Saturday, June 07, 2008

Out of Africa....Final Edition by Bill and Joanne Cala

To All of Our Dear Friends,
We hope this letter finds you well and in good health. We cannot believe that it is already June, as we have been on the road continuously since we arrived in Kenya in mid-May. We know that all of the beautiful spring and early summer flowers are now in bloom in Rochester. Here in Kenya there are many flowering trees and bushes in bloom and in the early morning the unfamiliar bird calls wake us early. Generally the heavy rains subside by early June, but due to so many changes in the world climate, traditional patterns are not holding. Every night we have had rains which replenish the water storage tanks, but tonight we couldn’t believe what we saw. About 5 pm the dark clouds appeared and we knew that the air was heavy so it was mostly likely another evening rain. But within minutes the winds rustled and then the lightening and thunder started. We ran up to our room to close the windows, we gasped at each other when we saw frozen hail pound down on the metal roof and window sills. We are on the equator, it was about 85 degrees Fahrenheit and there was frozen hail like Rochester!
Since our earlier newsletter, we have been visiting each of our 65 scholarship students. Sometimes we travel three hours on very difficult roads to see one student, but in each case it is so worth every effort. When we visit, we meet with the Principal and often the lead teacher of the students to advocate for our orphan scholarship students. Then we ask that they be released from class for about 15 minutes so we can hug them, tell then they are dearly loved especially by their American sponsors and give them a small package filled with dormitory toiletries and supplies. We encourage them to do their very best at school and ask them if they are experiencing any difficulties. If they are, we fight vigorously to represent them and solve the problems. You see our scholarship students mostly live in boarding schools and do not have parents visiting them and advocating for them on the once per month student visitation days. Also during our visits, we take lots of photos for our dear American sponsors, so they can see how they are faring.
In the United States we have so much to be thankful for. Our children and grandchildren are assured of a solid and secure education Kindergarten through Grade 12. In Kenya, there are so many fees attached to education and the average working parent is very lucky to be employed and making $450 - $700 per year while secondary education costs at least $400 per year. Kenyans have a choice: Eat or send their kids to school!
This day in Kenya was Madaraka Day or the celebration of Kenya’s independence from colonization in 1963. Most major businesses and schools were closed. This was a good opportunity for us to meet families in Western Province from the Iranda and Lufumbo area who are involved in our IGLA (Income Generating Learning Activity) projects. We talked and visited with two families, but we will tell you about Francis and his family today. Francis is a member of the Lufumbo school management committee. We have known him for two years. At each school committee meeting he is selected by the chairman to say opening and closing prayers as he is a very spiritual man. Francis is strikingly handsome and always attends school meetings in a crisp clean shirt and neat slacks. By looking at him, you would think that he is a more advantaged Kenyan than most. A visit to his home really brought us back to African realities. Francis does have a decent size plot of land to raise a few chickens and to plant some crops from which to live, however, his home is made of mud with a tin roof. It is the size of many of our outdoor tool sheds in America. Like Francis, the house is neat and tidy as are the grounds. All around the house are 4 x 4 foot plots with different crops in each square. This is called square foot gardening. Some plots are circular, some square and some rectangular all bordered with earthen bricks. Francis said that he has given the gardens different shapes to add beauty. Truly, he succeeded as the area was as stunning as an English garden (only edible and life-sustaining!). Francis lives with his wife, two children and his elderly mother. The extended family lives in homes adjacent to their land.
Francis is the first participant in our dairy goat and breeding project called Shiebu. Today we visited to see the final construction of the raised shed that will house the 6 goats (5 does and 1 buck). We wish we were able to send you a photo of Francis, his family and this remarkable structure made of local materials. We will do so when we return to the States and the technology is a bit better. I lost count of how many children and adults were following us as we went from one area to another inside the goat pen. The line of children grew and grew as we left the goat structure and set out for the field of crops that were planted to feed the goats. Odera, (secretary of Shiebu) and Bill were at the head of the pack as we walked toward the plantation of caliandra trees. Bill stopped for a moment and turned to look at the path behind him and the line of children and adults was as long as a football field! How proud this small community was to be the first in the area to be able to raise and breed dairy goats that will support 12 families! It was a very moving moment.
After our tour, Joanne asked Francis if he sells any of his crops. Francis said that for the most part, the crops are to feed his family. When he has extra, he goes to market and sells his surplus. With the few shillings he makes he is able to buy items such as soap and other essentials.
This beautiful, proud, spiritual, grateful man is providing for his family and is loved by the community. He is a role model in his village as he is looked up to as a loving and caring husband, father and provider. We were also moved by the power and depth of this Kenyan family.
When we give presentations on Africa in the U.S., we often talk about the difficulty of returning home and “living large” American style after seeing what people in the rest of the world must endure and sacrifice in order to survive. When we return later this month, we will be faced again with the dilemma of riches. We will find comfort knowing that so many of you continue to support the less fortunate and that you are giving hope to thousands of people in Africa by providing them with a chance to be self-sufficient.
Thank you so very much for enabling us to bring your comfort to so many here in Africa. Without exaggeration, you are literally saving lives in a time when too many Africans do not know where they will get their next meal.
Asante Sana (Thank you very much)
Mungu Awabariki (God bless all of you)
Until America…….
Bill and Joanne Cala
Joining Hearts and Hands
9 Fieldston Grove
Fairport, NY 14450 USA
In Kenya: Novelty Guest House
Kisumu, Kenya
Cell in Kenya: 254- 0735-359989

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