Letters from polytech on their way to you


Sponsors of polytechnic students, a letter from your student is on its way to you this week!

Check your mailbox soon for the latest news from Ndithini Polytechnic.

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Happy Madaraka Day on June 1 Kenya!

Happy Madaraka Day Kenya!

June 1 is a public holiday in Kenya, commemorating the day that Kenya became a self-ruling nation. At Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, the President will address the nation, and  uniformed military, singers, and traditional dancers from around the country will provide entertainment for the crowds.


It’s a really festive day with lots of activities such as family picnics and games in parks. Lots of people go back to their home villages for the occasion, and have a big meal of goat or chicken in honour of the special day. I remember the celebrations when I was there in 2012. People gathered in small stadiums and public places in all of the small towns to listen to the president’s speech and celebrate together. All over town people had their radios and tvs tuned to the main event happening in Nairobi.chicken soup

Even before Kenya was officially made a British colony in 1920, European settlers were allowed to participate in government. But Africans were not allowed to participate in politics directly until 1944, when a few appointed (but not elected) African representatives were allowed to sit in the legislature.

Between 1952 and 1959, Kenyans began to rebel against British colonial rule and its land policies. This rebellion took place almost exclusively in the highlands of central Kenya, which were home to the Kikuyu people. Detention camps and restricted villages were established to contain the Kikuyu insurgents. Tens of thousands of Kikuyu died in these areas and in the fighting, compared to approximately 650 British deaths.

After the rebellions, Africans were given many more opportunities to participate in politics. The first elections to elect Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957.

On June 1, 1963, Kenya became a self-governing country when Jomo Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu and head of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), became the first prime minister.

And the rest, as they say, is history!

(Information and photo credit: http://123greetingsquotes.com/madaraka-day-2015-history-celebrations-kenya-public-holidays/)


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Writing to your sponsored student

Hi all! Any sponsors wishing to write letters to their students can scan and email letters to me at info@teiwasyana.ca or if you prefer to mail it to me so I can scan it then please let me know and I can give you a mailing address. I will be sending the letters to Flo in Kenya on May 18.

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The Way We Give

Dear Tei wa Syana (TWS) Sponsors

You might notice in the most recent, or future letters from your sponsored student, requests for additional sponsorship or for other things. We the TWS committee in Canada have given a lot of thought to whether or not to send letters to sponsors that contain requests from their students, and have decided that we will so that you can enjoy your student’s news! There is no expectation from us that you will grant your student’s request so please do not feel any pressure at all.

There are big cultural differences around asking for gifts or loans or further sponsoring, when made by Kenyans compared to how we might view it ourselves. When I am in Kenya, requests are made of me pretty much daily. I struggle with how to respond because I want to help, but my resources are not limitless. Something that helped me a lot was when my brother sent me an article written by Josiah Neufeld entitled “The Way We Give”. It’s available online at thewalrus.ca in case you want to read it.



I’m going to share a bit of it with you because Neufeld explains much more eloquently than I can about the African culture of giving around receiving.  He writes about Burkina Faso but it applies 100% to Kenya.

In Burkina Faso, a complex network of personal debts and familial obligations undergirds society. People who live in rural areas work together to plant and harvest crops, store food in communal granaries, and eat together in large family groups. Because the well-being of the community is valued more highly than the advancement of the individual, those who acquire more wealth than the others can expect constant requests for money, which they must not refuse. In any close friendship, the person with greater means is obliged to help out less fortunate friends and relatives with gifts or loans that come due only when the borrowers’ and lenders’ fortunes are reversed. When you have money, you invest in your community, knowing that in your time of need they will be there for you. One can see evidence of this in the amount of money Africans living abroad send to their kin. In 2010, the African diaspora sent home $51.8 billion in remittances, more than all of the official development aid that flowed to the continent.

I wanted to share that with you to explain that the added requests don’t come from a place of ingratitude, or entitlement, or an effort to take advantage rather they come from a teenager living in a culture where asking for what one needs is simply what is done and is completely normal and appropriate. If you have any questions feel free to contact me by leaving a message here or emailing me at info@teiwasyana.ca and we can arrange to chat.

Thank you as always for your generosity and on-going sponsorship! I hope you enjoy your student’s letter. If you’d like to write back to them you can scan and email your letter to info@teiwasyana.ca  and I will make sure it gets to Kenya.

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Teenagers for teenagers

Last Monday evening, in a little church in a quiet corner of Nepean, Ontario my faith in the goodness of people was strengthened. 125 teenagers, 90 of them students from Nepean High School, and 35 more who had travelled all the way from St. Patrick’s Regional Secondary School in Vancouver stood together and sang. And they sang for many reasons.

They sang so that two Kenyan teenagers who would never have otherwise gone to school past grade 8, could be given the chance of a lifetime-  to go to high school .

They sang to raise money to buy the equipment they needed to be able to give more concerts.

But they also sang because dang it, I think they just love to sing! Their beaming smiles, their clapping and dancing, their laughter and excitement, not to mention the hours and hours of hard work spent in learning the music and practicing made for an overwhelmingly great performance.

Nepean High School and St.Patrick's Regional Secondary Choirs performing at West End Voices

Nepean High School and St.Patrick’s Regional Secondary Choirs performing at West End Voices

It’s tough being a teenager!

But on Monday evening, 125 of them put their heartbreaks and heartaches, drama and intrigue, personal struggles, family challenges, stresses and fears that are part of their everyday life, part of all of our everyday lives, on hold, to share their talent and hard work with the audience. 125 people made a choice to do something positive, to make the world a better place, by sharing their energy, their talent, their bravery, their beautiful music.

They strengthened my faith in humanity (which comes out my eyeballs in the form of tears), and reminded me that there are some wonderful people doing wonderful things even for complete strangers whom they are unlikely to ever meet.

From the very first notes of the concert, as the students walked proudly and excitedly up the centre aisle of the church to take their places on the risers at the front, I was moved. And while I wanted desperately to thank the students and directors for all that they had done and all that I had experienced, I knew I would be reduced to tears, to being a “ball baby” as my grandpa would have said so I just beamed smiles, teary-eyed and applauding wildly (okay I might have let out the odd “woohoo” or two as well) trying to express my appreciation. So here, publicly, formally, in writing, I say thank-you to every single one of you, nashukuru, with deepest gratitude for your effort.

I commend the two directors, my brother Lee Carter who organized the event, and Mr. Tony Araujo who reached out to Lee to have his choir from Vancouver collaborate with Lee’s choirs from Nepean. It was obvious to everyone in the audience that your students love learning from you both, they respect you, they like you, and they are willing to work very hard together to reach the goals you set for them. Thank you for being such fine leaders and teachers and for sharing your many skills with your students and with all of us who were fortunate enough to attend the concert.

I’m looking forward to next year’s event already!

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TWS Advisory committee meeting

1-Tei Wa Syana_COLOUR LOGO-002The TWS-Canada advisory committee met this past week, our second meeting of 2015, to talk about all things Tei wa Syana related. Our meetings always run into overtime, because I  forget to put at the top of the agenda 1) catch up at the start of the meeting – 30 minutes.

It is so great to work with a team of dedicated volunteers who get along so well, and who provide such diverse and valuable advice and ideas.

Our meetings are highly productive, full of brain-storming, questions and answers, thinking outside the box, considering the big picture and the short- and long-term impacts of our decisions.

It’s a big job making important decisions that affect us, our co-founder Florence, our Kenyan students, and the staff at the schools we work at, our many sponsors and donors, the local Kenyan government and religious officials who welcome and support us in the community, Florence’s family who own the land on which the library is built, and the Kenyan community as a whole, all while considering Canadian and Kenyan cultural differences and our long-term plans!

And don’t forget we drink gallons of tea, which our Kenyan colleagues would find immensely appropriate.

Ashley Kerr, Kelsye Coulter, Fran Carter (whom I usually call “Mom”), and Cynthia Weijs – Florence and I really couldn’t do it without you!


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SOCCKET- an incredible invention that makes light through play

One of the reasons we built the Tei wa Syana community library is that children in Kikule didn’t have light to study, or read, or do homework by. Now they do.

An Australian friend of mine shared this incredible story with me about another way to provide light for children to study by, read books, and do homework. 

I love the innovation of this soccer ball, how it enables kids to learn, and how a child made it even better than it already was.



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A new year has begun for TWS!

We just kicked off a new year of the Tei wa Syana Community Initiative with a fantastic advisory committee meeting. A big thank you to all of the members who attended.

A special thank you to Jill Davey for her years of support and enthusiastic participation on the committee. We will miss you Jill.

fireworksAnd a very warm welcome to Kelsye Coulter who became a committee tonight! So excited you are joining us Kelsye! Another great TWS year coming up!

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Calling all donors! It’s that time of year!

A big thank you to the TWS sponsors who sent us your donations this week!

If you have not had a chance to send us your 2015 donation for your student’s tuition will you please do so? We need to send money to the schools now to pay for this year.

Information about how to make your donation is available on our TWS website http://www.teiwasyana.ca/donations.html. If you have any questions just let me know. Thanks!kes-500-kenyan-shillings-2

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Fruit from our TWS forest!

The TWS community library forest is producing fruit! This papaya tree was planted next to the rain water harvesting tank in September 2012. Florence took this picture when she visited the library at Christmas time.


Not only are the students getting fresh clean water when they come to the library, there will be snacks available for them soon too!

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