Guest Post from Laurra McGregor
What you ingest while in Kenya can make or break your time here. Water and water based products like coffee and tea are generally not safe to drink–unless they come from an unopened bottle or are boiled. Restaurant eating is tricky…if you’re at a “known” restaurant, meaning Americans have eaten there & not gotten sick, you’re safe with anything on the menu (but I’d still avoid any salad or fresh juice). If it’s not a known place, your safest bet is to order beef or fried fish and chips. Although I’ve been blessed to have eaten delicious authentic Kenyan food, I’ve also been in many “chip” situations. It’ll be interesting to see how my pants back home will fit.
Java coffee shop is the Nairobian Starbucks experience. The prices, product, and customer service are like being in the U.S. The clientele is mainly Europeans, Americans, & wealthy Kenyans. Javas are only found in Nairobi in the wealthier parts of town. Javas are always a safe place to eat and drink. It’s such a contrast to order my $4 coffee while Richard was shopping, and thirty minutes later pull into a slum where the money for that coffee would’ve fed a classroom of kids their lunch. Being here up close and personal makes your mind linger a while longer on that.
Lenana school, home of the Rhinos! Like the Boys Detention Center, this place gave me an injection of pure joy!
The school is located on the edge of a slum, and has very little real estate from which to operate. To reach the school you drive down a long bumpy road past many shacks full of dirty kids, chickens, open fires & garbage. At the end of the road is the school. The only thing that gives it away is the sign that reads “Lenana Junior Community School”, which is painted on the green “fence”–iron sheeting usually seen on shack roofs–that protects it’s borders. The sheeting is kept in place up against wooden poles. At the bottom of one of the sheets there is a good sized hole where it is rusted through, and that is where the smallest children poke their heads out, welcoming visitors.
As soon as I walked through the gate I was greeted by a man grinning widely and ready to shake my hand. Jackson, the principal, is a man who you take one look at and know that he is the best man for the job. He is extremely proud of his school, the children, and his teachers. He exudes joy along with serious responsibility, and it is wonderful to see the two things coexist in this one man.
The school grounds are small, but every bit of space is used extremely wisely. The real estate is formed in the shape of a capital T. Through the gate you enter into the horizontal part of the T, where there is the kitchen (a shack with huge pots over open flames), the holding tank for water, the latrines, and the very small open area. The entire school “building” is located down the vertical part of the T–with one room classrooms on each side of an outdoor dirt hallway. Down the hallway on the left hand side is the office, the library, and classrooms from PK to second grade. Directly across from each one of those rooms is the third through eighth grade classrooms.
The classrooms are tiny, hot, and filled to the brim with students. Everything is shared–seats, “desk” space, learning materials. What our kids get back home in terms of classroom space and desk size is like comparing a studio apartment to a mansion. The students at Lenana share everything, but do not care. They are able to attend a school free of tuition, with excellent teachers, and most importantly (and what keeps them coming back), free lunch every day. If they weren’t in school, most of them would not eat during the day.
It’s the food that makes the school successful on many levels. First, the kids have excellent attendance. They really want to eat every day. Second, the food they get, (which is usually a form of protein–different kinds of beans), is designed to be as nutritious as WorldCOMP can afford, and it’s growing these kids bigger and stronger than they otherwise would be. Third, the scores these kids receive in state testing is very high, and Lenana’s graduates are being accepted into well known academic high schools, which is a big deal in Kenya. Finally, their sports team, The Lenana Rhinos, are making a name for themselves by winning and going to district finals! Jackson, the principal, proudly told us that because our kids eat so well, they are bigger and better than all the other teams (including the Catholic school down the road), and kids from other schools are scared of the Rhinos.
When I write this all to you, it’s easy to forget that this is a SLUM SCHOOL. It is a school in a slum. The teachers do not get paid. They are men and women who earned their teaching degree, but cannot find jobs in a country and profession with over 20% unemployment. In order to keep their skills and be ready at any time to accept a paying teaching job, they stay at Lenana. They love teaching there–teaching is their passion, and they’re proud to do it for free for kids in the slum who deserve a chance at life. They actually refer to themselves as missionaries, which is exactly what they are.
I’m proud to say that my church helps raise all of the money to feed these kids through WorldCOMP. Every Christmas we have a big push to get all the donations we need to be able to feed these kids for the entire year. We’re not a big church, but we have done a giant thing in keeping these kids fed. What a daily bowl of beans will do–wow.
I’ve included some pictures in this email because I’m home safe and sound now, and I can do that via my computer. I wanted to finish my emailing before I left Kenya, but my last two days there were really busy. I’m going to try and finish my documenting in the next few days.
I actually have more to say about Lenana, but I’m mentally tired from jet lag, and I’ve written and deleted about ten sentences, so I’m going to send this off and call it good. 🙂
Thanks again for reading and caring. Thank you so, so very much for your prayers too!! I really felt them. I felt so protected and loved, I can’t tell you. Thank you.