Retrospective June 17, 2008 – Butula, Kenya; (Butali information extracted
from a longer email).
The 3 top Bukati School graduates are being sponsored into High School
Nick arranged for me to go to the high school to meet the children who are being sponsored by the several individuals whose desire it was to support high school students. The three children were selected based on being an AIDS orphan or a destitute child in our COB project and by achieving the highest academic standing on the standard national grade 8 examinations. We selected the top girl and the top boy and then the next with both high academic standing and leadership skills.
Last Minute Tasks
I told Nick that although we were able to get funds for 3 high school students last year, I am not sure whether or not that would happen in the future. The COB project was always about elementary school and as is, it has not been possible for us to raise enough money to feed the children 5 days a week. If we split our efforts to support high school students, then we will dilute the effort at the elementary school. Nick’s comment is that the current students saw that those who worked very hard were sent to high school and that if that does not continue, they may feel that their academic effort is in vain. I understand that sentiment. I also know that if we can get these children educated to at least the high school level, the chance that they will become leaders who change their communities and their country for the better will be greatly enhanced. It is hard not to be able to do it all. At least Nick heard my message and presented it to the assembly later in the day.
Staff Lunch, Beading
Final Day - Assembly
There was a lot of excitement at the school because today was the day for the
assembly – however, the grade 8 class had a standard, Kenyan examination to complete and we could not begin until
that was finished. While we waited for them, the whole Canadian team went to each classroom to distribute the pencils
that we had brought. When Kenyan’s receive a gift, they put both hands together with their palms up – so that you
can place the gift in the cupped hands. Every child in every class received a pencil. It has become increasingly
difficult for me to buy pencils and pens in Nariobi to get to Butula. I have to hire a university technician to
go to the warehouse – and this time there were no good quality pens. I have tried to bring pens and pencils from
Canada, but they take up too much weight in my luggage – you may recall that this time, we left bags and bags of
them in Malawi because Peter and I were over weight for internal African flights. I think bringing books for the
library is likely a better idea than bringing pencils that can be purchased for a small amount of money in Kenya.
I have now arranged with Nick that he will use some of the money that we send to keep the children supplied with
pens and pencils. He told me that he will be able to purchase them for a good price through the school board.
The only instrument is a drum. Typically, one child will begin the song and the others will join in – with nothing but their clear, strong voices to carry the tune. It is very lovely. It is an example of the "call and response" song, that is a very traditional type of singing done around the world, but especially in Sub-Saharan African cultures. In the call and response style, the “call” is usually sung by a soloist and tells a story. The response is usually sung by a group and is a response to whatever the soloist has sung. They use their local, traditional dance moves to accompany the songs. Mike videotaped the event.
I always feel self conscious during these assemblies for two reasons, it seems
the children expect that at some point I will get up and join them in their dance. I don’t feel at all comfortable
doing that – but feel torn because I do not want to disappoint the children. But mostly it is because the children
sing and dance to and about me – but I have never thought that this is about me – it has always been about the
effort of many, many Canadians who make this project happen and the huge amount of effort, leadership and focus
by Nick and the rest of the staff and the community leaders to facilitate the day to day work of the project. We
could have given them all of the money in the world, but without this phenomenal leadership – it would never have
succeeded. Above: Dr. Cate Dewey surrounded by the 514 orphans who are supported by the Children of Bukati
Above: Dr. Cate Dewey surrounded by the 514 orphans who are supported by the Children of Bukati project.
The sun was setting quickly, turning the maize fields and the grasses along
the road various shades of golden. Small children were playing around us, dressed in ragged clothes. As the sun
set, the wind picked up, chilling our bodies to the point we wished we had jackets – at least we did have socks
and shoes. We waited in the school yard for David to pick us up for the one hour drive back to the hotel – for
our last night in Busia.
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Updated October 5, 2008