A delivery by Marty and Arna Caplan to Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya
Thanks to all who knit Peace Pals. Their impact on the children was huge. There is definitely a synergy between Shining Hope and Women4Women. Both are dedicated to bringing hope to women in areas of strife. Both realize that through women and their strengths, lasting change will come. We hope you will check out the Shining Hope website (scroll down to the end of this story.)
On February 3, 2012, we left Denver, Colorado for Nairobi, Kenya. We were carrying 150 pounds of math materials, bringing a first class math program, and prepared to spend two weeks training the school staff to use it. Tucked among the books were 110 Peace Pals, one for every girl in the school and a few extras. We were going to the Kibera School for Girls, a project of Shining Hope for Communities, http://shininghopeforcommunities.org/projects/ksg/, in the Kibera slum. We would like to share excerpts from our daily blog.
To enter Kibera we picked our way across a drainage ditch and then began the 20 minute walk to the school. The dirt path is littered with trash, and an open sewer runs along each side. The area is a rabbit warren of shacks and store fronts. At 7:30 in the morning, there is a steady stream of people walking out for the day and lots of children on their way to school, the many colors of their uniforms brightening the scene. You pass people cooking over outdoor braziers, washing up, hanging out laundry, setting up shop for the day, beauty salons opening up for hair braiding, chickens, dogs and cats roaming freely, and lots of little ones, greeting us with "how are you" and outstretched hands, touching us as if we were a good luck charm. Music is playing from some storefronts, but in general it is not terribly noisy. And while there certainly are areas where the odors are unpleasant, it is not overpowering. Even though we might have been the only whites on the streets, we did not feel unsafe or uncomfortable. There are few beggars, no shopkeepers trying to entice you us to buy their wares, no crowds jostling us, just people going about their daily lives. When the Shining Hope complex came into sight, the bright blue of the school and the clinic offered a splash of color to the dry and dusty streets, shining its mission of hope into the neighborhood. The sounds of construction mingled with the sounds of schoolgirl laughter and singing and another school day began. On the walk back out, there were many fires going, cooking fish, fried bread, cows’ feet, fish heads, samosas, and chapatis, and people selling fresh fruits and vegetables. School children were also returning to their homes, looking not as neat after a long day.
You do not see any old people on daily walks through Kibera. The life expectancy is around 30. Life in this dusty, impoverished environment is hard. It is difficult to imagine what it must be like when the rains turn the streets and pathways to rivers of mud. The work of Shining Hope brings health and educational services, clean water and sanitary facilities to thousands of Kibera residents. For more information about the realities of life in Kibera, see http://shininghopeforcommunities.org/about/about-kibera/
Our first week was spent training the teachers. The teachers, all Kenya women, were so ready to learn. As we got to know them and to observe them with the children, we were impressed by their deep commitment to the mission of the school, and their love of the girls. As the days passed, we became friends, sharing stories about our families, our educational experiences, our interests.
Week Two brought time to deliver the Peace Pals. What a day! My day (Arna) began in PreK, teaching a lesson to the little ones in the school. I taught a finger-play about five little girls, then had the girls close their eyes and reach into a big bag and draw out a Peace Pal. (See the photo in our Flickr Kenya Collection by clicking the link below.) Then we did the finger-play with the Pals. The best part of the lesson was giving the girls time to play with their Peace Pals. They named them, rocked them, washed them, sang happy birthday to them and had a wonderful time. I repeated the lesson with the second preschool group and had the same response. The kindergarten lesson was on the concept of same and different. We looked at the Pals carefully and spent some time describing them, leading up to finding how the Pals were the same or different from each girl. The lesson ended with the girls drawing two similarities and two differences on a piece or paper. When it came time to play with the Pals, the Kg girls added nursing, carrying the Pals strapped to their backs and taking them to church! I was so impressed by the girls' ability to describe their Pals, to make comparisons, and to engage in creative play. Seeing their joy in having a Pal of their own made this a fabulous day.
The rest of the week held time for the first through third grade girls to receive their Peace Pals. Marty taught a data analysis lesson in first grade, having the girls make a graph that displayed how many Pals had hats and how many had hair. In second and third grade, Arna taught writing lessons - one on descriptive writing and one on creative writing. The girls worked hard at their tasks, and then played with the Peace Pals just as enthusiastically as the younger children. One of the first graders named her Pal Marty, commenting, "My doll will always make me think of you." That brought tears to our eyes.
Our last day in Kibera was spent with Arna observing in the PreK and K classes. It was so gratifying to see that all the feedback given during the week was taken to heart, and resulted in much improved lessons. One of the PreK teachers even got down on the floor to demonstrate an activity - something Kenyan teachers just don't do. Arna was able to talk at length to all the ECE teachers throughout the afternoon, reinforcing the things we had taught during the last two weeks, and cementing our friendship.
Marty taught and observed throughout the morning. The vast majority of the children demonstrated a strong understanding of the content covered during the week. Marty then met with the teachers individually to plan the following week, when they were going to be on their own. The faculty clearly believed in this new approach to teaching math, and they had gained confidence that they could do a good job teaching it.
It was hard not to tear up when our last day with the children resulted in many good-bye songs and lots of hugs. It felt good to be able to say that we would be Skype-ing with the teachers every week and that we would be back in January of 2013.
After school, the staff gathered for cake, farewell speeches, pictures and more hugs. The message on the cake was "Friends Forever", a heartfelt sentiment all around.
To learn about the math program we taught, see Developing an Engaging Math Curriculum, third blog post down at http://shininghopeforcommunities.posterous.com/
To learn about the school http://shininghopeforcommunities.org/projects/ksg/
To learn about the other projects http://shininghopeforcommunities.org/projects/
To learn about the founders http://shininghopeforcommunities.org/about/our-story/
To read founder Kennedy Odede’s blog http://bkodede.wordpress.com/
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