"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.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


I'm only just now realizing that my dates are off.  Today is the Saturday the 23rd and I'm posting info for Friday.  At least it's the Saturday for me; most of you are probably still sleeping.  I wrote late into the night so that I could simply add the pictures in the morning.  That seems to be the routine.
Nothing really happened today.  No, just kidding.  The temperate
As it turns out, we’re not the only ones without power.  The entire town is blacked out.  Rumor has it that a transformer blew.  The general consensus is that there’s a problem somewhere on the line, and only God know when it will get fixed.
The ride to Huma was a quick one.  We left later than originally expected because all of the right people weren’t at the school yet to be part of the ground breaking.  I have to admit, I was quite nervous about setting the first shovel in the ground.  This is certainly the first groundbreaking ceremony I’ve ever been asked to, let alone participate in.  I kept thinking, “What if I can’t get the shovel into the dirt, after all, it’s been pretty dry.”  My fears would soon be put to the side.  As we entered the gate, terror took over.
The first thing we saw was a large canopied area to the north of the offices.  “What’s going on?” I asked Job.  His only response was, “Uh oh.”  It was an understatement. 

Merab and I ... no idea
what I'm doing with my hands

We got out of the car and greeted Merab and Linette (the principal  and deputy).  They were to lead us over to the site.  As we turned the corner, I realized that I underestimated Merab.  
There were close to 500 students standing in their uniforms – it was pretty impressive.  Seated next to them was close to 30 VIPs.  They were high-ranking members of the local Anglican church as well as the bishop from the Israel church of Afrca (John Oguso) and our friend, Dan Otieno. Local government officials, engineers, the school staff and the area chief were also present.  It was a very imposing group, but they put me at ease with their hospitality and appreciation. 
I spoke with the Anglicans while the girls were singing.  There’s something about Kenyans singing that is just wonderful.  It’s like bagpipes… I’ve never heard a bagpipe I didn’t like.  You couple the sound of 500 voices with birdsong, the occasional cow, goats and chickens… the wind whipping through the trees… it’s just wonderful.  When they stopped, it was time for prayer that consisted of some free verse, then a reading from Peter.  The commentary that followed was appropriately about setting the cornerstone and ensuring a good foundation.  They were thanking 
me profusely and unknowingly making me uncomfortable.  They are a very appreciative bunch.  It finally came time to break ground.  I didn’t need a reason to sweat (it has been ridiculously hot here) but this certainly wasn’t helping.  Much to my surprise (and pleasure) one of the Anglican priests picked up the hoe and began digging.  “Oh no, I’m next,” I thought.  He made quick work making a large cross in the ground where the dormitory would be.  He was very adept with a hoe, as most Kenyans in this area are.  There was a shovel next to it, so I assumed that would be my weapon of choice.  When he finished he said a few more words of prayer and thanks then called me over.  “Here goes,” I said under my breath with a sigh.  500 people are going to watch this white man fall on his face.  No such luck!  He was just coming over to shake my hand and say “Thank you.”  Woohoo! I’m off the hook.
Not so fast.  After we sat down, he stood to speak again, then asked me to speak.  John had asked me to introduce him before I spoke.  It made me a bit uncomfortable because this wasn’t my party and I wasn’t the entertainment director.  I stood up, thanked the members for having me here and asked John to come up and say a few words.  If nothing else it would give me more time to prepare. 
John told everyone that he was the one that started this school!  Another mind blower.  I had no idea!  He went on to explain in detail explaining how he was the one that picked out the color of their brown uniforms and chose the headmaster.  Each story garnered nods from the older people in the crowd.  He then turned to me and paid me some very nice compliments.  Then came my cue.
This was the reaction when I
told them my last name was Okinyi
I rose, walked out to the middle of the courtyard and started, “My name is Adam Okinyi.”  Okinyi was the Luo name I was given about 5 years ago.  The girls all began to laugh, and the “dignitaries” smiled at one another.  I silenced the crown by speaking to them in Doluo and they responded in kind.  I told them a little bit about me, about may family and our organization.  As I was looking at them, I thought about what John Oguso had told me the day before, “The light of tomorrow is lit with the candles of today,” came to mind.  It wasn’t exactly what John said, but it worked for me.  I then informed them that they were the candles.  I talked about the burden that they have and how God won’t give them more than they can handle.  I then told them what I’ve been telling everyone else.  “Your praise and thanks are overwhelming and I am humbled by this ceremony and the kinds words that have been spoken.  The thanks belongs to God.  I am just His vehicle.”  Kenyans (at least these Kenyans) are a very spiritual bunch.  I don’t think there was a non-christian in the bunch.  I’m not terribly comfortable talking about such things regardless as to how true they are in my heart.  The words came out easily, though.  In closing, I said, “When I return in June with my family I hope to bring them here to meet you, but we will not be standing here when we do.”  I moved over to a tall tree next to another dormitory.  “We will be standing here, looking at your new dormitory.”  Everyone clapped as I returned to my seat. I know this because I saw them clapping, not because I heard the noise.  I didn’t hear anything but the words rattling around in my head.
Linette talking
to the girls
The president of the student body then spoke briefly and led a traditional “thank you” that is pretty neat to watch and hear.  They choose a number then clap that number of times; they then subtract one and clap that number of times.  It’s done rapidly but completely in unison until they reach one.  After the last single clap, the all take there hands and wave them through the air towards me while making a sound like air brakes on a tractor trailer.  The clapping is their gratitude and the “CHshhhhhh” is their sending it to me.  Cool.  Next came the deputy teacher Linette.  She grabbed part of my speech and ran with it.  “You are the candles that will light tomorrow,  say it!”  They did.  “I am the candle that lights tomorrow, say it.” They did.  Look to your neighbor and tell them, ‘You are the candle,’ say it.”  It almost brought me to tears.  “We are the candles that will light tomorrow! Say it.”  And they did, and they are, and they will.
After one more song, the ceremony ended and we moved over to the tent we originally saw for some lunch that consisted of muffins, ground nuts (peanuts), samosas (lentils and stuff in fried dough), orange juice, water, and of course, piping hot tea.  One thing I forgot to mention is that they don’t usually make their tea with water.  Instead they use hot milk… REALLY hot milk.  Kenyans also LOVE sugar.  If they ask you if you’d like some, keep an eye on them because they’ll keep scooping until you say stop; and they’ll ignore you until after the 5th teaspoon.  The conversation was lively and bounced between English, Kiswahili and Doluo.  I picked up on most of it.  Yes, especially the English parts.  
We finished up, said our goodbyes and were on our way to Mbaka Oromo.  I needed to drop of the lollipops at the clinic, speak with Tom at the Secondary School regarding the pad project, and see the Susan, Emmah and Danton one more time.  As it turns out, although we got to see some students,  all three tasks were unsuccessful.
1.  I forgot to give the lollipops to the doctors.
2.  The sewing machines were covered with a layer of dust from lack of use and their explanation as to why they’ve been dormant was insufficient.
3.   The girls and Danton were in class.
Now here’s the good news.
1.  Job is going to take the lollipops to the clinic on Monday when the doctors return after the weekend.
2.  Our friend Noelle in Kakamega has already spoken to us about how she would utilize the sewing machines for the pad project and guarantee sustainability while still providing pads to Mbaka Oromo.  She’s writing up a proposal as I type this.  She’s worked on the project with us since its inception and is working on her Masters Degree in Community Development.  It’s a perfect fit.
3.  The girls and Danton were coming with their mom to the Peacock tonight at 5.
We returned to the car and headed back to Kisumu to try and fix my inability to send texts (although I can receive them) and find out why my modem’s not working.
Both of them ended in failure – this time there was no happy ending.  Hakuna matata (yes, it really means “No worries”).  While in Kisumu we stopped at a bookstore and bought the necessary textbooks for Manasse.  He’s the boy we sponsor at Mbaka Oromo Secondary School – did I mention that he’s at the top of his class?
Jedidah, Debra, baby Fidel,
Milecent, Ruth, Job, Judy,
baby Andrea
We were finally on our way home.  The traffic was moving slowly and took us twice as long to get back to Maseno.  It felt like the earth had been moving closer to the sun all day.  En route, Job remembered that we needed to stop by so his sisters.  We drove right past the Peacock.  Job's got many sisters, and he helps care for them and their daughters.  This is what Kenyans do if the parents pass away.  They live in a humble setting as you'd expect, and were incredibly hospitable, which you'd also expect.  We came and sat as Judy brought out sliced mangos and ndizi (bananas).  These were the first bananas I've had since I got here - somewhat shocking considering we walked passed hundreds of them every day.  Andrea's beautiful!  She's following her namesake.  Job said, "Oh, she doesn't like me," and I said, "Let me see that baby!"  Judy said, "If ah mahn en-tahs my home, she screams.  She's nawt afraid of you.  Aye!" (again, that sounds like a quick, high pitched "I").  I sat and bounced her on my knee, sat her in my lap, played hide and seek... all the same things I do with Andrea at home. Kidding.  She didn't make a sound.  Instead, she grabbed my finger tightly and watched everyone in the room with curiosity.  Before we got up to leave, Job made her cry.  I snapped a picture of all of them before we left.  NOW, we're heading to the Peacock.
We had a meeting with the owner regarding this visit and future visits.  It went very well.  He was very agreeable and eager to please, and he appreciated our feedback.  I know the girls are going to like it here.  Susan, Emmah and Danton (along with their mom) arrived as we finished with the owner so Job and I retreated to the back of the hotel where we found them sitting around a table.
I gave them the last few gifts that I failed to give them earlier as well as some sweets and soda money for the walk back.  With a brilliant white smile, Susan informed me that she had moved on to 5th grade.  She was beaming with pride.  I gave her a hug and told her how wonderful that was.  Then I taught them about selfies and we took one together.  It will probably be the last one I take before I return I return home.  I wish the Andrea, Katie, Kevin and Karen were here.  They just love these girls and I know the feeling is mutual.
We placed an order for chicken before then we sat down with the girls.  The discussion with the owner must have struck a chord because the food was ready in less than 40 minutes ( he assured us that when we returned it would never take more than 30) and it was wonderful.  Job and I recapped the day as we ate, then sat and talked some more while we finished our sodas.  I sent Job on his way before it started to get dark and I returned to my room.  The generator was on so I was able to get a good charge on my computer and charge my phone.  That’s why I’m able to type today’s blog.  I probably won’t be able to add pictures until I’m outside tomorrow, but at least the really long part’s over.  I’ve been typing for several hours… it’s 11:30pm.  Andrea called somewhere in the middle and that gave me the energy to get this finished.  Now it’s time for bed.  My journey back home begins 
Oh, I almost forgot.  Every day we walked to Mbaka Oromo we passed by a butcher shop in Chulembo.  It's been 90degrees fro the last three days.  The clinic has a fridge, this guy doesn't.  Anybody want me to bring them home a steak?  Please write a nice letter to the USDA.

No comments: