Monday, April 28, 2008

Worth 1,000 Words...

joel and samara taking a nap :) The girls love to put one finger in their mouth and one on their belly button... (apparently Joel does too :)

I guess I haven't been kissing Joel enough lately...

Fun at the giraffe center

Monday, April 21, 2008

A couple of requests

In our context, we often see asking for help as a form of failure and inadequacy. We were recently reminded when Joel’s parents came to visit that people around the world DO want to help in some way shape or form. While not everyone is called to come to Kenya for 10 months and serve grassroots leaders, there are other creative ways that we can come together to assist in people’s needs around the world. So, in light of our new-found revelation that people around the world are seeking ways to make a difference, we invite you to consider how you might come alongside some of our contacts that are facing pressing needs at this time.

• One of the community centers that we work with has been without electricity for nearly a year now. When they last had electricity, neighboring houses and offices tapped into their supply and raised their monthly bill from 500Ksh/month ($8) to 8000Ksh/month ($125). While this may be a small amount in our eyes, the absence of electricity has taken away any income generation that they might have previously had. We have tried to build a case for the community center to take to the power company. Unfortunately, after 4 months of working hard to figure out the situation, we are left with one alternative-to pay 8000Ksh ($125) so that the power company will move the power meter inside the community center and will turn the electricity back on again. If we can move beyond this initial barrier, we are confident that the community center can continue to be a beacon of hope in the Mathare community.
• The post-election violence took its toll on many of the schools set to begin their academic year in the beginning of January. Dagoretti 4 Kids, one of the organizations that we work with takes street kids into their community for a year, reunites them with their families and works to make connections in sending kids to school. Due to the nature of their background and pressure from their community, these kids are often sent to boarding schools. In January, these kids went to their respective boarding schools around the country. Due to the post-election violence, many were boarded at their schools in January, but did not start classes because some of the teachers and other students were unable to get to the school. To make a long story short, 6 of the kids were charged for boarding during the month of January and the schools have forced them to stay during the month of April (which they would otherwise have off) in order to make up for the time missed in January. Instead of being charged for 3 months of schooling, they are being charged for 4 months. Since, school fees cost 3000Ksh/month ($50) per student, we are looking to assist them with $300 to get them through this predicament. While these costs may seem minimal, these are the types of situations that can make or break small organizations when they are forced to deviate from their annual budget.

There are countless needs that we come across on a regular basis. These are two of the more pressing needs that have a widespread impact on two communities around Nairobi. If you are interested in learning more about these situations, helping out or learning of other needs that we hear of, please let us know. It is incredible to think about how far a dollar can go (even if it is getting weaker by the day!)

Masters Program Update

Last week was an important week in the world of CTM Nairobi as 19 local leaders submitted applications to join Bakke Graduate University’s Masters program. It has been an interesting process along the way as we connect educational contexts around the world. Getting people to realize the challenges and hard work required with a masters level education, encouraging them to see this educational opportunity as equal to a monetary resource and helping people understand the importance of taking the time and energy to submit a masters level application was a daunting task.

We are hopeful that these pastors presented themselves in a way that made a statement about their preparation to enter the program. Having recently submitted graduate school applications, I was intrigued by the struggle that many of the leaders/pastors dealt with in presenting thoughts through a second language. When you think about a second language, presenting yourself orally is one thing, but having to write in a formal way that pulls together thoughtful ideas seems to be nothing shy of overwhelming. I have gained a new respect for those that can sit in multiple worlds in different languages.

A question that we have come across over and over again around the launch of this masters program is, “After the leaders get further training, will they abandon their positions in the slums and move elsewhere?” This is an excellent question that speaks to the nature of the hierarchy of life in Nairobi. We are attempting to sit with this question as a community of learners and put it on the table immediately. One of the unique aspects of this program will be that it is built around urban ministry in the slums of Nairobi. While some of the material is transferable, it is indeed contextualized in a way that confronts the modern issues of serving those that are labeled the least, the last and the lost of Kenya. The materials are rooted in liberating those that are oppressed, perhaps to the point where the materials lose their basis in other facets of society.

We are now eagerly waiting to hear the results from the states in May. The program is set to start in June. Please continue to think of CTM Nairobi as we find ways to come alongside of the pastors that we serve during this time. We also think and pray for the pastors, their families, their congregations and their communities as they enter into an intensive time of education.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Amazing Women

On Monday, Joel and I visited with Dagoretti 4 Kids. Their aim is to get kids off the streets and to find funding for them to go to school. They have been in operation for 4 years, and currently have about 30 boys going to boarding schools and are beginning to imagine news ways to help their community. They have found that helping the kids alone can be limiting and wanted to find a way to help their mothers and families. As a result, a new program has begun at D4K where HIV postive women meet at the center three days a week to make jewelry and crafts. They call themselves Dagoretti 4 Kids Support Group, as their long term goal is to make enough money to give back to D4K. There were about 10 women there working on beaded crocodile keychains.
While my first attempt was a flop (my crocodile looked a bit deformed, with its legs going in four different directions and it's ribs completely caving in) and after a bit more coaching from my new friend, I was able to make a second one successfully. The whole process took me about 4 1/2 hours. (And to think that these items would sell at the market for maybe a little more than a dollar!) But aside from making a crocodile, I wish I could put into words how amazed I am by these women. While most of them speak little English, they embraced us into their small community with open hands. They spent the day encouraging one another and asking about each other's health, they are always looking out for one another. In the middle of my second crocodile I just sat back and thought to myself, "Take in this moment Mandy, cherish it. This is one of those experiences that will leave a mark on your life..."
So often we are able to buy crafts at Ten Thousand Villages or craft fairs that support small projects like this...and I found myself on Monday counting my blessings that I was sitting amongst these women.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A flat world

I am currently reading a book called The World is Flat, a book capturing the globalization movement of the 21st Century. It has been an interesting read, particularly in a Kenyan context. In some ways I see the world as flat, while at other times a plateau with sharp elevation contrasts in various regions of the world. Although China and India are seen as the rising stars in the global market, I continue to wonder what impact globalization is having and will have on the African continent. Some pieces of globalization seem to be detrimental while others may shed profound light on the development of nations that tend to the basic needs of functioning societies.

As I read the book, I continually think about the corporate impact of these principles, rather than the personal. The Microsoft’s, HP’s and Wal-Mart’s have stronger connections to these ideas than any individuals could ever have. I was reminded that this was not the case when I met a young Kenyan at a birthday party this weekend. He is studying to be an architect but currently has a graphic and web design business to help him pay his way through university. When I told him that we would likely not be able to give him any business because we would only be here for three more months, he reminded me that I could have him design a website or publication from Kenya when we returned to the states, that it would probably be cheaper than anything than I could find their and that it would help him get an education. In his words, we are only “one click away”. This triggered my initial thoughts on the personal nature of globalization.

The next tier of thinking within globalization hit me last week when corresponding with our friend, Paul who had recently spent time in Bangkok. He described an experience that he had with a man from Kenya that was working in Bangkok to generate some income for his family. He shared some of his thoughts on the questions that he was grappling with on how to best assist this guy. Through our blogs and emails, we are somehow able to connect in these ideas and think about how our global experiences might help shed light into one another’s situations. A flattened world allowed me to learn from a friend whose encounter in Thailand is similar to many of ours in Nairobi.

The interesting thing in my virtual encounter with Paul was the timing of his email. You see, it is not uncommon for us to be asked for money 2-3 times/day. Whether it is an encounter with a street kid, person who has decided on begging as their profession or people that we know well that need financial assistance, sifting through each of these encounters is tiring and at times hardening. This weekend, when a boy asked me for money for bread as we were leaving a wedding, I didn’t give him a chance to tell his story and immediately told him that we didn’t have money for him. When we got home, there was an email in my inbox from Paul explaining his situation in Bangkok. His words prompted me to look inward in how I responded to the boy an hour earlier. At this time, I realized that a flattened world had triggered a response in me to reconsider how I respond to our regular encounters with requests for money. While we choose not to give to 80% of the requests that we get from people on a daily basis (because our annual budget would be long gone by now), each person does deserve our careful attention and a degree of inner turmoil to respond accordingly. It dawned on me that it took a friend’s experience in Asia to soften our hardening responses to requests for money…now that is a flattened world.

While we are still new to the world of blogging, we hope that this mode of communication can be a positive flattener as we share experiences from afar. We are often encouraged, challenged and convicted by your stories, responses and breaths of life into our work here in Kenya.

Friday, April 4, 2008

life in nairobi

The rainy season threatened to start a few weeks ago with rainy nights and puddles galore, but this past week has truly been beautiful... the sun only hides behind friendly clouds for a few minutes at a time and the breeze keeps the day cool. Everything is a bit more green after having a nice long drink last week. I often find myself lost in the beauty of this place when I'm riding the bus home. The drive from my school begins with the sight of amazing red soil with maize and tea growing and then we head down a large hill into a jungle-book setting with trees towering as the road winds along. After this, the bus returns to the 'city' and my senses are overloaded with the sights, sounds, and even smells of Nairobi. I often have quite a bit of time to take it all in as traffic jams slows my bus to a crawl. I am thankful for these times of reflection as I try to process all that I am experiencing in this beautiful yet struggling place.

There is an excitement in my heart to return to the states in three months, to be with friends and family, to drink root beer and eat tortilla chips, to wash my clothes in a washing machine.... and yet I am already nostalgic about leaving Nairobi. I guess I'm reminded once again to 'Carpe Diem' and seize the day, for we are not guaranteed tomorrow and there is something amazing about today. It is has never happened before, nor will it happen again...


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Nairobi Update

As much fun as we had with Joel’s folks around, it was a rude awakening to the reality that our time here is coming quickly to an end. In less than three months, we will be aboard a jet transitioning back into another world.

Here’s a look into some of the things that we hope to do before heading to the airport:

  • Take more pictures-taking pictures is awkward…especially around people that have been exploited by entrepreneurial photographers. I don’t really like taking pictures of people, but I don’t think that the cows on the street, the fruit at the stand or the 100,000 white matatu vans will mind if we create some memorial tokens.
  • Start a masters program…well this is happening on 2 fronts: 1.) Joel has been accepted into a masters program in educational leadership at Miami University of Ohio next fall and we have chosen to accept it. Nairobi…to the middle of miles of corn; can’t wait for this transition! 2.) By April 15, we hope to have all of the applications in for those that are interested in the CTM/Bakke Graduate University (Seattle, WA)/Carlile College (Nairobi) Masters program. We are hoping to have a cohort of 8-12 learners. The program will focus on urban ministry in the slums.
  • Use our “resident status”. There is a long list of things that we have held off on doing since we arrived because of the huge difference in resident/non-resident prices. We were both able to get resident status through Mandy’s job at ISK and hope to take advantage of it and go to the new museum, do a game drive in Nairobi National Park and go see Mt. Kenya.
  • Play some more Frisbee. We have been playing Frisbee for the past six months, but in May, we are co-organizing a tournament to benefit Dagoretti 4 Kids, one of the grassroots organizations associated with CTM. We are excited for the opportunity to teach kids how to play, to connect our expat friends with local kids and to raise some money for startup programs for Dagoretti 4 Kids along the way.
  • Cook. We can’t leave Kenya without knowing the basics of cooking here. While we have our nights in the kitchen, we need to take time to perfect the Kenyan basics (ugali, chipati, stews and bean dishes). Kenyans are oral historians in the kitchen as much as they are in the village, hence, No recipes.
  • Chart a way forward with CTM Nairobi-At this point, we are looking into registering it as a Kenyan organization. This may allow us to take advantage of some local opportunities. We are trying hard to be intentional about not making Gideon feel isolated from the North America office, while creating autonomy over here. This is a healthy process to go through as it requires thoughtfulness and creativity in how to move forward from a “listening post” to a healthy organization.

These are just a few of the things that will keep us truckin’ till the end. We are going to have a hard time leaving, but are hopeful that this won’t be our last time in Kenya.