Kenya - 6Kenya-3Hello Everyone,

Sorry it’s been over a week since my last blog. It’s been tough getting service, let alone wifi…TIA (This is Africa:>) We have had another amazing week in our beloved Maasailand! The week started off with learning that all the teachers in Kenya hadgone on strike! Thankfully this didn’t affect our school, RONESA ACADEMY since it is a private school. We do however spend a lot of time with our friends/students at the local government school of Olosho-Oibor. The morning of the strike, I had planned on going over to the school to do my Pen Pal letters with the Grade 4 students at Olosho-Oibor. Mama Sheila’s daughter called us to tell us about the strike, so we flew over to the school as soon as possible to see what was happening. Sure enough Paul Sakuda, the headmaster of the school had already sent the teachers home and had all 600+ students gathered before him. He was explaining to them what had happened, encouraged them to make good use of their time at home, and even sent them home with as much homework as they could possibly do. What will forever stick with us is the student’s reaction in learning that their teachers were sent home and that they too had to go home. Unlike the states where there would be much celebration and jubilee………these student’s reactions were quite the opposite. They said to us, “we are very much sad and want to be at school!” We tried to comfort them and told them that we would be at school the next day to have school under a tree if they wanted. As a teacher, I am humbled by the dedication of teachers here and hope we think twice before complaining about our working conditions, lack of resources etc….

The very next day we got a call to go see the SafeHouse girls as they too were being sent to different homes during the strike. We quickly gathered the food, clothes, shoes, shirts, and toothbrushes that we had for them. We were greeted by the girls dressed in their Sunday best. They sang for us, danced and recited a poem about walking in their shoes. It was tough to hold back the tears. The head maiden Beatrice explained the purpose and reasons the 28 girls were there. Some girls are in grade 8 and are living there because of how far away their homes are. They want to stay close to school so they have more time to study. The next group of girls are the mothers….3 of them. They had their babies just 2 years ago when they were 10,11, and 12 years old due to being raped and/or forced to marry. Then there are the many girls who have run away from their fathers because they were being forced to undergo a practice among the Maasai that is still being done, female circumcision (FGM). This community is trying to educate the girls and their families and protect them from having this mutilation done to them. It’s a harsh topic to talk about, but one that is necessary and very real for millions of girls not joy in Africa,but worldwide. The last group of girls in the SafeHouse are girls that had the FGM procedure done already and are running away from a forced marriage to be someone’s 3rd or 4th wife. There is hope however as we have seen even the chiefs here go and rescue some of these girls. My sister and I, along with our 4 daughters interviewed each of the girls to hear about their story and hopefully find a way to help them. We had to apologize several times for the emotion we were showing as we listened to the horror of what many of them had been through. What you wouldn’t expect is the resolve they have, their devout faith, and the hopes they hold for the future. when we asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, many of them said, “I want to be a lawyer, a teacher, a doctor, and a pilot like our friend Missy who visited last year.” None of them have sponsors to continue their education past 8th grade, but they have hope and joy beyond reason….that is their gift to us! They are our new heroes for sure!

We took more goats and chickens to homes, and spent many hours painting the Ronesa gate for our fabulous students and teachers. We even had them dip their hand in paint and leave their print on the gate. They are so proud of their print which has their own name written underneath! Who would’ve thought something so simple could be so fun!

A few of us have been running in the mornings, looking in vain for the giraffes. Yes, we Mzungus get a lot of laughs and funny stares. Of course we are always out-staged by the REAL Olympic runners who we watch run past our school almost daily. Now that is a sight to see! On our last day, we went just before sunrise one morning and it paid off in a big way! We literally had them all around us.

The last big surprise this week was the return of Molly and Brian Favero, just in time for the big Shaffer/Ronesa celebration day! Molly and I teach together at Shaffer and we had spent the first few weeks together in Maasailand. They then went on to climb Mt. Kenya and wanted to surprise everyone by coming back..and boy did they! They too now understand how hard it is to leave Mama Sheila and the entire Olosho-oibor community!

The celebration day was as big as ever. There were many Maasai dancers and musicians entertaining us as well as several goats being slaughtered in our honor. There were many speeches and presentations from our wonderful Shaffer community back home. We were able to give them bags, shirts, shoes, new uniforms, and many school supplies!

The goodbyes are always difficult as we were reminded by our dear friend Simon. The day we left for Safari he sent us a text that said, “though the day may be long and tiring for you, I felt it important for me to put a short message to know how each one of you are doing, knowing that I am the person nearer to you than your relatives back home and you are always my concern as long as you are on Kenyan soil!”

Hoping you all are feeling as loved and blessed as we do!

Julie