Monday, October 27, 2008

Updates at Matonyok

Howdy peoples. Sorry for the delay, but I’m currently working on my third computer in as many months and even this one is a bit temperamental. So, again even though there is a blog there are no pictures. But I’m sure that you can use your imagination

Everything is going incredibly well with the Matoyok sanitation facility. Currently, the entire foundation is finished and the brickwork is nearly completed, which means that the next big step is the roofing and extensive plumbing. This, Ndemno tells me, will be completed the first week of November which means that the tiling, grouting, and finishing touches will be done by – at the latest – the third week of November. Since the timeline projected that the sanitation facility be functional by February, we can hope to have the entire building operating well before the projected opening date.

On that note, the workers have been putting in a lot of time on this project and the progress is staggering. In less than 10 days, they put in over eighteen rows of bricks which, at face value, doesn’t seem that impressive until you couple that with the fact that the number of bricks being used is well over 3,000. Using my recently acquired math teaching skills, this means that the workers put in over 300 bricks a day (a long process including the soaking of the bricks, mixing the cement, cutting bricks to fill awkward gaps in the rows – while keeping all the rows of bricks level – and sticking the entire business together with copious amounts of said cement). Further, using some advanced math teaching techniques, I can deduce that each row of bricks is comprised of between 166 and 167 bricks – a staggering number, especially in light of the fact that these men have done more with 3,000 bricks over the past 10 days then I could hope to accomplish in my life.

And while you might suspect that the quality of construction would be shoddy due to the rapid pace of building, the contractor makes it a point to spend time with the workers every day to make sure that the work is progressing quickly and solidly. He is unafraid to make a worker take out a row of bricks that he feels is not up to snuff – a fact that might irritate the laborer, but in the end will make the entire building that much better. So, that’s all from Eastern Africa. Hope everyone’s enjoying their end of October and have their costumes all picked out for the All Hallows’ Eve celebration. I’m going to be a ninja.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Go Clean - Body Collage

This week of Full Circle was dedicated to Reuse in the 3R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). The program's four groups (Tembo, Nyoka, Kima, and Sunguara) reused old newspaper and magazine clippings to create their own collage art on a cutout shaped like a person!

Pictured here, you'll see a few of the kids hard at work on their collages. Thanks to the donations of local shops StiggBucks, Ciao Gelati, and Msumbi Coffees, each participant was able to choose 5 images to work with for their collage. All of these shops are located in Arusha town within the Shoprite complex. If you are ever in town, stop by Msumbi for some amazing coffees, Stiggbucks for great food, and Ciao Gelati for a tasty desert. 

This week, the kids learned how to use glue properly, and how to share with others so that everyone could have a good time! I was particularly impressed with some of the creative thinking the kids had, like in the picture below. Patrick did not choose any images of human facial features, so used the sunflower he picked as the head of his collage!

Go Clean has proved an extremely enjoyable portion of Full Circle for the kids, and having them in small groups has made a world of difference for me. I have been better able to get the educational aspects of the program across to the kids, and they really seem to be learning! I can't wait until Go Bean, the nutrition portion of the program, which is scheduled to start next month.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Full Circle - Go Clean!

TFFT is proud to present: 

Fully equipped with prideful teams of 6-8 sponsored children doing art projects and learning about the 3R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). I've designed October's activities so that we can take the opportunity to extend September's (GO GREEN) message of environmental conservation. This month, the kids will use creative expression in art projects that emphasize the importance of Reducing the amount of waste we create, Reusing the waste we do create, and Recycling anything we possibly can.

Today, we REUSED empty toilet paper rolls to make rain sticks (you remember them from school. Cardboard tubes filled with rice, beans, stones, that make the sound of rain when you turn them). Special thanks to Mary at The Impala Hotel, Asha and Katherine Lioyd at The Arusha Hotel, and Isabelle Muthoni at Kibo Palace Hotel. They were all kind enough to collect empty TP rolls so that the kids could do this project today! 

Because of the complexity of some of October and November's projects, and the large number of boarding students at Fikiria Kwanza Academy, I've decided to work only with TFFT kids in small groups for the rest of Full Circle. The kids line up eagerly at the dormitory door when their group name is called!

For our rain stick project this evening, we started with Group Tembo (Group Elephant) and Group Nyoka (Group Snake). Pictured at the left is Group Tembo (L to R): Rachel, Namayani, Daniel, Lomanyaki, Stephano, and Odemary. Below is Group Nyoka (L to R): Neema M., Rosie, Athumani, Mandu, Joshua, Neema S., Patrick, and Veronica. They were encouraged to draw any pictures they liked for the outside of their stick, and many of them chose to draw images of rain and growing plants. I was impressed to see how they connected the rain to nature, growth, and life. 

After the younger kids finished their projects, we released them and called the older kids to participate. Group Kima (Group Monkey) pictured to the left, and Group Sungura (Group Rabbit), pictured below were next in line to make their rain tools.
In Group Kima from left to right are Yusufu, Rosemary, Ndera, Mathayo, Joyce E., Sofia, and Helena. In Group Sungura Clockwise from the Left are Amani, Joakim, Magdalena, Mary, and Nancy. Unfortunately, Jesca, Eliupendo, and Joyce W. were not able to participate during the program because they were doing chores. Nancy was kind enough to take them the materials they'll need to make their own rain sticks over the weekend.

The project was enjoyable for all involved, even Alley, my TFFT staff helper today! 


TFFT is working to provide all of our students with quality education and one of the best ways of measuring their knowledge and progress are their grade reports. One of my main goals over the next year is to have all of scholarship students earning at least at "C" average in all of their subjects at school. Almost half of our scholarships students need some special attention oustide of the classroom to help boost their grades to this level. With lots of hard work, encouragement, and afterschool tuition we hope to see the results we desire! I have been tutoring students in English at Fikiria Kwanza on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays and Usa River students on Tuesday and Thursdays. I have been using all kinds of different resources, teacher's advice, websites, syllabus books, old exams, and instructional books. I am still working to find tutors for our students in other subjects which is proving more difficult than I originally thought.

The students at Fikiria Kwanza are much younger than those at Usa River, so we have been working on learning the alphabet, counting, basic math, and spelling. With these younger kids, learning the basics is proving to be a very slow process, much slower than I could have ever imagined. I have been coming up with different learning techniques to keep them interested and excited about coming to tuition. I had number and letter file cards laminated in town in order to play games with them and this has been very successful. They love being able to get up and around with all the energy they have after school. I have also resorted to bribery - sweets for their completed homework. They loooveee Dum-Dums.

At Usa River, I am working with anywhere between 10-15 students in English. (There are always some who are earning about a "C" but still want to come to tuition.. I can't say no to that!) They range from Class 5 - Form One but they are mostly all on the same level so it allows me to teach them all together. It's a real pleasure coming to tutor at Usa River, they are so attentive and willing to learn. I'm surprised that it isn't more of a challenge to get them to dedicate one of the two free hours of the day they have to more schooling. I think it just goes to show their interest in learning. The first subject we worked on were question tags (You went to the market yesterday, didn't you?). Just like at Fikiria Kwanza, it was a very slow process, it took us three weeks to have everybody using the correct question tags.

Since then, we have moved onto explaning and recognizing nouns, pronouns, and personal prounouns. This week we started learning the correct use of "There are..." and "There is..." They seem to be catching on faster and faster with each new concept and I am seeing definite improvements in their English as well as their confidence in themselves. After spending a lot of time with these students after school, I am realizing that although their grades may not always reflect it, they are trying so hard and doing their very best.

Fikiria Kwanza and Usa River send out official grade reports at the end of every term that averages the student's three months of work together. Throughout the term, they will compile grades per month for students as well. The grade averages for September are to be finished by the schools today, I'm looking forward to seeing what improvements have been made. I realize that boosting all of our students to a "C" will be a slow, working progress over the next year but every time they remember that H comes after G or learn how to spell three or know that cat is a noun or can read a whole paragraphy of a story, I know that eventually we will get there!

The weeks are just flying by, I can't believe that it is already the middle of October! Last week I was in Nairobi fundraising and meeting with people regarding our fundraising event on the 28th of February 2009.
I was lucky enought last week to meet with Allavida an organisation that works to transform development funding in East Africa, in order to enable poor and marginalised people transform their lives. They also organise seminars addressing social investment, which I am particularly excited about! The next allavida seminar will take place early next year in Dar. Sign me up!
A definate highlight of the week was going to Kitengela Glass Factory in order to pick up a donation for our Nairobi fundraising event. We set off in a small car-first mistake! I estimated it would take us about an hour to get out there-second mistake! It took us over 2 hours to make it out there, but it was SO worth it! As their website describes it:
"The magical ambience of the place is peppered with sculptures, animals and secret mosaic pathways which lead to niches of busy artisans all transforming recycled glass and scraps of other materials into beautiful artworks, jewellery and home ware."
Magical it was, surreal is also a word that comes to mind! I was in constant awe, it is one of the most incredible places I have ever been to. We were given a tour around the factory, got to watch women make beads, men make vases and wine gobblets, walk on their suspension bridge over a gorge...and we left with a huge box of beautiful items kindly donated by Anselm and Kitengela glass for our auction. All in a days work!
I don't think that a single day goes by here where I do not say to myself "I LOVE my work, I would not want to be anywhere else, or doing anything else" Thank you to TFFT for giving me this opportunity to be here. I am truely truely happy here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

October is here!

October 6 – Well, sorry to everyone about not writing last week. Since it was the end of Ramadan and about a third of the Tanzanian population is Muslim, the Tanzanian Government celebrates Eid as a national holiday. Which makes a great opportunity to head to Nairobi for a few days for a) holiday and b) to do some work. While I must that there was more of the former than the latter, we did procure some interesting donations for the February 28th fundraiser for TFFT (everyone, mark your calendars now. I promise that you’ll be able to sit so near to the head table that you’ll be able to smell my cologne.) I’ll let Lali explain exactly what was donated and where we had to go to pick up said donation. Needless to say, it was like a scene out of a Tim Burton film. But with blown glass instead of socially marginalized lead characters…. I’ve already said too much!

So, now it’s October and we’re back in the swing of things here in Arusha. Headed back to Matonyok today to check on the math scholars… and to make sure that they had been keeping up with the work over these past few weeks, I gave them a test. That’s right, I’m that much of a stickler that I routinely give my math subjects (subjects being the operative word) tests. And, I feel like I can safely say that I’m the hardest non-native, non-Mathematics familiar volunteer teacher this side of Kijenge Chini. Boo yea!

Aside from the academic side of Matonyok, most of the material has already been transported to the center to begin construction of the sanitation facility by the end of this week. That is, if we can manage to buy 40 bags of cement at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, prices fluctuate wildly here in Tanzania, so a bag of cement can range anywhere from 14,500 Tsh to 17,000 Tsh in a given week. Which, I must admit, wreaks havoc on writing a feasible budget for the project. Either way, I’ve been working closely with Emmy and N’demno over the past few weeks to find other legitimate ways of saving money on the construction process, while simultaneously maintaining strict quality guidelines.

So, that’s all for this week. I’d like to get into the history of some of the students at Matonyok (four new since last week… the government keeps approaching Emmy and N’demno to take on new students for various reasons) but I can do that later in the week. Enjoy your whatever day it is!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tree Planting with Trees for the Future

As I've posted, Full Circle (TFFT's Holistic After School Program) is under weigh. Last week, David Tye of Trees For The Future  attended our Thursday session. We had been speaking for some time and he was eager to speak with Fikiria Kwanza's boarding students about the many uses of trees.

Mr. Tye stood before a group of about 40 of them and asked one simple question: "What are trees used for?" They readily volunteered responses. "Firewood!", shouted some of them. "They keep the air clean," said one. With soil and fertilizer donated by the school, we instructed participants to fill polyethene tubes and plant three single seeds.

With pride, participants posed for the camera holding their soon to be tree saplings. When they are ready in a few months, we will transplant the saplings onto Fikiria Kwanza's campus, where the kids can proudly show off their green thumbs!