On Mandela & My Hope

It wasn’t an unusual morning. The sun was brilliant by six am, my bedroom was beginning to bake in the Mombasa heat and my washing was still left forgotten on the line, swaying in the breeze. It was when I … Continue reading

Football: Community and Spirit

“Who’s brilliant idea was it to set up a football match at 2 pm, the hottest time of day?” Josh whines, prompting laughs and blame to be passed on to Dan and Pete for the sweaty, exhausting afternoon ahead of … Continue reading

Mr. Mutunga: Jail Bird & Principal

mutungaMutunga (Brian) Kimanthi, head of Nyota Ing’arayo school, had graciously invited me into his home and allowed me to interview him regarding his experience in a Kenyan Prison. I’ve been calling him a jail bird and an aider and abettor but I wanted to know the full story. I wanted to write about it for others to hear a bit about what it’s like trying to do a good thing – run a school educating those less fortunate – and getting imprisoned (even if for a short while) for doing so. He was happy to tell me the story over chapatis and soda.

Mutunga is a very sweet man. It is hard Continue reading

Beginning to Understand the ‘Terror’ in Terrorist Attacks

I was sitting in a cafe just outside the major mall of Mombasa. I trekked out early in the morning to make the time difference and Facetime my family and friends at home. I ended up staying for a lot longer than I anticipated as I got carried away with conversations and those I was having with myself in my writing. I sat beside a window and throughout the day I noticed some changes. The guards were doing more than thorough security checks than when I first walked through this morning. Trunks of cars were being opened and the underbelly of cars were being searched . The pat downs on pedestrians and the metal detector use was different. It wasn’t the usual wave of their detector – hear a beep – and say ‘Asante’ as you walk through. No, now they were really checking what was beeping and what you were carrying. The only thought Continue reading

An Orphanage is not a Tourist Destination nor am I in ‘Africa’

I took a week long camping safari with Intrepid Tours where I traveled from Nairobi through to the National Parks and sights. I was more than happy to see the Maasai Mara, the Great Rift Valley, Hells Gate – among … Continue reading

Six Weeks Turns Into Six Months

I was pulled away on a Thursday afternoon to have a chat with the project manager. Not really sure what it would be about I went in without any expectations. After a short while I realized what was happening and was beginning to feel hopeful. “Monika, we love what you have done here and the work you’ve been putting in with resources and how to change the programs.  I know that you are going on Safari this weekend – take your time and travel if you like – but instead of flying home after that, we’d like you to stay here as the Education Officer for our project.” Before she finished asking, my heart had already said yes. Continue reading

Celebrating ‘Official School Status’ & My Leaving Ceremony

Nyota Ing’arayo became an official school and today we celebrated. There was pilau, singing, dancing, smiling, and definite laughing going on at the school amongst teachers, staff, volunteers and especially the students. With Nyota becoming a school, the Students of Standard 8 are able to sit their Kenyan Certified Primary Education (KCPE) exam wearing uniforms representing their school. Now it’s official and Nyota is moving on from it’s child care centre days to a government recognized school. Continue reading

Exploring the Complexities of Kenya/Canada Comparisons with ‘The Giving Tree’

My group reading session today had my girls looking at, ‘The Giving Tree‘ by Shel Silverstein. Before reading the book we did a pre-reading activity that asked the question: “If you could ask a tree to give you anything you wanted, … Continue reading

The Commute to School

Commuting to school here is much different than at home. At home you’ll find me behind the wheel of my small car with Siri navigating me turn by turn, cursing horrid radio stations as I drink my hastily made coffee.  … Continue reading

What am I doing here?

“Why on earth did I sign up for two months here? What am I even doing?
I shouldn’t be here!”

Dread, a bit of panic, and an overwhelming amount of doubt was there to greet me when I was driving to the project site from the airport in Mombasa.

I always thought it was cliché when they say,  ”you’ll never know what poverty is until you see it in person, face to face.”  But they are entirely right. To see it that close. To see it seem endless with every street, every corner, every sea of garbage you see a child and animal picking through, every crowded market, every person you see lying in the streets, every shack that you would never want to call home, every burning pile of rubbish, every repugnant smell that wafts into your nose, every broken down building, every child wandering alone, and the excessive amounts of people living in conditions that you would avoid even walking through will overwhelm you and help you understand exactly what poverty is.

It will make you too aware of your own fortune. Of how well off you are. To be coming into this entirely different world with the culture and history you carry with you. To hate where you’re from and want to forget that you even came here. To feel ashamed of the good hand you were dealt in life.  To want to hide away and not be here ‘to help.’ Which now, as you’re driving though it – seem so minuscule, conceited and ridiculous. Selfishly taking an ‘experience’ away from this place. And what are you really giving back? Nothing can ever be enough so you should just turn back now. Continue reading