We are back from Africa, where we visited DFC (our sister school in Kenya). It was a wonderful trip. Lashana, Olga, Johanna, Jaci (Imagine teachers and director) and I had an amazing time. We are very thankful for the efforts of all of Imagine staff and families that helped to make this trip a reality.
Jaci’s mom from Montana, a few friends who had business in Nairobi, and a group of students (including an Imagine parent), staff and professors from Lehman College accompanied us, making our group 15. Under the able leadership of our friends from the Green Belt Movement we first traveled to Chuka, a rural village in central Kenya. In Chuka we lived with local families (2 to 4 of us in each home), and had to do without plumbing and electricity. We visited a local primary school where the child staff ratio in the youngest group is 40 to 1. The children were wowed by our rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. In the village we also joined in cultural dances, played games with the children, and had many conversations with the adults. On our last day we hiked into the woods with our Kenyan families and planted trees at the base of Mt Kenya.
During the second part of the trip we took a safari in the Masa Mara and experienced many National Geographic moments. At one point, we were 10 feet away from a male lion eating a freshly killed cape buffalo. The lioness who killed the buffalo and her two sisters were a few feet away. We were nervously but safely ensconce in vans. Then we stopped at a Maasai village. The Massai villages are called “bomas”, and are built in areas enclosed by brush, with houses made out of dung. The flies were fierce, but several intrepid travelers in the group ventured into the boma to see how the Maasai live. At the end of the visit, one of the Maasai men offered us 25 cows for Olga, our preschool teacher at Imagine at Lehman College. He has good taste but Olga decided to stay with us.
We spent the last part of the trip at our sister school, DFC, in the Kibera slum. During our 3 days with the 176 DFC children we made musical instruments from the paper towel rolls you saved for us, and taught the children how to make origami birds and clothespin animals. We also trained the DFC staff to make puppets with the children using the hundreds of socks you helped us collect. In the evenings we met with the DFC teachers to plan how to continue and grow our relationship.
The highlight of our visit to DFC was the day we took all the children and their 13 staff members to the Sheldrake Elephant Sanctuary. We met 28 baby elephants that had been rescued in the wild. Although Kibera is very close to the sanctuary, the children had never been there before. Later that day we took the children to Uhuru Park (Freedom Park), had lunch, played tug of war games and did face painting. There were smiles all around.
Traveling to Kenya this year was an extraordinary experience. The trip helped solidify our relationship with DFC. The DFC staff repeated again and again how important it is for the children to know that there are people thinking and caring about them. They are children in need, living in the most desperate poverty. One can’t help but think of the similarities between the work done at Sheldrake elephant sanctuary and DFC. However, while the elephants will be taken care of until they are released into an animal preserve where they will be monitored to ensure that they adapt and fare well in their new environment, the children at DFC have no such guarantees.
DFC is very appreciative of all that Kids for Kids has done for them. The school supplies we brought were warmly received. They cherished the books the Imagine children sent. Looking forward towards self-sufficiency, DFC is trying to develop a sunflower oil business and have recently rented land outside Nairobi to grow a crop of sunflowers. (Last year Kids for Kids bought an oil press for DFC and gave them funds to start a sunflower oil business. They had trouble buying the seeds so decided to farm the seeds on their own. The business plan indicates that they will make around $4000/year, 3 teacher salaries).
Again, thank you all for your support, and for the encouragement and kind words you have shared about Kids for Kids. All of us at Imagine are proud of the relationship we have developed with DFC. We look forward to continuing our connections with Kenya and growing new projects right here in the US. Olga, Lashana, Johanna and Jaci are already working on new Kids for Kids projects and a fun curriculum for next year. We are hoping to lead more trips in the future and encourage other teachers and parents to join us and to share the experience.