Friday, July 27, 2012

The Beautiful Faces of Children

The best part of my day is often my walk to school.  It is about a 15 minute walk to St. Catherine's where I teach.  I walk along a dirt road that weaves its way around fields and up and down hills.  Most of those I meet on the road are children.  They are on their way to or from school and they love to greet me, especially the nursery aged children.  There is almost always a crowd of kids. They all stop and stare at me, not quite sure wether to smile or not, and then one of them will  put out their hand for a shake.  I don't just shake their hands but I make a big circle with or go way up and down which makes them all giggle with delight.  Then everyone has a laughing smile and wants to shake hands. 
Other times while walking I will meet a girl-child carrying a plastic container.  Almost as soon as girls can walk they are expected to fetch water from a well or a stream, find fire wood for cooking, and care for younger siblings.  Their is no complaint or frown on their face but an acceptance and peace about life as it is.  Life for young the girl-child has improved-it is now no longer common practice to be married at 13 or 14- going to school or receiving some sort of training after elementary school is more and more common.  The young women of high school age are strong and courageous, willing to defend their right to education. 

As always for me, God is in the faces and encounters with children.  Really, the pictures say it best...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Initiation and Graduation

It has been months since my last posting...there's no way to write about the many things that have occured since then. But I will try to share a few things
 Just after the new year the boys who were undergoing the ritual of their Pokot rite of passage came out after a month of seclusion.  It was a great celebration for the people of our village.  The photos above give you an idea of the celebration.  The rite of passage occurs every 3 to 6 years for the Pokot, this year was chosen by the elders and so boys all over our area were undergoing this long ritual of becoming adults in the tribe.  There are boys who do this experience in "the bush" and follow the old traditions of the tribe and those who are chrisitian who have an experience that is adapted to reflect christian values. I was able to witness the celebrations for both groups of boys.  As an outsider, a muzungu, I wasn't sure how the Pokot people would respond to me but the people could not have been more welcoming.  They were so happy to have the sisters celebrate with them this momentous event in their life.  I was very touched by how gracious the people were and how they welcomed me to witness the celebration of their Pokot rite of passage.

In February the young women of our poly tech graduated with their certificates in Dressmaking and Tailoring.  These are strong young women who have great courage to better their life.  For most students, going to a poly tech school  is what they do if they do not make it into secondary school.  The young women range from having no formal education at all to a few who have completed 8th grade.  This year I have the joy of teaching English and Business in the poly tech school. One day I was talking with them and they asked me if I could take them to the nearest town, Makutano.  None of the 27 students have ever seen a paved road, none of them have ever been out of the village and to a town or city, but they are eager to have the opportunity to learn and grow.  I'm hoping that later in the year we will take a trip down the mountain to the nearest town so they can glimpse more of the world around them. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nativity Play 2011

Christmas in Chepynal was a very different experience than any other. Christianity is still young here... so December does not focus as much on Christmas as it does on the traditions of the Pokot. December is the month when young people are initiated as adults into the tribe and for the boys this is a particularly long process (more to come in the next blog). The December camp invited the younger children in the town to take part in activities focused on Christmas. The children learned some Christmas carols, made decorations for home and church, and practice a short Nativity play. For over a week we did many simple activities to help make the season beautiful for the kids and families here. The children performed their play on Christmas morning before mass. The children all arrived at church on time (a small miracle) and were very excited. The play brought alive the story of Jesus' birth and was a wonderful way to evangelize.

For me, seeing the kids up there singing and giving glory to God was Christmas, Jesus coming into the world again.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Life in Africa

From Sr. Karen Flaherty missioned in Kitale, KENYA

Life in Africa

I can’t do justice to the beauty of the area-Kitale is surrounded by mountains and flowering trees, really such a contrast to the poverty that is here. For example, children and adults with out shoes, people walk and walk and walk where they need to go

Being able to know 6am as a bird lets forth a glorious melody at the same time every day

Living with sisters who GO to the poor by foot, bicycle, picky pickys (motorbikes) or out truck

And who also like to play cards and games

Picking vegetables from our shamba (garden) and having a choice to choose cabbage, carrots, lettuce, spinach, zucchini or sukumawiki (bet you didn’t know that is kale!)

Listening to the needs of the area…then, with others trying to discern what to do about them

Attending 6:45 am mass with at least 60 other people who sing by and with heart (in Kiswahili) from beginning to the end

Working with a vision, nurturing native vocations who are wonderful members of the Company, as well as learning from them

Being a resting place for our sisters traveling to and from the Chepnyal mission

Being surprised at things that happen everyday like a 6 year old girl humming the hokey pokey while she draws (Fruit of American college students who volunteered last summer.)

Competing for road space with donkeys, goats, and sheep for road space

Seeing women carrying almost everything except their babies on their heads with their child tucked in a piece of material on their backs

Amazing trust exhibited by students as I explain an art project (amazing in itself) and them not understanding a word I am saying

Being invited to DANCE at a Pokot celebrations as well as being given a belt with snail shells particular to the region. I’m hoping to de better at the dancing because I know I will be doing it again-

Those are just a few things about being here-there are so many more!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Earlier in the year I began a small art class with 3 young women, Ann, Naomi and Janet, who each have a physical disability. Although Ann has found meaningful work, Naomi and Janet are both are unable to work because of their disability and do not have a stable source of income. As we began doing simple art projects with them, I saw that they all were able to create- to draw, paint, color, cut and glue- what one could not do another could do, which made them a great team.

I thought perhaps they could try making cards and if they did well, maybe they could be sold. This would give them a source of income. It took a couple months of classes before we were able to settle on a design that they could do well enough to sell. Then, the work of making the cards began. Anne and Naomi, who both live in the village, began to come to work on the cards in their free time. When I suggested that they take some supplies home to work on them Naomi shyly told me, “Sister, we don’t have a table in our house.”

We began to meet a t Janet’s every couple of weeks. Because Janet lives further away and is unable to stand or walk we took everything to her place and met there. It was at her home that the group came up with the name Kongot Nyokaram, which in Pokot means Good Friends. It was obvious how they enjoyed being together, supported one another and were indeed becoming good friends.

When I returned to the U.S. in July, I was wondering if the group would continue to meet and make cards without me. I was very happy upon my return to see that not only had they continued, but they had created some new designs on their own. They continued to sell cards to those who visited our mission while I sold some of their cards in the US. When we put their earnings together they had enough to buy their own supplies to continue making cards, with some money to spare.

Recently, I met another woman Helen, who is also disabled. One of her legs is significantly shorter than the other. She does have a special brace and shoe that allows her to walk. Ann and I invited her to join “Good Friends.” Helen lives in another village. When I asked her how far away it was she said, “Sister, it is far.” But I could never get her to tell me just how far it was for her to come. I later learned that she walked 4 hours to meet with us. It is still something that touches me she comes so far just to make cards and to spend time with us.

Helen, Ann, Naomi and Janet have great pride in what they are doing. They are learning how to run this little business on their own. They keep their profits in common and when someone needs something, like shoes, they talk with the group. Usually, they agree that one or the other of them can buy whatever it is they need. Each week Ann gives a report on how much they have spent and earned from their last meeting. They have been a great witness to me…living in this simple way. I am reminded of the first disciples in the Acts of the Apostles, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among them all according to each one’s need.” (Acts 2:44,45)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chepynal Mission

Chepynal was one of the first missions of the Daughters of Charity in Kenya. It is located in the area of West Pokot and the nearest city is Kitale (which you may be able to find on a map. It is in the western part of Kenya.) The Pokot people live in this area and are primarily pastoralist. Although, the region is very mountainous most people also farm, growing maize, the staple crop of the country.
The sisters were invited to come to Chepynal by Fr. Dillion, an Irish missionary priest who has spent most of his life serving in West Pokot. The community responded 10 years ago by opening a mission and began working with the people of the village and surrounding outstations. Currently, there are 4 sisters and myself. Sr. Pat and Sr. Lawrencilla both work at our nursery school which serves 122 children. Sr. Esther, who was sent on mission this past December, works with the women and elderly at Linyough Center. She is also working with a few income generating activities to help the women to support themselves. Sr. Mary is the administrator of our projects in Chepynal. She works with communities to help them build and maintain wells and helps to find resources for disabled children in the area. I've been doing a variety of things as well as teaching art at the girl's elementary and high school.
Chirst has been very present in the people we serve as well as in our local community. It is a joy to see the Vincentian charism present here in this place, that is off the beaten path.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chepynal April Camp

The first 2 weeks of April Sr. Lawrencilla, Sr. Esther and myself invited children from the village to a camp in the afternoon. In the beginning we weren't sure if children would come and the first day 45 children arrived. From that time on, the children would wait for the afternoon activities to start and each day the number grew. We played games, told stories bible stories, made arts and crafts, and songs and dance. We all had a great time. The video above will give you an idea of some of our activites, enjoy!