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Archive for March 17, 2009

Day 13 – Part 2

The food here is good; there is just a lack of variety and a bit too much grease. I was helping make chapattis at home and was trying to use less oil and Mia took the spoon away from me to add more oil. The main staples are rice, chapatti, and ugali (which is a dense corn meal block which you smoosh in your finger to then use to pick up other food). These are usually accompanied with lentils, cabbage, cowpea leaves, kale, spinach, hominy, green banana stew or kidney beans. There are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables available but most of them are cooked down. I try to buy a mango or sweet bananas (tiny bananas) from the ladies by my work to get some fresh fruit. There is also a juice stand that sells fresh passion fruit juice that is amazing.


Hot tea is a must here; chai breaks are built into the day like in England. Chai is actually the Swahili word for tea. Here they drink it piping hot with milk and sugar. I’m getting used to it but I still don’t understand how they can drink something so hot when it’s blistering hot outside. Chai is served with a breakfast that usually just consists of bread and jam or mandazi, which are pieces of fried dough, kind of like donuts but not as sweet. At work we have a chai break around 11:00 where we can also purchase a chapatti for a snack. There is also chai in the afternoon when we all get home from work.

Here fat is advertised as something good. There is a commercial on TV for margarine that drives me crazy because it says doctors recommend fat and vitamins and blue band provides these fat and vitamins. The tag is ‘daily blue band daily growth’ and has a kid snarfing down white bread and blue band margarine so he will grow up taller.

Although we have a stove, Mia does most of the cooking on the jiko; it took me awhile to get used to the smoke in the house but now I’m fine. It is heated with briquettes made out of charred wood. So not environmentally friendly for multiple reasons but oh well. I read a cool article on the airplane on the way here about solar cookers; hopefully they will take off here. They get so hot that they can boil water and thoroughly cook meat.


Day 13

Today I joined the social worker that works with the children in the Kakamega area. I accompanied her to WEAEP-K’s drop-in center for street children. It is located on a small school campus where girls can get trained in tailoring and secretarial work. We have a few girls sponsored at the school who have been recommended through the area women’s groups. This morning we were screening the girls who came to be sponsored. A couple of girls just showed up because they heard about the program but unfortunately we only are able to accept girls that come through the women’s groups so they had to be sent away.


On the land of the school we have housing for 13 boys. They are essentially living in what can only be described as a metal shed filled with bunk beds. There is a woman that cooks meals for them and they are enrolled in area schools. Currently there is no adult living there with them although they are trying to find a person to live there. The staff members who work with the street children and orphans are usually able to stop in once a day to check on them but that is just one of their many responsibilities. The boys pretty much have no belongings, no books, no toys, nothing except their school outfits and another outfit to wear when they are home. I played kickball with them; the ball was made out of plastic sacks and twine.

These are boys that were found on the streets that we are slowly rehabilitating. Many of the area street children are boys addicted to huffing glue and have very messed up lives. When identified the social worker does home tracing to see if she can locate their parents or other family members to get them back at home. The boys that stay at the drop-in center for an extended period of time do not have families that were found that can care for them. Either everyone has passed away or the parents are alcoholics or drug addicts and no extended family can be located.


If family members are located the social working will meet with the local area chief to see if he can intercede with the family, to get them to take care of the child. Many times a visit from a chief can get people to realize the severity of the situation and get them to shape up because culturally here, families are supposed to take care of the children. Even if it is not their own child but instead an extended family member. One interesting aspect of the Luyha tribe culture is that children are the father’s not the mother’s so if the parents separate they stay with the father. Many times this causes problems when the father gets a second wife because she does not want to take on the responsibility of caring for children that are not hers. This causes the children to run away.

On the same property we have a little workshop where older boys who are being rehabilitated take carpentry lessons and learn how to make bricks. To get into secondary school here you have to test well. For these boys, they may not have even finished primary school so this is a great way for them to get technical training that will hopefully lead them to be self-sufficient.


Although they are stretched thin WEAEP-K’s staff goes above and beyond the call of duty. Many times they will stop by the drop-in center after hours or on the weekends to check on the kids. A few of them have also housed children in the interim while their cases are figured out.