Mrs. Christina

Kenya Travel Blog

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This week I started helping out at the Primary School.  The children call me Mrs. Christina.  There is never a dull moment there.  I have been working with the Standard Three class, which is pretty similar to third grade.  Their teacher is having a stay in the hospital, so they threw a bunch of us in there to teach them.  There are 49 children in the class, 13 desks, 20 books, about 40 pencils, about 30 pairs of shoes (plus 5 or 6 singles),  and one teacher, although a lot of us have been helping out. 

The second day I was back as I arrived the entire class came running across the field to greet me, each one wanting to touch my hand, and say hello.  Their excitement carried over as them flowed into the classroom early, before the bell had rung signaling class would begin.  Many of the children in the class live at Tumaini, but there are also many others that don't.  The kids at Tumaini seem to be the best behaved.  I am not sure if this is because I have already built a relationship with them, or if it is because they are in a great place right now, but also know what they have to lose.

Unfortunately I am already pretty frustrated with the system.  Primary education is free in Kenya, but it is terrible.  Everything about the education system revolves around testing.  The books list facts and skills that are tested on the test.  Many of the test questions are difficult to understand or don't make sense.  I had a hard time figuring out many of the questions on the English exam.  The books are bad.  The children memorize facts for the test, some of which are wrong, and never analyze what they are learning or learn how to think.  The teachers beat the children, the children beat each other.  The kids pretty much know that no white person is going to beat them, so there isn't a lot of order in our class.  The kids spend all day in school, but don't get much out of it.  They are living in a system that is setting them up to fail, and the future of it all is that they are going to be poor, and they should just try really hard to be less poor.

Sorry this e-mail is so depressing.  Seeing the schools so close up really does help us to see why Hope Runs is so important.  We give the kids something else, and teach them that people care about them, and they are worth caring about, so hopefully those messages help them to empower themselves.  I will be really sad when I have to leave these guys and go home.  Hope all is well.
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So yesterday we held the first ever Hope Runs 5k and 10k race.  It was so fun.  We had over 110 kids register, and we got donated numbers so they looked all professional.  The course was actually 5.2k, and one if the kids ran it in 19:04.  The 10k was two loops of the same course.  I was in charge of registration and recording the official race times.  This turned into a calamity, when the one stopwatch I was using to time them got bumped and we lost the time.  (No worries I just made up the times from then on out.)

My favorite race moment was when Rhodah (about 9 years old) was finishing her 5k at the same time as Ewoi (about 19) was finishing his 10k.  Both of them are very competitive, so as Ewoi saw her ahead while he was coming down the stretch he began to speed up.  Rhodah heard the screams and went all out as well.  Both of their arms were flying as they pumped to the finish line, with Rhodah just nosing him out, much to the crowd's delight.  Now you might think how sweet to let a little girl win, but although Ewoi is a very nice young man, he enters every competition to win, and put all he had into this sprint to the finish.  I must also mention that similar to many of the young girls running the race Rhodah was wearing a white(ish) fancy dress with a full skirt and ribbons flowing behind her.  Ewoi immediately shook her hand and said she had beat him fair and square.  In the post race interview, Rhodah said her favorite thing about running is that she beat Ewoi.

Nearly everyone crossed the finish line with a smile on their face, although there wasn't much else standard about what they were wearing.  Some wore flip flops, some carried running shoes in their hand, many wore skirts, most wore wool pullover sweaters.  I wish I had more time to photograph them all, but of course my race commissioner duties had to take priority.

In the morning we held a field games competition for the younger children.  They had a great time, although I had no idea they would be such cheaters.  I am not sure how we could better organize that next time.

After the race I posted everyone's time up, and they have been pouring over them to determine how fast they run now, and will in the future.  It is really exciting to see how empowered many of them feel.  Despite the fierce competition they were all so supportive of one another, rushing to the finishers with sliced oranges and water, and making sure that every finisher got to break the tape.

I coach from town came out to watch the race.  He commented on the race organization, although we are wondering if he was trying to be nice, making a joke, or if he really considered it all organized. 

Today I think I am still exhausted from yesterday.  I have been pretty lazy, and then I headed to town for the internet cause I missed you all.  I am having such a wonderful time, but part of me keeps thinking how much all of you would enjoy being here, and how great it would be for us to share this experience.