Cheri Butt directs patients at the eye clinic
The following article is by Cheri Butt
We are an amazing team, everyone is working very hard to help as many people as we can while we are here. In the moment it feels like we have been here for a month, as we have seen and done so many things already, but looking back it feels like it is just going by far too quickly.
We finished our first week of clinics with a bang. Friday night was a well deserved gathering at a local watering hole downtown Mikinduri. We gathered in our compound, and headed out on foot, enjoying the starry night and trying to prevent any face plants from the often uneven ground.
We made it safely without incident – and even got a quick tour/history lesson from Ted enroute.
Makute’s quite rustic and not a very large place. We were not even sure we would all fit in, after we heard that Sam Murphy had invited everyone he ever met in the clinic to join us.
Upon our arrival, first things first – Tusker baridi (cold Tusker) for everyone. Kenyans very rarely have cold drinks, so do not understand that the very hot Canadians need something to cool us down. The owner was told two days before that we were coming and to have the fridge stocked. She obliged and stocked the fridge, missing one very important detail – plugging it in. So, the night started with warm Tuskers, but everyone took it in stride.
Ben Murphy, computer in hand, was determined that we would watch the Canada vs USA Men’s Olympic Hockey game. After some instant Facebook feedback on how to access the live stream, he was successful. Not only was it great to watch the game in such a setting, it was also great to watch many of our Kenyan friends and volunteers watch an ice hockey game for the first time. Ask any of us in 10 years where we were when Canada beat the U.S. during the Sochi Olympics – pretty sure we will all know the answer.
Saturday we headed out early to visit some of the projects sponsored by Mikinduri Children of Hope, and supported by many of you reading this post. Equipped with water, sunscreen and excitement, we headed to the base of Thuuri mountain where a nursery school was built through MCOH, a 45-minute hike up the mountain.
Although we were only looking at the school from the bottom, not climbing up to see it, something very special happened. If you know the Murphy boys, or have read their posts on the blog, you know that fun follows them wherever they go. Surrounded by children that came to greet us, Ben broke out his portable speaker and blasted the tunes. An impromptu dance party started in a tiny village in the middle of Kenya – later we discussed our favourite part of the day, this was definitely mine.
We piled into the combi’s to continue on to Kagwuru. It took us about 10 minutes to drive there, but the kids must have known a shortcut as they arrived before we did.
A soccer/football match was planned with the wazungu vs the students. Paul, one of our drivers – now referee - decided the split was unfair. I can only assume he did not want us to win against the students too soon. The teams were decided, distinguished by soccer jerseys donated to the school last year, and the sun was blaring.
After five minutes, it felt like we had been playing for three hours. Holes the size of craters were random throughout the field, causing some entertaining plays. The teams were even up to the second half. After a much-needed water break, the game continued with a couple of team member switches – and ended as soon as the first two goals were made.
The day continued with a tour of the classrooms – some built by MCOH and the others by the Kenyan Government.
MCOH’s classrooms far surpass the quality of the others. The school has flourished, and the children are extremely healthy and happy. Such a change from my first visit there six years ago, when the school itself won the “Last Place” award (we saw the plaque to prove it) in the district – and the children were literally starving.
During the clinic we held there in 2009, the children were weighed and measured to show where they were in their development. They were so malnourished that they did not even make it on the Third World chart. Now these same kids are thriving.
The number of students has doubled, and instead of just one student in class 8 (the highest grade in the school, there are now close to 70. One of the team members spoke to a girl currently in class 8. She had left school early to be married and shortly after had a baby, now she has returned to finish. I was both shocked and happy to hear this story, it shows how this community has evolved — prioritizing the health, happiness and education of their children.
We all gathered under a giant mango tree for some speeches. Although many of us were hot and tired, our spirits were brightened by the children surrounding us and the very proud parents and teachers.
Our visit ended dancing with the parents, and having an opportunity to serve lunch to the kids.
Kagwuru is a very special place and touches everyone who has the privilege to visit. We can learn so much from their hard work and dedication.
One last stop before heading home, a water project MCOH has helped to fund in a very remote community. We were surrounded by magnificent scenery, watching toucans flying around, while listening to the progress and current success of the project. Lives are being changed by finally having access to one of life’s basic necessities.
Hot, dusty and tired, we returned home happy to have experienced such a wonderful day.
Sunday is a time to rest if you wish, or can be filled with as much adventure as you can handle.
After a cultural experience at church, a few of us headed to an orphanage. Bea, Margaret and I, along with some of our amazing Kenyan Team – Martin, Lloyd and Eunifer – headed out on a safari (journey). No exotic animals were seen on this safari, but we did see plenty of beautiful scenery and banana markets along the way.
While in Kenya I always feel like I am on Gilligan’s Island – a “two-hour tour” turns into much, much longer. We headed out for what was first described as a 30-minute drive, then it turned into a one-hour drive. Apparently that was “Kenyan time” as we arrived at the orphanage almost 3 hours later.
We were greeted by 32 excited children raging from ages 3 to 17. The grounds held a chicken coop, a small building that we later learned was where all 32 children slept, and a dining hall not yet completed.
We were given a tour of the very basic set up and facilities. The dorm held too few beds for every child and some did not even have mattresses.
We were then led into the dining hall, where at first I was distracted with taking pictures to show the other team members that did not make it. The kids were singing and dancing, and there was the sound of drums. Drums are not uncommon in Kenya, so until I heard some major “rocking out” drum playing I did not notice what was being played. There. In the corner, was a kid playing what initially looked to be complete drum set. It was made with a water tank as the bottom drum – complete with a pedal – and metal plates and sheet for the symbols. Just amazing!!!
We learned about the orphanage that started with a couple taking orphans into their home. The need grew, so the orphanage was started. In the first year the husband died, so the wife has been continuing on trying to do what she can to protect these children. The orphanage also had an outreach to over 200 needy children in the area.
Margaret Gallant brought some P.E.I. and Canada pins that we handed out to the happy children. We also gave them clothing, school supplies and some toys. The toys included Frisbees and plastic balls from a ball pit that Margaret and Bea used as an opportunity to have some fun playing with the kids.
We had to decline lunch (now at supper time) as we had to get back to Mikinduri. We knew we had almost a three-hour trip back, so settled in for the drive, enjoying the company and reflecting on our time spent at the orphanage.
We arrived home just in time for the ever popular Mikinduri game of spoons, that left the self-proclaimed undefeated champion Ted, finally defeated. The best part of all, it was caught on video.