Goodbye village :(

My last day in the village and I’m very sad to be leaving. The last two weeks have absolutely flown by and leaving now seems all too soon. In the first half of my stay I said that whilst I loved it here I don’t think I could return again for such a long period of time. Now having come to the end of my 6 weeks and having fully adapted to village life I feel I could stay for much longer, and definitely think I will be returning. The thing I will miss most, of course, is the children! I would love to take my 100 favourites home in my suitcase to play with me every day! But I know that even if I could, it would be silly, as they are so happy here. The village is such a wonderful institution where the children are raised to be fantastic citizens and provided with opportunities that they would be unlikely to have received anywhere else. I am a firm advocate that this village structure, which creates family-life, works so much better than a traditional orphanage, and think this model should without a doubt be replicated elsewhere.

One of my favourite things I have seen in Kenya is the knitted hats that the little children wear. Even on the hottest of days, you still find many children wearing these hats. We call them turnip heads as they resemble little turnips and they are soooo cute!

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Yesterday we made really good progress with the bench, and I am sad not to be able to be here to help finish it. However, hopefully we’ve done a good enough job that it will last for a very long time and I will be able to sit on it when I return!

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Things I will not miss about the village are the insects, the toilets, the showers, and the food! However, these are all things that are easily adjusted to and worth putting up with for the incredible experience the village offers.

I am looking forward to my parents coming later today and really excited for them to see the village in person, as it is hard to adequately describe just what a wonderful place it is. I am also really excited for our safari, which looks incredible (and has proper showers and toilets)! We are going to call in and see the Karen Orphanage on Friday, where I began my journey in Kenya, and then we are off to the Elephant orphanage before going on safari for a couple of days.

The red dust of Nyumbani Village will stay in my heart (and my fingernails, and my shoes, and my clothes) forever.

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Mimi xxx

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Public speaking final

Last night we had the final of the public speaking competition. It went really well and I was really proud of the progress they had all made. Everyone spoke loudly and confidently, and everyone watching said how impressed they were. The principal said she couldn’t believe how well they presented their speeches and has asked if for the next eight weeks, one of them each week could present their speech in the whole school assembly.

I was really impressed with how well it went and today I will award prizes for best speech and also best speaker at our celebration party!

Here is a copy of two of the speeches:

What Nyumbani Village Means to me

Five years ago my life was very different.
My life changed when I came to Nyumbani village.
My life changed for the better.
My life changed for forever.

This village is an institution where children without parents are taken in to be cared for. They also care for the old grandpas and grandmas. The orphans are taken here in order to gain education, love, care, and support.

My dear brothers and sisters, can you imagine what would have happened to this large group of orphans that live in the village, if they were not taken into this institution? Most of them they could be in gangs, or even thieves.
My dear brothers and sisters, don’t you know that most of them could have already been killed or committed suicide themselves? Most could be prostitutes, not only in their villages, but also in the big towns and cities and this may lead to being infected with HIV/AIDS, or STIs.

My dear brothers and sisters, Nyumbani has rescued many lives of young orphans. We, as children of Nyumbani come together as one family and say “Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting us.”

We, as Nyumbani children, say because of Nyumbani village we can become better people.
We can feel love in a family.
We can make it in life.

The Importance of Education

What do you think is the importance of education?
Is education of any importance to today’s daily activities?
Can you imagine a world without education?
My dear friends, I cannot.

Education lights the way because with education you can be anyone in life.
With education you can solve any problem that you come across.
With education you have the ability to think and make good decisions.
With education you can get a job because you have the certificates that show you are educated and you are qualified for the job.
With education you are able to communicate because you have the knowledge of English and Kiswahili, the commonly used languages for communication.
With education you are able to interact with other people because you don’t feel ashamed of yourself.
With education you can become famous because people will talk about you day in day out, and at long last you will be a famous person.
With education you know what to do and say.
With education you feel proud.

To me, education means I will get a job, I can communicate fluently, and I can interact with other people.
To me, education means I can be famous, I can solve any problem I come across, and I will be able to make a good decision.
To me, education means I will be proud of myself.

In conclusion, I would urge every one of you in this congregation to care more about education. With education you are sure to prosper in life because education lights the way.

Mimi xxx

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Last weekend :(

On Friday we went to check the water meters and then did lots of odd jobs around the village. The water meters took the entire morning (4 times longer than normal!) as the primary school children had a random day off school so we had to stop for a mini play in every single cluster! In the afternoon I had my final public speaking meeting with my group and all their speeches are now finished and typed, so they are ready for the competition on Monday! In the evening we went to Kwa Vonza for our traditional chips and drinks.

On Saturday morning everyone in the village was busy doing jobs to prepare for the visitors’ arrival. We were told lots of different arrival times and lots of different things about who was travelling how. We did a super speedy water meter check in all the clusters and then we all had a shower especially for the visitors! We had been told the helicopter would be arriving at 11am, and so we headed down to the office at 10.20 to finish sorting some things out. While in the office we heard the faint sound of a helicopter, and after debating a while about whether this was just a coincidence, as nothing on African time is ever early, we decided that the chances of there being another random helicopter when we haven’t seen one near the village ever was far too slim and we went outside to see. Sure enough this was the helicopter we had been waiting for, over half an hour early! There was commotion outside with adults and children running from all directions, while trying to finishing getting themselves ready! The children had spent the last 24 hours watering a patch on the social hall football pitch, so that when the helicopter landed there wouldn’t be too much dust. However, due to a miscommunication with the helicopter, it ended up landing on the different football pitch and as it landed there was a wall of dust washed towards the crowd. It looked like a tsunami of dust and everyone was now running away from the helicopter, desperate to preserve their clean clothes!

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As the token village mzungus we managed to wangle and invite to the tea reception in Lawson, and it was really nice to be able to chat to the visitors and hear some familiar British accents! In classic me style, the first thing that I did was dip my plait into my tea and create a lovely tea stained patch on my nice clean white shirt… After tea there was an assembly in Lawson, which included a dance from the Flamingos, a poem recital, and some very good speeches. I think the visitors really enjoyed themselves and Lawson high school definitely did a very good job of welcoming them and showing them the result of their kind generosity. My favourite bit was when walking into the assembly the Lawson students were sweetly singing “welcome, welcome, you are welcome to Lawson high school” in harmony.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling before going out to dinner to that nice restaurant near Kitui to celebrate my birthday, and two other volunteers’ birthdays, which were also this week! It was so much fun and we all ate lots of food and drank lots of cocktails! We then had a massive birthday cake with a candle for each of us. It was such a lovely surprise and also really delicious!

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Today we built the foundations for our bottle bench with the help of a polytechnic student (plus of course Albright!). We dug a hole in the field, which was harder than anticipated! We then filled it with gravel, then big rocks, and finally cement. Hopefully before I leave we can make some good progress on building the bench, as we have enough bottles now.

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Tonight we went to a cluster party in cluster 19. This cluster won three chickens when we had the dance festival last month and they have gradually been acquiring enough things to hold a party. All staff and volunteers were asked to contribute something to the party and they pretty much all complied. We supplied 3 litres of cooking oil. We went by this afternoon to check on progress and about 20 children were all working together and had set up a chapatti making production line. They cooked chicken, rice, cabbage, and chapattis, and they also had sodas and biscuits. We ate dinner before the party because we did not want to deprive the children of their food, but this turned out to be a big mistake as upon arrival we were all presented with a plate piled high with food. The food was delicious but we were all stuffed and felt a little like Bruce from Matilda as we knew it would seem rude to leave any food. After the food there was a dance performance, which was amazing. They sang and drummed too and they welcomed us all to the party individually by singing “we are happy, we are happy today, to see you ‘Amelia’, to see you ‘Amelia’”. After this there were speeches from everyone present and prayers. It was such a fun evening, and really lovely to see a whole cluster working together to be such good hosts.

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Mimi xxx

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A birthday to remember!

Yesterday I experienced my first ever birthday away from home in a place pretty much as different from home as you can get. Whilst having my breakfast I opened the many small gifts my parents had sent with me in my suitcase, which thankfully included lots of English sweets! I also had a card, which Molly had posted from England to the village so that was really exciting! The presents from my parents included a birthday girl badge, which I of course wore all day long! Birthdays in the village are a bit odd, as they aren’t really a big deal for many people, due to the majority of children not even knowing when theirs is.

We went round and checked the water meters and then set off for shopping in Kitui. Luke and I went with the truck which goes to Kitui every Thursday to collect lots of things that the village needs. After doing our jobs (mainly buying lots of alcohol and food for that night!) we went to the café near the supermarket with one of the village staff for a birthday lunch, which consisted of a plate of chips and a coke! We then spent 3 hours in the hot truck while they finished all their remaining village jobs around Kitui, with every job being supposedly “the last one”!

We got back to the village around 5pm, and luckily had already rescheduled English teaching as we suspected we would be later than the 2pm we had been told. It was after we got back to the village that it really started to feel like my birthday!

I took some of the birthday balloons, that mum and dad had sent me, out to the little field by my window and blew them up for the children. Lots of children kept singing me happy birthday – mainly because I think they thought that was the key to getting a balloon! And then Albright, Mumo, Amos, Brian, and the rest of their gang told me it was time for my cake… We traipsed off with them to cluster 5, where they frantically ran about all of their different houses gathering all the ingredients they needed. Many shushus looked confused about their sudden loss of food, but the boys were determined to make me this ‘pepe’ cake. They lit a fire under their pan and added fat, sugar, flour, and water. The fat appeared to be black initially, which confused me until on closer inspection I realised it just had a total coating of ants. Yummy. They mixed the ingredients and the ants all together and let it bake to golden brown breadcrumbs. I was then presented with a huge plate of it, but after trying a couple of breadcrumbs, I offered it to the large group of children who had come to see what was happening and it was gone in seconds. It may not have been the tastiest birthday cake I’ve ever received, but definitely the most thoughtful and the most memorable!

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After having my cake we went back to the guesthouse to prepare the party. We made a giant vat of cocktail in one of the empty water containers, and then had lots of pasta with tomato sauce. After this we went outside with the drink and ukulele, where we toasted bread and cooked sausages on a bonfire! It was so much fun; two new volunteers had arrived that day, plus some staff came, so there was lots more people than just our previous group of three at the party!

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Some of the staff had been discussing with Angie whether they were going to show me a traditional Kenyan birthday… when we enquired what this entailed they told us that the tradition is that guests at the party have to perform a song. The boys seemed reluctant and the party carried on. Much later on the staff said their farewells and went to bed, and we carried on drinking and chatting around the fire, whilst eating copious amounts of chocolate. About half an hour later I heard running footsteps behind me and “happppyyyyyy birrrrthdayyyyyyyyyyy” yelled as a giant bucket of freezing water is thrown over me‼ Turns out this is the traditional Kenyan ‘birthday bath’… Having spoken to people today, this does actually seem to be a real tradition and the whole point is it has to be when the recipient is least expecting it. They definitely succeeded and it was very funny!

I’m feeling twenty twoooooooo

Mimi xxx

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Busy days!

These last couple of days have been super busy and now I really feel like we are working hard here! Every morning we go around all 26 clusters reading their water meters and seeing if their rainwater tanks are empty. We also test if they have water that morning. As most of the children are at school, this doesn’t take too long, but we stop every time we see a baby who is too young for school for a quick play! We then are going back to every single cluster alternate evenings to check if they still have water in the evening, and if they don’t then we have to record where else the children and shushus went to get water that day. This should help account for high water usages, when one cluster borehole is actually supplying more than one cluster. We did this for the first time tonight, and by the time we started it was already pitch black, as it was after teaching. We split the clusters up between the three of us to save time and all went around the village with a torch trying not to get lost. Luckily Albright’s cluster was one of the first ones on my list, so him and 7 boys in his ‘crew’ accompanied me around my final 6 clusters!

English lessons are going very well, and the children all seem to be having fun and obviously benefiting. We have been working outside their classroom in groups, but we have been asked to move further away from the school as we were making too much noise and disturbing other classes! Today we were doing poetry and we had lots of fun getting the children to recite famous English poems in small groups using different actions and voices. Coming back to the guesthouse every evening in the pitch black makes it feel like we’ve worked a proper day!

I also had my penultimate public speaking session with my group and their speeches are coming along brilliantly! More than half the group have now finished their speeches and I have helped them edit them and type them ready for the competition on Monday. I have also planned a mini party for them next week with tea and chapatti to reward them for their hard work.

The village, and particularly Lawson High School, are working hard to finalise preparations for the visitors on Saturday. The Lawson family and Jeremy Hunt are coming here on Saturday to visit the school and village. The children have been tidying the school and preparing some special performances for their visit. Lots of children are very excited as they are coming to the village by helicopter!

Today we went to Kwa Vonza to the tailor to collect the skirts we had made. Mine are so nice and I’ve given her some more material and ordered some more to collect next week!

Tomorrow is my birthday! Wooooo! When I was back home I originally thought that having goat was the traditional way to celebrate your birthday, but as we have it twice a week anyway it’s not really a novelty. Instead I’ve gone for the least traditional choice I could think of and we are going to cook hot dogs over the bonfire. I am going to Kitui tomorrow morning to buy the meat and some alcohol for the party! We are also planning to go back to that nice restaurant near Kitui on Saturday evening.

Can’t believe this is my final week now!

Mimi xxx

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New project

This morning we planned a water data collection project, which we will be carrying out for the next two weeks. The village has a problem with access to water at the moment and in order to address the issue we need to collect accurate data every day for a while to monitor patterns. This was the project we tried to start a couple of weeks ago, but we found most of the locks to the water meters were completely rusted shut. Today we finally received the permission we have been waiting for to cut the locks off, and so went around to the clusters using a hacksaw to remove the locks. It was slow work and we were even assisted by a shushu at one point! 

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Every house has its own rainwater tank, which holds 10,000 litres and fills up in the two rainy seasons. This water is then meant to last the house in between rainy seasons, and should only be used for cooking and drinking. However, these tanks empty very quickly as the children also use them for washing and the shushus even put it on their gardens when there is no other water available. Each house also has a bore hole/well, which contains the water they should use for everything other than cooking and drinking. However, this tap often has no water. There is also one ‘secret tap’ in the village, which is a government tap and always has water. However, it is the worst kept secret in the world and you often see children trekking up there with barrels to fill. Using this water also costs the village money.

The water meters we are reading measure the water used each day in the cluster bore holes, however it is very hard to obtain reliable and useful data. One of the biggest issues is that if a cluster has no water it will just go to a neighbouring cluster and use theirs, so it is hard to see how much water each cluster actually uses. In the evenings we will go around the clusters and ask the children whether they had water that day. 

One of the main problems to tackle is an education aspect about which water should be used for what and about how not to waste water. An issue is that many of these children come from places where to have a tap with water flowing ‘freely’ is a complete luxury and so they often just leave it running for fun. Other than educating the children and shushus, one idea that has been suggested is to get a stopper that limits the water each house has access to from the rainwater tanks each day. Hopefully the data collected can help the sustainability department in some way to try to start making improvements to the system.

Yesterday I was talking to one of my favourite boys from a nearby cluster, Albright, the same boy that rules the football pitch next to my window. We were discussing school and he told me that his favourite subject was maths because he was the best in his year (class 5) and that today at school he would be getting his maths test back. He told me that he pretty much always gets above 95%, and that he would find me this evening and let me know. Sure enough he came up to the guesthouse tonight (after hiding in a nearby bush making very realistic lion noises) and showed me his exam paper where he had got 98%! I gave him a biscuit as a reward, which he seemed very chuffed with. He clearly lives up to his name!

Tonight we taught our first English lesson. We were teaching form 1’s at Lawson who are mainly 14/15 years old and we had two classes back to back. I had planned the lessons beforehand and we split them into three groups and took one group each so that it was easier to get them to speak without being shy. Today we just played lots of fun games to get them talking as much as possible in English; the lesson went very well and we are teaching the same lesson twice again tomorrow to form 2’s. 

Mimi xxx

 

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Relaxing Sunday

 The guesthouse was very busy this weekend with all the guests. The big group who were staying for the weekend were all Rotary presidents from across Kenya and a lot of fun. Some members were particularly hyper and tried to get us all doing yoga at breakfast… by which they actually meant some hip-hop dance they had made up but all seemed to know the steps to. They were mainly in their 20’s and 30’s and they had come to the village for a weekend get-together retreat and also to work with the Interact group here. They had lots of questions about the village, but the one thing that none of them could get over was the independence of the children here. They were shocked that walking about the village you see children of all ages cooking for the family, cleaning the house, and washing their clothes. After being here a month, the sight of children doing everything for themselves has just become ‘normal’, but hearing the Rotary group’s comments reminded me how incredible it really is.

When we were in Kwa Vonza on Saturday night, they phoned us and asked us to bring a lot of alcohol back for their bonfire party. When we arrived at the party with alcohol in tow, they were singing along to a guitar and dancing around the bonfire. We stayed and joined in for a bit, which was super fun. We eventually retired to bed at midnight (don’t they know village life normally ends at 9pm?!) leaving the bonfire party still in full flow. Needless to say they didn’t make it to the 8am Mass on Sunday morning…

After the group departed I spent the rest of the morning relaxing, which consisted of reading and washing some of my clothes. Some boys from the nearby cluster came past while I was washing my socks, and decided to come over and watch. They were full of criticisms about my washing technique, to the extent that many offered to help assist me! It yet again shows how amazing village life is when a group of 11-year-old boys are experts in how to hand wash socks!

On Saturday morning I was discussing with another volunteer how lucky it was that I hadn’t managed to lock myself out my room yet, as when I’m around the house I frequently leave the lock almost on with my key inside to save having to take the key with me. Obviously after saying this I managed to lock myself out Saturday evening and then AGAIN Sunday lunchtime! Both times I had to prise my window open and get a small child to climb through and hand me my key. I rewarded both boys with two Jaffa Cakes and then this evening had different boys asking me for some more! I have a feeling they’re going to start deliberately trying to lock me out… Although I did see the second boy that I gave biscuits to breaking each biscuit into 8 tiny pieces so everyone could try some ❤

Sunday afternoon I had my next meeting with my public speaking group, but only half the group were present. Being a Sunday this is actually quite impressive, as the children all have lots of jobs to do on a Sunday, due to it being their only day off school.

While waiting for the group members to show up, a girl I know from cluster 12 walked past with a giant sugar cane. The children here occasionally have sugar cane to snack on as a treat. She explained that she had just been to visit a family in Kwa Vonza who had recently lost their child, and she had been given the cane as a gift. She insisted on cutting off a chunk of the cane to give to me to try! It is in my room, and I am planning on having it later today. 

Mimi xxx

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Visitors!

On Friday we had lots of visitors arriving so the morning was spent frantically trying to prepare everything for the various different arrival times! While preparing the rooms for the weekend visitors, I finally got to have a proper nose around the new guesthouse – as opposed to my previous snooping, which was just through gapes in the curtains through the windows! As we went around making sure every room was clean, had bath mats, soap and toilet roll, I got to see a glimpse of how the other half could live in the village 😉 The rooms are all very nice with big beds, which the mosquito nets turn into feeling like 4-poster princess beds. They have bright lights, which is a first for the village, and due to the high position of the buildings means that when people are staying there it can be seen from across much of the village. The work is almost all finished up there and the plan is to eventually use it as an eco-tourism guesthouse where visitors can pay a bit more for luxury whilst still experiencing a taste of village life for a short while, and hopefully this will produce some more revenue for the village!

After this work was done, a new volunteer arrived! Luke is American and staying in the village for 6 weeks. Another boy is hopefully arriving on Monday as well, and it is nice to have some new faces around, after it has been weirdly quiet since the departure of most volunteers last week! The guests that were just here for the day arrived mid-morning and were from an agriculture college in Kenya. They spent most of the day having a special agriculture tour and left in the afternoon, after having lunch with us at our guesthouse. In the afternoon we gave our new volunteer a village tour – mainly involving playing with babies in some of the clusters, and I finished planning my English lessons for next week.

In the evening we had dinner at Angie’s house, as she lives in staff housing. It was a real treat and definitely not a true introduction to the village for Luke… Angie made us chicken, in a tomato, potato and onion sauce, mashed potato, and proper Spanish omelette; it was delicious! We then waited for our weekend guests to arrive… and in proper Kenyan style, their 6pm arrival turned into 10pm, and we received frequent phone calls citing “we’re about an hour away” from 5pm onwards. After they eventually arrived we showed them where supper was and waited for them to eat before walking them to the new guesthouse. They are a group of Rotarians who have come here for a retreat and to meet with the Interact group here. They were very excited to be in the village, but we could tell they were ‘city’ kids, as they were full of questions about whether there was a fence around the village and if they would be safe from lions and hyenas. After reassuring them that it was only goats, multiple chickens, and our pet dog and cat they had to watch out for we left them to sleep in their luxury rooms!

This morning we went to collect them for breakfast, and many were still asleep/not ready when we arrived. We called out several times to warn them that their mandazis were going cold, and in the end we set off for breakfast with half the group, as we wanted our mandazi warm too! Today, after we helped them set up their equipment in the social hall, was spent mainly resting. Tonight we are off to Kwa Vonza for some chips and drinks!

Lots of the children in the village wear Toms shoes, and it’s amazing to see the the Toms ‘One for One’ scheme, where for every pair you buy they give a pair to a developing country, actually in action!

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Definitely a mini-me, revising on the way home from school:IMG_2613

Mimi xxx

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Shopping adventure

Yesterday morning I went down to the shambas to help out. I spent the morning tying up tomato plants tighter so that they grow straight, and also pulling off bits of the plants that have been eaten by caterpillars. It’s always nice to work down there, to be able to chat to the ladies who work there. The village employ roughly 200 staff on the shambas, and all of them live nearby and walk to the village to work everyday.  

In the afternoon we returned the painted trash bins back to their original positions. Two of the bins were from communal areas, and one was from Hotcourses primary, and the other from Lawson high. We returned the school bins during their assembly times, as this gave us an opportunity to speak to the children about the importance of actually using the bins etc.! Their assemblies are very different to anything I have ever experienced in England. They happen near the end of the day, the students all stand in lines for the duration (which is luckily very short), and they take place outside. It was actually pretty daunting being stood on the platform with over 300 children staring up at you!

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After returning the bins at Lawson, we met with the environmental club there to explain the ecobrick project to them. It took a while to get them to understand the project, and we had lots of questions along the lines of what they will gain from the project, and whether there is any profit to be made from this!! But by the end they seemed to be on-board with the project (despite the lack of money making!) and they were very excited that they would be joining a worldwide movement, and that their bench would be the first of its kind in Kenya.

This morning we went to Kitui to shop, as on Saturday we will be too busy as there are lots of visitors in the village. The visitors are 38 young Kenyan Rotarians and they arrive tomorrow and are then staying in the village for two nights! We got a ride on the village bus to Kwa Vonza, as it was taking children to an assessment centre in Kitui, but as there weren’t enough seats for the children we agreed to get off in Kwa Vonza and take a matatu the rest of the way. Matatus are public minibuses here that are always overcrowded. I feel like riding an infamous matatu is something I had to experience during my time in Kenya and it definitely didn’t disappoint! When the minibus pulled up to the stop there was a mad scrum of people all desperately trying to get on the bus. We were squished two to a seat with the bus conductor lying across us (when he wasn’t hanging out the door!)

After doing our shopping we decided to get a big bus back as these normally have more space, and we had lots of shopping with us. To get the bus back you have to go to the stage, where you are instantly surrounded by 20 men all desperate to take you to your destination. We eventually found the bus that was ready to leave and going in the right direction and found some seats. The bus is full of snack sellers walking up and down the bus until the very last minute offering biscuits, drinks, yams, hard boiled eggs with salsa, and smokies sausages! This bus also ended up extremely crowded, and as per classic Kenya I soon ended up with a 6 year old girl called Stella on my lap for the entire journey as there weren’t enough seats! After disembarking the bus in Kwa Vonza we then had very entertaining rides on bodas (motorbikes) back to the village, trying to juggle all of our shopping on our laps. 

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This afternoon I had my next public speaking session, and was really impressed with the group’s work. It is amazing to see them growing in confidence after only two sessions. I will meet with them again on Sunday to begin writing their competition speeches. 

Mimi xxx

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Food distribution

Today I finally got round to helping with the food distribution. This is something which takes place every Tuesday afternoon, but the last couple of weeks we have been busy with vacation camp and also there have been lots of children around to help instead – children are normally super eager to help in the stores in return for a free orange or banana! During term time it is left to each shushu to come and collect the food for their house for the week. They come laden with empty bags and they are then called one at a time to collect their food. The store distributes rice, flour, sugar, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, matches, tea, salt, eggs, and onions. How much of the basics – flour, sugar etc. – each house receives depends on the number of children in the house, and also takes into account factors like how many members are HIV positive. The house can then choose how they spend their money on the other fruits and vegetables and things. It was incredible to see these shushus lugging great big sacks of food back to their clusters.

I was on rice distribution duty; this meant I had to use a jug to measure the required amount of rice into their empty sacks and then add two boxes of matches, one pack of tea, and one bag of salt on top. There was a bit of a rice crisis halfway through when one of the big bags of rice was more grain/wheat than actual rice, so lots of shushus were complaining and bringing their bags back. We had to compromise and give everyone a mix of the proper rice with the ‘bad’ rice. It was very very busy at the store, and the container we were working in was very hot. Tomorrow I am going to help in the other weekly distribution, where shushus can come to get things like soap and other household products.

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As I was leaving the store Hotcourses primary were now out of school so the sports field was full of children in their green jumpers and checked shorts and skirts. They all look so smart in their uniform, but it is also a lot harder to tell the children apart! Most of the children here only have one or two outfits of casual clothes, so you become used to mainly recognising the child by what they are wearing – especially if you see them from a distance! Lots of them were calling my name as I walked back from the store and it took me a moment to work out who was who as they sat their sweetly in their school uniforms.

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After I had helped in the store I had my first session with my public speaking group. I had met with the group this morning to explain the project and tell them where our first meeting was going to be, but I was still a little worried that they wouldn’t all show up! Luckily they did and we spent an hour working together, mainly looking at speech delivery. We watched a few famous speeches from history, and then as a group discussed what features made these good speeches. At first they were all very hesitant to speak at all, but became more confident as the session progressed. At the end I asked them all to write a very brief speech employing some of the key features we had discussed. One of the videos we had watched earlier in the session was Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ speech, and we had discussed how powerful the repetition in the speech was; my favourite moment from our workshop was then when one girl wrote in her speech “I can, I can, I can dance”. At least she had listened I guess… I am meeting with the group five times over the next two weeks, ending with a competition where they will all give a one minute speech to an audience. 

Over half way through my time in the village, and I am considering how being here matches up even slightly to my expectations. I would say on the whole the village is largely how I expected it to be, but just much bigger. One thing that I did not anticipate, which has blown me away, is just how welcoming and friendly every single person you come across here is. The thing that has probably surprised me the most is that I haven’t had a single insect bite the whole time I have been here (yet!)… this isn’t to say I haven’t seen my fair share of hideous insects – including a giant centipede, flying cockroaches, huge hornets, many many spiders, and also the ants. It is impossible to eat a meal here without having to compete with 50 ants also trying to eat the same food, but hey you have to get your protein somewhere! I am definitely less of a wimp when it comes to bugs than I was when I left. I am also surprised how quickly you get used to the toilet and shower situation. This is a photo of my toilet and also of my shower…

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The food has probably been the hardest thing to adjust to, and is definitely not something I will miss about the village! 

Mimi xxx

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