Friday, November 23, 2012

Asante Sana

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. It was my first time away from my family for the holiday. I can't lie it started out pretty rough. Traditions are really important to me and there is just a feeling that comes with watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, smelling the pecan pie baking in the oven, and getting ready to go running with my mom each year that I love and it is just not the same here.  I had a couple of meetings in the morning which were both great. I met with one of the young adults, Lydiah, to get feedback about our programs as we prepare for next year and then I met with Isaya, director of Nyumba Ya Tumaini.  Both meetings made me realize how lucky I am to be here in Kenya doing what I am doing.  When I woke up I was sad, which I am not discrediting because I think it is normal to miss my family, but by 10:15 AM (fifteen minutes into meeting number one) I realized there was much more to be happy about and thankful for this year than I even had last year.  Not only do I still have loving family and friends living back in the US, but now I have an incredible group of people here in Kenya and all over the world through YASC that love and support me as I get to be a part of what God is doing in Kenya.  I had to take a moment and say, "asante sana Mungu." That means "thank you very much God."  

Some high lights from last week were going to a water park, taking some of the kids to church, eating Korean food, and I got my hair cut.

Entering Splash. That red slide was fast!
For our end of the year celebration we went to Splash Water Park.  Splash donated all of the entrance fees for our team, the young adults, and the directors.  We spent the afternoon swimming, going down water slides, watching football, and playing pool.  I think everyone had a great time.  For those of you from the US and have ever been to a water park there, Splash was a kids dream and a parents nightmare.  Think of your experience and then remove all of the rules.  We could run and go down the slides 6 people at a time and no one said anything.  I am not advocating for no rules, but admittedly I loved the freedom.
Some of the young adults watching the football match

This is Adrian, the son of one of the local professionals we work with.

Water slides.

Some of the young adults playing pool.

On Sunday I was able to take 4 boys from Nyumba Ya Tumaini to church with me. We had fun, they helped me figure out public transportation all the way there. It requires three matatus so it is quite a journey.  Then on Monday night Natalie went back to the US for about 6 weeks so we went to a Korean restaurant called Big Mama's for her goodbye dinner.  The food was delicious. I call my mom big mama so I will have to take her there when she comes to visit.  In the coming weeks I will be visiting new organizations to learn more about child poverty in the community.  We want to meet more people passionate about it and learn what is being done about it.

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving where ever you are in the world.  Christmas music is officially all I will be listening to.  Once again I am thankful for all of you and for this adventure I am on right now.  Asante sana!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Langata Women's Prison

Me with Vickie, Maya, and Purity outside the prison.
On Monday I went to visit Langata Women's Prison with my friend Vickie and some of her colleagues.  In one of my earlier posts I talked about Nafisika Trust, which is the organization that Vickie started.  She spoke at one of our Tatua Talks about her work in the prisons in Nairobi.  Langata Women's Prison (LWP) is the only all women's prison in Nairobi.  Currently they have over 800 inmates! It is a big compound, but that is a lot of people to house.  LWP is comprised of a reprimand center for short sentences and those awaiting trial or sentencing, a medium security section for slightly longer sentences, and then maximum security for what we would consider federal offenses and long term sentences.  In my course of study at university I took a forensic social work class which deals with social work within the legal system and ever since then I have been interested in working in prisons.  I am a firm believer in rehabilitation programs to prevent recidivism.  Unfortunately there are not always programs because of lack of funding and other resources.
The entrance to the reprimand center.

The main reason we went to visit LWP, though, was to talk to the welfare officer about the effect living there has on the children of the inmates.  Children are allowed to stay there with their mothers until they are 4 years old.  If the mother is still in prison once the child turns 4 then the child is sent to a children's home until the mother is discharged.  Right now they are only working with one home.  Right now there are over 80 children living in the prison with their mothers.  More common that you would think, children are born there! Can you imagine? There are many children that are born in a prison and that is what they know as home.  Children are too often the innocent victims of circumstances.  I have seen that so much here in Kenya, but I know it is true world wide as well.

Nursery school.
 Some good things that I learned from talking to the welfare officer are that the children get to go to nursery school with the children of the prison staff in the compound, they are building a beautiful new day care facility, and the older children are in a home with kids from all different backgrounds.  They also said they work with the mothers to prepare them for reintegration with their children when they are discharged and they have visitation days 3 times a year.

                                                                             New day care center.

There are still things that can be done to improve life for these children.  Vickie has not really worked with this aspect of prison life before so I am excited about getting involved.  We want to start working on a program for the children that would get them outside the prison walls.  It breaks my heart that because of bad choices their mothers made they are living locked up.  Our goal is to start small and have some sort of field trip planned for them early next year.  We will start looking for resources to make this a reality so if you are interested in helping with any kind of donation please send me an email and let me know. The children also do not have access to a completely nutritious diet.  Right now they are basically surviving on porridge.  If you would like to donate to getting them fruits and vegetables you can let me know that too.

Some of the children in the nursery school.

I am hoping to visit the other prisons that Nafisika Trust works with soon.  As I have mentioned before they are doing some incredible work and I am so encouraged by Vickie's patience and love. The visit was a great way to start my week.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Maji Sana!

As I have mentioned numerous times in past posts everyday is different and offers a new challenge or surprise.  This lovely Saturday morning Natalie and I woke up to standing water coming from the bathroom, down the hall way, and even under the wall into my room! It was a shock when I tried to get out of bed and my comforter that I had kicked part way off made a sloshing sound when I moved it.  That was at approximately 6:15AM.  Natalie and I spent the next hour or so using every towel in the house to soak up and ring water out into buckets.  You know you are in Kenya when instead of worrying about what may be ruined by the water you are worrying about how much water is being wasted.  I think Natalie and I were both more upset by the incredible amount of water that wasted.  There are so many days when we do not have water and of course, on the night that our toilet is leaking water comes pouring into the house.

Water has been a common theme in my past couple of weeks.  The short rainy season has definitely started.  It literally rains everyday at least for a little while.  Maji sana, the title of this post, means a lot of water in Swahili.  It makes life very very muddy.  It also makes everything greener so I am really ok with it right now.  Ask me next year when the long rains come and I may have a different attitude.

Last week was fairly quiet in terms of work.  The election was a pretty big deal here, not just for Americans, but even Kenyans.  I went over the Mike and Leslie's to watch the election coverage.  It was "Terrific Tuesday" at Pizza Inn so we brought in pizza and just sat in front of the TV.  It was something I had not done in a good while, but was a very simple, much needed taste of home.  Kenya is probably be the second best place to the US to celebrate the Obama victory.  In fact our staff meeting was cancelled on Wednesday and we all rested a little bit.  In the office we even had some "Pure Heaven Celebration Juice" to celebrate.  A.k.a- sparkling grape juice.  I got to play some football this week which I think was good for my soul.  I never realized how much I missed it. Unfortunately I am no where near as fast as the boys at Tumaini.  I will do some sprint work outs and I should probably so something about my footwork as well.

This coming week is the last week Natalie is here before she heads home for about a month.  I will miss her for sure, but I am excited for her to get to go back and spend time with family and friends.  This week is full of meetings with people to get feedback about the program so we can make the necessary changes before we start everything up again.  Next Saturday we are having an end of the year celebration at this place called Splash, which is like a water park.  I will be sure to take pictures and tell you all about the experience.  Since this is just a brief update, there may be another post to come this week if I am feeling ambitious.

I will take one moment to be excited about UGA going to the SEC Championship!!! Go DAWGS!