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!


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.