution (two weeks after we arrived)! We went to a school in Maasai land about two hour drive from Nairobi. It was a large primary (K-8) school of about 400 students. Some of the parents were there in traditional dress to greet us and later thank us for the Kinder Kits.
One of the students gave me his necklace as a thank you. Lisa, upper right in red t-shirt, was showered with beaded bracelets and necklaces from students.
A group thank you picture with some of the parents, Lisa, and me.
Students from the Maasai school proudly showing off their Kinder Kits.
On the way to the second Kinder Kit distribution we got stuck.
Unlike yesterday, when the van got stuck in mud during a downpour and took two hours of pushing and manouvering by Marafiki staff and other men in the area (great community spirit), the van got “unstuck” quite quickly. Nonetheless we were late for the students from the Naivasha slum area. They had waited patiently, lined up in classes by their teachers, and were rewarded with school bags and school supplies. When they heard that a pencil sharpener was included, they let out a big cheer!
Students from the Naivasha slum area proudly holding their Kinder Kits.
A Naivasha area student quietly examining his Kinder Kit.
Kids examining the contents of their Kinder Kits.
Me (Corinne) and some of the Naivasha students checking out the contents of the Kinder Kits.
The Kinder Kits Project was well received. Marafiki, Ve’ahavta’s Kenya partner, continues to do great work to help the poorest of the poor in their country. We got to experience a part of Kenya that the usual visitor doesn’t see. Also, it gave me great joy to see the beginning of the Knitting Project at the IDP camps.
I hope it will grow and provide a source of income for some of the country’s most needy people; I hope to keep in contact with Stella and Izzo at Marafiki.
Although I was unfortunately not around to receive the Ve’ahavta Volunteers with the rest of the Marafiki team… the success of the program and the amazing mark left behind can be felt none the less! Amazing job guys… hopefully see you next time around
Thanks to the friendship and love between MaRafiki and Veahavta 2500 kids in Kenya have a school bag and other school accessories to start them next year…..thanks for letting us help out in the distribution it was an awesome job seeing the joy that was filled in the young kids faces
What an amazing job! Thanks so much, Ve’ahavta, for your partnership with Marafiki. What great hearts you have. We look forward to many more projects with you!