Friday, January 15, 2010

Learning About More than Math

Catherine Mumba

Today Kate O'Reilly-Jones, one of two fantastic recent wesleyan alums who is spending several months working at the school, wrote me a very touching email that I'd like to share with all of you. As I wrote about recently, Angela Acheing's family lost their house and all of their belongings in a recent fire. Kate and Matt, our other wonderful wesleyan alum, went to purchase a few necessities for the family today (blankets, food, clothing, etc.) As Kate and Matt showed the teachers what they had found for Angela a touching moment occurred. Here is what Kate writes:

"When the teachers were looking at the clothes Matt and I got at Toi market for Angela, Catherine (another student) started pulling out things out of her backpack that she’d brought for Angela- she brought her at least two pieces of clothing and a cup and plate. I was just very impressed that and HIV+ orphan who lives in Kibera would give away her things to someone she thought needed them more."

This is indeed astonishing. Catherine is one of our most needy students. She is indeed HIV positive, lives with her grandmother as both of her parents died of AIDS, and has almost no possessions to her name. The fact that Catherine (and other students as well) have brought in their "extra" belongings to give to Angela (students have brought clothes, plates, cups, and even food to share) is so very meaningful. It makes it clear that our students are learning much more than math, science, and language at The Kibera School for Girls.... they are learning about leadership, kindness, and the power of passing on a good deed. Their education is teaching them to be contributors in their community and world.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tragedy Strikes

Often times the most difficult part of the work we do is that in the midst of movement towards hope tragedy strikes. Daily life at the school is going on wonderfully.... our students are engaged, passionate and making tremendous steps every single day.

Today was a day like most others at the school. Students began learning at 7:30, working on projects about eco-systems and conservation. Then, at about 11:00 terrible news reached the school: a fire had begun in Kibera. In Kibera fires are often devastating due to the close proximity of houses and the ease of rapid spreading. Luckily, the fire was no where near our school (which is well protected from fires due to its isolation from other buildings, gutters and a ditch). However, at pick up time Angela Achieng's older sister came to school for pick up and informed Angela and our community that their house and belongs burned to the ground.

In times like this, our school community is strong. Several of our students immediately offered to bring in any extra clothes that they have for Angela tomorrow, demonstrating the kindness and thought for others that is central to our curriculum.

Angela is a wonderful student and member of our community. Angela is six years old and the youngest of six children. She’s very bright, excelling in both language arts and math, and she enjoys playing on her own. Most days after school, she works on puzzles, draws pictures, and plays freeze dance. Neither of Angela’s parents is consistently employed, so her family only eats when they can afford to. They appreciate that Angela and the other girls receive a great education at the Kibera School, regardless of their financial situations. We will provide Angela with consistent emotional support, and the school community will also work to find temporary housing, as well as to find means to help the family rebuild their lives.

Shining Hope for Communities Shortlisted for Echoing Green Fellowship!

Great news!

Shining Hope for Communities has just been shortlisted as a semi-finalist for an Echoing Green Fellowship, a prestigious award given to innovative new social change organizations that gives $90K over a two-year

We've still got two rounds to go... so wish us luck!

Bio-Center Making Rapid Progress!

Recognizing the need for adequate sanitation facilities for the school and community at large, the Kibera School has started building a bio-center.* This facility will house two showers and four sanitary toilets, two for the school and two for the community. The waste collected will produce methane gas, which the school will use to cook the girls’ lunch each day.

After a difficult month of excavation, construction finally began. Digging more then a few feet down in Kibera requires breaking though huge rocks, so the team had to work tirelessly to create a ten-foot deep hole. Last week we started building the first part of the structure—the underground dome that will collect the waste. We are a few days away from finishing the dome, and then it’s on to building the outside walls. All of the stone for the walls came from the excavation process, reducing the environmental impact of the project. A local engineering group in Kibera is providing technical assistance, and one of the parents is helping to build the dome. Our team is working hard, and now that the excavation is over, the building is going up rapidly, and should open at the end of January!! This will provide the people of Kibera with never-before sanitary toilets and hand washing stations!

* The government provides no waste disposal infrastructure in Kibera, and informal latrines are scarce, with one for every 50 to 100 residents.