Watoto Wote Wazuri

Chicken Coops, Chillin’ Mommas, Chirping Children …and Ugali?!

Posted in AIDS Orphans, HIV in Kenya, Kenya, Responding to poverty in Kenya by Lynn Ouellette on 12/30/2012

Nyumbani village–view through the schoolyard

And so we depart very soon—on January 17th. Everyone is counting the days and the lists of things to be done before departing are getting very long. This year is more complicated than most and with each year I wonder just how I am going to do it–to get ready to leave and then somehow it miraculously happens. We really have an incredible itinerary this year and a trip packed with things to accomplish. In fact, we keep packing in a little more….though I will admit I am one of the worst culprits for adding on projects. Just to give you an idea below is the link for our itinerary for my portion of the trip….before we added in the chicken coop supply buying and building, the photo project with the Maasai children and another project I am working on incorporating (that’s the one you might not know about yet Lloydie–surprise!)

2013 18 day AO calendar (01)

You can see that Lloydie Zaiser is a master at color coded itineraries! She  also has worked out the details of volunteer activities here:

Volunteer assignments in Kenya

You see… part of my goal in including these in the post is the hope that I might entice some potential interested volunteers for future trips (some of you already know who you are).

I want to tell you about some of the plans that we have in place so that you will have a preview of what we will be doing. Though we are departing from the States on Thursday the 17th, we don’t actually arrive in Nairobi until late Friday night.  We might be exhausted,  but I can tell you from experience that excitement will make us early risers and we’ll be off and running on Saturday morning since it will the first time waking up in the daylight in Kenya. One of the major goals of this trip will be to focus on Tuko Pamoja, our collaborative business with the Kenyan women artisans and that will begin right away by having a joint U.S. and Kenyan Board meeting on Saturday and dinner together on Saturday night. Now it might seem like a Board meeting sounds stuffy,  but you have no idea—I’m talking about 10 people, all friends, half of whom haven’t seen each other in a year,  9 women and one man, who have enough passion about the Kenyan women artisan groups to blow the roof off the building. It could be problem that we are meeting in a sedate retreat center run by nuns…. Part of what we will be preparing for is the following Saturday we will be offering the first annual Workshop for Women for the Tuko Pamoja artisans. It will be their opportunity to participate in a workshop focused on product development and quality control, financial and business skills, personal nurturing, relaxation exercises   and self-esteem (my part with my Kenyan Board counterpart, Lilian, the counselor from the village) and much more. We will have a lot of  fun with them, a lot of positive feedback and skill building, new business cards, food bags for them to take home,  and some personal items, some great bonding time and I am sure much singing, dancing,  and probably some tears of only the best kind.

Vision Self Help Group of Dandora

Vision Self Help Group of Dandora

The workshop will be after a week of going to all the sites where the women work to make their crafts–to the slums of Kibera, Dandora, Kangemi, and Kawangare where the Lea Toto outreach programs of Nyumbani provide services to families of children with HIV, and to the Maasai Community of the Pastoral Care Development Alliance.

Massai women of the PCDA craft group

Massai women of the PCDA craft group

The only group which we will not see before the workshop is the basket weaving grandmothers of Nyumbani Village, but we will see them when we spend all of the following week in the Village.

While we go to each site we have some other activities planned which will include outreach visits with the social workers to homes at the Lea Toto sites. These are always amazing touching experiences. At Kibera paper  we will do another workshop with a shared art project for new card ideas. Last year I taught the women how to block print and had a wonderful time. This year I don’t have a plan yet but know I will and we will have a lovely touching time together. It will be a little bittersweet though as Hilder who so patiently taught us to make paper passed away since we were there last year. These women are so lovely, friendly and warm and so appreciative of the time we spend with them—of course that’s true of all these groups.

Hilder teaching e to make paper at Kibera paper

Hilder teaching me to make paper at Kibera paper

We also have some fun things planned with the Maasai Children at PCDA. I have to say that I had a wonderful time with them last year and I think that was partly because I got to paint their faces and I was assigned the volunteer “task” of being the photographer.

Maasai Children

Maasai Children

Well I have managed to weasel my way back into that assignment this year by coming up with an actual photography project. We are going to make “school photos” for the children to take home. I have a polaroid digital camera that takes instant sticky back photos that we can mount on matte and these children who never have photos of themselves and are fascinated by the camera will bring photos home to their Mommas! I have also been in contact with the local art teacher , Sharon McCormick, who did the art exchange with me back in 2010. She now teaches the gifted and talented art class and her students thorough the “Art of Giving” project are going to send art work and art supplies for me to bring to the children. Lloydie can we fit in a little art work project with the PCDA children 🙂 ?

On the weekends we will be visiting Nyumbani Children”s Home. We may do food sorting, clothes sorting or other volunteer activities,  but most of the volunteer time is spent just being with the children and loving them. It has become tradition for me to do face painting with the younger ones so I have already stocked up on face paint to travel. Last year Puritee, a former Children’s Home resident who is now grown up and living independently (the real miracle of the Children’s Home is the  normalcy of this kind of outcome) joined with me in the face painting and I hope we will do that again. I will never forget the first year when I had preschool children chirping all around me in unison “I want to be Bahtamahn (Batman with the swahili accent!)

One little happy painted face

One little happy painted face

We head to Nyumbani Village for the second week and though living in the Village is rural and rustic and HOT, with lots of ugali  (very heavy traditional Kenyan maize porridge that drops into your belly with a bang) at most meals,  it is the most magical of the places we go. It is beautiful with lovely foliage and red Kenyan soil and smiling green clad children around every corner. The nights are cooler with the starriest sky you will ever see and if you are not treated to an up close and personal performance of singing or dancing by one of the families then you can often hear singing in the distance. We will be working on any number of things there. My primary focus is to work with Lilian, the sole village counselor for all 1000 children, 100 grandparents, the staff and community workers. There are no psychiatric services available. Lilian already has people chosen for me to see, gives me the key to an office and I get to work. I don’t think she has any idea what hours I work at home because around midday she will tell me I am working too hard and bring me chapatis and a drink. The KEST Volunteers have been working on  memory book to preserve the history of the grandmothers or Shushus  and one of my other projects while in the Village will be to work wit a group of children on art for the memory books. Lilian doesn’t  yet know she has to share me in the afternoon and I might find it hard to pull myself away if there are too many people in need.

Lilian and me

Lilian and me

There will be a lot of simultaneous projects going on with volunteers participating in various different activities at the Village. And then there’s the chicken coops. One of the big request from Nyumbani Village was funding and help with 100 chicken coops. This makes so much sense since having eggs will be a very self sustainable way to increase dietary protein and the village is all about sustainability in remarkably creative ways–like growing tilapia and filtering the tanks through a vegetable bed (aka aquaponics),  using biodeisel (methane from cow manure) to fuel the stove, and using human urine to kill the termite hills. But when will we fit in the chicken coops?!

Dancing Shoshos

Dancing Shoshos

We always plan a special time to visit with the Shushus and they think they are teaching us to dance when really we don’t have a chance of ever dancing like they do–not in a million lessons! But we have a lot of fun!

There will be plenty of time to mingle with the children and I will get to visit with Caroline the student I sponsor for high school. Children are always out walking back and forth from school, gathering kindling in the evening, or just coming up to greet you.

Nyumbani Village children walking back from school

Nyumbani Village children walking back from school

They loved to be photographed and to have your attention and are wonderful reminders of the success of this program. They are all AIDS orphans many of whom were rescued from unthinkable conditions after their parents died and now they are thriving healthy children. In fact the Village recently got international media attention for being a unique and successful model for raising AIDS orphans. news.yahoo.com/kenya-village-pairs-aids-orphans-grandparents-165643122.html One thing though that is always difficult is saying good bye at the Village. That is why last year I had to decide before I even left that I would be back this year and every year.

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