Kenya Blog 6

Mambo! Another week has come and gone in what feels like a blink of an eye. Like always the past seven days have been filled with new lessons, friends, and countless experiences that will never be forgotten. It is hard to believe we have just completed our second last week of teaching and that our highly-anticipated sports tournament and HIV testing day will be this Friday!

After two weeks filled with schools cancelling due to extra-curricular sports, we have finally gotten back on track with our lessons. This week our classes focused on HIV and AIDS. Migori county, the region in which Mikei is located, has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country at about fifteen percent. Therefore, the end of our curriculum is heavily focused on HIV prevention, treatment, and testing. It is exciting to be able to teach our students about the Voluntary Counselling Test (VCT) touching in on our own experiences at the county clinic. We have been encouraging students to be tested and are eager to provide them with free testing in the following week at our sports tournament!


Jenna and some of her Munyu class 8 students after the lesson on HIV.

In some of our classes we have also begun teaching about HIV stigma, as it has become evident from our time here that HIV diagnoses still carries many negative connotations. Our HIV stigma lessons focus on facilitating a conversation between the students surrounding current stereotypes of individuals diagnosed with HIV and why many of these ideas are untrue. We then run an activity that our classes have loved, where the students create an imaginary friend/classmate with a variety of characteristics and attributes. After creating this person, we inform the class that this individual is HIV positive and use this opportunity to demonstrate that an individual’s character does not change due to their diagnoses. So far, our lessons on HIV and stigma have been some of our favourites as our students have been very engaged and shown great enthusiasm towards these topics!


Chris giving an insightful talk on HIV stigma.

Outside of the classroom, our week has been filled with phone calls, meetings, and emails to ensure everything is ready for the sports tournament on Friday! One thousand mandazi (our favourite doughy pastry) have been ordered, eight hundred HIV tests are on route, fifteen invitations have gone out to schools, two net ball rings have been repaired, and one volleyball net has been ordered. So far everything is on track and we cannot wait to finally have all our students together in one place!

As in previous weeks, we spend much of our free time with members of the community. We want to soak up as much of the Kenyan culture as we can! The neighbourhood children continue to amaze us with how independent and resourceful they are at such a young age. This week they taught us how to tie up cows, wash our whites, and how to mine for gold.

We had our usual trip to Migori on Saturday to visit the market for one last time and to stalk up on some essentials. It was a sad moment for all of us when we had to say goodbye to the amazing family whom we have been buying our produce from for the past six weeks! We could always count on them for fresh mangos, avocados, watermelons, carrots, cucumbers, and more.


Our favourite shop at the market with the amazing family who runs the stall!

We had our usual meeting with Edward, where we were able to tie up the loose ends for the tournament. We also got a special surprise on our way home to Mikei when our driver Cosmas stopped at his home so we could meet his family and see where he lives. They were all so kind and welcoming and it was truly honor to meet them.


Cosmas’ extended family at their home.

We wrapped up another eventful week by hosting a dinner party for Edward’s family at our house. We spent a good portion of the afternoon cooking the biggest meal we could pull together with a one burner propane stove. We ended up serving pasta with tomato sauce, chapatti burritos, rice, cupcakes, watermelon, popcorn, and bananas. Everyone seemed to love their food, especially Edward’s three daughters who really enjoyed the Nutella covered cupcakes! We had such a great night and it was a very memorable experience to host Edward and his family in his own home! It was a great reminder of how lucky we are to have such an incredible community partner who has supported QHO for so many years.


Dinner at our home with Edward’s family and our driver Cosmas.

Overall it has been another great week of teaching, learning and making memories. We have a bitter sweet week coming up as we are looking forward to wrapping up our curriculum and hosting our sports tournament, but are dreading saying a final goodbye to our students and friends in the community!

Kwaheri!

Kenya Blog 5

Edinaday (How are you?) It’s been another great week here in Kenya! We’re really settling in to a groove here. We have made lots of connections in Mikei center since we’re regular customers. We’ve become accustomed to the teachers greeting us in their typical tone of surprise as they say “Ahhh you are here, you have arrived?”. Even though we have been arriving at the same times on the same days for the past several weeks.

This week we finished up our lessons on STI’s. We’ve been doing situation cards with the students, it was great to watch them put the information they learned into practise. We’ve now started our lessons on HIV. The students begin learning about HIV in science in Class 4, so we are trying to focuses heavily of stigma, testing, debuncking myths, and the free treatment available to Kenyans.


Maddy with Nelson and Gabriela from Mikei Primary

After a full day of teaching on Monday, we came home only to realize that our propane tank – one burner stove – was out of fuel. It was clear we would need to cook on the coal stoves that the locals use. We’d been trying to get the coals hot enough to cook on for about 45 minutes when our good friends, students, and neighbours, Vasty and Constance came to the rescue. They managed to have a roaring fire in about 3 minutes and taught was we would need to fan the coals constantly in order to maintain the heat needed to cook. It took as awhile, but we managed to make a delicious meal of chapatti breakfast burritos. Quite a cultural mix!


Walking up to one of our classes

Tuesday and Wednesday ran smoothly! We had all our classes expect for Lucie and Maddy’s favourite class 8 because they were writing exams. Maddy and Lucie used that time to explore the centre – which is one road of about 40 tin huts. They were lucky enough to find a wonderfully talented tailor named Joseph! He is the father of 3 of our students – so it’s nice to know our business is going towards their education.

At the end of a long day of teaching on Wednesday we were talking to our delightful driver Cosmos about the following day. After awhile, we clued in and realized that June 1st is Kenya Independence Day (Madaraka Day), meaning all schools would be cancelled and the students would spend the day resting. We called the schools to confirm this, and found that only our Radienya Secondary students would be at schools because they board there. We decided to walk there in the afternoon to visit with our students. We played sports, sang and danced, chatted with the students, and struggled to help them with their math students. It was really great to spend time without students in a more informal setting.


Radienya student doing his math homework

To end the week we invited some of our neighbours over for dinner. Vasty, Magzil, Macrine, Mary-Cruz (Macrine’s jolly round baby!!) and Constance. We decided to make spaghetti since that been a hit with some of the other kids in the neighbourhood, but it did not have the reaction we had hoped for. They really really really did not like the pasta. Fortunately we also had chapatti. Our guest ate a well-balanced meal of chapatti and more chapatti.

A group shot at Mikei Primary School

This weekend we went to Kisumu with our host Edward to see a new side of Kenya. Kisumu is a city about three hours away from Mikei. The urban hustle and bustle was a huge changed from our slow rural life style in Mikei. We took the ferry on Lake Victoria and we lucky enough to see hippos swimming on the way. We had our usual Saturday meeting with Edward but it was nice to see him in a new setting.


The ferry to Kisumu

We’ve been busy planning for our sports tournament coming up on June 16th. We’ve started handing out invitations at each school. Everyone is really looking forward to the event! We’ll have soccer, net ball, sack races, “tug of peace”, volleyball, colouring and dancing. Most importantly there will be free HIV testing for any students, teachers or community members. It should be a fun filled day! It will be exciting to have all our students in the same place. We’re shocked at how quickly the time has gone by, but we are looking forward to this event as a proper send-off to our 2017 initiative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kenya Blog 3

Oyawre (Good morning)! Yet another eventful week has come to an end leaving us with many highs that will be cherished forever, but also challenges that we’ve had to overcome. Each day has felt long and draining, however the week has flown by and left us wondering where all the time has gone. With only one month left, we’re keen on making the most of our time here. Our spirits are still lively and motivated thanks to the warm welcomes received from every school, the positive energy radiated by each student, and the gradual sense of Mikei becoming our new home away from home.

Teaching this week consisted of two very engaging lessons focused on ‘Sex and Consent’ and ‘Pregnancy and Contraceptives’. Each lesson had activities that the students were extremely fond of and prompted lots of laughter as well as great class discussions.


Munyu class 7 participating in an activity on the proper use of condoms.

Upon our arrival at Radienya Primary on Thursday, where we were expecting to teach a new lesson, we were invited to participate in a school-wide debate. Over 100 students were seated in a large classroom to discuss whether polygamy or monogamy is more just. The debate was structured to represent Kenyan parliament with various students taking on the roles of the speaker, Minister of Education, Minister of Health, and more. After our lesson at Radienya Secondary we ended the day by playing volleyball with some of the students. We played a mini Canada against Kenya game and we’re proud to say our volleyball skills aren’t lacking.


Claire and Marika’s Radienya Primary Class 8 after the debate!

Our culinary practices have also been improving owed to a little help from our friends. On Thursday, Marilyn, Derek, Elvis, and William (also known as Jakwoth!) came to our house and taught us how to make chapati, a favourite local food of ours. Chapati is round, thin, made of flour, and is served often with savoury dishes. In exchange, we made our guests spaghetti with tomato sauce, which they quickly told us they loved. On Saturday, they invited us to their home for dinner where we and the four youngsters, their younger sister baby Jill, and mother Alfa all enjoyed a spectacular home-grown chicken dinner.


Eating homemade chipati with William, Elvis, Derek and Marilyn.

Saturday in Migori we met up with Carissa Novak, a Master’s student studying global health from Duke. Her project looks at the prevalence of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in the Migori region and its effects on the increasing rates of cervical cancer. Current research shows that administering the HPV vaccine to young females significantly reduces their risk of cervical cancer. Carissa aims to encourage females to take the HPV vaccine while also addressing the stigma associated with it. Since Carissa enlightened us with this pressing issue, we are hoping to teach a lesson on HPV to our schools in the next coming weeks and add this topic to our curriculum!


Fresh fruit and veggies at our favourite market in Migori!

We are looking forward to another fun week of teaching and hope that each day is one to remember. This week our lessons will likely focus on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and begin to touch on HIV/AIDS. We hope that all is well in Canada!!


Chris and Jenna dancing with their Class 7 students after their lesson at Nyandema Primary!

Erokamano ahinya! (Thank you very much!)

Kenya Week 2 Blog Post

Week 2 is done and we have officially taught lessons in 15 different schools! Our days are long and packed full of walking, lesson planning and teaching. We are beginning to settle into a routine, we have cooking and cleaning down to a science, and the sign of rain clouds in the distance is becoming a welcome sight (showers!!!). Mikei is quite a small village but there is never a lack of stimulation. Everywhere we walk we are greeted by neighbours, smiling children, and animals (cows, chickens, goats, dogs). We love to play with the neighbourhood children who are often found outside our gate awaiting our arrival home from school.


Chris playing with Sancho and Rooney

Tuesday was a very exciting day for the QHO Kenya team! Two members of our group got accepted to MacMaster University for their subsequent post-graduate programs. Claire was accepted to Macmaster for Medical School and Maddie was accepted into a Global Health Master’s Program. We are so proud of them, congratulations Claire and Maddie!

Wednesday night, Fred and Beatrice hosted a farewell dinner for our wonderful PD’s: Maddie and Katie. Fred, in addition to being one of our neighbours, is Edward’s brother and most trusted confidante. We had a delicious meal with their entire family, but the evening was indescribable! We enjoyed Beatrice’s homemade masala tea, chipati and pea soup, and we brought some Canadian cuisine for their family to try. The extended family is quite large, and we felt so lucky to be included in such an amazing night, filled with dancing, laughter and love.

The following day we woke up early to say goodbye to Katie and Maddie before they left. We are so grateful for all their hard work throughout the year, and thanks to them we feel prepared for the next five weeks!


Katie and Maddie on the walk home from Masara Primary

Teaching has been going well, especially in our second week, as the students have been able to warm up to us. The students are becoming more engaged in all our classroom discussions, which is super exciting. They are opening up to us with regards to the day-to-day issues that they face and the struggles they encounter; this has helped enormously with our understanding of the culture and also with planning future lessons. This week, our lessons were mainly focused on healthy relationships and puberty (depending on the age of the students). We are looking forward to starting lessons and discussions regarding sex, consent, pregnancy and contraceptives in the upcoming week.


Lucie and Maddy with their Radienya Secondary class

On Saturday, we went to Migori to go to the market to pick up this week’s groceries, and to meet Edward for lunch and a meeting. Over a long lunch at the Migori County Lodge, we had the chance to chat more with Edward and get to know more about his organization Rieko Kenya. We also had the opportunity to discuss several QHO matters, and are looking forward to planning a new addition to our initiative; a community outreach day in mid-May to get to know more of the Mikei residents, and families of our students. Stay tuned!


Edward showing us one of Reiko Kenya’s other projects

We are so beyond happy to be here, and are all so shocked at how fast the days have been going by. Each day brings new experiences and opportunities, and we are looking forward to seeing where the next 5 weeks will take us!

Asanté sana! Thank you for your support!!

Kenya Week 1 Blog Post

We’re through week one here in Kenya and we are absolutely loving life! After a long travel period, we landed in Kisumu last Sunday morning, greeted by smiles and hugs from Edward- our contact from Rieko Kenya! At the airport we took a quick photo, met Cosmos (our driver), loaded up our bags and headed to The New Victoria Hotel to have our first Kenyan meal with Edward. After our meal we went to the Nakumat to stock up on groceries, and some treats that we will not see for the next 6 weeks. Once we finished our shopping, we started the beautiful drive to our new home for the next couple months. When we arrived in the evening, we were greeted with so much love! Edward’s family and friends had been prepping our house, and helped us set up. We got organized, and headed straight to bed!

 

We woke up on Monday in absolute awe of where we are to spend the next six weeks… IT’S BEAUTIFUL! We took the day to relax after all of our travelling, visit Mikei town centre, and meet some of the neighbourhood kids!

 

Drinking tea and eating Chapati at Grace’s restaurant

On Tuesday, we met the elusive Duncan! Duncan works for Edward and Rieko Kenya (our host organization), and he is our contact with all of the schools. We drove to all 15 schools, introduced ourselves and QHO, and invited each school to attend our teacher’s conference the next day in Mikei.

 

Wednesday was another very exciting day for us! We had the chance to chat with teachers from each of the schools about QHO, our curriculum, and listen to any ideas or advice they might have. The conference was incredibly fun, but also very informative! We were thrilled to have the input of teachers who interact with our students every day, and who know the specific needs much better than we could ever imagine.

 

Thursday and Friday marked our first days in the classroom, and we couldn’t be happier! Our three pairs of teaching partners (Jenna and Chris, Maddy and Lucie, and Claire and Marika) tackled 5 classes on Thursday and 4 on Friday. The students are amazing and our lessons were so much fun!!

Getting ready for our first day of teaching

 

Aside from teaching, we have been getting into a groove with cooking, cleaning and just embracing the Kenyan lifestyle. We have been quite creative in the kitchen, making some yummy pasta salads, veggie patties, curries…and of course avocado with every meal! We had our weekly grocery shop and meeting with Edward on Saturday- he welcomed us into his beautiful home for an amazing meal with his family, and a check-in as to how our first week went. We all went to church with some of the neighbourhood kids today (Sunday), which was a very cool experience! We are looking forward to having a few more days with Maddie and Katie before they leave on Thursday for a new adventure.

 

Outside Edwards home

 

Everyone has been so kind and welcoming (“Karibu!”), our students are incredible and the Mikei community is so close and caring. We really couldn’t ask for anything more, and are looking forward to getting back in the classroom tomorrow morning!

 

Oriti masani!! (Until next time)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spectacular view from our front lawn

Welcome to our new Blog!

We’ve updated our QHO Kenya Initiative Blog!

We have years of adventures in Kenya to look back on! Check out our old blogs here:
2013-2016:  http://eastafrica5.wixsite.com/qhokenya

2012:  https://qhokenya.wordpress.com/

2010: http://qhokenya2010.blogspot.ca/