Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Kids, textiles and strange encounters

Classroom at Undugu School
Time is really flying by here! Hard to believe we have almost been here for a full month. We spent the end of last week performing a hygiene training with the students of Undugu School in Kibera. Undugu is considered an “informal” school – meaning that many of their students either have not been successful in the Nairobi City run schools, or they cannot afford them (many require attendance fees and uniforms, which is an unattainable cost for some families). The kids we trained are all part of a health and hygiene club at the school, about 40 in total, with varying levels of engagement. We went over things like the spread of diarreahal diseases and potential solutions, water treatment methods, soap making, proper handwashing practices and the like. My favorite part was definitely the handwashing section, where kids make up a song to educate others on how to wash your hands – we take for granted that handwashing means ‘qwa sabuni’ – with soap, but that is not the case here – and the five key times when you should always wash your hands. We also did a section of the training on how to manage a toilet facility. One of the bathrooms that was started by the Global Washes project is located at the school. It is not open to the community, only the students, and they do not have to pay. We are hoping that the students in the club will take on the responsibility of keeping the facilities clean, and also organizing soap making to not only provide soap for the school but to also purchase materials like toilet paper (a uncommon commodity around these parts).

Kids posting their own hygiene messages
Additionally, at the end of the regular training, we took aside just the girls to talk about menstruation and sanitation practices during your period. Yes, an awkward topic for girls around the world – teenage girls are all pretty similar! But to my girlfriends reading this who remember how awful it is when you first start getting your period, imagine it with out pads, without soap, without a bathroom in your house. No fun at all. Our friend Sylvia, a woman my age who we work with in the community, helped us out with this conversation so it could be done in Swahili. She was fantastic. We had brought with us some samples of pads that are made in Kenya, and that the Rotary Clubs (one of the funders of our project) has a hand in distributing. Our plan is to work with them to get a year supply of pads for all the girls in the school. Pretty awesome, right? Sylvia would keep all the pads at her office in Kibera, and the girls could come there and get them from her throughout the year. Learning from other organizations past experiences, when the pads are kept at school they tend to get stolen, and many of these girls do not even have room in their homes to store them, and so this seems the best solution.
Ben and Rina (our awesome friend and hygiene trainer extraordinaire), modeling their Global WASHES shirts, complete with hygiene messages in Swahili :)

Small section of the maze of textiles
So that was last week. Then the weekend hit, and we had too much fun! Saturday we spent the day in downtown Nairobi – visiting a Masai market (bought a beautiful painting) and the textile market. The textile market was overwhelming and pretty awesome. Soooo many beautiful African fabrics. I bought 6.5 meters of Kengala material for 1200 bob – under 15 USD – which I plan to use to make some curtains and pillow covers. That night we attended a birthday bbq one of our expat friends was having at her home. It was a great party – they roasted a whole goat – and once again I was reminded what a small, small world this is. The party host Megan (from the US) is married to a Kenyan man. His uncle (originally form Ghana) happened to be in town and was at the party as well. And where does he happen to live? PROVIDENCE, R.I. I couldn’t believe it. He is even neighbors with Buddy Cianci. Neither of us could get over the coincidence and it made for some funny conversations. No matter where I go, can’t seem to escape lil Rhody 

Birthday boy Junior with Ellen and his friend Edu
After we left this party, around midnight, we met up with our friend Junior and headed to a club to celebrate his birthday. In fact, there was a lot more to celebrate than that. Junior, a Kibera native, is engaged to a girl named Kelly who worked on this project a few years ago. He has been working for 2 years to get a Visa to join her in the US. And he has finally been successful! We’re all very excited for them. We ended up dancing the night away until 3 am when we finally decided it was time to go home. I would be lying if I said we went right to bed – us crazy mizungus decided to jump in the outdoor pool when we got home. We probably woke up the whole apartment complex, and it wasn’t exactly warm out, but so much fun nonetheless.

The team enjoying a night out with TUSKER
One more funny story before I sign off. So about two weeks ago, we were leaving the local grocery store and walking back to our apartment. We’re all chatting, not paying much attention, when we noticed Nate had stopped in the center of the parking lot and is holding a large sign with the number 3 on it over his head. As we are all watching in confusion, two small Kenyans dressed as soccer players run in front of him, jump up and slap hands. We then realize… we are being filmed!! The crew tells us it’s for a prank show. So we laugh about it and continue our walk home. I think we had forgotten about it until Saturday night when we get a call from our project manager Anthony. He was enjoying a quiet night at home when something catches his eye on TV…. US! Haha that’s right, we are not famous television personalities in Kenya. Hopefully the show will post the video on their website soon. We can’t wait to see it!

So that’s all for now. Lot’s going on with work and several trips coming up – we are booking out through the rest of the summer already! But I think I’ve written enough for now. I’ll post again soon!


1 comment:

  1. this is so awesome... Jess you are so beautiful inside and out and I am so proud as a long time friend for your dedication to your work and commitment to your schooling. you are an inspiration to us all. love you.... p.s... when can i visit?