"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Building Futures, Inc.

Building Futures, Inc.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


A culmination of the hot Kenyan sun and my inexplicable sleep patterns has finally caught up with me.  I am completely exhausted.  I must have subconsciously seen this coming and took extra pictures so that I can type less and let the images speak for themselves.  So, here goes.
I woke up early again today at around 5am.  I couldn’t fall back asleep so I called Ann and Kevin (who I missed speaking to yesterday because he was in class). It’s much easier to call at that time because it’s late in the evening and the likelihood of catching them is much greater.  It seemed like we talked for a long while, but it wasn’t long enough.  Afterward I went out to the veranda to check messages.  Job will be arriving in an hour so it gave me time to check my email where the signal was stronger.
They threw me a curveball for breakfast.  Instead of the customary tea, bread, sausage and fried egg I was served tea, bread, sausage and boiled eggs!  Never saw that one coming!  I love boiled eggs, so it was a welcome change, albeit a slight one. 
The haze burned off rapidly so I knew it was going to be moto sana (very hot).  It was.  Although our schedule was light today, the walking was the hardest.  All jokes aside, Agulu Primary School is an uphill walk the entire way.  The rest of my family can attest to that, especially Karen. I kept a pretty good pace, though, and constantly checked with Job to make sure he was okay when his speech got labored.  The discussion was filled with plans for today and tomorrow.  We do it everyday despite those plans changing as the day goes on.  Job is a very popular fellow.  There was only one person that we passed who didn’t stop and talk to him.  There were several that I couldn’t even see behind hedges or cornstalks; I could only hear their voices.  “Who was that?” I would say.  “That is my cousin,” “That is my uncle,” “That is my friend.”  This list went on and on.  He’s quite funny, so we laugh quite a bit on these walks.  It reminds me a lot of the walks that Jim and I had.

We were probably a quarter mile from the school when a man cutting sugar cane came out and gave a stalk to Job, who quickly ripped into it.  He then explained how there are several types; some sweet, some bitter, some juicy, some salty… this one was sweet and juicy – his favorite.  “I’m brushing my teeth as I eat,” he said with a smirk.

Agulu Primary School is built into a hill so the classrooms step down toward you.  It’s got a large courtyard with several tall shade trees in it.  Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite elementary schools in the area.  The children are incredibly well behaved, and that discipline has led them to be one of the best performing schools in the region.  When we first came to this school several years ago, some of the students were learning lessons in makeshift cattle pens with plastic sheeting for a roof.  The other classrooms were made of badly deteriorating mud and dung.  Their performance had earned   There are still 4 classrooms that are simply a  mess.  We are going to help with two of them. 
them some governmental assistance rebuilding 2 rooms, and that was followed by the headmistress soliciting assistance from another NGO for two more.

We met the teachers and headmistress inside the small administration room where they were all sitting. Enrollment was still going on so they were all tallying sheets.  Incredibly, the students all remained in their classrooms; most of them seated at their desks and talking quietly.  We sat and talked for a bit before wandering the grounds to talk to the students and take some pictures.  We wandered into some classrooms to speak with the students.  I joked with them as I purposely made mistakes as I counted from 1 to 10 in Kiswahili.  The students were bright eyed and attentive despite their world literally crumbling down around them.  The rooms had holes worn through every side.  I don't see how the rain runoff cannot come right in through the windows that have crumbled into doorways.  We walked back outside and sat down in the courtyard and had a soda (yes, a warm one) while the headmistress spoke about how the school has changed over the last several years.  She is 5 years from retirement and wants to do everything she can to have the school repaired before that time comes.  I have no doubt that she will.  As we sat and talked, there was  fundi at the end of the courtyard repairing desks.  New ones cost about $17 to make so they do everything they can to make them last.  It sounds like a small amount, but with roughly 400 students, funds are strictly prioritized.  They make sure that those that cannot afford it are supplied with text books, notebooks and pencils.   Although many of these children were shoeless, they all had uniforms.  I made the remark to her that, “Children are the same wherever you go,” as we watched them playing next to the classrooms or inquisitively staring at the “vee-zee-tahs” (visitors).  And there’s always that one that looks like she wants you to keep your distance.

I grabbed the juggling sacks that Andrea bought for me and I returned to the crumbling rooms.  I asked if anyone knew how to juggle and a hand shot up in the back.  "Cuba hapa," I said "Come here," signaling with my hand.  In hindsight I probably should have taken a knee to talk because my height must have seemed even more pronounce due to the short height of the walls.  He jumped up anyway and came forward.  As I handed him the balls, he just smiled and looked to the floor with his eyes closed. I'm sure he was thinking, "I didn't expect to get called up."  Well he did, and I soon let him off the hook.  I showed him how to start off and he gave it a good try before returning to his seat amid the laughter of his classmates.  I started juggling and would stop every few minutes to give another student a chance.  The girls started jumping up and seemed to do better than the boys.
We eventually said our goodbye’s and pushed off.  I was grateful that the walk back would be easier. Despite it not being as strenuous, the walk back took us three times longer.  Students of all ages and schools were walking along the same path and we stopped and talked to most of them.  One was Job’s niece, another a nephew, but most were just smiling wanafunzi (students).  We had pockets full of Dum-Dums, and that always warranted a conversation and a smile.  We passed by Job’s farm on the way back and checked in on his fishponds.

As we came upon an intersection there was a piki-piki with a passenger on the back stopped right at the corner.  We had to get a bit closer before I recognized the local chief from Mbaka Oromo sitting on the back.  As I approached he stepped off revealing a can in his right hand.  After we greeted each other he informed me that he the back of his foot on some razor wire and was just coming from the hospital.  It looked like a pretty nasty cut... and I think I would have had them cover the wound a little more thoroughly; especially with the dust that's kicked up by the motorcycles and passing cars.
We had an hour before our next appointment, so I took a 30 minute nap.  Dr. Pio was coming form the clinic so that we can discuss how things are going.  Thirty minutes wasn’t enough.  Job came thirty minutes after I sat down on the veranda, and the doctor arrived another 30 after that.  Karibu Kenya (Welcome to Kenya).
Dr. Pio arrived with his sister who came to visit and they both sat down where Job and I were seated.  He is a small, slight man and came wearing a camel hair jacket over a long sleeve shirt.  After a brief talk about their journey, she moved to the corner with a soda and left us to talk business.  Eventually, we all moved inside due to a storm that announced its arrival with a loud thunderclap and a rapid decrease in temperature.  I was the only one that wasn’t cold.  Despite the bravado, the rain never came.
The clinic is doing very well. The see an average of 1,000 patients per month and that’s just the sick ones.  It doesn’t include immunizations or health screenings.  Deliveries are lower than he expected averaging one per month, but he is sure that will begin to increase.  The government has been quite helpful with medicines, supplying them with a steady stream of rapid malaria tests and all immunizations for children.  He assured me that if they run out of medicine, every clinic runs out… the government is not being stingy with meds. 
The challenges, however, still remained.  The greatest needs continue to be a fridge (for certain medicines and immunizations) and a computer (so they can send daily, weekly and monthly reports with greater ease).  We may be able to satisfy one of them during this trip, but I know we can’t do both.  The community needs to play a more active role in maintaining the wellbeing of the clinic, too.  That will be a conversation for tomorrow when we meet with the newly elected Clinic Committee.
We ordered dinner at 6pm and it didn’t arrive until 8:05pm.  Dr. Pio told us his story while we waited.  He started out as a Catholic missionary because he was certain that was his calling.  After 9 years, he was awarded a scholarship at a Canadian university and the order in Canada was eagerly waiting his arrival.  His superior in Kenya called the university and told them he no longer had need of the scholarship and his transfer request was refused.  That ended is life as a missionary and he left bitter and angry.  It did not, however, dissuade him from a burning desire to help people.  He was already working in the health field when he began establishing HIV clinics.  He had sought out Catholic churches as sponsors and built 3 clinics before moving on to his next role as a government doctor.  Those three clinics are still thriving today, and he still keeps in touch with the brothers from his order.
The food took 2 hours and 5 minutes to cook, and 15 minutes to eat. 

It wasn’t long before we said our said our goodbyes and retired for the evening.  I returned to my room and sat on the side of my bed with my feet on the floor.  I felt like I was still carrying my backpack and laid back to reduce the weight.  I woke up 2 hours later with my feet still on the floor.  Fortunately I had the fan on because I wasn’t under a mosquito net.  I actually don’t think they’re interested in me anymore because although they’ve been buzzing around, I have yet to be bitten.  I’ll let you know how that pans out.  For now, it’s time to go to bed.  We have an extremely busy day tomorrow and a lot of ground to cover.  Sweet dreams.

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