From October 6th to December 7th, 2016 Franzi and Yannis were in Kenya to support the Jiamini Day Center as volunteers. Your final report can now be read here:
The small rainy season has started in Kenya. Even if we can hardly understand it coming from Germany, all Kenyans, first and foremost the farmers, have longed for this time. So when it started, a collective relief was felt in the population that almost convinced us. But only almost.
The first showers came in the night. Brief heavy rains that flooded the streets, followed by brief drizzle in the morning and the occasional drip in the day. The children received the new season screaming and laughing. They ran through the streets of Kiandutu, always in a playful attempt to avoid even the smallest drop and hid under their clothes as much as they could, because rain means cold here and that 24 ° C is the epitome of a mild summer day, the Kenyans find it almost incomprehensible.
After the long dry season, the soil was so thirsty that the earth soaked up all the moisture in a very short time and since the afternoons were still as hot and sunny as before, not much changed in the Jiamini project at first. The pastor came on Saturday morning, followed by a short lesson from the volunteer Mack and then after lunch we went out to the field, where we were still very, very many children from the slum company and took part in our games, which we were very happy. Perhaps the rainy season made a small difference for us too. The field on which we did sport every day and which had previously been nothing more than a barren, very dusty runway, took on a different character. The children noticed it first. Beaming with joy, they danced around the little green buds that had fought their way through the hard, dry earth with the first raindrops. We were also happy about the change. The prospect of a little more green in the picture was only one advantage, another, that after playing with the children we no longer had such extreme pneumonia and our clothes were much more pleasant to wash than before. And so the children ran out every day and marveled at the progress of the blades of grass before they played ball games and skipped rope. The fact that they had to defend their territory more and more against four-legged intruders such as cows and goats with the growing green didn't bother them.
At the end of the school year, Jiamini's vacation program started. That meant that from now on the children could come to the project every day from 12 noon, then they ate, did handicrafts, painted, played or made music together and at the end of the day they went to the field for one or two hours to join the to romp with other children from the slum.
At first we thought it was going to be a hard time keeping 9 children busy every day for 2 months without anyone getting bored, but the small wooden cupboard in the Jiamini Office was full of painting utensils and toys, which every child in our house is which, however, are exotic features for the children here in Kenya that they have never seen or tried out before. And so we spent many hours explaining what watercolors, crayons and plasticine gums are and how you could create the most beautiful monsters out of them, we played a lot of Uno and almost a lot more memory and we even put one or the other project day in where we made paper mache masks with the children or organized a paper airplane competition. One of the biggest highlights for the children was undoubtedly the “Lion King” day. If you see the small huts made of mud, wood, corrugated iron or just cloth, in which most of the families in Kiandutu live in the simplest and, unfortunately, also the poorest way, it is not surprising that none of the children have a TV, and neither do they Get opportunities to see a movie somewhere else. The film "The Lion King", which is a classic for almost every child in our country, was not known to the children in Jiamini until now. It was a real pleasure for us to see how much the film captivated the children, how every emotion was openly reflected on their faces and how even the very youngest of them kept quiet as a mouse, so that they could hear everything that the lion Simba had in common Warthog Pumba and meerkat Timon in no man's land. Since we saw the film in English, but the children in the Jiamini program speak English only to a very limited extent, we stopped the film from time to time to discuss the state of play with the children. In addition, we worked on the animal world of lions and hyenas in small project groups and sang vigorously with songs such as Hakuna Matata.
So the first weeks passed comfortably and yet eventful at the same time, during which we got to know the children better, just like they did with us. There was our oldest, Brayan, who helped his grandmother a lot with selling shoes at home and who, at 14 years of age, looked almost like an adult among all the smaller children. Sheila, the second oldest (14 years), with a slim, tall figure, who could move very elegantly and who was always ahead in games like slackine, skipping rope and rubber twists. Whitney, her little sister (10 years), who, despite the loss of several milk teeth, had the widest smile in the world and joked and laughed all day, but also very caring, took care of the smaller children in the project when they needed their help. Sandra (12 years old), also sister of Sheila and Whitney, was our little girl who needed special attention because she has a slight mental handicap. With her big brown eyes she often marveled at the hustle and bustle around her and seemed so overwhelmed by it that she sometimes forgot to take part in it herself. Then we called her by name and invited her to take part, for which she thanked with a beaming smile and a huge hug. The smallest in the project and also a sibling of the girls is Derrick (4 years), a prankster who entertained all the children in the project with his jokes and did not take banalities like getting dressed properly and going to the toilet so seriously. His pink crocks, which he wears chronically upside down on his foot, could almost be described as a trademark. The next siblings in the project were Nicholas (10 years) and Elizabeth (6 years). Both turned up, sometimes quiet, they form a mix that was never really to be appreciated. If you could inspire them with one thing, they would be enthusiastic about it. If something did not interest her, one could try in vain to move heaven and earth. They consistently did what their heads were up to. The last two children of the project, also siblings, were Kefa (13 years) and Sharon (6 years). While Kefa is more of the quiet type, with a thirst for knowledge that can hardly be quenched, who occupied himself with things with an intensity that could only be described as admirable, Sharon was a little whirlwind who always wanted to be occupied and loved games the louder the louder and more wildly they approached. Her laughter was always so free and unique that when we came you could often hear her from afar and often we were already integrated into her games before we could even take off our shoes.
And so it happened that after a short time the children came to the office from 8 a.m. and greeted us with joy and loud as soon as we joined them at lunchtime.
Then the downpours became longer and heavier. The streets in the slum turned into slippery mud slopes peppered with puddles of huge dimensions. It also rained more often and more during the day. Unfortunately, getting caught in such a shower meant soaking up in seconds and staying wet all day. Many of the slum dwellers took out their rubber boots to avoid the worst, but hardly any of our children had any, which luckily did not prevent them from continuing to appear at the project every day and unmoved by their sandals or crocks that were drowning in the mud to buy a quick shower. In the beginning the children were so careful not to be hit by any wet drops, but now they didn't care more or less about the irregular rain. As soon as a rain hole opened up, they begged to be allowed to go out on the field and play football and no matter how bad the weather or the field conditions were, the children from the slum continued to reliably come to us or even pick us up at the doors of the office when a painting project took a little longer.
During our entire time at Jiamini, we were deeply impressed by how readily the Jiamini children shared the toys with the other children from Kiandutu. We were also impressed by how carefully all the children handled the toys. At the end of each day, all items were returned to us without objection. Although none of the children own anything, it never occurred to any of them to take anything home with them. Even when a Frisbee was accidentally left on the field one evening, a little later there was a knock on the door of our office and a little boy dutifully brought the disc back to us. This community spirit and honesty from both the Jiamine children and the other children in the slum really moved us deeply.
The rainy season led us to include other subjects such as languages, music and computers in the holiday program in addition to art projects and board game units.
Initially, two units were planned for languages, one for German and one for English, but we noticed very quickly that the children already had major problems with English and that they would need English in school and later in everyday life, and this was already her second foreign language besides Kiswahili, we decided to concentrate on that first. But before the language lessons could really start, there was a second problem to be solved: the different language levels. Although the children's English language skills were generally very low, a method had to be found that challenged the skills of the 14-year-olds as well as the 4-year-olds. So in the end we came up with the idea of designing every English lesson like a little role play. In the first lesson, for example, the aim was to say hello and buy fruit, in the second a scene in a restaurant was re-enacted and in the third lesson, directions were to be practiced using a map. Although we were initially afraid that the children might be too shy to take on the little theater roles, we were very positively surprised by the opposite. The children literally fought to be allowed to take part. It was mainly the small props that tempted them to take part and the English was a somewhat annoying side effect, but at least the children had a lot of fun and in the end they definitely took one or the other away with them.
The music lessons were also a challenge due to the different ages of the children. In one of Jiamini's closets we found recorders which, the Kenyan volunteers told us, had already passed through one or two children's hands, but which had received little attention in the past because the children simply did not really know what to do with it. In a first music lesson, we sat all nine children next to each other on the couch, always gave two children a flute and explained to them what a recorder was and what different tones could be played with it. The children were enthusiastic, probably a little too enthusiastic, because they were so eager that our ears would be booming at the end of the lesson and that we would decide for the next time to form two groups and teach in two different rooms at the same time . Even if the children were not averse to the flute, unfortunately it must be said that the lessons did not prevail until the end. Many of the little sticky fingers were just too small to completely close the holes and the frustration that the wrong notes always came out, as well as the even greater frustration that often only one was allowed to play and you couldn't jump or jump on the sofa while doing so was allowed to help with closing the main blowhole, made at least the youngest children quickly forget the flute. After a whopping three weeks we finally realized that mastering the recorder was not everyone's lifelong dream and so we took music lessons from the general timetable and limited ourselves to those who were interested.
Another really great addition to the weekly program for the kids was the computer class that volunteer Anthony started after he got access to a clubhouse that had a few small laptops. It was a real pleasure to see how big the children's eyes grew whenever it was said that we would go to the computer room today. Even the dreamiest child would slip into their shoes as quickly as possible and run the few streets ahead to wait for the slower adults in front of the gate. During the time we were working on the project, the children learned to write their names on a keyboard, to change the size, color and line shape of the font, to create and fill tables and to do simple mathematical calculations with the computer tool. We very much hope that this project will continue and that it will give the children an advantage later on.
Actually, we assumed that, since the small rainy season had started, the rain would continue until we left, but now it stopped two weeks ago and so in the end we got a chance to carry out one of our big projects . With a little bit of Tetris technology, we actually managed to fit a basketball ring in our luggage. After the water receded a little and the mud slopes slowly returned to normal, dusty dryness, we designed a cable system with which we could easily and quickly attach our ring to a dead tree trunk. Although soccer is by far the undisputed number one when it comes to the most popular sport, our basketball training was very well received by both the children and our Kenyan volunteers. After only one afternoon, the children were making incredible progress and it was nice to see that even the smallest ones literally stayed on the ball. After only three days we were even ready to hold a small tournament. Rules such as step errors or small fouls were not taken into account yet, but it was nice how the children fought fire and flame for every victory and in the end everyone was happy for everyone, whether won or lost.
It was really more than two months since we landed in Kenya. It's hard to believe that everything that felt so strange and different in the beginning has now become part of our everyday life that we don't even notice it anymore. We spent so many wonderful moments with the children in Jiamini that they really feel like a small family. We have seen how the children live, what everyday life means for them, have seen the problems each child has to struggle with and also seen all the small successes that they achieve step by step, so that it is incredibly difficult for us now to leave them and be so far from them. Although we were the ones who came to Kenya to make a small difference in the world, we now have to realize that Kenya made a much bigger difference in life in us. Thanks to everything we have seen and learned here, our horizons have broadened considerably. The children, both the Jiamini children and the other children from the slum, moved us so much in many situations that we are sure that we will never forget them. We will definitely think back to the wonderful time here and with a little luck we will return to this wonderful place one day.
Ten days have now passed since we left the project to take a trip through the country and get even more impressions. We decided to go on a safari to get to know the diverse and unique wildlife of the Masai Mara. Despite choosing the cheapest provider, you will immediately find yourself in a world that appears to be from another planet. None of the children and carers in Thika could ever afford such a trip. No one has ever seen a lion or an elephant, even though these represent landmarks of the country and are so close. We enjoyed the trip, albeit with a strange feeling in our stomach. Suddenly we noticed people on the roadside who were looking at the tourist buses with critical faces. We met a lot of friendly people, but wanted to approach their friendliness with great gratitude in order to improve the image of white people ...? Hard to say. As much suffering as was inflicted in the past, it takes a lot of interaction and many small projects and helpers like Jiamini to contribute to successful international understanding. This task is far from over. Why we still booked a safari, even though after the end of the first all-inclusive experience we were looking forward to traveling on our own, away from the tourist flow (this is, mind you, very small, and hardly exists in public, as it is based on shuttle taxis, booked lodges, safaris and beach restricted)? Because there is no other way to explore the nature and wildlife of world-famous national parks such as the Serengeti (Tanzania). To be honest, one also has to say that you quickly get used to the conditions we are used to in many things - and enjoy them too. You can hardly ignore your origins completely. But still we feel the need to take our trip close to the Kenyan people. Support small local restaurants, travel with local means of transport, remain humble and, wherever we are met with suspicion, leave a smile.
We keep hearing news from Stano and the kids from Kiandutu. Agnes is allowed to go to boarding school in the new year to attend high school. The basketball hoop is used joyfully. The children are still crazy about many games and are as happy as ever. A football tournament is now being held until Christmas, with needy children from the surrounding communities, with many boys and also many young girls. At Jiamini there was also a small, internal Christmas party with kitschy party hats!
We are happy to have been a part of it all. We miss the kids. And we look forward to maybe seeing her again on our last day in Kenya before we fly back to Germany. One last crazy hug, one last game report from yesterday's soccer game, one last lesson for the little ones on how to use toilet paper, one last memory game, one last sticky high five. We hope we could leave something behind for the children too. At least a few thoughts on good times together.