Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting the groove....

This week has again been very exciting. I devoted much of last and unfortunately also this week to developing a poster for the OAIC’s new program, Just Communities. Seeing as I do not have a degree in graphic design, experience in graphic design and rather poor computer skills -outside of facebook- this was a challenge for me. I finally produced a pretty nice poster ready to go, I was ready to get it off to the printers, excited to pick them up on Saturday and hand them out to the churches I met with on Sunday. Unfortunately, this was soo not the case. It is Wednesday and I am still eagerly calling printers, meeting with printers and making failed attempts to transfer my work, done in my favorite program (Word) to fancy graphic design programs- still to no avail, here’s hoping my new friend Godfrey will pull through by tomorrow morning and bring in great posters! What is the point of these posters you may ask and how does it coincide with a year of service in Kenya? Good question…

Talking to a group from Kibera about the MDGs and our mobilization effort that kicked off on 10.10.10
The OAIC’s Just Communities program launched in September and we are working on spreading the word about this exciting new program. One effort we are making is simply to inform people about the Millennium Development Goals; about two weeks ago we held a workshop on the MDGs and discovered that an overwhelming majority of those involved knew very little about the MDGs and what they knew was often misinformed. The point of this specific poster is to hand out to different AICs so that they can hang them up and use as a tool to help inform members about the goals. I found that when people learned that the government has made a promise to resolve many of the issues that are daily struggles for them they become more involved and interested, simply by becoming informed! So I hope that these posters will be able to do that and will be a good aid in our current mobilization effort. The mobilization effort had its BIG kickoff on Sunday- 10.10.10.

Some of you may remember that I wrote a blog about 2 weeks ago about the 10.10.10 day of prayer- well it finally happened! It was a huge success, it seems that we have exceeded our goal of having 2 million Africans united in prayer! On Sunday I traveled with a team from the OAIC to five churches in Kayole and Kibera. Some of the churches were less informed about the day of prayer to which I would explain to them what is now becoming “my schpeel” about the MDGs, our mobilization efforts and how to become involved. Other churches were more in the know about the effort and were excited that someone from the OAIC was there to thank them for their participation. Two of the churches even waited for me to get there after they had finished, when I arrived they greeted me with hugs, song and dance and asked me to speak. The groups I met with on Sunday were happy to be joining together with so many people worldwide in this effort and eager to learn about “what’s next.”

I diverged from the OAIC this weekend and went to “First Love” orphanage in Karin, a part of Nairobi. Michael (fellow YAV and RIGHT next door neighbor) has traveled to Kenya before, on his last trip to Kenya he worked with First Love so he knows many of the girls and the people who run the orphanage. Michael, Kathryn, Ellen (also fellow YAVs) and I went to First Love via three matatus. We had some excellent and diverse matatu experiences (gospel, dirty hip-hop and reggae) which of course gets you ready to go for any day. When we arrived at the compound the girls were unbelievably excited to see us, we drove in in a van that Karen (mom of the orphanage) picked us up in, by the time we had exited the van there were about 11 girls already there ready to shake our hands and find out who we were. Each girl came up to introduce herself, shake our hands and welcome us to the compound. Once we met all 23 girls a large majority of the girls led us on a tour of the compound, our main tour guide was 14 year old Caroline. The compound is really beautiful and well organized, they have a borehole well that delivers them clean drinking water, a generator, a dining room, a large soccer field, swing set, and a basketball hoop above the garage. The girls eagerly showed us all which room was theirs and I commented on how every girls bed was made so well and clothes were folded so nicely (if they had been at camp they certainly would have won capers) to which they all bashfully smiled.

The rest of the day was spent playing lightning rounds of basketball on the basketball hoop above the garage (am I really the only one who has played that game before?) meeting the new two week old puppies and the one kitten that was still roaming the compound and swinging on the swing set seeing who could jump off the swings the furthest (despite being really good at this at age 10, I am no longer good-at all). The day was really wonderful I felt so lucky to meet girls with such amazing spirits and spend some good quality time letting go of myself and enjoying the day as it was- basketball, swinging and playing with puppies.
Taking a break from playing with the puppies to hang out with Caroline and Juliette 
A little about the girls at First Love- First Love began as a program to feed the children at a school in Kibera, workers of First Love began doing home visits and noticing that many children were OVC (orphaned and vulnerable children) so came the orphanage- the new compound was built several years ago with only 8 girls living there, now 23 girls have been able to find comfort and love at the First Love orphanage. In several months time the compound will open up to boys from similar situations- they have built a new building with plenty of rooms to fit all the boys and girls.

My life in my apartment is settling in, I spoke to my sister and explained to her what I was up to and she commented that its amazing how a feel normal things can make you feel right at home (she also just moved from New York, she lives in DC now. I realized that a few simple things that I have made a routine of doing without even knowing have really comforted me; drinking the same juicebox and eating the same granola bar in the morning, watching an episode of “Army Wives” before bed, listening to my iPod in the morning as I get dressed for the day etc. Despite living in a new continent with a seven hour time difference from all my friends and family, cultural differences faced every day, settling into a tiny dorm-room style apartment, seeing abject poverty on a daily basis and facing a new challenge every day, I have managed to kind of feel at home with pictures of friends and family around my room and some routine in my day- things are settling in. That being said- I am still in a twice daily fight with my bathroom light fixture, a daily struggle with my flooding shower and a twice daily struggle with dish washing (hoping that one day I will appreciate these as a part of my comforting routine.)

My bedroom/apartment

Kitchen/office area.

My office. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Transition into OAIC

I realize how long it has been since my last blog post. Before I left for Kenya my goal was to blog twice a week, I am surprised at how difficult of a time I am having finding time to write blogs. I would be lying if I said it is because I am so busy, I certainly have time to blog but I do get caught up in a lot of what is going on around me in Kenya and trying to stay in touch with myself- Good Self Care if you will.
I have now been working with the OAIC for about a week and a half, I am still really enjoying my experience here. There have been a lot of challenges but it seems a lot of challenges I will be able to learn from. This weekend I traveled with David, from the OAIC Kenya chapter, to several meetings concerning the 10.10.10 day of prayer. On Saturday we traveled to Huruma, an informal settlement (slum) on the other side of Nairobi. We met with several pastors from the Huruma area to talk about the Millennium Development Goals, ways to mobilize their congregations and ways to get more people from the community involved in the movement to make the MDGs happen. I was slightly nervous to begin speaking but after a few minutes of explaining I noticed that the pastors were engaged and truly interested in what I had to say. That’s something I have noticed here- a lot of respect for what anyone is saying. I think the pastors I have spoken to are sincerely ready to get their congregations involved and make a difference so they are eager to listen to anyone who is also willing to help or may be able to inform them of something new. The disappointing point came when I finished speaking and David asked if anyone was able to understand me and the overwhelming response was laughter “hapana” meaning no. He explained that I am too fluent in English, speak too fast and have too strong of an accent so he translated into Kiswahili for me- after that finished they were very happy to have heard what I said and thanked me profusely which was really reaffirming.
On Sunday I did the same type of thing this time traveling to Kibira and Kayora (sp?). In Kayora we went to church- an AIC church. The service was amazing but there were certainly some differences that were interesting. When we walked in we were asked to take our shoes off, I had been following David most of the day as I still have not figured my way around, I followed David to his chair and was slightly upset that he hadn’t designated a seat for me so I awkwardly stood next to him, after a few moments I looked around and realized I was the only woman on that side of church- as if I wasn’t standing out enough as the only tall Blonde girl with her hair not covered not speaking Kikuyu, I just had to make sure everyone knew I was there and I was a little lost. The women were very friendly when I found myself a seat on the woman’s side of church. We sang really joyful songs, in the AICs the song goes as long as the congregation is feeling it, there is no hymnal to say stop singing, which is really kind of liberating, it makes worship really enjoyable, joyful and exciting in a different kind of way. There were lots of drums at this service which I absolutely loved- one song was lead by two youth in the church a girl and a boy about 12 or 13 years old, I have never seen youth so empowered and excited to be leading worship. In the middle of the service (which is about 1.5 hours after I arrived) we presented our project and the Millennium Development Goals, the congregation was unbelievably appreciative of the newsprint paper I had brought with the MDGs written on them, they immediately took the paper and taped it to the front of the church. Again, of course I spoke for minutes only to be told that no one understood me. David translated a conversation between myself and the congregation for me. I introduced myself as Grace Lindvall from New York (he translated me as Grace Maxwell- I am not longer Grace Lindvall as people find Lindvall very difficult to pronounce, when I explained it was my family name, not Maxwell they said “well, we don’t know them” therefore, I am not Grace Maxwell, no more Lindvall in Kenya) the congregation asked if I was married, I shook my head and they clapped with joy and asked if I would like to join their family! I told them I was still a little too young to be thinking about marriage and they agreed, they then thanked me again for coming to visit them and graciously told me that I was the first Muzungu to visit their church and that even though they couldn’t understand what I said they could see the Holy Spirit working through me- what an amazing thing to say to a person! I am continually shocked at the generous compliments I hear, the people I have met thus far in Kenya are extremely kind and joyful, its amazing to see.
I was speaking to another YAV who has traveled to Africa before about the incredible amount of joy present here. It’s really true, I traveled to Kibira which is thought to be one of the largest slums in the world- we opened the meeting with a moment of prayer and the people were down on their knees thanking God for each aspect of their life- there is so much gratitude and joy in conditions that I would find so difficult to live in. Its amazing that people really appreciate each aspect of their life. I thought about how many of the gifts I am given on a day-to-day basis that I simply overlook and the friends and family and relationships I have been blessed with that I take for granted, I often thank God for the big things in my life forgetting how lucky I am to have a working sewage system and drinking water that comes out of my faucet and 3 balanced meals a day and a family that will do anything for me. I guess its an experience that will and already has already really made me reflect on the gifts I have.