Kenya: October 20-21

Thursday, October 20

The electricity comes on at 6:00 and we put flashlights away. Hot water is brought to the bathroom for washing.  I wash in a small basin and remember the routine from past trips to third-world countries.  It works fine.  We have what we need.  Breakfast is sumptuous….  homemade bread and peanut butter, avocados, sorghum porridge, hard-boiled eggs from the farm chickens, cooked greens.  Hot chai.   A veggie delight.

We have to drive about five miles to the Chwele Community Centre compound.  It takes almost an hour due to the bad roads. We are greeted by leadership who give us a tour of the compound, The Community Center is large, solid brick and concrete facility.  Will hold  a clinic, maternity facility, micro-enterprise incubator.  The Friends Church is on the property and it has been selected as the class room for the day.  We tour the present clinic facility and see several patients awaiting treatment.  I am reminded of North Korea, although this facility has more supplies.  The water is still being boiled and bottled for sterilization hospital purposes (as in DPRK) but the place is cleaner.  There seems to be an effort to deliver some pharmaceutical services rather than relying on herbs as in NK.  The new facility will house a large maternity unit with several beds.  The current facility has one bed for maternity, however, there seems little else in the room besides this. A medical assistant has been hired to oversee the facility, but there should be a doctor and more medical equipment available.  This issue serves as a potential focus for GMEC outreach via dollars or visiting parishioners, esp. maternity and GP.

Grand opening of the community center main building is being targeted for summer 2012.  It is difficult to see how, but there is considerable confidence that this will be the case.  The center is impressive.  Built with stone and concrete.   Electrical and plumbing core is in.  Appliances and finishing now needed.  This too needs funding but beyond GMEC capacity.  Needs grants or large donations.  This is a beautiful facility which will house 14 guest volunteers, serve as a community meeting place, teaching facility, etc. when it is finished.

We return to the church and find ourselves in front of about 300 people: community leaders, teachers, women’s groups and students.  We are stunned by the reception and are unsure of how we will begin to teach the t-shirt technique. The ideas abound about how we are to accommodate the crowds.  All want to make t-shirts.  We have enough for about 100 with approximately 20 per group.  No chance for set up, etc.  We confer often with the leadership as the situation shifts back and forth regarding accommodation for people who keep coming.  The students have no school today and want to do the art.  Their teachers are also there.  The students have prepared much entertainment for us…..beautiful, singing, poetry, drama and dance.  They sang Mambo Sawa Sawa, the song I chose for Tales of the Serengeti!   My heart was touched that they chose to sing it for us.

We were taken to lunch at Grace Kuto’s brother’s home. Another wonderful meal of ugaro, banana mush bread, chicken, greens.  Delicious.

We return to the church for another session of t-shirt making.  This time we will teach the students.  It is noisy, crowded and crushed around the project table.  We manage to get the job done and the students are thrilled with their creations. Torrential rain drowns out the sound even more and Julie has to work hard to make herself heard. A very successful day.  These people want to learn.

Tired and glad for the bounty of the day, we returned to Paul and Grace Kuto’s home for some rest. 

Friday October 21:

We start after a good night’s sleep to a big breakfast: avocado, stewed bananas, ground nuts,  eggs, local bread and sugar.

Then back to Chwele compound for another day of t-shirt making.   We go through usual negotiations regarding groups, although today is much more manageable. We teach the women of the village and neighboring village, Tehrin. Also three more art students who missed their chance to make t-shirts on the prior day.  We arrive late and find they have been waiting patiently for several hours.  The word is out and all are filled with anticipation at the chance to make a t-shirt.  Today, even the leadership of the village (men) want to do the activity so we improvise.  People making shirts on benches, on top of podium (appropriately the leadership!)  Per usual we are called to lunch.  This time at home of another Grace brother and wife.  Ugali, chicken, greens, rice, jamali (sp?)

After lunch we return to clean up after the morning work and find it done by local women.  We proceed to a formal meeting with the Chwele leadership. The clinic leadership is included as are two women leaders from nearby Tehrin.   Formal speeches of welcome and gratitude are expressed.  Each person crammed into the tiny room compete with large table, are called upon to speak.  The leadership is overwhelmingly grateful for the project we have brought.  We are amazed and grateful for the response we have experienced to this simple project.  Julie and I are both called upon to speak.  I venture into the possibility of an “art camp” experience in the future after completion of the community center.  It is an idea that is overwhelmingly acceptable.  The leader talks of bold vision and of Chwele’s desire to set a standard for improving quality of life.  I think they are on their way thanks to the tireless efforts of Paul and Grace Kuto and the energy of the leadership. They are highly motivated, highly dedicated, deeply faithful and humble.  The Spirit entered into the meeting as we all contemplated aloud the deep desire of all to contribute to God’s work of peace and love in the world.  This was not a rose-colored glasses moment, but rather a sincere response to communal insight into possibilities for the future and beyond.

There is a real possibility for bringing three artists, three counselors (parish and GI youth) and others (medical personnel/educators) to deliver one week of an art camp experience with similar look to GAC.  The model would have to be adapted to work with schedules and capacity, number of people, Kenyan culture.  The reason for doing so would be to :

Firmly establish ties between Chwele village and GMEC/GI.

Teach a form of GAC which can be sustained by the village after we have gone.

Allow Chwele to hold an annual event which generates revenues (in kind and in shillings)

Create a potential for on-going artist exchange and/or possibility for volunteers to Chwele from   GMEC/GI.

Keep an open conduit for donation/visitation/connection between the people of Chwele (Kenya) and the people of Portland (GI and GMEC.)

Proposal to be written for GI/GMEC and for Chwele leadership via Paul and Grace Kuto.