We are pleased to report that the Open World Cause team has been on the ground and working in Kenya concluding day one on location in Kimilili. After a full day of travel (and then some), our van and supplies rolled into the village just in time for school to start in the morning.
We awoke to begin our trek to the village on the morning of May, 23rd and proceeded to several locations along the way where we attempted take in some sights. While we intended to make it to the village that night, preparations for our arrival and traffic in Nairobi complicated that process. We spent that night in Eldoret (about 3 hours from Kimilili), bartered with a local merchant for beds that would arrive during our stay and took the opportunity to buy a few groceries, as well.
After our arrival in Kimilili on the morning of the 24th at 8:30 AM, we had introductions with the students, teachers and administrative staff before diving into our field work which included class evaluations, structural analysis, grounds mapping, documentation via video, photos and note-taking. We also demonstrated the medical evaluation procedures during our community meeting. Overall, the parents and HIP administrative council at large received our dedication of service to their community well. We introduced ourselves, our ambitions and our desire to return to the village many times in the future. We greeted and spoke briefly with each parent of the school, which served to familiarize everyone and create quick friendships.
We concluded our meeting and moved on to our first lunch, containing some incredible home-cooked items prepared by Livingstone’s mother. During a long walk around the community, we also saw the river where children cross (treacherously, we should add), the spring pipe for drawing water and numerous areas of the village where houses spread across farmland and homesteads.
We returned for the evening to organize our rooms and unpack following the arrival of our beds, ate a great dinner and had our first debrief meeting of the trip. Though we had had numerous pivotal conversations throughout our van rides and planning for this trip, it will be these meetings that reveal the most about our findings each day. Following are some notable quips from our first meeting.
“I have scheduled a meeting with the headmistress of the school. It is essential that we understand the school’s documentation and operation. We need to establish an understanding for the students present and how the teachers interact with them.”
Melissa provides a crucial perspective that comes from working in developing countries across the world, but especially her experiences in Africa. She is ready to better understand the issues at the school and some of the comments we have heard from parents during the stay thus far. She has also emphasized that recommendations about school structures are one of the most important aspects our team must develop. She and Connor spent a great amount of time assessing common issues and potentially fixable problems ongoing at the school.
Brooke noted that it is especially difficult to see this way of life firsthand. There are things that are harrowing relative to our perspective, but we acknowledge that this kind of culture shock is part of the work.
“HIP Africa provides an amazing service to give students an opportunity to learn. Incredible to glimpse the excitement parents had about the help we could give their children.”
Brooke’s medical evaluations will begin in full today, which will help us better understand health issues faced by the students. We are hopeful that her demonstration during the community meeting helped the children understand the importance of supporting health.
Hunter is our student representative, taking video and photos often to help us document the trip. He offers a crucial point of view as someone who is experiencing much of these lessons our group faces at a young age.
“Electrical hookups were started at the school, but the project was unfinished. Naked wires being a common sight was slightly unsettling.”
Among numerous observations like the one above, he noted that it’s amazing to see the happiness that students possess during class and during games time.
Using his architectural background, Connor has been studying the structure of buildings the school uses in addition to a study of the terrain and grounds surrounding. There are numerous issues that need to be combated in order for the school’s longevity to be assured. Observation of the type of construction that occurs here is becoming part of the overarching analysis.
“Water runoff around the latrine and numerous other foundations around school buildings is concerning. It creates washout and erosion that are ultimately going to affect how the school’s future develops. We need to make recommendations about new buildings and construction at the school to help satisfy the requests of the community, ensure the safety of the children and create sustainable growth at the school.”
Further analysis will continue through conversations with builders used for the school, in addition to testing latrine depths and water tank sediment levels.
While working to assess classrooms, and as the leading representative of the Open World Cause, Ben has worked to understand and evaluate instruction and to understand the engagement of the students from a comprehensive learning perspective.
“We are left with a lot of questions about the activities of the teachers and and reactions of the students vary. The head teacher is incredibly well composed: front loaded instruction, came with lessons prepared, and allows students to engage. Some of the other instructors have some work to do on this front.”
Ben has noted in particular that instruction could be improved by making some simple changes to the overall approach.
John, one of our tech gurus and documentarians, helped to establish an understanding of the grounds and mapped an overall layout for us to follow and make digital on our return home. It ultimately helps to establish an approach to optimizing structural locations on the grounds in addition to identifying issues present with the current arrangement. This will help us to make recommendations about the development process in the future.
John also had some informative conversations with Livingstone and Frederick about ideas surrounding the current state of the school.
“The gardens used to be larger, so they are hoping to expand them again at some point in the future. This occurred because more space needed to be opened up for play areas.”
John was really impressed by the community meeting and enjoyed conversing so many members of the local HIP board of directors.
Natalie paid a great amount of attention to classroom logistics and language instruction. On the whole, she observed that qualities surrounding the learning of a language are difficult to nail down when instruction uses little in the way of student response. She also thinks that coursebooks or use of the iPads to offer students a self-driven mode of learning could help offer supplemental development in their use of English.
She noted that the prevailing need to switch back and forth between Swahili and English is causing problems for the overall process.
She will continue to develop an understanding of language issues and how the school can make progress in these areas.
“I was also impressed with the headmistress and was delighted to see the way the children interacted outside, especially in that the teachers seemed truly engaged during those moments.”
Overall, our interactions and extractions from these first experiences have been extremely informative and we are excited to see what else can be learned.