Thursday, August 28, 2008

What we have been doing instead of updating the blog...

Hello again and sorrryyyy for the delay in posting (is hearing that getting old yet?), we have been really busy trying to get things done as the summer is quickly coming to an end. We've been accomplishing a lot and there is a lot of news to report!

I'll start with soccer. As previously mentioned, we have expanded our league and now are supporting six different teams. We have three teams from Tunza, two from Jamii and have started a team in Malaba, in rural Kenya. More on Malaba later but we have provided the Jamii and Malaba teams with balls and equipment so they can hold weekly practices and hope to be able to provide them with shoes and uniforms as we have with the three Tunza teams. The Malaba boys walk over 1 kilometer to get to a field where they can practice and have been meeting to train every day of the week.


The Tunza Under-18 team is currently playing in a Carolina for Kibera tournament with other teams from throughout Kibera. They have played in three games so far, losing two and winning one due to the opponent not showing (we will take what we can get). They were so nervous to be playing in actual games for the first time and we know they'll get better as they get more experience and gain confidence. The boys all wore their uniforms, socks and shoes and were smiling and excited the whole time, despite the losses. They have another non-tournament game tomorrow morning against the rumored best team in Kibera and they will continue on in the tournament despite the two losses, hopefully racking up some victories! We're working on finding other tournaments and more matches for the other four teams and are looking into holding our own Tunza-Jamii tournament in Kibera this fall.


Things are moving along quickly with the construction of the kitchen at Jamii, it is almost completely finished. There is now a sink with water that runs straight to the kitchen, so the cooking staff doesn't need to fetch it from the water tank and haul it to the kitchen every time they need to cook or wash. Two stoves with chimneys were also built so the staff can cook multiple things at once and smoke can exit the kitchen. View some photos of the recent constructions HERE. Additionally, the refugees that had been living in the Jamii classrooms have now moved out and Jamii will start the third term of the year as a fully functioning school next week for the first time since the election. We are talking to the director to see what else will be needed because all of the supplies were stolen or destroyed during the violence.

Last weekend, we paid a visit to a rural village near Malaba, which is a border town between Kenya and Uganda. We have been supporting the village when we are able to as an unofficial Uweza project since last year. The village is struggling with the problem of orphaned children. Many children have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS and other illnesses and to the recent violence following the election. There are about 40-50 orphaned children with nowhere to go. Some have been taken in by guardians within the village, but the guardians are not always able to provide for them.


One of the women from the village that we met last year, Leah, has been working to provide for the kids, ensuring that they get three meals a day and have a place to sleep. The kids have been sleeping on the floor of an abandoned house in the village. Last week, we brought them mattresses and blankets to resolve this problem. They were so happy to receive them, jumping all over the mattreses and huddling together and covering themselves with the blankets. We left for the night with them yelling "THANK YOU GOODNIGHT THANK YOU GOODNIGHT!"

We also were able to provide them with some money to go to the market and buy food. Another one of the residents of the village works in agriculture and brought up the idea to us to support them in an agricultural project, buying them a piece of land to farm so that they can have a sustainable supply of food and a way to generate income to provide for the kids. We're still working out the details but this may be a project that we'd like to take on in the future.


In Tumaini Health Outreach news, we have been busy going on home visits, trying to reach as many different patients per week as possible. On average, we try to see about 5-6 patients per day, three days a week. Also, we have discovered that a lot of the women that attend the weekly support groups are really talented at beading work and at making bags and purses. So we're working with them to try and bring a lot of their items home to the United States (I'll be clearing out an entire suitcase when I return home in September for this) to be sold as a way of providing income to both the support groups and the individuals that make the items. Pictures of some of the items will be posted on the website soon - let us know if you're interested in buying something!

There has been a major development at Tunza Children's Center - we recently moved 5 of the girls to a new home. We worked in conjunction with one of our partner organizations, Faces of Kibera, to determine some of the most vulnerable girls and we found them a fancy new home out of the Kibera slum. Tricia, who runs Faces of Kibera, has been in contact with the head of the home, Hekima Place (www.hekimaplace.org) for over a year and a few weeks ago, they were able to find a spot for five of our girls. The home, which takes in orphaned girls from throughout Kenya, is located in Karen, a suburb on the outskirts of Nairobi in a secluded and peaceful setting.


The girls now have their own beds, new, clean clothes, a huge backyard to play in, shelves full of books to read, toys, and three big, healthy meals a day. They are attending a good school in the area and are deliriously happy. One of the girls is HIV positive and was about to start ARVs right before the move. She hadn't been gaining weight and the unsanitary conditions of Kibera were taking a toll on her health. Following the move, her doctors decided to postpone ARV treatment. She is doing much better health-wise now and we hear that she is "eating like a horse" at the new home. We wish we could be able to provide such a tremendous opportunity to all of the orphaned kids at Tunza (and the rest of Kibera) but are happy for these five girls and of course will continue working on trying to improve the quality of life of the kids still at Tunza.


We haven't been doing a lot with our relief project because most Kenyans have been able to return home and restart their lives, but we have spent some time in a refugee camp near Nairobi. The camp, previously mentioned in one of Meghann's post, is home to about 300 refugees living in plastic tents. It has been over eight months since the election so the situations of these families are particularly bad for them to be unable to find the means to leave the camp and restart their lives. For the family of the former Jamii student that we know, we have been able to provide cooking supplies and blankets to make life a little easier in the camp. We also will be sponsoring the student to restart school, after eight months of not being able to attend. Recently, the mother of the family located an available home and place to restart her business so we will be helping resettle the family by assisting with a few months of rent as well as business startup costs so she can once again begin to provide for her family.

The final major development is that Uweza may be starting a school! This is very, very preliminary but we recently met with three of the teachers who used to work at Jamii and they brought up the idea to us to start a pre-primary school in Kibera. After the election, Jamii shut down for several months and the teachers were forced to find work elsewhere. They have now been replaced at Jamii but have not lost their passion for teaching and wanting to help the kids of Kibera. All three of them are not only excellent teachers but they have a genuine interest in the well-being of each child that comes into their class and we couldn't imagine finding three better people to run a school. So we were really excited about this idea but, of course, it will require a lot of planning and budgeting. We really like the idea of a pre-primary school (what they refer to preschool as here) and getting the kids a good, solid running start before they begin elementary school. Then we can funnel them right into Olypmic, the best school in Kibera.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, the first step is to find a structure to house the school and figure out the costs involved. We've heard about several potential locations and are looking into them in the coming weeks as well as determining if this is something that will be feasible. It will also take a great deal of fundraising (donations for Uweza Pre-Primary School accepted here: http://www.uweza.org/getinvolved.html) but we'll keep you posted!

LASTLY, the uweza site (uweza.org) has been updated with new galleries of Jamii School, Tunza, the soccer, and the relief situations.

As always, we really really want to thank everyone for their words of encouragement, donations, and continued support. We would be useless (for the most part) in Kenya without our supporters and can't thank you enough. I apologize again for the time we put between letting you know what we're up to, but hope that when we do get around to blogging that we make it worth it.

Kwa heri until next time!

Jen

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