Last Day at Nyota

Running in the Field

I woke up this morning to the sound of feet running, chairs scraping, and children’s excited chatter. It is the first day of school for the fall term. The time was 6:30 AM. By 6:40 I went upstairs to check things out a the children were already dressed in their school uniforms. A congregation had been assembled at one end of the hall, led by four of the ‘older’ children (like 11-12 years old). They were leading the children in mornings prayers and singing. Its incredible to see how self-sufficient these children are. Getting up, getting dressed, getting organized. Partly a cultural thing and partly a reflection of their past and having to fend alot for themselves. But it sure has developed a lot of autonomy and leadership among many of them.

After a breakfast of maize porridge, mandazi (kind of a Kenyan donut) and bananas they formed a line outside, two by two, from smallest to biggest and marched to school.

We are having a meeting of the children today at 4 and then a staff meeting at 5:00. Tomorrow I head to the coast for a few days and then home. Looking forward to a wonderful farewell concert tonight. I bought beef stew to prepare for support. A real treat! Then some “sweeties” (candies) to pass around.

Thanks for reading and all your support

Lynda

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Yesterday I went to town and bought supplies for the kitchen and ice cream for the children – strawberry and vanilla. The last time they ate ice cream was when Doug and I were here in January. It is such a treat for them…I guess the word was out when i first arrived that now that Lynda is here we may get to eat ice cream! You could have heard a pin drop in the big dining room as they focused on this rare pleasure. This morning i met with three kids here that aren’t doing so well in school. One of them, Doreen, is an exceptionally bright young woman who is fluent in English. The question is why? I always get the same easy answer…I’ll try harder next term. I want to tell them the definition of insanity is doing the same old thing and expecting a different result. Somehow this doesn’t translate so well into Kiswahili. So we talked through a plan of action for each one, and I got a commitment from each one the average they hope to achieve in the fall term. I wish that they could receive more of their education in their native language. It is such a huge hurdle to master a hard curriculum in a foreign language. But the best we can do is try to succeed in the system imposed on them. I think they heard me when I told them i believe in them and they must believe in themselves. This morning I passed out little Matchbox cars to the children – of course there wasn’t enough to go around and that caused a major war. These kids have experienced so much deprivation when something is available they have learned to grab and get. The concept of sharing is alot harder to master when there are scarce resources. I now have to go in and confiscate cars from those who have and distribute them to those that don’t. Wish me luck…The karate teacher just arrived so I am going over to get a bit of a workout. Tomorrow is our last day here. The days seem to go in a blurr – its a combination of all the activity here (45 kids generate alot of energy) and the fast that everything takes longer to do. A trip to town that you think can be done in two hours takes four. Its really part of the charm of this place. White people are known to want to rush and hurry everything. And given that I am on the higher scale of that to begin with, they must think I’m a very Type A “mizungu” (white person). Thanks for reading my blog. These children are truly wonderful and what we do for them is going to result in them making a difference for their communities and their country. Lynda

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Friday at Nyota

Today was the first kind of chilly day…after all its winter in Kenya. It rained and thundered and the mist hung over the Rift Valley. I had a lovely walk down the road with Mikayla, my granddaughter, and some of the children to a neighbour’s house who has chickens and chicks. They live in her small two room house with her, her sister, a friend and three children. They are wonderful people full of life and laughter. Two of them work at Nyota and Mission in Action. The sister was afflicted with polio at age three, but despite this is a very beautiful and hard working young woman. Today she was shelling beans for the household to eat. The children here have taken Mikayla in as one of the family, and hold hands and play with her. They love the playground and jumping on the trampoline.

I am listening to the sound of a soccer game, involving our older boys and another team from the nearby community. They are all decked out in their soccer gear and take the game very seriously. Apparently the opposing team couldn’t get women to participate, so our female players had to drop out. Not fair! Anyway they have been playing almost an hour and still no score!

I spent alot of time today with Rose, our social worker. She is a concientious and talented young woman who is very dedicated to the children. One 11 year old girl – Faith – ran away and was gone for two weeks. Two days ago we got word that she had been found and was being held at the juvenile prison. We sent someone to pick her up and she arrived back safely last night, looking none the worse. We were worried sick about her. She has had a difficult past; her mother beat and rejected her and apparently she ran away to her grandmothers, who also told her she would not take her back. So Faith got on a bus back to Nakuru, the city close to Nyota. What risks she took and who knows what could have happened to her. We are arranging for counselling for her. While our children are loved and well cared for, they have very difficult pasts which for older children are difficult to overcome. However every time I come here I see more and more progress, and the children seem even more happy and well adjusted.

Rose also gave me the school marks for our children. Many, including Jacinta, Anna and Kevin are #1 in their class. This shows what our kids can do! Most are doing very well in school and working hard. We have hired a tutor that works with them after school and is also available on weekends. I think this is also making a difference.

Will write more before I leave…time is running short as Mikayla and I depart on Tuesday. My great friends Kashia and Gail left this morning for safari. Kashia taught the older girls how to do Origami and Gail taught the boys Crazy 8’s and other card games. The children gave them a farewell performance last night and kept asking them when they would return. They miss them already. So do I…

Lynda

 

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Its a beautiful Kenya “winter” day…sun shining and mid-20’s. This morning I woke to the sound of Jane singing as she washed the floors. She has a beautiful, melodic voice. All the staff great you with a handshake and a “good morning”.  Today my friends Gail and Kashia are taking new photos of all the children. They start back to school next week after almost a month of vacation. Like our kids at home they seem a little aimless without the structure of school, although there certainly is a routine here. They get up around 6:30 AM, have breakfast at 7:30, then play until noon, have lunch, then nap time for the smaller ones, support at 6:00 PM, prayers and then bed or quiet reading.

Last night I was called upstairs for a meeting with a “visitor”. It turned out to be a social worker from Naroc, a town near the Masai Mara and about 4 hours from Nyota. The mother of one of our children, Samwell, passed away a few days ago and she is being buried today. They came to tell Sammy about his mother dying and then take him to the funeral. This is incredibly stressful for any child, but moreso for Samwell as his mother had advanced AIDs and became quite abusive to him before we were granted custody. He still bears emotional scars. We are very concerned for him – he will return to Nyota on Saturday.

Yesterday I bought four new rugs for the common room so the children can play with their Lego and toys on a rug. The floors are terazzo and quite cold. They really warm the place up!

I am going to try and include some photos…having a problem with getting them on the blog. I’ll have lots to send when I return.

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Nyota is Officially Open!

We had our grand opening of Nyota yesterday. It was such a PARTY!! The outside was festooned with orange and green and white ribbons. Over 100 people attended – local dignitaries, people from the hospital, the bank, the Children’s Dept., the contractors who built the home, and on and on. We had singers and we all joined hands and danced around the room. There was a huge cake with the Nyota logo on top. I unveiled the plaque, dedicating Nyota to Wallace and Margaret McCain, without whose faith and belief in us this would not have been possible. The children were all dressed up and there was a feast afterwords. But best of all, at the end of the day it rained and a spectacular rainbow appeared that covered the sky. It was a great omen.

I have to make this short as its starting to rain and i can only get a signal outside. Will write again tomorrow!

Jambo

Lynda

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Hi Everyone! This is my first post from Nyota for my August 2011 trip. We arrived safely here on Thursday afternoon. The children ran out to see us, with lots of hugs and handshakes. It felt like a real homecoming. I am here with my six year old granddaughter Mikayla and friends Kashia and Gail. For them everything is new and different! Even for me as this is the first time i have seen our new Nyota home finished. It is really quite remarkable. The colors are lovely and warm and all of the rooms have murals or flowers painted on them. The scale of the home is quite immense, which takes some getting used to. I actually got lost in the girls dorm! The home overlooks the Great Rift Valley and at night a big yellow moon rises before you, and in the morning you are treated to a Kenyan sunrise. We are staying in the new volunteer apartments built on the lower floor. We have a kitchen and dining area, bedroom and bathroom with shower and running water. Not opulent, but certainly clean, safe and functional. Mikayla is having a hard time adjusting to the food, which is basic Kenyan food…rice, ugali, lentils, beans. kale, etc. All wonderful food but not what our kids are used to. So she is living on toast, peanut butter, cheese and milk. The children are all well and on their school break. We have five new kids whom i had not met before, so I will do their bios while i am here. Little Paul is only four, and Brian is five. They are like lost little souls, although starting to make friends and feel safe. Brian was badly abused by his Dad and is very traumatized. Paul and his sister Cynthia were abandoned by their mother. Sometimes it can make you feel very sad, these children without parents who have suffered so much. But we have wonderful staff here who love them, and the children are in a safe home with food and clothes and people who care for them. It will be a road back for some of them, but you can’t help but wonder what would become of them without Nyota. Our support is changing these little lives. Here are a few photos…i am trying to get used to WordPress again so am hoping this works! Believe it or not, we are wireless at Nyota, and i am writing this sitting in the beautiful sunshine overlooking the valley. Talk about a disconnect. Tomorrow is our official opening of the new home. Lots of bureaucrats from the Kenya Children’s Dept coming, as well as friends and family. There will be flowers and a ribbon cutting. I went our yesterday and bought a dozen rose bushes, Jakaranda trees, lilies, and so many bushes and flowers that i don’t know what i have! We are going to plant a flower garden this afternoon to make the place look beautiful. Will take lots of pictures and write again very soon. Lynda

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Leaving Nyota

Hi Everyone – Doug and I got back home late last night after almost 24 hours in transit…drive to Nairobi; stay overnight and two eight hour flights to get here.  You can imagine its a transition in many ways…emotionally, physically and mentally. We are glad to see our family, friends, pets and get back to our lives. But we also leave part of ourselves and the children and people we love in Kenya. Doug asked me if I will continue to the blog…the answer is I think I will, along with sending out email upates. 

This was the best trip yet – we engaged with the staff, the children and the running of Nyota in a much deeper way than previous trips…probably because we had more time there and also the fact that Nyota is maturing and growing.  We are seeing so much progress and the children are in such good health and so happy to be part of this big family. Thanks for your kind notes while we were away – it was so wonderful to hear from you and get your encouragement and support. The children and staff send you all very warm greetings, their deepest thanks for your many kindnesses, and hope that you will come and visit them!  I always feel like they have bestowed upon me a huge gift of their friendship, openness and trust and allowed me to experience their lives in a very real and insightful way.  I hope through this blog I have and will continue to be able to share some of this with you. 

Lynda

January 20, 2011

Today is our last day at Nyota. It’s been a very busy week…writing the Nyota Annual Report 2010, going over the new home construction project and timeline, discussing future staffing, and developing a draft Nyota policy, which I will review with the Nyota Advisory Council and FTC when I return. This policy supports our registration with the Kenya Children’s Department. Part of this policy is having a mission statement for Nyota. Here is what we have developed:

Our vision is to empower these children to become self-sufficient adults who can in turn help their communities.  We want all these children to become “stars” in their own right, and we want to empower them to achieve their dreams and in turn to help their communities.

We want the staff, children and the Children’s Dept to understand that one of the primary goals of Nyota is to help these children to succeed academically to the very best of their ability. To support this one of the things we are doing is recruiting one or two tutors to work with the children every evening and weekends on their homework and to provide remedial instruction. Ivan, Martha (Manager of Mission in Action) and I also discussed ways to better integrate our children and Nyota into the community. Some ideas include bringing respected elders in to speak with the children, organizing regular volunteer activities with neighbouring villages, and crafts workshops with the kids.

 I also spent many hours yesterday going through the new home and picking paint colors – dark and light blue and gold for the boy’s area; deep rose, apple green and gold for the girl’s area; and summer yellow and orange for the dining and gathering hall and kitchen. Who knows if it will turn out well…we just want the place to feel light and cheery and welcoming! The ceilings of the home are going up (wooden ceilings) which makes it look alot more finished. Then the terrazo floors will be installed, then the plumbing and final finishing. We are hoping to be in by the end of March – subject to some additional fundraising.  

We had a staff meeting to discuss how we could assist the children with English. There has been little progress in the past year and it is affecting their school marks. The small children (under 5) speak almost no English, and some of the older children who have not attended school regularly or who come from small villages also have very limited understanding. The staff suggested we implement an “English Only” policy for the next three months to immerse the children. Kiswahili will be used to help interpret and explain. They are certainly making an effort to follow this, although it is hard. I hope it is successful as they can then go to more of a 50/50 use of English and Kiswahili. I’ve already seen a difference in the smaller kids – especially with the help of Tess and the pre-school program we have started. It is a balancing act to impose English and continue to respect their native languages and culture.  In Kenya there continues to be a strong divide between English as the language of school and commerce, and Kiswahili as the language of everyday life and our kids are very grounded in their native languages.

We also sorted out the issue of missing library books – it seems there was no issue of stealing (the books were stored in someone’s locker and all returned) and the bigger boys were very upset that there could have been this misunderstanding.  I felt very relieved to learn this!!

A Special Moment…last night I read to a couple of the younger girls. They love nothing better than to have stories read to them. One of these girls has AIDs, although through medication she is much healthier than when she arrived and appears to be controlling the disease. She tentatively started stroking my hair, then she tucked it behind my ears, then she fixed my part and patted it down…this kind of intimate grooming is much more common here amongst children. They love to hold, touch and be held. But it felt like kind of a sign to me that they have accepted me in a deeper way. It breaks my heart that this wonderful young girl is afflicted with this terrible disease, but together we can ensure she gets the medical help she needs to live a fairly normal life.

Water – A Precious Resource…one thing you can’t help but notice here is how valuable water is and how difficult it is for people to access. Every morning when we walk the children to school there is a large gathering of people around the public tap beside the road. People carry water jugs on their heads, backs, bikes and on their donkeys. Water is carried home or sold to others. It goes on each day, all day long. There is no such thing for most of turning on the tap. Bathing occurs from a small tub. The other day some of the caregivers at Nyota were walking the small kids and they came upon a caravan of about 50 camels who were being lead by some people from the Turkana tribe of NE Kenya. These people would have walked hundreds of miles to get here. There is a terrible drought in this part of Kenya, and they have brought their camels here looking for green pasture and water. The animals were emaciated. When I stand under the shower I can’t help but remind myself that what I take for granted is a matter of life and death for many people.

The Boys Choir…they have started a boys choir hear under the leadership of the son of Imanuel, one of the cooks. He is a wonderful singer and he has taught the boys to sing in harmony. All the songs are in Swahili so I have no idea what they mean, but their voices are beautiful and so moving. Doug and I had tears in our eyes listening to them last night. I caught some of it on video which I hope we can upload onto our website. It felt like one of those special moments in life when you truly feel blessed. That is mostly what I feel when I am here…blessed to be able to share experiences with the staff and children of Nyota, their culture, their language and their daily rhythms. How many outsiders get to see this side of Kenya? What a life changing time we can offer people who come here to volunteer. And the kids and staff as so thrilled to have visitors. Hospitality is an important part of their culture and they do everything they can to make us feel comfortable and welcomed.

Saying Farewell…tonight we had a little good bye party. We bought lots of chicken (one of the favourite foods of the children but expensive by Kenya standards), balloons and candy. As usual, when the children eat their favourite food you can hear a pin drop in the dining hall (eating is serious business to these kids, many of whom have experienced hunger and eat like this meal could potentially be their last…it is a steady progression of fork to mouth, often hunched over the bowl in a very watchful manner.).

The kids extended their evening songs and the little children recited a few poems for us. We ended the evening by all joining hands in a circular and singing a song called “Farewell” – the words of which reaffirms that it is a temporary parting and not goodbye. We all got big hugs from each of the kids, and then I went off and read stories to Jacinta, Caroline, Faith and Margaret, who love this nightly routine. We walked the children to school the next morning – holding hands and playing spelling games. These morning rituals were very special and I will deeply miss sending them off to school with their bug smiles and waves…Lynda

 

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