June 19, 2014

Dagoretti jr. youth 1st service project

yesterday twenty-nine jr. youth traveled from st. luke's educational center to the Kikuyu Hospital for their first service project.  we began the morning by walking to the closest matatu station; the drivers asked for more money than the kids had brought, so we walked further up the main road to the next stop so we could afford the fare.  we waited for an empty matatu and thought only half would travel first, but one by one the kids piled into the taxi with us 3 adults and we all rode together, smooshed but very happy!  the kids started singing songs with great joy as the 5 minute ride got underway.  it reminded me of the days when the Delft kids would sing loudly whenever they were together doing something that made them happy.

we joined the congregational service that was being held at the hospital.  this was recommended to us by the chaplain who welcomes all guests.  the kids were to sing some songs for the gathering.  after listening to a short sermon and some singing, the group was recognized as special guests -- they were invited to come to the front and sing.  i had appointed Peter, one of the older jr. youth, to introduce the group.  when he went up, none of the other kids followed him to arrange themselves for singing; instead they all remained seated.  he spoke quietly and without confidence yet i felt so proud of him for his courage.  this is the first time these students are being exposed to anything related to the power of expression in public.  they are all learning so much in the process of trying to do new things.

as soon as Peter finished speaking, one of the chaplains invited the 'teacher' (while looking at me) to come and introduce the group.  before i could respond, Bilha, one of the mothers, and the friend who introduced me to st. luke's, walked to the front of the congregation and explained briefly who we are and why we had come.  the children had started to gather around Peter but they did not organize themselves well.  some tall ones were standing in front of shorter ones, and they were overcome by a sense of shyness.  all of the joy that i have seen them sing with was hiding inside of them.  they managed to sing 2 songs with the help of the congregation's guitarist but they didn't convey the joy or spirit that is in their hearts.  as soon as the service was over and we assembled outside to wait for the chaplain, one of the older students came to me and said, 'That was a shame'.  i responded that it is a learning, something we can reflect about and learn from.

listening to instructions
after figuring out with administration what our tasks would be and how to organize ourselves, the housekeeper came to give the students instructions.  we divided ourselves between the 'shining stars' (11-12 year olds) and the 'spiritual warriors' (13-14 year olds) and then set off to different areas of the compound.  the jr. youth were eager and excited to clean!  some did garden work; others cleaned toilets and picked up trash.  everyone worked for an hour before going to visit patients.  i was with the shining stars and could see their interest but hesitancy to actually go and greet the patients -- they stood together and sang different songs to the patients they visited in different rooms.  after taking one photo of them and disturbing their concentration i decided to step back and let them go with the matron of the ward.  afterwards we met up with the spiritual warriors before eating a snack and walking home.

washing hands before visiting patients
 there are some significant aspects of this outing.  they were more than willing to come up with the money for the matatu even though their families are materially poor and many cannot afford to pay school fees.  in the same way did they collect money to buy fruit to offer to the hospital even though some of them leave school and have no food to eat until they return to school and have tea for breakfast.  it is also significant how their hearts served so willingly and sincerely; they felt so good after working hard.  they all care about those who are ill; they consciously pray for others who are not well with that deep gratitude that God has kept them well today and that their health is dependent on God's Will.  lastly, they were so happy to walk 3km back to school instead of take another matatu.  it was such an opportunity to show friendship to one another, to laugh and run..to be kids.  i had such a great time talking with them that i wished we could have walked another 3kms so i could get to enjoy our time together more!  i also felt so happy to be on the back roads of kenya and see the rolling hills of planted maize and banana trees -- sights i never get to see on the main roads in a car.  i kept telling them how fortunate they are to live like this -- ie., to be surrounded by natural beauty and walk to many places with a sense of community that they all share so naturally.
singing to patients

it's important for me to explain that these students prepared for this service project without any material support except for printing out indemnity forms.  i guided and supported their ideas of serving at the hospital and called the chaplain to see if it was ok to come.  in our sessions we discussed the math involved for transport and buying fruit; they came up with the idea to walk home to save money on transport which they couldn't afford.  they knew which gospel songs they wanted to sing and came up with a plan on how to cover the cost of buying fruit -- some volunteered with pure-hearted joy to contribute extra money to compensate for those who didn't have any money to contribute.  they met their financial goals and worked together like a family who protects each other from any sense of loss.

we ended the day with reflections and discussion about what we felt and learned from the experience.  i felt like we all grew closer as a group, as well as having shared something special together.
walking home

June 11, 2014

Dagoretti jr. youth group evolves

the Shining Stars singing 'Regard man as a mine rich in gems..'
today at st. luke's educational center the jr. youth groups went through the fun process of naming their group.  the 11-12 year olds came up with many suggestions and finally chose 'shining stars' for their name.  the 13-14 year olds tried coming up with their own suggestions but ended up unanimously voting for one of the two remaining possibilities up on the board: 'spiritual warriors' (which i had added without them knowing amongst the younger group's suggestions).  it was a joyful moment that brought the students closer together as a group.

a great process of learning how to be a group occurred when we consulted about the money needed to buy fruit for next week's service project.  originally they all agreed to contribute 20bob (which is like 30 cents).  today we learned that 6 of them are not able to do so.  we calculated 6x20 to get a total of 120bob remaining.  we discussed how others may be able to contribute just 5bob while others may be able to contribute more to add up to 120.  a handful of students raised their hands to contribute more than the 20bob they already had in order to cover the amount needed to buy fruit to bring to the hospital.  it was a thoughtful and honorable process because they are learning to trust as well as help each other.

i learned today - while we were playing with a soft ball that i had brought - that there is a rift between the girls and the boys.  the girls feel that the boys are not sharing with them and then they ruin the ball and now the girls do not have a chance to play with it.  when the boys were playing with the soft ball the girls started complaining.  it was definitely challenging to face this issue all of a sudden with a large group of arguing kids.  i tried diverting their attention away from the ball issue by introducing step dancing as a new skill to learn (which ended up attracting almost all of them).  but by the end of the session the boys asked if they could keep the ball and the girls started arguing again.  i gathered them all together and described how half of the world of humanity is like one wing of a bird and how the other gender is the other wing.  i explained the necessity of cooperation and mutual respect.  i then asked them to offer suggestions about what to do with the ball.  one girl said alternate days; another girl suggested alternating between break and lunch times; and then a boy offered that they already have a ball so the girls must have this one.  i asked them all to vote and they all voted for the boy's suggestion.  it was a brilliant moment of practicing consultation and establishing a sense of justice amongst the group.

June 06, 2014

jr. youth group - at st. luke's in dagoretti

i have just finished the 4th session at st. luke's educational center in dagoretti.  the group of 11-14 year olds (which we combine for group activities, not the study books) consists of 29 students.  today i asked them what do they like about the group.  one girl said she is growing in morals; another said everything is new and interesting; another added that he is growing spiritually.  they all agree that it is fun!  after the opening prayer and an update about our first service project, i introduced the theme of being a noble soul.  i drew 9 lines around in a circle which made it look like a light, then lightly made a stick figure attached to it, explaining that our body is a temple for our soul.  they easily named 9 virtues to describe some of the powers of the soul which, when practiced and developed, enable us to grow spiritually.  we defined the words 'unique' and 'potential' as well as the 3 forms of 'exercise' and how growth involves pain.

i then gave them a blank sheet of paper to write their name on and pass it to the person on their left.  each student had to write something good and positive about this person's character.  when they received their name back the page was full of virtues and admirable qualities that others see in them, which i asked them to keep in their jr. youth notebooks.

i asked them to stand and sing something to give us energy.  they started clapping and went joyfully into 3 gospel types of songs that made me smile from ear to ear.  their enthusiasm and love for God is so natural and communal that i am convinced that having less money means nothing when it comes to true happiness.  these beautiful children have very little in terms of material comforts, or even essentials, yet they are spiritually rich and fulfilled.  when they pray they exude genuine thankfulness and remember those less fortunate than themselves.

we then endeavored to do an experiment with sprouting seeds by using a ziploc bag, cotton balls and water.  the analogy of our hidden potential being discovered from within just like a seed was discussed.  i made the mistake of not bringing enough bags so they had an opportunity to exercise the qualities necessary to share willingly.

we then went outside and enjoyed some group games, including relay races which were a lot of fun.  as we stood in a giant circle on the field, we closed with prayer and many happy goodbyes.
the 11-12 year olds beginning Breezes of Confirmation at the 3rd session

the 13-14 year olds are studying Walking the Straight Path on their own in a separate room

the teachers, principal, Mr. Kamau, and neighbors studying book 1 in preparation for becoming children's class teachers and animators