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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Update on Mwikali going to SCHOOL!

Okay for you guys that wanted an update, I wanted to give it to you -  it's a bit long. But there is a lot to say.

I left work early yesterday and Rebecca and I did about 4 LONG HOURS of shopping to get all the stuff that the school told us Mwikali needs to start school this week. And they are SPECIFIC. Remember, it's a boarding school - which many schools in Kenya are, especially those outside of Nairobi. You can imagine how remote some villages are and so kids have to live at boarding schools since schools are not located everywhere.

After reading this post you may start to understand why Sergio and I had to fund raise on this one and how ridiculously impossible it could be for a parent that has no income to send their child to secondary school.  Just for basic necessary supplies to get her started, we spent over $350 - that's like 12 months of  income for some people living waaaay out there where this girl is from.  Then there were the costs to transport Rebecca out there today with all the things we bought via bus(es). (Mwikali had already headed back to her village on Monday.) And then there's tuition on top of that - which is what so many of you contributed to.   I'm telling you all this because I want to be as transparent as possible since many of you reading are co-contributors  and I want to be accountable to you.

I learned an awesome lesson shopping with Rebecca.  I kept picking up mid priced products or like cutesy pencil holders and she kept telling me, "Lenna, she needs to have the same low end, cheap products all those other village kids will have. And she should not have excess or anything special just because she is getting sponsored - it's not fair to the other kids, they're all from poor villages." So true. Good lesson. So much of the donor stigma/culture comes from the way we usually think and give. We give like we are buying for ourselves in our world. Like nice toys and clothes and bikes and crap..when that's just going to draw them apart from their peers and create jealousy and problems at school or wherever they live.  We have to think more like a local person when you are buying for a local person and not to give things that they wouldn't in a million years ever have or need anyways. It's like if some guy just got out of limo and gave me a plate of caviar if I was hungry or an IPAD if i needed to send an email.  It'd be weird and unnecessary. Those aren't things that I buy or use or need. Other lessons learned:
  • You have to know that they use bar soap for their laundry not liquid -
  • You should know that they dont like white towels because the water they wash with is dirty and will turn the towel brown and they dont like it to look dirty. So get them a dark towel so you cannot see the dirt. 
  • You learn that they don't need special shampoo, they just use bar soap.  
  • And don't buy them deodorant spray (i tried to get her jasmin spray..haha). If they smell too good of perfume or something, their teacher will tell them to go wash it off since one kid smelling good will make the others jealous.-  Okay, but I have a side comment here - people in many countries be smellin' RAUNCHY and it may not be a bad idea to train kids at a young age to start smelling sweet - that too is a key to success. You're not gonna land a job interview wreaking like human juices.
But the main point is no body has stuff..so no body else should have stuff.  It keeps things simple for the kids.  It's kind of nice considering the opposite situation that we face so often in the US where kids are all competing with each other for brands, phones, electronics, etc.  I know I went through it with wanting GUESS jeans in elementary school (I got Sassoon instead ;-))  They cannot even have street clothes at the school - it's not allowed. They have 2 identical school uniforms and they wear it EVERY DAY. EVERY SINGLE DAY..even on the weekends.

So first, we started at the text book store for school supplies.  Everything here is a "center" pronounced "centa" with Kenyan accent. So this was the Text Book Centa
Rebecca looking all FINE

We bought compasses and protractors and erasers and pencils and pens, an atlas, a dictionary..and don't choke on your casserole..A BIBLE...GASP! A Bible in school....oh lawdy lawdy!  Most of the Kenyan kids I know, eat, sleep, and breath God. They LOVE their faith..they know songs out of the wazoooo about Jesus. They dont sing about the itsy bitsy spider or a twinkly little star..they sing about Jesus. And they DANCE..huge..about Jesus. Pretty amazing.  So many of these kids could teach us so much about faith and love that we haven't learned. Faith in the face of complete adversity, death, poverty, etc.

I guess this is what having kids is like?!
Then we moved to the Uniform Centa to buy......YOU GUESSED IT! UNIFORMS!
sweaters and white collared shirts

all schools have a little sports uniform too..for field trips or sporting time.

I saw this t-shirt there - reminded me of the Alpha Joy kids in Limuru that we used to visit all the time. The shirt was $5, so I bought it for me!

This is not the back warehouse. This is the store. The Container Store it is not.
We got a $10 discount..woot woot!
Next we went to Bata - you know the shoe place you often see in Europe - They have it here also but they have SUPER cheap shoes ($3 for slip on canvas shoes, etc). And it's the main place that sells the school shoes that the kids have to have.
  We didn't know her size - we only had the outline of her foot drawn on a newspaper to work from..which pretty much seemed to be MY SIZE..around 9.5. We took it and measured it at Bata and she was a 9.  Worked out great because I was able to give her my tennis shoes since there was "sports shoes" on the list.  I gave her some cool Red saucony's I've had for a while but were still in good condition - she'll love them.   I was also able to give her a few other things so we didn't have to buy them - towels, a backpack, etc.
Yep, Size 9!

Wanna make sure your high school daughter does not get pregnant? Put her in Kenyan school shoes! It's like built in birth control - so ugly!

Last stop - UCHUMI. Poor man's Nakumatt. (I actually prefer Uchumi, it's like going to Giant or Safeway instead of Whole Foods or Harris Teeter - or like buying target workout clothes vs. Luluman or whatever that ridiculously expensive yoga crap is. Sorry for offending if you shop there - i just don't get those prices for something you are going to sweat in. It's like buying $80 pants to go paint in?? But I'm a cheapy ;-) Maybe if my parents would have buckled and bought me GUESS jeans when I was 12, I'd be buying Luluman now...maybe my imposter Sassoon's taught me a nice lesson. (It's all starting to make sense).  You can leave fighting words in the comment box!
At Uchumi we bought things like laundry soap (they do their own washing), deodorant, toothpaste feminine products, undies, padlocks, etc...and a mattress. These boarding schools usually have like metal bunks..like imagine military or prison style beds and you bring your own mattress.
And then we loaded up a taxi for Rebecca and all this stuff, we (you and me) paid for it and sent her home.  She left at like 5am this morning to Mwikali's village to go greet her mother and then take Mwikali to school.  Even though her mother is not involved in her life and doesn't have a dime to support - it is still customary and respectful to involve her and let her know all this is happening. Its a bit dangerous though - I've seen mothers actually ask for the money instead to try to profit instead of have their kids go to school or get health care, etc. It's unbelievable but it's a different world in the village. It reminds me a bit of Lord of the Rings and "my precious"..just the word money or muzungu sponsor makes people do crazy things. Rebecca is taking care of things though. I got this text from her today:

 "Hi Lenna, I'm with Mwikali, on our way to school. I told her your message she promised to work hard. Thanks for being with us".

That message is for all of you that contributed ..and I know many wanted to but didn't get there in time. It's for you too - I am just as grateful to you for the desire to help.

More to come!


  1. well... I am very proud of you Lenna for making this happen (thank you to all of the sponsors too, there's no way this would've been possible w/o your support). I am very happy that we can make these connections and actually make a change in someone's life. I wish Mwikali the best in her studies and looking forward to meeting her when I return to Kenya :) Thank Rebecca for me too, she's great. Next? :)

  2. Way to Go .. You are and have always been my hero !!!!


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