March 2007 News Letter
Dear Friends of Kenya:
Yesterday we completed the last of the visitations of all of our 35 secondary scholarship students at their new schools. I cannot estimate how many hundreds of miles over impossible roads we have traveled over the past month. It will be a pleasure to return home to roads that are paved and do not have pot holes that can swallow a tractor trailer.
During our journey to these schools, we stopped at the homes of several of our students. Last Sunday, we visited the home of a partial orphan who lives with her uncle, but was with her mother on this day. The house is made of mud with a tin roof. It consists of an open area where the family gathers, a mud wall partition where a bed lies in a space slightly larger than the bed and a closet-sized area to the left of the front entrance where the cooking is done. This area has a spot in the corner with the remnants of a fire, a couple of pots and cooking utensils. The “kitchen” has a window….this is where the smoke from the fire exits. The outside of the window area is charred from countless meals. Imagine the condition of mama’s lungs! The entire home is no more than 10 feet by 10 feet.
Our scholarship student appears and greets us. She is frighteningly shy and difficult to draw out. I imagine she is overwhelmed by the two “wazungu” (whites) facing her. Of course she is shoeless and her feet look like they have traveled more miles than the average foot should have to endure in a lifetime. The opportunity to attend secondary school on scholarship will mean that she will have her first pair of shoes. As she is attending a day school, she will walk 5 kilometers to school each way, each day. It’s a tough journey by car. It s hard to imagine the energy needed to make this trek by foot each day.
We are in the heart of the Western province these days and there has been a lack of rain for the past week, leaving the roads dust bowls. As matatus (public transport vans) and sugar cane harvesting trucks fly by us, the air becomes completely possessed by lung-choking dirt. As each vehicle approaches, we quickly roll up the windows in an attempt to prevent the dirt from entering the van. We pull our shirts over our mouths to filter the air. The air is so heavy that we can taste the dirt right through the make-shift air filter. After a day of Western roads, the inside of the van is prime for writing with your finger on any surface, “wash me!” Instead, I scrawl, “Kenyan Roads.”
I worry about the magnitude of this problem….poverty. As we continue our journey, we see scores of primary school children walking home for what is supposed to be lunch. Instead, most carry an “ajembe” (African hoe). There’ll be no lunch today for these kids, but rather they will work the fields before they return to their classrooms at 2 p.m. Most will be required to stay at school until 5 or 6. They walk with energy in their steps and a bright smile as they see our white faces and yell out lovingly, “mazungu!” (white person).
Mildred has been out of school for two years due to lack of school fees. We found a school that would admit her a month after classes have begun. We arrived at her new secondary school and we noticed that all 500 girls were carrying 5 gallon buckets on their heads and were returning from the river. The school’s water pump burned out and the girls were required to supply water for all the basic needs. Almost all of the girls carried the water on their heads with perfect balance. One girl, we noticed, was carrying the plastic bucket over her back. We asked the principal why she was doing this. She responded that those from the Kikuyu tribe do not carry on their heads and this girl is Kikuyu.
Yesterday was quite a memorable stop on our way to Usenge to visit three students. While on one of the best roads in Kenya (Seriously!! It is paved and has no potholes), we paused to buy some bananas from the “ndizi” mamas that line the market carrying bananas in large, flat, open baskets flawlessly balanced on their heads. Farther along was an elderly lady, toothless proudly displaying her handcrafted sisal ropes used to tether cows, goats and sheep. In the background was a series of make-shift tin shacks housing various shops. One such shop was the local miller with a very effective machine that grinds grain of all types. The local women brought in their maize (corn) and left with straw purses filled to the brim with flour, which they then cover with a soft towel.
While the poverty was difficult to view and hard to reconcile, they were blessed with a well that has been providing clean ample water for 27 years. Villagers were bringing their brightly colored plastic containers and filling them with this precious liquid and carried them many kilometers to their homes.
Along the roadside, there are many winding dirt footpaths used as people travel the countryside. A beautifully weathered mama, dressed in a bright African “leso” (tunic) and head scarf approaches on the path. Joanne walked over to greet her but her language and ours would not work. Their eyes and hearts transcended the language barrier. They gazed into each other’s hearts and were one. She used a long stick to help keep herself from falling and under the other arm was a beautiful black rooster laced with twine at the feet. Joanne asked Sr. Helen Pius, who is traveling with us this day if she can use a rooster. She quickly says that she does and that they will eat well tomorrow. We bought the chicken for 320 shillings (about $6). Mama was so excited and grateful for this purchase that she grabbed both of Joanne’s hands and began to sing a song to her in Luo, the language of the area. We were nearly moved to tears. The money she earned from her rooster will feed her for a very long time.
There is so much more to tell you, but there is so little time left here to complete the many tasks we have set out to accomplish. We look forward to updating you upon our return.
Thanks for being a part of a day in our mission to help those in poverty in this beautiful country.
May God be with you always.
~Bill and Joanne Cala
Joining Hearts and Hands,Ltd.
9 Fieldston Grove
Fairport, NY, 14450