Before leaving the U.S., I sent letters out requesting donations from friends in Vermont that I could use with some discretion to carry out a project here. The response was amazing and touching, and I am happy to say that I think that I have found a suitable project to help that generosity reach the people of Kakamega.
As I have written previously, I have been appalled at the state of the educational system here, and at the lack of opportunity available to children. At Township Primary, there isn’t even a single storybook for the students to read outside of class, so I’m undertaking the renovation of an abandoned classroom and the creation of a library.
Already, I’ve received more support from some of the same people, as well as other friends in Vermont and books will shortly be on their way. Here on the ground I have cleaned and repainted the room with the help of some dedicated students, and the Care Centre has generously donated books from its collection. Two teams of carpenters are building tables, chairs and shelves, and one of the teachers has volunteered her expertise in creating a card catalog.
It’s truly amazing to watch two communities a world away from each other coming together to make this happen, and the appreciation is very clear. After considerable disenchantment with international development and our ability to have a positive impact, this project is proving very cathartic. I have come to the conclusion that for the most part, Kenyans must help themselves and determine their own futures, but there are times when outside assistance truly is needed.
I have a very bright student in my sixth grade math class named Florence. In class she begs me to let her do examples on the board and flies through introductory algebra while her classmates struggle to keep up. At 8 am on Saturdays when I arrive to teach my seventh grade science class (yes, there is class on weekends here), Florence is alone in the classroom, already seated at her desk, waiting for the teacher who will arrive at some unspecified time in the following six hours. The burning desire to learn and the frustration with the slowness of school are obvious in her eyes (and the way she covers them when a classmate incorrectly answers a question), and it was the proudest and most gratifying moment of my stay here when she asked me for storybooks to read, and I was able to assure her that they were on their way.
In a school system that is broke, and in a community that is remote enough that you have to travel two hours to find a shop selling novels, there is a clear place for help from abroad. Florence’s future is for her to decide, and in the future, Kenya’s problems will rest on her shoulders, but the head start we can give with a few generous donations and a little trans-Atlantic cooperation means the world to her