Friday, February 26, 2010

For the windows in paradise

Faith and Cristine pretending to be old people.Faith and her baby this is the style that mothers carry around their children, interesting to see young minds socialization

Silas and I ( with the Kenyan serious face)

Silas' first day of secondary school!

A small photo update on like here at St. Lukes school for the Deaf! I've had an interesting past few weeks at the school and beyond. Recently we gave mid-term exams, I was asked to administer the exams for class 1, normally I teach the upper primary class 4-8 but they needed someone to fill in. The exam here are written on the board and each child is given a sheet of paper, they must copy the exam and then complete it. The exams were sometimes less then 10 questions and consisted of mostly "circle the correct answer" type question. I thought how easy this would be and that I would be done in no time--I was wrong. Most of the students didn't know how to copy and others could copy but couldn't read or understand what was happening. It was marathon day for me trying to explain each part of the exam, for others I had to copy the exam for them. I admire those who teach early education because near the end of the week I was exhausted. The end of the last day one student decided he had enough, I saw him walk out of the classroom with his test and then he ate it, I understood the feeling. Although stressful I am glad I got to spend more time with them, the cuteness factor is off the charts, but I was happy to return to my students in upper primary.

Oh what a difference a year can make! I feel like I've hit my stride this year with teaching and with the students. Last year was filled with confusion, loneliness, and adapting, this year I am able to fine tune my techniques and adjust accordingly. Not that there are not days that I am not confused and I am constantly adapting, I guess I am used to be being alone now, but Peace Corps is the best 2 year roller coaster out there, and this year the highs are more intense.

I teach classes 4-8 on HIV/AIDS and this year the kids are more receptive, instead of just nodding their heads we engage in very open discussions about HIV/AIDS, pregnancy and gender issues. Recently I have started using another volunteer's educational software program the kids love it, even a few teachers are interested in learning the programs, and teaching them as well. I am also in charge of the whole sports program now, which is sometimes daunting, but also a lot of fun. These days I hardly step off the school grounds, nearly everything I do is for the school.

I was able to break away to Nairobi recently because a few Volunteers and myself are currently organizing a behavior change communication (BCC) "create-a thon" for Deaf organizations and Volunteers. The idea is to meet and discuss gaps in behavior change materials, and figure out where we can help, whether it be creating posters, changing current ones to be more Deaf friendly, or making educational videos. I am really excited about the event, and what projects will come up after the workshop.

After the workshop another Volunteer who is Deaf came to visit my school. My school has no Deaf employees so the children barely interact with other Deaf adults. I wanted my friend to come to discuss her background, and how she completed her education. I wanted them to understand the possibility that lies ahead of them. It was also good for the teachers to see a Deaf woman who has completed her masters, and has a good job, because despite working with the Deaf many of them have never interacted with Deaf adults. The results were a bit shocking, many of the employees didn't believe that she was truly Deaf, others just stared opened- jawed at her, but the kids loved her. The teachers asked questions about Deaf culture and I think everyone learned from her visit. I also enjoyed "storying" (slang for signing together) with her into the late hours of the night. Hopefully we can continue these exchanged in the future.

I am still raising funds for Silas' education so if you are interested in donating please see the post below! I hear Silas is doing very well in school!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Silas' March

The sun was breaking through the gnarled trees and everyone was waking to the steady drum of their morning routines. Silas was preparing himself for his goodbye, and new beginning. The night before he was welcomed back to school that had become his home, and all too soon he was off to the next big step. I rushed to finish paperwork, worried about transport fare, and checked everything off my ever-growing list of “to do's”. My head was spinning with worries,the past 2 days a whirlwind of tribulation, edginess, and optimism. I felt overwhelmed with the unfamiliar stress, which has been largely absent in my past year here in Kenya. I remember one last thing –my toothpaste—I was giving it to Silas! I ran out of my house as children greeted me with good mornings; I could barely sign back as I rushed to find Silas hoping he was up and ready. I passed children completing their morning chores and in the distance I could see a boy standing tall, with a slight smile; Silas.

I was ready to ask questions like a doting mother, when I was silenced by the calm air Silas radiated--he is ready I told myself. Silas spotted me and confidently walked toward me, and signed good morning. I smiled, and handed him the toothpaste he signed "thank you". I stood silent, taken aback by everything that had occurred in the past month to get him here, and here he was self-assured, happy, unhesitating. I shook my head back to reality and called him over to go over the last few details. This morning Silas was leaving to secondary school.

When I wrote about my experience with Silas one month ago I was not expecting a reaction; I just felt I needed to say something, and for me writing can be cathartic and freeing, and I just wanted people to know—I thought his story should be told. I was shocked by the outpouring of support, and interest people showed. I have received emails, comments, and other messages all encouraging, all optimistic. I cannot even begin to express how this has impacted and motivated me, and all I could say is thank you.

I drilled Silas once again on which papers he was to give to the administration, which matatu to take, and to study hard. Other teachers began to arrive at the school and they all greeted him warmly, they singed to him “ you go where” he signed “secondary school” with a shy smile and serious stare “ very good” they signed back.

I gathered his belongings, and we began walking toward to the tarmac road, where he was to catch a matatu into town, and then to school. We walked up the red dirt path as children from each class came out to see Silas leave. Every class was outside now; staring at their hero, their success story, their friend, Silas. He stood straight as an arrow, as if he was preparing for this march his whole life, he waved to his friends and walked down the path with an commanding air; this was not the boy I encountered a few weeks before, not a trace of fear or reluctances could be detected. We stood at the compounds edge while all the students watched, we were on the cusp of the old and new, Silas looked me in the eye, and signed “ thank you”. I bit my lip, trying to hold in the tears, nodded my head, and watched him go.

The journey for the both of us has just begun.

Seeing Silas leave for school; is one of the most gratifying experiences of my service, if not my life, but an even more rewarding experience will be to see him graduate. The total cost over the next 4 years equal to 2,000 dollars; this is no small amount and I know we are all facing tough financial times, but I do believe generosity, hope, and benevolence are recession proof.

I have received word from people who are interested in donating to continue Silas’ education and I am happy to report Silas was accepted to the Kenya Education Fund. The Kenya Education Fund sponsors secondary students throughout Kenya and was started by a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I have been able to see the inner workings of the KEF and can assure that all the money is well-managed, and that the students are truly benefiting. A teacher at my school is in charge of visiting students in the area, and would be able to ensure Silas’ progress, along with the KEF Staff. The total cost of Silas’ 4 years of education is 2000 dollars. If you are interested you can write a check,or donate online

NOTE: you must write referred by Virginia “Ginnie” Seger; if you are donating online please write the same under the designation field, please DO NOT write Silas’ name. This is to ensure the money is placed in account for the correct Silas.

Even if you are not able to donate money, encouraging messages, ideas, or passing along his story is a contribution itself.

I'll never have enough words to express everything about my experiences here, and in particular my experience with Silas, it is a quite fire that can hopefully serve as a catalyst for change. Thank yous fail to encompass it all-- but I will say it a thousand times over thank you!