Bukati School-boy

Children of Bukati
PHOTO GALLERY 2009
emails from Kenya

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Following are emails received from Dr. Cate Dewey during her time in Kenya, in July and August, 2009. The most recent emails are at the top of the page.

Update: Email received on Sat. Aug. 15 2009, from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Dear friends and family
Just thought I would send another note or two before I land back in Canada. Once I am there - some of these thoughts and memories will fade into the deep recesses of my mind - perhaps never again to resurface :-)

Randy and I visited Bukati Primary school on the last day of the semester so we participated in the closing ceremonies. This included awarding pens and scribblers (notebooks) to the top 3 students in each grade. The master of ceremonies (one of the teachers) announced that the assembly would last 40 minutes and the speakers, after the students' dances, and poems and awards would be the head teacher, vice principal, chair of the school board, one of the University students selected by their team (it was actually Jamie VanderBerg) and the 'guests of honor' Professor Cate and her husband Mr. Randy.

I always wonder what to say during these times. I feel like I am to address the children but those at the front are the youngest and they likely cannot understand me. I often encourage the children to work hard on their studies and to be helpful to their teachers (knowing that COB has made the teacher's jobs harder with bigger classes). Last year, after the students had lavished me with praise during the assembly, I spoke of how Canadians are raising the money but Nick, the staff and the community are doing the day to day work to make the project a reality. This year, I told the school why I started COB. How I had travel led to many villages and seen lots of hungry children not going to school but it was one very poor pig farmer caring for 12 children who blessed me by saying 'May God go with you' that made be pick "the green and white school". I am not sure if any of the children understood, but Randy told me that the teachers listened to every word. It struck me that many Canadians have heard that story but Kenyans hadn't.
As Randy and I went forward to speak, the head teacher said that they were going to have Randy and I participate in Kenyan culture before we spoke. I wasn't sure what we were in for and really hoped they were not going to ask me to dance! The whole school broke into song and then Pamela (the head teacher) brought a Kenyan shirt for Randy and skirt and matching blouse for me. They were tailored especially for us. The only problem was that Pamela's estimate of my body size was a little wrong! The outfit, which she fitted over my pants (with bulging pockets) and t-shirt, was especially snug. It was pretty funny actually. Luckily, I had had 2 weeks of white toast for breakfast, little to no lunch and boiled cabbage and fruit for dinner, so I had lost weight. It felt a little like last Halloween when I dressed like Miss Piggy. But, the students and teachers were thrilled to have me dressed in traditional Kenyan woman's attire and I gave my speech in 'costume'
I'll have to remember to wear the outfit at the school on my next visit.
Thinking of you in Canada
Cate

Update: Email received on Tues. August 11, 2009 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Dear Friends and Family
The high school students who are sponsored by individual Canadians through COB are doing wonderfully well. There are 123 students in grade 10 and our students, Julianna, Sole and Dennis came 12th, 15th and 23rd respectively.
[Note: Click here to see the 2008 web-page on these three high-school students]

Sole has grown in confidence and willingness to speak to me since last year. Julianna is now a dormitory prefect. She is to ensure the girls are going to bed on time and keeping the dorm clean but also serves as a mentor and sounding board for girls who want to share their problems. Julianna is also the group leader for her team for the cultural day celebration that will include dancing, singing, drama and narratives. She is still on the school soccer (football) team. Dennis is now the assistant head boy, giving him significant responsibility. We were always hoping that the students would become leaders so that they will be strong community leaders when they finish high school. Even if they go to college or university, there is a strong commitment to family and village in this culture, so I expect they will still help their community after graduation.

Randy and I were to have visited the high school to meet the 5 students who are being sponsored by individual Canadians through COB. However, the day we were to go, was the last day of school. As a result, the students came one by one to the Bukati Primary School. This actually worked well because it gave us a chance to see them individually.
We met the grade 9 students, Belinda and Francis for the first time. Belinda has a beautiful smile. Unfortunately she was ill over the last 2 weeks of the term. (I think it was malaria). Therefore she did not have a report card. Francis was very shy with Randy and I. Randy spoke to him through the vice principal as a translator. He did not bring his report card to school because he did not know he was expected to.

We asked each student to write a letter to their sponsor before they left the school. Francis was very capable of writing a letter in English without any help, so I think his English so good but perhaps he is just too shy to talk to us.

The students were thrilled with the scientific calculators and flashlights that Norah bought for them as well as the backpacks and other gifts in their bags.

Interestingly, each of the students in grade 10 came to the school with their report cards to show Nick (without being asked). It showed me the mentor role Nick is playing in their lives. It is exciting to see these students blossom.

We currently have 2 sponsors for girls for next January but no sponsor for the top boy. I think we need to either convince one of these sponsors to switch to a supporting a boy or we need to find a third sponsor. It will be hard (and maybe not appropriate) to support the top 2 girls but no boy graduating from grade 8 next year.
Love to you all, Cate

Update: Email received on Thurs. August 6, 2009 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Hi everyone
Yesterday, we spent the day in the compound of Florence, and also met with Judy, the young female butcher. Here are their stories.

Judy is in her 20's and was 6 months pregnant when her husband died ( I think in an accident). She knew she needed to support herself and her son and she noticed that people like to eat pork so, it seems with little knowledge of the industry, she started the business. She told Mike that she learned about the business from Flo. Flo had taught her to use the tape measure to estimate the weight of the pig. Judy's in-laws were upset that she would start this business, so they burned down her home. So now, she and her 2 year old (coincidentally named Mike) live in a rented house in town. We all hope she makes a great success as a butcher.

Florence said to me that the lady of the compound looked very, very low. We asked Joseph, the person who arranged for us to be there why. Apparently the lady's husband had been beaten by some other men in the community and he died 3 days after. I had noticed a freshly dug grave as we drove in. Early in the morning a older man had walked through the compound and talked to each of us. Joseph said that was one of the men who beat the husband.
As the day went on, another butcherman came for training and the woman's 5 children came back from school. We chatted to the children and I gave them raisins. The last interview and was very long. As I waited, I took out my copy of Braids to read to the children. The boy in grade 6 read along but they all joined in to the repetitive parts 'No No No' and the back and forth and back and forth and up and down and up and down and round and round and round - even the little 4 year old girl who knew no English.
Before we left, I gave Flo some money to give to the widow. Flo found out that the poor woman did not know who we were or why we were there, spending the day in her yard. Joseph had asked her grown stepson for permission but he had not conveyed the message. The woman apparently was afraid of who we might be. I felt terrible when I heard that. She was very appreciative of the money I gave to her.
It all made me so grateful for my own life and family, friends and community.
Cate

Update: Email received on Thurs. August 6, 2009 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Dear friends and family
Sunday Randy and I drove to the Bukati school to meet the 13 University of Guelph students and Jamie vanderburg (the pastor) who raised the funds and have travelled to Butula to build a classroom. We arrived at the school an hour before the students. There were only a dozen students at the school - so it was a very quiet and unusual sensation - considering there are usually more than 1000.

It gave me a chance to take video footage of the livestock without crowds of children standing in front of the camera. Once the students arrived in Butula, Nzuki (our driver) took us to town so the bus could follow us to the school. The bus was bright yellow and rather old. The top was piled with luggage - many filled with library books for the children. The group looked hot and tired - almost melted from the trip. There were several teachers and people from the parent committee to greet the students. We had a formal welcome and speeches in the teacher's room. I was filled with emotions of love and gratitude for this team who worked so hard all year to come to help this community. One of the students said they were excited to see this place that they had imagined and hope that it wasn't just a place that I had made up. That was pretty funny. But really, to share this project with that many U of Guelph people is awesome!

We looked around the school then drove to town and were put in a large room where we met some of Nick's friends and some of the host family representatives and then were offered tea. It was getting dark and I was so worried about getting the students to their homes. They had been on the road since 6 am. But, there is no rushing custom. We had to drink tea. Sure enough the dark descended and the driving rain came in sheets. We were sorting bags and students, trying to match pairs of students to host families. We ended up driving 2 young men to a home that was a treacherous 30 minute drive away over muddy, slippery narrow paths between sugar cane. We finally came to a house with a lantern in the window. It felt rather scary dropping the students off at this place but I had to remember the sense of adventure of youth and the fact that 20 year olds are invincible.

Two days later, when we visited the school, the students were full of excitement, telling me of their host families, how great the children are and even, how hard it will be to leave when the time comes. I still feel such gratitude toward this group and Jamie, their leader. I also feel so fortunate to be part of the University of Guelph community. Today, when I said goodbye to the students and Jamie, I had a sense of being part of the group and yet separate. I look forward to learning more about the Butula community through their stories and memories
Lots of love, Cate

Update: Email received on Mon. August 3, 2009 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Dear family and friends:
You likely all know about the book Braids that is being sold to raise funds for COB. Robert Munsch donated an unpublished story to Taya Kendall, children at Sir Isaac Brock School drew pictures to illustrate the story and then funds from the COB account paid to print 5000 copies. At the front of the book, there is a photo of 3 girls and at the back, a photo of one girl with braids and others in a classroom during lunch.

The first girl I found was Lucy, the girl in the middle of the picture in the front. She had this look of amazement and then laughed and giggled to see her picture in a book. It was fantastic! I asked her to sign my book and then gave her one. Millicet, the girl to Lucy's left was more shy but equally pleased. I will give Felictas her book tomorrow. Mary Stella, the girl with braids was terribly shy. Although she received the book from me, she did not seem entirely sure of what was happening. Tomorrow, I will return to the school and hope to get a photo of all 4 girls together.

We have now moved to Busia. We will do veterinary business in Funyula today and then will be doing the same in Butula tomorrow.

Lots of love, Cate


To the Left: the four girls.

Millicent in the back, along with Felisias, Mary Stella, and Lucy.

Update: Email received on Sat., August 1, 2009 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Hi everyone
Although the children were only given one day's notice about our visit last Saturday, they still prepared songs and poems and dances for the assembly that they presented at . Some of the words to the songs follow.
They sang that:

Before we were thin but now we are fat (our impression is that they are still fairly thin but do at least now look like they are eating).
Before we could not work because of hunger but now our stomach is full.
Now my intestines are tied (that means they have a full belly), there is nothing I cannot do.

Grade 7 sang

Give me a chance, I am able;
Let us now pull together to make our school progress.

There was a poem about the rights of children that spoke of the right to eat and the right to be educated.

Another poem said

AIDS is killing doctors and nurses, teachers and parents, leaving many orphans, leaving broken hearts in graves.
But it ended by saying African child, be strong and live life.

Grade 8 sang

Open the door for the children to enter. On this day of joy and happiness, we warmly welcome you. Education is the key to life, come join us now.

Grade 4 sang

Welcome visitors, we know you have walked a long way
Feel welcome
We know you are tired but we will give you rest
I was sleeping when something whispered to me that Cate would come
Nick, keep cool because Cate has come
Now I can dance before her.

Then 2 little girls said a poem that said take me to Canada and lock me there. They were 2 little orphans.
They think that coming to Canada will make their lives perfect. I still firmly believe that helping the children stay in Kenya to live with their extended family and be educated here is the best option.
Canadians can help so many more children that way.
Lots of love
Cate

Update: Email received on Mon. July 27, 2009 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

We spent Saturday at the Bukati Primary School. There are now over 1,000 children at the school, 11 staff members paid for by the government (including the principal and vice-principle) and another 5 teachers paid for by the parents. Most of the students and staff came to school on Saturday to be with us. As we drove in, the children were lining the driveway on both sides, singing a welcoming song. It was quite moving and wonderful to see them again.

Randy and I met with Nick and the chair and treasurer of the school council. Pamela is still the treasurer but there is a new chairman - Peter, who is a retired teacher. He has been assisting Nick with the land purchase. Peter said that since we began the program, there has been a remarkable change in the children. They are healthier because they are eating regularly and a more balanced diet. He also said the morale of the children has greatly improved and now they are happy and cheerful. With the uniform program the children are all on an equal footing.

The academic performance continues to improve. There is a lot of competition in grade 8 to try to get one of the two sponsorships for high school.

I thanked the committee for their attention to detail in keeping receipts and told them that the Canadian auditors were pleased with the records last year. I reminded them that our support will end in 2012. Currently the school is short 2 classrooms so these pupils congregate under trees. The University of Guelph students will build one class and the second will be built with money from a Kenyan government program. For the latter, to qualify, the parents had to donate 20 percent of the cost of the structure. They are also short 200 desks so many children are back sitting on the floor.

There is a desperate need for latrines (out houses). They are short 6 for boys and 11 for girls. The public health has served them with a notice saying without the latrines, the school will be closed down. The latrines will cost $10,800 Canadian dollars.



We talked about the problem of over crowding and attracting extra students to this school with the staff. Our only option would be to stop supporting this school and move to a neighbouring school or sharing the resources amongst several schools. We did promise to help this school for 6 years. The staff wish for us to continue to support their school as promised and they will deal with the high student numbers.

Cate

Update: Email received on Mon. July 27, 2009 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Hi Everyone.
Let me tell you about a delightful, intelligent little boy in grade 6. Last year when I was at the school waiting for an assembly, I sat on the ground in the school yard with 3 English books and read to the children. Within 30 seconds, I was crowded by circles of children 5 children deep. I read the same books over and over again because there was no way for me to get out of the tight cluster. I held the books facing out so the children could see the pictures. There was one little boy who read every word along with me. On Saturday, I found the boy, asked him his name (Boniface) and introduced him to Randy. The teachers told us he was one of the top students in his class.

At the end of the day, he came up to me and asked if he could have a storybook. We found two that seemed age appropriate (one was about a snowman, but that did not seem to deter him). His teacher told him he had to write a book report for Monday. We both told him he could exchange these books for others on Monday.

As we drove away from the school we passed Boniface and his friend walking home. They were reading as they walked. Can you imagine that thirst for books? They didn't even wait until they got home to read. I hope the University of Guelph students can build book shelves so the library books are more accessible for the children.

Below are two photos of Boniface, eagerly reading.

Update: Following email was received on Sat. July 25, 2009 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Yesterday, Nick gave me an update on the school.

The number of students continues to grow. Nick said deaths from AIDS does not appear to be slowing down. Children attending the school who were not part of our program last year, have joined the program this year because their parents have died. There is also an influx of orphans from the surrounding area. A child who was attending another school will often move to live with relatives in this school district when their parents die of AIDS. Rather than staying with another relative in the old school district, they will move so they can get lunch at school. Nick does not see this progression slowing down. Most of the new children in grade 2 to 8 are orphaned. The new children in kindergarten and grade 1 students are not.

Food prices are still terribly high and are predicted to stay that way. As an example, a tin of corn was 20 shillings in the fall, went to 90 shillings in March and is still at 80 shillings. There has been a terrible drought across Kenya so even when the harvest happens next month, the yield will be low. Feeding 681 children will be very expensive for COB.

The school board has extended school by 1 week. Nick said he hopes that he can stretch the current food stores to feed the children for this extra week but this has worried him.

We discussed long term sustainability of the project and how best to expand the livestock operations. Of course, this depends on market opportunities for products. There is an increasing and insatiable market for milk and eggs. Nick hopes to grow napier grass on the 6 acres of land that is rented and then expand the dairy operation to 4 cows. The school delivers milk to a depot in Butula where it is picked up for processing. He would like to expand the laying hen operation to 300 hens. People who own hotels send buyers to the field to purchase eggs. If the school can produce a large number of eggs on a regular basis, they can get a contract with the hotels. Nick would like an equal number of meat birds. He will need to expand the cow barn to hold the new cows and build a second chicken coup. He will use some breeds for eggs and others for meat. He will let the 8 sheep multiply to grow the herd. They are cheap to keep because they eat the grass in the yard. He expects to keep the pig operation at 3 sows but wishes to buy a boar with improved genetics. That would be an excellent resource for the community.

Nick said the children are still doing the work for the livestock and gardens, because 'it is their school and their project and they must own the responsibility." I appreciate that attitude. He also said that the teachers continue to mentor the children because they also must participate because they too benefit.

We are spending Saturday at the school.
Cate


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Updated Oct. 3, 2009