Reflections on being back to kenya

2016 has been the year when I have had an opportunity to experience two different parts of the world, different people, different cultures and two different continents. Kenya and Canada. Half of the year in Canada and this other one will be spent in Kenya.

The experiences in Canada will never be forgotten. It was all a wholly awesome and wonderful time. I got to make new friends and learn a culture which in more than one ways was different to mine. I also made so many friends and learnt so many things from all the school visits I did.

Every single person I met taught me that everyone has something to share and everyone has something to learn. The whole trip was an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge and view the world in an entirely different perspective. The perspective that we are all more similar than different. The perspective that there is a beauty to everything.

The trip was a complete eye-opener for me. It made me realise how special my country Kenya was to me. It opened my eyes to things like our cultural diversity which I had ignored during my childhood. When I got back I really wanted to learn more about my culture, learn our cultural song and dance and also learn to appreciate aother peoples cultures. It made me realise the strength in being a community because that is how we are in Kenya. It made me realise that there is no place better than home.

Living in Canada was great but I still reminisced the moments I had in Kenya, about how beautiful a country Kenya was. I really loved Canada, but I was constantly yearning to go back to my homeland Kenya.
Now I am back in Kenya and I can see the complete beauty of my country. I can really appreciate everything I see before me.

Now I have an avenue to better the lives of other kids. I have an opportunity to share what I learned when I was in Canada. I can now teach people to completely appreciate what they have in this beautiful country of theirs. I can now break all the stereotypes that people have about Canada. I can completely open their eyes to see how similar we are no matter where we are from.

Now I can share my story and teach students to be hardworking and to open their eyes to what the world has to offer. I have visited different schools here ; Irura primary school, Ereri primary school, Uaso nyiro primary school, Endana primary and secondary school and in all these schools, kids had really good questions about our experience in Canada.

All these learning experiences are thanks to many people who dedicated their time to make this a possibility. I am particularly thankful to PA-MOJA for making the trip a possibility. I am also really thankful to my homestay family for taking me in as one of them and being there for me every time. Making me feel at home always.

I really wish that other people will have an opportunity like we had so that they too can learn and be able to share what they learnt and in this way we can, slowly and surely, make this world a better place.

Right now I have to let what I learnt and what I am still learning impact as many people as possible. The true butterfly effect. Let my lessons travel like ripples in water.

4th Annual Perogie Party

Small ideas can create really big changes. From what I have experienced during my stay here in Canada, I have come to acknowledge that small things can indeed make big difference. From kids organizing cupcake sales to making beaded bracelets and selling them to fund raise. These small actions often lead into huge achievements. Four years ago, Toni Hourston, came up with an initiative to use perogies to fund raise. It is not the easiest thing to do but throughout the four years,  the fund raising has been very successful.

The first time I had perogies, I could not help but admire their shape. Little did I know that it takes a lot of time and effort to make them by hand. During the preparation process, George and I went to help out making the perogies. We got introduced on how to make them; wet the end of a circular piece of  stretched dough, put in a drop of the filling, fold it over, make sure it sealed and shape it up. Then we set onto work. I can’t really tell what was wrong with my method of preparation; my perogies always ended up looking like horseshoes. At the end of the day we had done quite a good job- having made nearly 270 perogies! This was nothing compared to the total number of perogies needed-2000. Luckily, Toni had some other volunteers who came out and helped out with the making of the perogies. Nevertheless, it is a hard job and it is so humbling  to see her sacrifice her own spare time to make the perogies for the past three years so that students in Kenya can go to school.IMG_1868

On Sunday the 12th, we went to enjoy the perogies we had helped make. I had thought that the work was over for Toni but it was not. Because the party was at her place, there still was a lot of activities to be done. From preparing drinks to cooking and serving all the perogies- over 50 people attended! We were happy to help out with some of the activities before we sat down and enjoyed some perogies. They were the best I had ever had. It was even hard to believe that they were all hand made. I came across some of the horseshoe perogies I had made but they tasted as good as the rest!image

Even the weather was in the favour of the event, the sky cleared up and people were able to sit on the deck in Toni’s apartment and enjoy their perogies. The whole of the apartment was full of laughs and giggles as people had fun and enjoyed the company of their friends, all this with a common goal in fundraising fro kids in Kenya to go to school. Through the perogie fundraiser, Toni was able to make over 1400 dollars which will go towards the bursaries program and wildlife conservation in Kenya.image

Thanks to all the people who supported Toni in making the event a success. My gratitude also goes to all the people who attended the party and special thanks to Toni for planning this amazing event. ‘Small actions, big changes’.

 

Kwayhquitlum Middle School Visit.

On June 10th, I revisited Kwayhquitlum Middle School, I had awaited this day for so long because of how much I liked being there during my first visit. The students had such a huge sense of cultural appreciation and preservation which made me fall in love with the school. The school has been involved in cultural exchanges with Matanya Primary school in Kenya. I can say that they are doing such a great job in sharing their cultural values and their stories and also learning from the Kenyans on the other end of the Atlantic and getting to learn more about them- sustained cultural exchanges!

On our first visit, Kway (a common nickname for the school) was celebrating their 21st anniversary. During the celebrations they gave us some banners adorned with First Nations art to take to Matanya Primary as part of the cultural exchange. When Ian (the Kenyan teacher who visited Canada for 6 weeks) returned to Kenya, he delivered the banners to Matanya Primary and the students were really glad to receive them. They had such a great time trying to guess what the paintings were and their significance ( see video below). Several videos were shot and I was returning to Kway to show them that their message was received.

When I got to the school, the welcoming was grand! The Me to We team (who works with PA-MOJA as a way of supporting students internationally) had offered some guides to help me navigate my way through the school. In all the classes I visited, I could see the interest of the kids to promote cultural exchanges grow. I showed the video to a number of classes and I was so impressed at how attentive they were and the questions they asked after the video was over. It was clear that they wanted to learn about other cultures of the world.

image

I was also surprised because they had another video of Matanya Primary School students reading some of the pen pal letters they had sent them, what a coincidence! In one of the classes I visited, one of the students penpal letters were featured in the video. After class I had an opportunity to talk to her and ask her how she felt the cultural exchange had impacted her and here’s  what she had to say.

The students in Kway are now expecting the replys from Matanya Primary, who are really happy to share their culture with the students from Kway

Then we visited a few other classes and they showed me what they do. I came to learn that they have a Tech Ed class in which they learn how to make different things. This time they were making airplanes. This was really interesting for me because I want to become an aeronautical engineer. It is really nice to get such exposure when young because then it is easier to follow your dreams. I was also shown the school garden where they had planted different plants like potatoes, kale, rhubarb and tomatoes. This is one thing that I noticed they have in common with their sister school. Matanya is also really environmentally conscious. They have tree planting days, wash their classes every week and have a school garden.

I would really like to commend the students from Kwayqhuitlam Middle School for their continued partnership with Matanya Primary  in having this sustained cultural exchanges. I would really love it if this continued- mutual learning. Thanks to all the people who made me feel at home when I visited the school; Mr Kirk Deutschmann, the students from Me to We and their teacher Mrs Jill Fisher. Im looking forward to going back to Matanya and sharing what I have learned from Kway with them in July.

 

 

Bridal Falls and the Harrison Hot Springs.

With the nice sunny weather that we are having right now- the transition from spring to summer, we decided to utilize it to the fullest and visit Bridal Falls and Harrison Hot Springs. There is nothing better than seeing transition in seasons. I came to Canada during the winter months and throughout my visit, I’ve seen the transition from winter into spring and now from spring to early summer. The changes in the temperature, vegetation, social activities and even dress codes have been evident.

We started off at the Bridal Falls which are on your way to Kamloops and the view was amazing! From seeing the Cascade mountains and Mt Baker in the background, to the magnificent Bridal Falls, everything was amazingly beautiful. The view of the falls changed as we continued to get closer and closer. From the highway, it looked just like a trickling rivulet, then scenery and the surroundings changed as we slowly approached the falls. As we got closer, we started hearing the sound of water as it smashed onto the rocks after descending through the 400 foot high face of the waterfall. I was not satisfied by the view at the bottom so I walked or rather climbed up to the falls. Who could believe that I could catch an even more spectacular view, but it’s true. There were rainbows all over because of the water vapor from the splash and from there you could see the path that the river followed after it passed through the falls.image

After Bridal Falls, we went to Harrison to see the Harrison Hot springs and the lake. My home-stay mum had told me about the beautiful view of the mountains from the lake and I had already started picturing the view  in my head. The view of mountain range after mountain range reflected onto the turquoise waters of the Harrison lake was hard to picture. We got there and I could not believe my eyes. The view was not near anywhere what I had imagined, it was beyond beautiful. From the edge of the water one could see the mountain ranges, each lead into one another. Some small and some big. Some covered with pine trees, others covered with white snow.image

It was not only us who had decided to take advantage of the sunny weather, there were people who had gone jet skiing and sailing in the blue waters of the lake. The whole area around Harrison lake is surrounded by mountains. From here I was able to appreciate the true beauty of nature and the area around British Columbia and Canada in general. At some point, sadly, we had to leave. I couldn’t get myself to imagine not being able to visit the place once more before I went back home. That was a magnificent visit.image

This was all thanks to my homestay mum for offering to take me to such a beautiful place. Finding time away from her busy schedule to be with me. I’m really grateful for that. Throughout my visit in Canada they have made me feel at home away from home, and have helped me feel welcomed and loved. My homestay family is like my second family. Thank you for letting me experience, first hand, why license plates on cars from BC have the caption ‘Beautiful British Columbia’.

The Grade 1-2 Pod Show

Since we came to Canada in January, we have been working with the grade 1 and 2 classes We taught them a lot about ourselves, shared about the experiences we have been through living in Kenya, talked about how education is important, about how people and children in Kenya need opportunities and not charity, about our wildlife diversity- everything! Teaching was learning for us, sharing was receiving. The excitement in the kids eyes after we tell  them about ourselves is beautiful and seems to appreciate our teachings and what we share with them.Cultural sharing is a major part of the cultural exchange that we are having right now. Getting to speak to them about our country and our culture is an amazing thing to do. Seeing the transformations in the kids minds in the way that they perceive other cultures and the diversity of other people is a humbling experience. This experience of sharing changes us all.

Two weeks ago the kids from grade 1 and 2 had a choir show and one thing that made this a special show is that it had a Swahili song in it which we had taught the kids. They had learned it very fast and were singing it correctly within no time. Sometimes you would just be passing down the hallway and would hear them humming and singing the whole song. Another thing that set this show apart was that it revolved around the African people, beliefs and culture. The plays that were presented had a correlation with the Kenyan and African cultures. From songs about  African animals to a play about a Maasai warrior, it brought together all the sharing sessions we had had with them.IMG_1775

We had an opportunity to go up and present the songs with them on stage and the parents really liked the whole show- its very cool knowing that your child is  being exposed to a new language and is getting to become a global citizen at such a young age. The kids all loved it and I know that they learned a lot from the presentation and also from the time we have been working with them.IMG_3216

Special thanks to the grade 1 and 2 kids of their determination in wanting to learn about our culture and our language and also for the teachers, Mrs Dunja McCrae, Mrs   Suzanne Fengler, Mrs Jennifer Miller, Mrs Michelle McNaughton, Mrs Kathleen Stoddart and Mrs Amber Illes for giving us this platform that enables us to share our knowledge with the kids. The preparation for the show had taken in a large amount of work and dedication from the teachers and the hard-work from the kids. Without everyone’s input, the show would not have become such a huge success.

Union Mission Gospel In Downtown East Vancouver- The Power of sharing

There is power in some of the actions some people perform day in day out. One of these actions, as I have come to realize, is helping. Knowing that at the end of the day you have made a change in a person’s life is really important to an individual.

With every helping action that I’ve participated in, there is a feeling of contentment; helping adds more meaning to my life, giving back to the community pulls me closer to the mesh of society.

This past Saturday, Ms. Heather Hall invited us to go to the Union Mission Gospel building in the downtown East side of Vancouver to help serve the homeless in the community. This, for me, was another chance to help make the world a better place, spread the love and was also a great learning experience.

13235680_10208342659056755_2780395308216118659_oThe Union Mission Gospel Organization provides food for the homeless people in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and also offers rehabilitation programs to people with drug addictions as well as bible study classes. The organization, as I came to learn, has been serving people for almost 75 years.

This achievement struck some questions in me. I was asking myself how they have managed such a feat, giving three meals a day to over 250 people all year long. I asked an employee how they manage this and she told me that they are assisted by people’s donations and also have some sponsorship.

IMG_0643

George, Victor, Heather and I were to spend a few hours there as volunteers helping the staff prepare food for the people. For George and I, our work was to peel potatoes- something I had not done in a long time- ‘every skill requires practice’. It was so much fun and it reminded me of the times I helped out at home peeling potatoes. Victor on the other hand was helping pack the meat while Mrs. Heather served the juice for dessert.

Soon it was serving time and we were set to go. Every one of us had been positioned in different areas and we were to do everything in sync which for us is never a problem. We got so good at serving that the staff told us to slow down. ‘The Team’ is always good at everything it does!

IMG_0652Serving the public is one area of work where one is exposed to all kinds of different people and for us it was not any different. Some of the people were really grateful while others just passed on without showing any gratitude  or appreciation.

After serving everyone, George and Victor went to the dining halls to clean up but I couldn’t go because I was under 18 years of age so we had a little chat with one of the employees, Mike. I explained how special an experience this was for me because in Kenya we don’t have such organizations that help the poor by giving them food all the days of the year although we have lots of street people in Kenya.

This brought up an interesting  conversation about how these kinds of programs have pros and cons. For example, some people take the fact that they will always have food for granted and don’t try to lift themselves from the bonds of poverty which means all that they do all day is sit around without doing anything for society. On the other hand there are people  who are really appreciative and see this as a stepping stone to help them better themselves and the society around them.

IMG_0654The visit was a learning experience for all of us. Most people in Kenya think that North America is a utopia, a paradise on earth, that nothing ever goes wrong here. Once you get exposed to such activities, that is when stereotypes are broken and the diversity of the country is shown.

I wish other Kenyans, too, had an opportunity to experience this and learn that even other parts of the world go through the same kinds of problems that they (Kenyans) go through. Although maybe on a smaller scale, poverty is still present.

IMG_0634Thank you to everyone who helped organize this fruitful educational visit to the Union Mission Gospel and for accepting us and letting us partake in the action of sharing and helping the needy. Thank you to Mrs Heather Hall for driving us there and helping out together with us. We loved every part of the visit.

It is a kingly act to assist the fallen – Mother Theresa

 

A day at Charles Best Secondary School.

On the second of May, we visited Dr Charles Best Secondary School to talk about Butterfly Effect and explain how it helped us throughout the time that we have been members. Ms. Young, a Vice-Principal at the school, drove us from our home stays to the school in the morning.image
Victor, George and I were there from the beginning of the day and it was a lot of fun. The day started with a bang because we got to see a bear for the first time since we came to Canada! We were just having a conversation with the teachers when I spotted something moving on the lawn. The thought running through my head was, ‘that’s not a big dog’, then it struck me that maybe it was a bear and so I asked casually if that was a bear. It was a bear! For the teachers it was a moment of mixed feelings, worry and happiness while for us, it was pure happiness and excitement.

image
The bear under the trees

We visited different classes and most of them during the beginning of the day were science classes. The reception from the students about the idea of joining Butterfly Effect was amazing. Butterfly Effect a collaborative online learning program where students get to come up with their own inquiry question and then get assistance from mentors and other Butterfly Effect members. Butterfly Effect started at Charles Best Secondary School during this school year, so not many students knew about the program. We wanted to explain how it works to see if more people would like to join for next year.

In one of the classes we attended, there was a Butterfly Effect member, Marisa Lenarduzzi who is doing a project on the long-term effects of heartbreak. She got an opportunity to explain to the students how Butterfly Effect had impacted her and what she felt about being a member. One thing that I noticed throughout all the science classes is the emphasis they put in team-work, critical thinking and curiosity. In one of the classes I went to, there was a photo of Einstein with a caption, ‘Even Einstein asked questions’. This is the basis of Butterfly Effect; team work, critical thinking and curiosity. I really liked the curiosity and the attentiveness of the students in the school and from my point of view, Butterfly Effect would be really good for them to help them to explore their areas of interest and also learn a lot about Kenya. What an opportunity that would be!

We had an amazing opportunity to attend a Planning class with Mr. Valente. I really learned a lot from that one hour that we were in there. The topic of discussion was renting and buying a house and they were learning about when it is a good idea to do either. This type of education, I found is relevant to any person no matter where you come from because one day you will be expected to make a decision between renting and buying a house. It was an amazing exchange of thoughts and ideas. We were talking about Butterfly Effect and they were teaching us about effective decision-making.

image
Really attentive

At lunch we spent some time with the Butterfly Effect members in the school and we had a walk through Mundy Park. It was a really short walk but it was so much fun, talking about what each one of us liked and taking a few pictures with nature. Near the end of the day, we went for gym class where they were doing weightlifting! We joined in and we got a serious workout. From leg presses to pull-ups and push-ups. By the time the lesson was over, my muscles were sore and aching. At the end of the day, Mrs. Heather Hall drove us home back to our home stay families.image

I am really thankful to the Dr Charles Best Secondary School fraternity for inviting us and giving us an opportunity to be part of them for that one day. We learned a lot from them and I am sure that they learned a lot from us. Special thanks to the principal, Mrs Coulson, the Butterfly Effect coordinator, Mrs Martin and all the students from Charles Best who made us feel welcome when we visited their school. Last but not least Mrs Young and Mrs Heather Hall for sparing time to drive us to and from Coquitlam that day.