Success in Kikule

A couple of happy customers in the temporary library

I don’t even know where to start I have so much to tell you! First of all I’m incredibly happy about how my time was in Kikule and how much was accomplished. We had a huge team of people working for the past 5 days, all with the goal of improving systems at the library, and providing clean water and sanitation for the people who use the library.

The records the librarian has kept show over 1200 books used so far! Mostly it is high school students who are using revision books;books with questions and answers that test students’ knowledge and are based on the curriculum, but some kids from grades 3 and 6 are coming to use the library too! While I was there, there was a constant stream of kids coming and going from about 9am until 11pm. Even though the library was a construction site and they had to squeeze into a nearby home, they just kept coming and studying. They are so dedicated and so happy to be there too!  Here are a few  pictures of some of the people who visit the library in Kikule.

Some happy high school students.

Taking a short study break

Yvonne. Very happily peaking out of a library window.

Students studying very hard

One highlight of the visit to Kikule was a Skype conversation with a music class at Nepean High School, the school my brother Lee teaches at. The generous students at that school sponsor a secondary student in Kikule. So we arranged for a group of students to come to the library to have “a sort of phone call over a computer where you can see them and they can see you”, as I explained to a group unfamiliar with Skype calls. The dial-up network in Kenya made it a big challenging to hear and see each other, but despite having to shout and at times repeat ourselves, and having to call each other back every now and then, we managed to have Kenya high school students and Canadian high school students have a live conversation over the internet. Incredible. To think we were sitting in a library that was built in an area where students’ parents can’t afford kerosene for lanterns, and technology was letting us, albeit choppily, talk and see each other.

Here is one photo of how the library looked when the students at Nepean High School were singing, and being accompanied by piano. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words in this case. A big thanks to the singers who were caught off guard but the Kenyans kept asking repeatedly for the Canadians to sing! My brother Lee pulled it together masterfully and they quickly picked a song from their repertoire. Despite it being the first full week of school, and Monday morning to boot, they gave a beautiful performance of an African song.

Listening to NHS sing over Skype

A student from Nepean asked the question “What is your favourite kind of music”? We had trouble finding a volunteer to answer that one but one brave young man said he would be willing to sing to demonstrate. He started singing  a gospel hymn in a strong beautiful voice, and the others soon joined in. I was moved to tears and so was my brother Paul- imagine these people who have so little, who struggle so hard just to get by, singing so joyfully and soulfully, huge smiles on their faces, hands clapping and bodies swaying, for strangers in Canada who through some feat of technology were able to talk to them and see them on the computer. It overwhelmed me for a moment that such a powerful connection was being established through music. The NHS students erupted with cheering and clapping when the songs ended. And so did all of the Kenyans! I am sorry to say that I don’t have a photo or a video of it but the moment was so spontaneous and moving that we never even thought to pull out the cameras- we just stood back and experienced it.

I’ll be telling you for weeks about that past 5 days I’m sure. It’s 10pm in Kenya and we travelled for many hours today when we left the village. I’d better get some sleep since we’re heading for a game drive tomorrow and then heading back to Nairobi to get ready to fly home. In conclusion though I have to tell you what an honour it was to be in Kikule again. Living and working with Flo’s family, being cared for by them, laughing with them and getting to know them all better, and figuring it all out as we went, was incredible. It’s awfully quiet in this hotel tonight, without Wayua loudly ordering us “Paul! Prepare! I am bringing your bath water and am very busy so be ready” and then marching him over to test the hot water in the basin before closing the door to the bathroom, then as soon as he was done “Natalia. It’s your shift!” and the procedure is repeated. A wonderful mother hen who made us laugh many many times a day and treated us like very welcome guests. And the reading team, Justus, Mutuko, and Kiko who came to read books every night, just like last year. Well…there was one night when the beer drinking app on Paul’s smart phone was more fun than reading books with me, (when you tip the phone up to your lips it looks like a glass of beer is being drank and then 3 seconds later a massive noisy burp follows- you can see how this would appeal to grade 3 and 4 boys) but I didn’t mind a night off to sit back and watch.

Mwende , Flo’s niece in grade 9 would pop in for a few minutes while supper for the family was cooking, and paint her nails or ask questions about what it’s like in Canada for instance “do you have hippos and zebras?” And Mary Peter, a lovely neighbour and mother of Mutuko would come in for a moment on her way home , just to say good night. Off in the distance a donkey “HeeHawing”, for no reason known to me, cattle munching dried maize stalks out the door, a strong breeze blowing the curtains around, and every once in awhile the sound of laughter from the rest of the family sitting outside their mom’s house, having one last chat before they all walk to their respective homes for supper and sleep. Then Wayua would appear and shoo everyone out so that we could have our supper and then bed. That’t the kind of evening you don’t get to have everyday, but it sure is nice when it happens. Good night!

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One Response to Success in Kikule

  1. Fran says:

    Good night, Natalie! Your incredibly eloquent blogging has connected us – Canadians and Kenyans. Your detailed accounts allowed me and all your readers to be with you and all the people you met in your time in Kenya. Thanks for taking the time to share so much of your experience with us.