Watoto Wote Wazuri

The Art Exchange!

Posted in 1 by Lynn Ouellette on 02/06/2010

I loved how Mary's picture captured the spirit of the art exchange!

Today was a time for some lighter moments with the children of Nyumbani Children’s Home. The boys had football games (aka soccer in the USA) at a neighboring school and we, the American visitors, set off on the bus with them to be their cheering squad of Mzungu’s (the Kiswahili word used to refer to Caucasian people). I think they really appreciated our presence since they don’t have parents to cheer them on and we gave them a lot enthusiasm from the sidelines.

Following some scurrying back to the Children’s home, we set up for and afternoon of art projects in three sessions. I introduced the projects by sharing the art work that had been sent by the Jordan Acres students, which we all enjoyed, and explained that it had been sent especially to the kids at Nyumbani to say hello and to be friendly from America. When I asked if they wanted to do art work for me to bring back to the kids who had sent it to them there was plenty of enthusiasm and the children came into the school room and got right to work. Some even wanted to do a second picture. They really enjoyed working with all of the different materials and produced some wonderful pictures that I can’t wait to share. The art from the Jordan Acres students will go on a special shelf in the library here where all the kids at the Children’s Home will be able to look at it and enjoy it.

The last group was the AB kids with whom I planned to share the Brooksville art books. I explained to them that the kids in Brooksville had sent little books about their lives in Maine and that they would all personally get to keep one. I also told them that I had saved this project especially for them because they are the same age and I really wanted them to do it. They all responded with resounding “Thank you’s” to be offered a special project and when they saw that there were the same blank books that had made for them to do their art. I have to say that the Brooksville kids will have some great art coming back to them and I am excited to share that too.

I am thrilled that this part of the art exchange has been accomplished and that the orphans here in Kenya have heard the “Jambo’s” and felt many good wishes form their “friends in America.”

We head off on safari tomorrow! I saw a monkey run across the schoolyard today– that got me excited for the coming attractions. No posts for awhile, we are off to Massai Mara!

Special request…….or amazing opportunity

Posted in 1 by Lynn Ouellette on 01/27/2010

I received an e-mail yesterday from Lloydie, our trip leader asking me for a “special request”. Lloydie is a former school teacher and guidance counselor who has made her second career out of organizing and leading educational and volunteer trips to Kenya (www.K-E-S-T.com ), specifically to the Nyumbani programs: the Nyumbani Children’s Home, the orphanage; Lea Toto, the outreach program in the Kibera slum; and Nyumbani village, the program which houses and cares for the “grandmothers’ and HIV+ “grandchildren”.  Her special request went like this:
“In the village, there is an amazing lady named Lillian. She is the village counselor and one of the four social workers. Lillian is pursuing an advanced degree in counseling but has no peer anywhere nearby to work with…..She was hoping you could help her… maybe some role-playing, some counseling tips, etc.  She is struggling because she is so far removed geographically from any peers in the counseling field, she has no mentor or professional to help her grow her counseling skills….You will be privy to all of the working of the village as a social community, a family unit, and an individual case study….. Will you be willing to help Lillian?  She is one of the most blessed people at the village and she has given her life to serve the community.”

My response was a resounding yes, actually it was something like “Are you kidding, I would LOVE to do that! Tell Lillian it would be an honor to work with her.” My immediate thought was that it sounded more like an incredible opportunity for me and that it was really a situation in which we would both equally learn from each other.  Then I began to think about the circumstances where she works. She is the counselor to many grandmothers who have lost all their children to AIDS and had to bear that grief as well as the stigma of having AIDS in the family.  They had also counted on their children to able to care for them as they aged and instead they are caring for their grandchildren who are infected with the same virus that killed their children. She is also the counselor to children who have lost their parents, their siblings and to whom death has become an all too commonplace occurrence. In some instances, the grandmothers are related to grandchildren, but in many cases they and the children are in the village because neither have any family. All of the children have the common experience of being orphans infected with the HIV virus. Then my thoughts went to how much loss and sorrow she must have to deal with in her counseling and that I have never been in a situation quite like this and I have never been in this culture……and how much can I help her. So even though I have been practicing psychiatry and doing psychotherapy for 25 years, for a moment I too felt the enormity of the task and how overwhelming it must be. So I had to stop and remind myself  that the fundamental human experience of loss, sorrow, fear, tragedy is the same in any culture, in any language and that I have had much experience with that in over 25 years and maybe I do have something to offer to Lillian. Still I think that Lillian and I will be teaching each other and like much of my experience to come in Kenya at Nyumbani, this one will give me as much or more than I give to it, and this “special request” really is much more of an amazing opportunity for me.

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