Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hope for the future, by Megan MacDonald

With all that’s going on around the world these days, it’s easy to doubt whether as a collective humanity we’ll be able to pull out of the various ruts we’ve dug ourselves into. From the vantage of leading nations' failing economies to the continued violence in countries that have yet to establish stable governments or triumph over dictators and warlords, the future often looks quite bleak. As individuals, we feel powerless to combat such massive forces, and as nations we have our hands full with our own problems. When the headlines get personal, I find it’s extremely important to seek perspective wherever we can, and often the greatest inspiration and reminder that all is not lost is found in a gathering of children - those who will either inherit the problems we fail to fix, or with the proper encouragement and investment will take it upon themselves to fix them.

I have visited Red Rose a couple times since arriving in Nairobi (though not nearly as frequently as I’d like to) and from my first visit I was struck by the absolute joy of the children I met. Attempting to make a foreign country your home can be challenging at times, and in my first weeks and months I was constantly made aware of just how much I had to learn about conducting life and simply getting around here. To join the children at Red Rose on a Friday morning, participate in their recreation time, spin circles and sing songs with them helped me take a step back from my need to understand my new home in all its complexity and struggle. For a morning I could simply indulge in the thrill of life that most adults capture infrequently at best, but which comes very easily to children whose synapses and neurons are still actively developing and connecting as they take in the world around them. I was also impressed with the layout and attitude of the school. Though it’s small and there are many children to serve, I didn’t observe the authoritarianism and over-strictness you sometimes see at schools where resources and funding are limited. I saw children being indulged in their natural inclinations and expressions as kids, and learners eager to tackle their studies and explore new things.

I learned about Red Rose from a friend of a friend after seeking a partner school for a penpal project some children in Orange County, CA wanted to start as part of a Ripple Kids effort. In the hopes of gaining international insight and making new friends, Lauren and Audrey Benedict and their respective classes compiled a set of letters for me to carry to Kenya, and I committed to find a school. A few exchanges of cards and pictures have since been shared, and the project is helping the kids in both places to better understand life in a foreign country, while at the same time identifying the common ground they share as children. In a recent exchange the kids from Red Rose utilized donated computers and cameras to compile picture books of the kids’ homes and neighborhoods, and the kids in Orange County loved them. Perhaps more importantly, they helped them to realize how much they have to be thankful for in their own lives – perspective that will no doubt help them grow into more conscious global citizens and leaders.

For those of us fortunate to have resources to share, it can be overwhelming to know how to best direct donations, gifts and social investments in order to promote the greatest benefit and change. Given the situation in Kenya, the U.S. and the world as a whole, ensuring our children are educated and inspired in their learning has to be considered an essential investment if we are to work our way out of the many challenges we face. Creating partnerships and raising children who understand the generosity of foreign nations, and conversely helping people to realize the importance of helping those abroad in sustainable ways can help rebuild faith in our common humanity, and eventually, ensure we have the resources and brain power across the globe to fix the economic, political and social issues that so concern us today.

Megan MacDonald is a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar pursuing an M.A. in Development Studies at the University of Nairobi.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friends from Intercontinental Hotels and Children's Hope Foundation, Dubai

We had the honor of hosting Ms. Aditi Daga for a visit at the Red Rose School. Ms. Daga is the Public Relations and Marketing Manager of Intercontinental Dubai Festival City (Dubai). SHe brought along with her Barry, a colleague from Dubai, and Kavi Mwenda, the Public Relations Manager of the Intercontinetal Hotel in Nairobi. Ms. Aditi came on a mission to meet the children and teachers at Red Rose after learning about their school on the internet. As a member of the Dubai based Children's Hope Foundation , Ms. Aditi was also able to bring many boxes filled with toys and school supplies, plus a generous check donation to support the work of the Children of Kibera Foundation. We are very grateful for the visit and thank Ms. Aditi, Children's Hope Foundation, Barry, Kavi and all their supporters for these helpful donations to the Red Rose School. Click on the picture below to view an album with more pictures from their visit.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bronxville School, New York

Mr. Wilson, Principal of Bronxville School welcomes teacher Emmily Minayo and Ken Okoth to the morning assembly and presentation about Red Rose and Children of Kibera to half of the students and teachers. We had a second presentation later for the other children too! A nice group with many good questions about Kenya.

LitWorld Founder and Director Pam Allyn, our host in the New York City area, speaks with the children and talks about her visit to Red Rose in August 2008.

Red Rose School on Voice of America TV

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baltimore and Washington DC Exploration

After a night of resting and recovering from the long intercontinental flights, Emmily was ready to explore and discover some of America. Her hosts for the weekend, Ken and Monica, took her to visit the port city of Baltimore, one hour away from Washington, DC. It was a day full of new images, impressions, sounds, and tastes. Here are some photos!

Click here for Picasa Web Album of DC and Baltimore Photos

Friday, March 20, 2009

Amefika Amerika? Ndiyo, Amefika Amerika!

"Has she arrived in America? Yeah, she has arrived in America!"  
The first photos of Ms. Emmily Minayo on arriving at Washington Dulles Airport in Virginia. She's whole yet very exhausted after nearly two days of flying from Nairobi to London (8 hours) then London to DC (8 hours).

We stopped at the Potomac School to pick up Ken's laptop. The buildings and the campus in general, do NOT look anything like the Red Rose School, hence the photo above, taken by Emmily. Let the culture shock begin!

Teacher Emmily of Red Rose Coming to the USA

Ms. Emmily Minayo, nursery classroom teacher at Red Rose left Kenya on Thursday March 19th 2009 on a history making visit to the USA. She will be in the USA until April 12th on a teacher exchange visit between the Potomac School of McLean Virginia and Red Rose School in Kibera, Nairobi. The trip is sponsored by the Children of Kibera Foundation to reciprocate a visit in July 2008 by Ms. Cindy Cheadle, a second grade teacher at Potomac who was at Red Rose for two weeks. 

While in the USA, Ms. Minnayo will get a chance to go on a road trip for a week in the NorthEast, visiting Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachussetts, Maine, New Hampshire,Vermont, Pennsylvannia, Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. Ms. Minayo will have a chance to connect with organizations and schools that support children and teacher at the  Red Rose School. In NY, she will visit LitWorld and LitWorld partner schools in Ardsley, Hastings, Bronxville, and Brooklyn. She will also visit St. Lawrence University and the Unitarian Universalist Church Sunday School in Canton. 

In her second and third weeks in the USA, she will be based at the Potomac School, shadowing different teachers, meeting with learning specialists, librarians, students, and parents. She will observe classes and make presentations to different groups. 

In Washington, Ms. Minayo will have a chance to visit major sites like the White House, the House of Congress on Capitol Hill, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Smithsonian Museums. She will speak at a reception and benefit event for the Children of Kibera Foundation on Saturday April 4th. Please contact Ken Okoth for more information.

Friday, March 13, 2009

American Women Association of Kenya Visit Red Rose

American Women’s Association (AWA) is a nonprofit, charitable organization promoting community services and development and volunteering opportunities in Kenya as well as providing social and cultural activities for its members. Their members came to Red Rose on a field trip to get to learn and see how the school is doing and some of the programs we have been able to achieve through the help of the Children of Kibera Foundation. On the same day Charles Desantis, a dear friend of the CoKF and Red Rose, was visiting together with a friend Clin and his two sons Dillan and Tim. We received a donation of exercise books and pencils from AWA. The children were very happy. To all our visitors, thanks for your friendship and support. You are most welcome to visit Red Rose again.