Monday, May 11, 2009

Quasi Sudan Reunion

Job Odero and his wife

For those of you who have been following my blog since I left for Sudan in 2007, you might remember Job Odero, the Kenya missionary teacher who came to Ikotos at the same time as me. Job and I were the only foreigners at the school and faced many hardships together as we tried to improve the school. The existing teachers, who were mainly untrained, were resistant to change in "their" school, so it was a slow process. When I left Sudan (almost a year ago now-- May 22nd), I prayed for Job, and was worried about him being the only foreigner at the school continuely trying to make improvements.

Two Sundays ago I went to an Africa Inland Church service in Migori, the neighboring big town. After the service I spoke with the pastor, mentioning that I used to work in a school in Sudan with someone named Job Odero. The pastor's response was "Oh yeah, I know him." My response was "Are you sure? I doubt its the same one." So I made motions like an extremely skinny person and said "does he look like this? And is he a bit brown (which means that he's lighter)?" The pastor insisted he was the one, but he wasn't sure if he was in Sudan or not, so I gave the pastor my cell number to relay to Job or his wife.

On Thursday night, I received a random phone call from a number I didn't recognize-- I almost didn't answer it. Of course, it was Job! So we talked for a bit and decided to meet up on Sunday for church and then go to his house for lunch. Francis came along too, a.) because I'm not supposed to travel alone (Nuru Rules) and b.) Francis wanted to meet Job. Francis heard a lot about Job last Sunday upon my finding out that Migori was Job's home area. So he wanted to meet the man in the flesh.

So yesterday we did just as planned. We took the matatu (taxi van) into Migori, met Job on the outskirts of downtown, and proceeded to church. His oldest daughter and youngest son met us at the church. It was so cool to be at church with Job again, but this time seeing him with his family that I'd heard so much about while we were in Sudan. After church, we walked to his house, which wasn't far, and as I walked in the door, his wife gave me the biggest hug in the world. She's a thin lady, but it was quite the bone crushing variety of hug. During lunch, Job and I caught up on all the happenings of the school in Ikotos, from the time I left to February when he returned. Truly, he has suffered a lot of hardships at that school. There were some disgruntled (alcoholic) teachers who wanted to see Job in jail or beaten. I'd like to add right here that Job was by far the most moral and upright person at that school, and so any charges against him were positively devious. The former deputy head master, Otim-- who I had fired because of drunkenness and sexual harassment towards the female students, and I didn't pay him his salary in the end because he never showed up to work--had bribed a police officer to have Job thrown in jail. Within the same day, as Pastor Tobiolo, who's now like the mayor of the town, realized what happened, Otim quickly ran to the jail and forced Job to leave, fearing that he'd be found out for his devious act.

Through all of this hardship, the main reason for Job's return home was because of the lack of payment for working at the Ikotos school. His wife has been trying to support the children as Job attempts to receive payment for doing God's work; but now his oldest daughter is entering high school, which is a big expense. Job shared with me that when he came back home, he managed to scrounge up enough money to pay for 1st term, which was 20,000 Kenyan Shillings (roughly $260) , but as 2nd term has started, he's unable to send her. The cost for 2nd and 3rd terms are 10,000 Kenyan shillings each. Job found a job (ok, I know how funny that sentence is) at a local private primary school. He's been working there for a month now, and is paid approximately 10,000 Kenyan Shillings a month. The main thing is for him to be able to get off his feet after 2 years of not being paid a salary. At the moment I'm trying to think of ideas on how to help him do that. He's not like the people I'm working with in Nyametaburo and Nyang'iti, he was a successful teacher in Nairobi for many years; and his wife was a successful business lady until her kiosk was burnt to the ground during the election riots. It was only from meeting the AIC bishop of Sudan, and feeling God's leading to assist them at the school, did Job encounter such a financial situation.

...And so that was my Sunday.

Job with his family:

Job with his entire family, including his mom, aunt, nieces and nephews (that he helps support because some of his siblings have died from disease):

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Staff Development Day

Yesterday (May 9th) we held a staff development day at our house. The Community Development Chairmen (CDC) came over and we discussed everything from banking, to female empowerment, to maps. Philip Mahochi (our head chairman and community business guy) taught the rest of the CDC how to keep a budget and do their own books. The CDC came to Aerie saying that they wanted to be the first to know how to budget and save, as to set a good example for the rest of the community.

Afterwards, somehow a huge and long discussion on women's rights came up. It was really interesting because their were only 3 of us females in the group, and 7 males. The ones who did the most talking were Philip and Francis. The cool thing was that Francis, being the same age as Philip, comes from a more modern camp, while Philip is more traditional. I say traditional in that Philip romanticizes the good ol' days of Kurian culture, back when men walked first on a journey to protect the women; and women got water while the men would accompany her, bow and arrow in-hand, to protect her from lions and rival clans. However, as Francis pointed out, that is no longer the case; and instead, the women do basically everything from washing, cooking, farming, watching the children, etc. while the men sit idle (not all the men, but especially the newer generations). Nellie, who is one of the younger women (younger than Eunice, but older than me) spoke up a few times which was great. Philip even brought up scriptures and then Francis and him were battling out the scriptures interpretation and so that's when I busted out 2 Tim and also Ephesians 5. I really enjoyed having this discussion with them, and that Philip and Francis could offer up the two different views.

At the end of the discussion we walked to Philip's house for lunch; and then walked back to our house for more banking and budgeting talk which Aerie led. Following that, I updated them on what Francis and I have learned about the schools; and then we all had a brainstorm as a group about what needs to be done. Very helpful. When that was through Chris showed everyone the map that he's been working on of our whole area-- including where we live and some places around our house, as well as all the places we work.

Concluding the day, we all went to Border Point Hotel and restaurant for dinner to have some laughs as a team. The whole of Saturday was fun and informative!

Aerie showing off his business and budgeting stylings:

Chris discussing water and showing off his cool map of the area that was created with lots of walking:

At Border point:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Baseline

In case you all have been wondering about Eunice, I went to her house the next day, brought her lunch, and we talked about her daughter's future. Then, the next day we talked again, after she visited her daughter, and both of them are doing better. They're thinking that once the baby is born and weened, the daughter will go to a vocational college, such as a teacher college, and the baby will stay with Eunice for 2 years. Thanks for your prayers.

So, what have I been doing work related for the past few weeks? Well, as I briefly mentioned in the last posting, I've been working from home/my office imputing data from the field into spread sheets. One of the big parts of Nuru is creating a baseline for each new project, in all 5 area of development. Once the baseline data is computed, then, for education, I'm projecting what our exit will look like. For example, as of now there is only 1 secondary school for the whole area; and it is inadequate at best. So, for the exit projection, there should be 2 fully-functioning and self-sustaining secondary schools-- one in each sub-location: Nyametaburo (existing) and Nyang'iti (TBA).

To decide on what the baseline is for our area, I had to collect the data in several different ways: going to each school, random sampling of household surveys, and surveying the students. Two of the hardest things to identify right now are a.) population and b.) literacy levels. The last census was done in 1999 and the next one won't be done until 2009; and so I'm using their projections for 2009, from 10 years ago, along with the findings from the surveys. I need to know how many children go to school out of the total amount of children in each area. Another snag in the process is that many of the children from bordering towns come from Tanzania. The Tanzanian curriculum doesn't teach in English, but rather Kiswahili, and most parents want their children to learn English. That's great that the TZ children are able to go to public school here, however its horrible from a research standpoint.

As for literacy, the last National literacy test was held in 2006, which isn't so out of date. The only problem with it is that they only tested from age 15 and up; and lumped the scores by District (i.e. Kuria as a whole, not by sub-locations such as Nyametaburo). Because of this, I'm debating holding a literacy test for the primary level, but still not sure which is the best format to use. If any of you teachers have some ideas, let me know. I know many of you who read this are all too familiar with IEPs and SpEd testing.

Currently, my counterpart, Francis, is tirelessly hiking around our 5 areas doing the household survey. He's doing to 10 houses in each of the 5 locations. I'm hoping to compile a guesstimation of the total amount of children versus the total amount enrolled. I'm also hoping to identify the total amount of disabled children are in the area. Mentally disabled children here don't go to school at all; and physically disabled children may or may not, depending on the severity of the handicap.

While Francis hikes around, I'm here typing the information that he brings me, along with creating a nice little package of research for our research team in Ohio, who are amazing and will do a lot of number crunching that I can't do. I sent a rough draft in to Gaby, the lead researcher, last Friday, and yesterday received feedback. So today I'm working on refining the baseline packet so that it will look nice to our reviewers. One of the things that sets Nuru apart is that we are having outside NGOs review our research for accountability and efficiency. We'll then take the review, evaluate it, and trim the "fat" from our data for a streamline NGO 2.0 development machine.

I took a break from the baseline this morning to update you all. The last entries have been sad, and not much about the work itself. Hopefully this entry helps all of you to understand more about what I'm doing on the Education side of things.

In 2 weeks our team will be taking a month-long break from the project. When living out here, it is important to leave the area, look away from the work, relax, and once refreshed, come back to the project with fresh eyes. Kind of like writing a paper for school-- when you're in the thick of things, with your head down and nose to the grind too long, things get muddy. An NGO 2.0 wants to be fresh, not muddy. As for me, I'm meeting up with one of my best-friends, Rachel, who's been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho since last June. We're meeting in Mozambique to catch up on the beach. After that, I'm visiting friends in Nairobi; Kampala, Uganda; and in Ikotos, S.Sudan (where I used to live). I cannot wait to see all my friends out here! But, until the end of next week, head down, and nose to the grind stone-- there's work still to be done.