Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Almost Christmas!

It is the 21st of December and almost Christmas!!!! Many years ago, 1973-74 precisely, I spent about 8 months living and working in Hawaii. Everyday was sunny and warm with an afternoon shower. I remember Christmas day so vividly. It was not the Upstate NY Christmas that I always had experienced. It was so strange. I remember watching the Minnessota Vikings on TV,the balmy breezes blowing. This Christmas will probably be much the same. At home, we already have a record breaking December going for snow! Here, it is 85 and humid. I am on the coast for a break.

The news about the projects...We still continue to work with William Kabbis on a variety on small projects around the Mbaka Oromo Primary (now with a population of 600 and more a better students coming from long distances everyday seeking admission) and Mbaka Oromo Secondary School (which will in January have approximately 180 students, 9 through 11). We have the secondary about 70% built. WE have put a pause on the major building there and turned our attention to our latest project, the Mbaka Oromo Health Clinic.

About fourteen months ago, I was sitting in Mwalimu Mkuu (headmaster) William Kabbis' office. It was a nice sunny day and the children were out in the school yeard for recess. William commented to me how delighted he was with how many beautiful classrooms we (the builders, the parents, the teachers and children, William and Building Futures and all of our supporters at home) had built. I looked out with joy and a humble pride. Yes, pamoja (together) we had accomplished so much in just five years. "And yet, Jemo, we have so many sick children". My mind immediately flashed to our morning, school opening assemblies. Six hundred students and teachers (k-8) gathered to raise the Kenyan flag, say their Pledge of Allegiance, and sing their national anthem. Then William or one of the lead teachers will give the wanafunzi (students) a pep talk for the day. All the while, when I stand and watch the assemblies....children are coughing. Even in beautiful classrooms, sick children can not learn.

Why are so many of our kids sick? Poor diet causes malnutrition, leaving the children open to inffection and illness. Poverty prevents regular checkups or doctor visits when a child is sick. What could We do about that? I told William, "I am very comfortable building the classrooms and latrines and libraries....but I knew nothing about medical facilities. I would love to help, but it was a bit our of my league. And,, about 3 minutes later, I said, "Okay, William, let's go figure this out!" That was about fourteen months ago.

Today the clinic building is 100% built! However, that is not HALF of the story! My next blog will tell some funny stories and some sad ones about "Our ROAD to the Mbaka Oromo Clinic"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting ready to set off for 5 months in Kenya!!

Yikes! FIVE months! It is Wednesday night late (about 11:30ish) and I have been making list after list after list of details that I must see to before I depart on
Saturday. I am excited and a bit anxious to jump on that plane Saturday and head off to Kenya. This will be my thirteenth trip to Kenya. I have a number of goals for this trip, however, the number one goal is to complete the Mbaka Oromo Community Health Center and get it outfitted and get the programs going. I have so much more to write, but I am tired and it took me a bit to figure out how to get back on this blog...so I will say "lala salama" (sleep with peace in Kiswahili) and turn in. I will try to write again before I fly on Saturday.

world's worst blooger signing out...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jemo...the worst blogger in Africa!

Okay "A" (my number one faithful to the end blogg checker...I am writing this blog tonight for YOU and as a dodge!..I actuallly should be finishing a financial report for Steve Erickson and I just am repulsed by that kind of work...so a good dodge is the next worst thing...blogging....not that I don't want the world to know about all of the adventure here....but to sit and tell stories is so totally natural for me...but to write them down is just not natural to me. My son, Zach, can write and write and write....must get that from his mom....me.....not so much but here goes.

The VERY best news of the week is Jessica and Steve Thompson. They are a young couple from Wisconsin and they are staying in the "Rotary House" behind the Maseno Mission Hospital. Jes organized a group of young nursing students from her school in Wisconsin to visit Maseno and work in the hospital for 21 days back three years ago. Now, she is an RN and is back for a six month stay with her husband. They are an absolutely delightful couple. Steve is a business guy who ran a large store in Durham, NC for Habitat for Humanity. He has been over at St. Philips Seminary fiddling with the honey bees and he has also been working with the women's union developing projects. Jes is helpong out in the Nursing school and has been looking for another project. VOILA!!!!
She has agreed to be the LINK between Maseno Mission Hospital Nursong School and the Saint John Fisher Nursing visit!!! She just started working Noel Shanali today to develop the agenda for when the nurses come! I she the two of them developing a wonderful program for all of the nurses involved!!!! Steve and I will work in the bees on Monday afternoon.

Today, I went to the Grail and had breakfast with Margaret Amol (who runs the Grail Cmmunity Center for Womens'; Empowerment) and Eva and Daniel (both of who are in boarding school under the aid of Building Futures). It was a great breakfast and both of the kids reported dong well and enjoying their new school (St. Pauls). They are home on a short break and I will take them back to school (about an hours drive) on Sunday.After breakfast I drove Margaret outtoward Bondo (about 30 km) for her to attend a school committee meeting. She has been on her old school's committee for over 20 nyears. As we drove along, we discussed a variety of topics. I love to know Mazrgaret. She has travel throughout the world and has donated her knowledge and energy to refugee camps and those in need and the non empowered for her whole life. She is a smart, loving, caring woman...but she is tough and no nonsense. Seh sees through the crap and calls a spade a spade. She and I have a good understanding about most things.
She has been very helpful to me understanding the Kenyan mind and way of life.

After dropping off Margaret, I picked up NOel Shinali and we went to Kisumu. NOt have to fight the matatu conductors and teh crowding and the waiting in the stage is a blessing...still, driving a car or a motorcycle or even tank, in Kenya...is not easy.
CRAZY drivers (IO do not want to elaborate here..but ask me in private about the matatu guy in reverse and th e cops running down the street with drawn guns!!!! that one got our blodd pumping!!!!)...Noel had to pick up her new glasses (she still needed some correction after her cataract surgery...and I had to pay Mitha for th efinal solar installation at MO....and we had to pick up Sam. After I came out of Mitha, I noticed that a pithole had popped the one tire that my hotrod has that is tubed....so I had to jack it up and put on the spare...and in the middle of Kisumu, 67n different people decided that a Wazungu could not change a tire and had to rush up and try to give me hel;p and advice and it got wquite annoying. After I got the spare on...I had to go and buy a new tire, as I am driving to Masia Mara tomorrow and I can't drive in pothole heaven without a spare!

After I got the new tire, we dropped Noel off to work with Jes and Sam and I went to get beer at the Maseno Club. They had one of my two favorite varieties of beer....it is called "cold"....my other favorite variety is "FREE"....we had mbuzi choma (roast goat)
and "chips" (french fries) and the beer was cold and it is also called TUSKER. NOt exactly BLUE...but it will do in a pinch!

Now it is 7:44 and I am home (the Maseno Guest House) which ios the "evil house of deception" at times...when Adam and I BOTH got hot showers the first morning that we were here....we thougth we had died and gone to Kenyan Heaven....in the last three weeks that I hazve been here....HOT water 3 times....luke warm 3 times....less that ice cold a couple of times and how we se so deceived to think it could be hot EVERY DAY...oh the fools that good lookoing young Polish men can been (YES< US!!!!...well at least Adam...the young part I mean. (hey Adam...how's the "hiney") ( I know, you will want me to edit that out...hell, it's only you, Andrea and me reading this thing!)

So wrap it up for now ( i MUST get on to the financial report for Steve...) The project up at Mbaka Oromo and Huma. The building work at MO is gojing well. the kitchen walls are up the work on the classrooms 5 and 6 is almost done. I will have the Winslow Logo and name put on classrooms 5 soon. I will also make a garden for Abbey Pruitt and have some of my best form 2 kids (tenth graders) tend the garden. Abbey was a MUCH loved student form Winslow, who went through the entire Henrietta system and was loved by all and died in a car accident this last October. One of her life goals was to go to the developing world and make a difference. Before she could do that, an accident took her life away. So, the kids of Winslow school did a wonderful frundraiser with the intention of making a difference in the developing world and that will be a classroom named in Abey's honor.

Last week we had a community meeting called a barrazza and it gave the whole Mbaka Oromo community the chance to have their say in the developmenet of the health dispensary and
take ownership in it. They elected one rep from each of the 9 clans in the area and next week the committee will meet to stage setting up a constitution, electing officers and developing programs. It is an exciting time for the community. Their own Health and wellness center. Now all we have to do is find about $50,000 to build the thing.
Hakuna Matat!!!! (no worries!!!)

I have this AWESOME idea about how to spread baseball/softball...but I am running out of steam and it will have to be in the next log.....

Tomorrow at 6AM i leave for Masia Mara to nail down the costs for the nurses visit and
make the reservations. The whole make plans and reservations for 25 people coming to Kenya and programing and the like is FILLED with details....that is my forte LESS than blogging.

I will add some pictures if I can figure it out...LATTER!!!!

jemo...the strongman.....JIM NOWAK!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Dispensary gets REAL!!

It's early on Friday morning. About 5:30....and I am up and on the way!. On Wednesday we had a GREAT meeting up at Mbaka Oromo Primary School. the meeting was called a "barraza" and that is a community-wide meeeting. the purpose of the meeting was to get the whole community involved and to actually "take charge" of the dispensary project. We (William Kabbis the headmaster, Noel Shinali the community health development specialist and I)explained the
genssis of the project. We said that we knew that just nice classrooms and dedicated teachers and parents are not enough for the students to excel, they also need good health.
That and the interest of the Saint John Fisher Wegman School of Nursing interest in helping out at our project, voila...the idea for a dispensary. After doing our homework about the actual health needs of the community and wrking with Hilda Ayieko (Western Nyanza Community Health Director) we came up with a plan for a dispensary and some basic ideas for programs to teach health (malaria avoidance, typhoid avoidance, nutrition basics, pre and post natal care, etc) we were instructed turn the project over to the community. If the community didn't "own" the project in some way, it would not succeed. SO...the basrraza was held and stearing committee members from each of the nine clans in the area were chosen and we are off and running. We all walked up and surveyed the site and everyone look at the initial architectural drawings and all looks full steam ahead.

more soon....thanks for following!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

and the story continues...

It is a bit late and the modem is acting up...but it is working for now, so a short post. This morning I said that I would elaborate on the car....ever hear of LOVE/HATE? Wekll that's the car situation. It is so nice to be able to just GO!!! no worries about matatus and it getting dark and the like. But....oh, my Lord..I thought riding the cycle was tough...it easier to doge the potholes with two wheels than four....and the driving on the
left hand side is sort of nutz and when the sun goes down and all the roads are two lanes highways...big trucks lights in your eyes...people walking on the VERY edge of the road...it is nutz!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Part TWO of the Kenya Blog!!!

It's a Tuesday morning and I have been up since 6AM trying to get out...but so many things have been holding me here...one of them being trying to figure out how to get on this blog and add something!!! AND i think i have it!!!!! and my one and now TWO followers can read more.

My plan today is to go up and have a meeting with William Kabbis, headmaster of Mbaka Oromo Primary and Secondary Schools. Then I will go to Kisumu and try to get the necessary items to set up and an office for our Coordinator of the Dispensary Project, Noel Shinali. We will also try to arrange another meeting with Hilda Ayieko, the WesternNayanza District Health Officer. I will also try to get some new tires for my new car!... I will elaborate on the car tonight....got to get going.... "A" ( my oneREAL follower...I hope I can live up to the "Tall Mans" cool blogs!!!
jemo/SM/jim in Kenya!