Wednesday, 30 July 2014

5 more days left in Kanyawegi

Rashma and I have been in Kanyawegi, Kenya for almost 6 weeks now.  It’s crazy how fast time flies.  I don’t think 6 weeks is enough for us to get anything done here. We did accomplish going into schools to teach primary students (Standard 6,7,8) about HIV/ AIDS but we are uncertain of the effects this will have on the children.  We made the decision to go into the high schools this year because we felt that it is necessary for high school students to get sex education and HIV/ AIDS talk so they can make safer decisions.  Unfortunately, Kenyan government is against condom demonstrations even though most teachers/ parents know that their kids engage in sexual behaviours.  We talked to several teachers who told us that they are aware but they just choose to not see them.  They are also afraid that talking about condom use will encourage sexual behaviours.  Their concerns are understandable but if the behaviours are inevitable due to hormones and nature, it is better to educate them so they are aware of the risks beforehand.  This way, the teenagers will know how to avoid contracting HIV or how to prevent spreading by understanding the importance of condom usage and also how to use it properly.  We heard crazy things about condoms from the students such as having little holes on them. 

Another big problem in Kenya is lack of teachers.  Also many teachers do not care for the children’s future.  Teachers’ job is so crucial because they may potentially have the power to change someone’s life in a positive or negative way. Unfortunately, many are corrupt and they focus on acquiring more money or goods from parents.  They let others do all the “donkey work” and cruise along, hoping that life will continue to be good.  Also, Kenya lack teachers that can teach English. Even though English is an official language in Kenya, many don’t know how to speak/ write English properly.  I met a secondary school student who didn’t understand simple phrases in English… I don’t know how he is going to make it past this year since all the exams are in English. Today, I asked a teacher his opinion on of what should be done to fix this problem. He suggested a change in the policy to make sure that English is properly taught in classes and make sure that the students/ teachers don’t speak in mother tongue.  There are these kids I met during my 2nd day in Kenya.  Dadi, who is the oldest is 9 and he does not speak any English.  I am not sure how he is getting by in school.. but today I asked Stephen to tell Dadi that he should learn English.  I hope he remembers this mzungu and tries to learn it.  Later, I was told by Stephen that students learn english in grade 4-5. I also saw a halfie kids at Lisuka primary school today.  He is half white, half black and both of his parents passed away so he lives at an orphanage.  The teachers said that he is very bright and smart.  He doesn’t get made fun of in class which was my biggest worry. The discrimination does not exist here because the Luo people think of light skin as very “smart” (attractive). 


Photos with the deputy and Chris-George

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Teaching about HIV/ AIDS in Kanyawegi, Kenya

Yesterday, we started teaching about HIV/ AIDS in high schools.  They asked really great questions.  One student asked about the prophylaxis process and what the difference is between that and taking the ARVs daily.  Another asked what the process is if the wife is HIV+ and husband is HIV- but they want to have a child.  There was also a question about where HIV/ AIDS originated from and why it is so deadly in human beings but not in chimpanzees when we are both mammals.  We tried to explain to them that DNA mutation occurred in humans and some viruses are more deadly and are able to replicate more effectively than others but.. I don’t know if they fully understood.  We recommended that they study science once they enter University! I hope they can learn more about it in depth in the future.   I think as volunteers/ teachers, it is important to empower the students and guide them in the right direction and I hope we did this by showing expertise and motivating them to learn more about the topic in further studies.   

This morning, my teammates told me that 2 students who were sitting in front held each other’s hands tightly when we were talking about HIV statistics in the area.  We are assuming that maybe because one of them is HIV+.  In the Nyanza province, 1/3 of the population have HIV.  Mostly due to the practice of polygamy , jaboya system (sex for fish system) that exists near Lake Victoria and also lack of education on this topic.  We always wondered how many children have HIV whenever we teach but this information is of course not disclosed.  One thing that was obvious in high schools students was that they seemed to take the lesson more seriously.  It may be because they personally experienced HIV in their lives whether it was their family member or friends and understand the seriousness of the problem.  I hope our lessons are helping them and they will make safer and smarter choices in the future.  The effects of such teachings are not immediate but what we hope is that in 5 years, 10 years or so, the prevalence of HIV will decrease in this area. 

This year, we went into 17 primary schools and 5 high schools.  GIVE integrated the HIV/ AIDS curriculum to the Ojola zone 7 years ago and this year, our main goal was to analyze its progress.  We are hoping that the community can take over the project in the future so we are trying to discover a sustainable method to hand over project.

 Stephen and Rashma, testing the students

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Photo Diary- Maasai Mara Safari

I went on a safari (it means journey in swahili) with my teammates and 2 more people from UBC joined us from Uganda after they finished volunteering.  Expect a lot of photos in this post. 

Driving to Maasai Mara from Kisumu 
Kericho. This is where all the Kenyan tea is produced.  It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. 

 Working on the tea farm

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Some thoughts from a stranger

My teammate, Lily, sent this to me via fb messaging one day.  I hope she is okay with me sharing it with everyone. 

hey rei! Remember my friend that I have had since forever? well he sent me this message, and I thought you'd like it too!
"Life is nothing but the mere experience of our existence, of all the things that surround us… We are all born into a world of uncertainty and that is simply the beauty of it.
We all have dreams, we all have hopes, we all have fears. We imagine ourselves into the future, as we remember our pasts. We live life curious to know what tomorrow will bring us. Yet today will soon be the yesterday of tomorrow… and so it will be forever.
People live planning for tomorrow, and projecting their lives into the future because they want to have something certain. Some sort of path to follow and know where they’re going, control and comfort of their lives. I believe humans do this to satisfy their fears of the true uncertainty of their lives. But it is exactly in those moments of uncertainty where the true beauty of life comes up to touch the human heart and soul.

We must be patient, as the universe and time will set things in place, some day at some point….but we must never quit dreaming and imagining all that our hearts tell us. We strive facing the fears and the uncertainties, to become stronger and stronger from inside out understanding that we are all capable of anything if we apply ourselves and battle the fears. We grow stronger as we remain conscious that anything can happen and the unexpected will come. "

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Feeling lost

I am honestly bored out of my mind at the moment.  I don’t know what to do. I haven't written anything in a while because there aren't much to talk about on some days. The internet is extremely slow, I keep falling asleep if I attempt at reading, I don’t have anything planned for the day and it is way too hot outside.  These are the biggest problems of my life at the moment (sigh, and I am in Africa).  It's already been almost 2 weeks since I've been in Kenya and one thing that really strike me the hardest is the amount of problems that exist in this country.  I don’t mean problems like the ones I am experiencing at the moment but bigger ones that have an enormous impact in many people’s lives. 

The first and obvious one is the corruption in the government/ officials.  The government is filthy rich while if you step outside into a village, poverty is severe. Kids are covered in dirt, shoesless, and some wear sandals made of tires.  I am not an expert when it comes to politics or economy of the country but I’ve been told that the rich in Kenya continue to become rich while the poor will remain the same and suffer. This problem has been on-going in many countries and the disparity between the rich and poor continues to grow.  In the soccer tournaments, there are children who beg us for a banana which costs 5 shillings while in Kisumu hotels, the children are well-groomed and dressed just like the children we would see in Canada.  I wish there was something I could do.  I am here to volunteer but many times, I feel extremely helpless.  Stephen, who is Maurice’s brother wants to come and study in Canada. He got accepted to a University in Nairobi to study commerce in September.  Once again, I wish there was something I could do to help.