Christmas or anarchy?!

This week has really flown by (in stark contrast to the first week). But I am so exhausted I am relieved that the weekend has finally arrived. That’s a good thing, because it means I have been making the most of my time here. It’s midday on Friday and I have just cycled back from the morning session at the school. No afternoon session today so the long awaited weekend starts here.

I guess you’re probably waiting to hear how yesterday morning went when we dished out 200 pairs of shoes and outfits to the kids in the morning session. Well, it was manic. But well worth it. We decided to scrap the normal procedure of splitting the class up and following lesson plans. Instead, we kept the whole class occupied in the main building by singing songs and colouring things in, whilst we took 10 boys and 10 girls at a time around the back of the school under the shade of the trees to kit out in new t-shirts/dresses, shorts/skirts, underwear and shoes. The kids were surprisingly good when it came to waiting outside to be dressed up in their new outfits. I don’t think they quite grasped what was going on at first, but it didn’t take long for things to sink in. A team of us took each child and individually searched the piles of clothes to find appropriate outfits. When each group of kids had been dressed a volunteer walked them home into the village to ensure they weren’t mixed up with the rest of the kids.

Me, Maggie and Robbie with the clothes, preparing for a barrage of kids

Me, Maggie and Robbie with the clothes, preparing for a barrage of kids

The difficulty was that it took such a long time to dress the kids up that by normal school finishing time we had only got through two or three lots of kids. The result was that the kids waiting obliviously in the hall became uncontrollable. It is only possible to occupy 180 kids in a confined space for a short while. So I gather (I stayed outside dishing out clothes) that the teachers lost all sense of control by the end, save the ability to keep them in the class room. The other, perhaps more detrimental effect, was that parents began to wonder up to the school wondering why their kids had not yet returned home. Word soon got around the village thus that the muzungus (white people) were giving out free clothes and shoes. Thus, towards the end of the session parents were bringing children up that weren’t from the school and trying to get them new clothes also. It was sad but we had to turn people away because we didn’t have enough for the entire village. It was also slightly frustrating that the locals seemed to get the impression that they could come up and choose clothes for themselves (or their children) rather than us giving them to them.

By the end there was slim picking of clothes and although we had bought enough for all the children in the school we had underestimated how skinny the kids were when buying the clothes and so by the end it was impossible to find clothes that fit. It’s so difficult because no matter how much resources we have it will always be impossible to distribute to the entire village in an orderly fashion. As a result we had to stop before all of the kids had received clothes. Some, who had endured the morning and waited until the end inevitably had to go home with nothing. But we wrote down their names so that we can distribute any new clothes that come in directly to them. I still have money to spend on resources so this may be something we can do next week.

Every last bit of energy was sapped out of me dressing the kids and trying to keep some kind of order. The good thing was that the kids that did receive new clothes (and there was over a hundred of the little critters who received complete new outfits) were ecstatic. When I walked a group of kids home the boys were running around comparing their new shoes with their friends and the girls were constantly hugging me and trying to kiss my hands. Some of the kids were saying in Swahili that they weren’t going to wear their new shoes in the toilets because they didn’t want to get them dirty. This demonstration of appreciation was really heart warming and it is this memory that reminds me that, although we couldn’t help every individual child in the village, at least the little bit that we were able to do made a big difference.

Proud kids walking home in their new outfits

Proud kids walking home in their new outfits

Last night was a bit emotional in the volunteer house as it was Maggie and Robbie’s last night before flying back to the States early this morning. They were the biggest donors in terms of buying clothes and shoes for the school kids, and they evidently found it difficult to leave. It is also sad to think that Jenny and Lauren will be leaving on Sunday. They are both teachers from the States and so contribute a lot to the functioning of the school. The current group of volunteers has worked so well together it is sad to think that the dynamic has to change again. But I am looking forward to meeting new people and passing on our roles on to the next lot in preparation for our own departure.

School resumed as normal in the afternoon session but there were twice as many kids. A lot of new children who don’t go to the school turned up expecting to receive new clothes from us and my normal class of 30 doubled in size. I counted well over 60 kids and it was difficult to fit them all in the small outbuilding. We did manage to keep the class under control at large though, and the afternoon session went well. Peter (the co-coordinator of TAYOA) turned up at one point accompanied by a Scottish chap from ‘Feed the Children.’ I was busy with the class when they arrived but the guy was apparently looking into the possibility of his charity providing porridge to the school kids in the morning sessions. Will be interesting to see how that turns out.

This morning it was great to see the kids in their new outfits. The class was noticeably bigger after yesterday’s events and a lot of small kids too young to really learn anything turned up. They are all instructed to take their shoes of before sitting down, but today many of them tried to hide their new shoes behind the tables to keep them safe. Friday is games day so instead of normal teaching we split the class into three and took them around an obstacle course. It was great fun; chaotic as usual but good to see the kids getting a bit of exercise (not that they are lacking it – I doubt they spend any time at all cooped up in their mud huts).

Me & my pal

Me & my pal

There is one kid (I am yet to work out his name) who has formed some what of an attachment to me. He must be 2 or 3 at the oldest and is really kinda cute. He has got into the habit of running up to me to be lifted up and cuddled, and now whenever he sees me his little face lights up. It’s so great to feel that you are having such an impact on a child that is probably deprived of such affection at home. It is definitely noticeable how those kids that are not treated well at home really do appreciate a bit of affection at school. All the kids love the attention, but some in particular seem to need it more than others. Anyway, I’ve never heard my little guy say anything before. He seems content on his own playing with the other kids but I’ve never really seen him make much of an attempt at interacting. Today however I was carrying him on the walk home and the other kids were singing one of the counting songs we sing in class. The little guy looked at me and very quietly mumbled a few numbers with me whilst I joined in with the singing. I found this to be quite a special moment.

That’s enough for the moment, I’m off to join some of the other volunteers down on the private beach by the Bahari Beach Hotel. A few well deserved drinks at the bar by the waters edge are definitely in order I think!

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