Monday, December 8, 2008

My Peace Corps Project

Last Monday was World Aids Day, a very big deal in Kenya. We attended an all day event with a parade, singing, speeches, dancing and eating.

For eight weeks/six now, here in Loitokitok, we are being trained in 3 areas, language (Kiswahili), culture and business/technology. In order to "graduate" from trainee to volunteer, we must show competency in all areas. We are requird to seek out, design and implement a sustainable project during this time working with our project/business partner. I have been assigned, David Kioto, an HIV/AIDS communal, co-op volunteer coordinator. HIV/AIDS is a huge problem in Kenya. His group, KISM, which stands for a well of hope, meets weekly. There are a proximately 107 members of this group in 4 villages, 50 plus in Loitokitok near whre I live. They all are HIV/AIDS positive. My proect focus is finding sponsors to fund secondary education for children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school (it is not free here). There are currently 70 children in eed just in this one group. I will be looking to America for sponsorhip funding. Since teechnology is so limited, other then cell phones, we may be dealing with snailmail, and email versus a websit, the ideal. I'll need and apapreciate any help you all gvie provide. The highest level of sponsorhip is a $350.00 per year commitment for four years. The lowest is $245.00 for one year, there are 6 levels needed. This is the amount needed after the government has paid $135.00 and the parents have paid $27.00 plus books and supplies. A Kenyan family of four needs about 25,000 shilingi to live ($340.00 USD) per month. School begins again on January 5th- but this a long term project. I am currently developing a sponsorship form with a child/family bio, photo and need.

Current issues - people in Kenya are very hungry as prices of some staples have doubled since May. The rains have been coming but it is not enough for the maize and beans. To send a blog is about twice the price of lunch so today it is the blog!! My family here is praying for me not to leave - I take that as a compliment. Everything else is good, I am adjusting perfectly and I love the food, it is very healthy. We have taken long hikes on some weekends .

More soon . . . they love Baarack Obama here . . . I hope ALL is well with all of you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Greetings From Loitokitok

I am living with a family at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro very close to the Tanzania border. The mountain is a spectacular sight every morning and night, it hides in clouds during the day. My family is wonderful, Mama Mary, her son Francis, wife Mary, sons Daniel (8) and Peter (6). We have no electricity or running water as expected but everyone in Kenya has a cell phone. We live about a 30 to 40 minute walk from town and our training sight. Internet access here is VERY limited and very expensive (4 computers in town) so I will blog more hopefully when access is better and cheaper. Due to the devaluation of the dollar the Peace Corps budget has been stretched so they are condensing 12 weeks of training into 8 weeks; so there is tremendous pressure to learn Kiswahili, the culture, how to live on your own in Africa and our job for the next 2 years. There are overwhelming hours of homework done by lantern or candlelight. It rains most every afternoon ant it is very muddy, nights are cool and days are very warm. I love the food, lots of FRESH fruits (oranages, bananas, passion fruit, watermelon, papaya, mango) and veggies, some meat (cow and goat), lots of chai tea, no coffee. Your diet varies very little.

This experience is wonderful and challenging and not for the meek or timid.

More later . . . Salama sana and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The First Day, Plus . . .

Habari za asubuhi my family and friends!

The first day was good fun, meeting new people and generally getting oriented to the Peace Corps way and turning in paperwork, etc. We have a large group (43) from all over the US - 2 of us from Central Florida. Most are young people just out of school or very early in their careers, about 6 or 8 are closer to my age, all singles, I believe. Nine of them are Deaf Educators the balance of us are teachers, business and technology folks with a wide variety of backgrounds. The instructors are full of energy and a wonderful group of return volunteers.

Today we leave for Kenya; bus departs at 10:00 a.m. (of course I have been up since 5:00 a.m. or so) then our flight leaves JFK at 6:15 p.m. arriving in Nairobi (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) at 8:25 p.m. on Thursday. We spend one night at the Lukenya Getaway 30 minutes from the airport. We begin (Friday) with breakfast at 6:00 a.m. followed by a few hours of administrative paperwork, instruction and meeting our in-country Peace Corps staff. Then at 10:30 a.m. we depart for Loitokitok (where they are just beginning the rainy season and expect it to be very wet and muddy) by bus for a 6 1/2 hour (270 kilometers) trip. The next two days are spent learning about our host families, receiving additional immunization shots as needed. We started malaria prophylaxis last night and that will continue during our entire service. We will also meet our medical and training teams and begin one-on-one interviews with trainers, I expect for placement purposes. That is what I know for now.

I am thrilled to finally be on my way. I can't stop smiling, my heart is filled with hope and my eyes (at the moment) filled with tears of joy!!

More later . . .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day 2008, today I depart for Peace Corps service, how appropriate. My life "reduced" to two (I hope not too heavy) duffel bags and a backpack. They have yet to tell me where in Kenya I am going, I assume they know or not . . .

Yesterday, I walked and walked, enjoying everything about the beautiful city of Winter Park I have grown to love and thinking about my wonderful family and the many friends I am leaving behind for now. I cherish each of you and will think of you often.

I have a few butterflies but I am filled, sometimes overwhelmed, with anxious anticipation to start a new chapter in my life.

Thank you for all of your love and support.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Many thanks to my good friends Larry and Lyzette for their blog setup assistance and photo contributions!!

I remember sitting at their computer the first time just to complete the Peace Corps application process in February . . . now it is two weeks until I leave for Kenya. Lyzette's encouragement and support has seen me through. Many thanks to all my friends and family for their support as well. It means the world to me.

I still have a few loose ends to tie up but all will happen by the time I leave on Tuesday the 11th. I feel like I am camping out in my apartment . . . good training for the next 27 months. I treasure the running water, the light switches and that little handle on the toilet, for now.

More later . . .

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Ready To Go!!!!!

This is my first practice blog . . . thank you Lyzette for making this happen! I will have limited computer access - they tell me, maybe once a month but I will try to stay in touch as is possible.

Today, just before I am scheduled to leave - I see the dentist for a "surprise: root canal. Better now than 3 weeks from now.

Received my ticket yesterday to report for "staging" in Philadelphia on Tuesday, November 11th - staging is more paperwork and some government required information prior to departure on Wednesday night for Kenya!!

I try to accomplish a bit more packing and "getting" ready each day. My goal is to fit 55 years of memories and very little "stuff" into a 5x10 space - lesson in creative stacking.

Thanks to all of my wonderful Florida friends for the "good-bye" get togethers. I will miss you all!!!