The First Day of School

Today I experienced my first class at Cindis-Hope. Here they don’t teach by age but grade assessment. Since many of the children experienced spotty learning in school, that means one child might be second grade in math, first grade in English, and third grade in Swahili. Our class has about 6 at any given time.

I worked with Teacher Faith, who is also the head of the elementary division. She showed me the ropes, and is teaching both second and third grade. I won’t be surprised if sometime soon she has me start teaching second grade. The way they teach is very strange-the curriculum is meant to help children who are behind catch up, but it is structured in a way I have never seen before! You read the text straight from the teacher’s book, and then have all the children respond together or by themselves. And for them to respond you give a signal, either a snap of the fingers or a tap on the table. It was the most repetitious, boring thing I have ever seen. Sue, the person I am staying with, tells me it works exceedingly well. I have yet to be convinced.

It was a long day, and after break Teacher Faith had me grading workbooks. Apparently she fell behind over the weekend-and what a lot of workbooks there were! I had an especially hard time grading their math work-there is a shortage of paper here, so they stress using less paper to do your work. In my experience this leads to sloppy math, and easy mistakes-although I do understand where they are coming from.

After class I pulled one of the little girls aside-Sharron, and went over some of the math with her. I think she is a visual/hands on learner, and the way they are teaching math really wouldn’t work for that learning style. She was having a hard time visualizing 3D objects on the paper-like pyramids and hexagonal prisms. I’m not sure how well I explained it, since we don’t really have these objects on hand. She is a quiet girl though, and fears messing up, so I can tell the math is not helping her confidence. Hopefully she will be able to understand the concepts as we go along.

I had to wait for someone to take me home-all the dirt roads look the same. There is only one paved road ( called the tarmac road) going through town. While I was waiting I asked the children how to say some Swahili words. Next thing I knew they had taken my notebook and were writing them down for me, one after the other! I had to get them to stop at the end of the page-I don’t think I can learn more than one page a day. Sue told me she wanted to learn Swahili, but she has been here almost two years and barely knows ten words, so I challenged her to a competition-whoever learns the most words before I go home is the winner. I am hoping to encourage her to put forth a little more effort.

So today hasn’t been the most exciting day, but overall I think it was an enjoyable experience. I just hope the names start clicking soon-please children quit looking the same. Please, please, please, please.

Trip in Kenya

Second and Third Day

I finally have the time to sit down and write. Yesterday I stayed at Cindi’s house, and we planned to leave by 3pm, but the truck we drove in the previous day broke down so we had to wait for a ride. We set out around five in a taxi, carrying pig food for the farm, bibles for the children, and myself and Cindi. I wanted to take pictures of the road side to show how trafficy it was, but they didn’t turn out. Here is a few pictures of the various shops we passed:

There are small shops everywhere along the roadside.

There are small shops everywhere along the roadside.

It was about a four hour ride. The farm is between Cindi’s house and the school, so we stopped there first. It was starting to get dark by then; it gets dark between 6:30 and 7pm everyday.

The countryside is beautiful. It's a little blurry because we were in the car.

The countryside is beautiful. It’s a little blurry because we were in the car.

The fish ended up dying during the drought, so this one is empty.

The fish ended up dying during the drought, so this one is empty.

Cindi's green house. The plants are doing well now that the droughts over.

Cindi’s green house. The plants are doing well now that the droughts over.

The farmers live on the farm, and take care of the pigs and chickens and plants. There is also five bee hives, but since we wanted to leave before it got completely dark, I could not go look at them. The pigs are very healthy, and the greenhouse has worked wonderfully. Although there are no more fish, they continue to use the water (fish free, don’t worry) for the crops and pigs.

The roads are terrible though! They are all made of dirt, so when it rains they get horrible holes in them. There are these giant sand trucks as well that drive up and down the road, and leave big gouges in them. We had to be very careful driving the car, so the 5km took twenty minutes, with us weaving and wincing the entire way.

We finally got to Sue’s after the four hour journey.  Cindi had to turn around right away and go home, so she couldn’t stay for dinner. I went to bed by 10pm.

In the morning I put my stuff away. Sue lives in an apartment area, it is about ten small apartments all enclosed by a wall. The apartments are a nice size, with two rooms, a kitchen and living room, and a toilet and shower. I have my own bed that is very comfy, and someone has left behind a guitar. I am hoping when I go to church tomorrow to ask the worship leader if he can find me some new guitar strings. I figured I might as well learn how to use it.

Sue's living room. We eat our meals here.

Sue’s living room. We eat our meals here.

Sue's tiny kitchen. You will see the various buckets, we have to purify the water carefully to be able to drink it.

Sue’s tiny kitchen. You will see the various buckets, we have to purify the water carefully to be able to drink it.

The room Sue is letting me use. It is perfectly sized.

The room Sue is letting me use. It is perfectly sized.

At about 1pm we went to the school. It’s about a twenty minute walk from where she lives. On Saturdays the children mostly play at the school, and then at night they walk back to their dorms.

All the children wanted to meet me. If I asked one their name, I would have to ask at least ten more, so none felt left out. So of course, I don’t remember any of them. Hopefully I will catch on quickly. When Sue and I were about to leave I pulled out my camera to take some pictures. So of course one of the girls, Susan, asked if she could use it, so I ended up with lots of snapshots and only one or two pictures of the actual school. The children loved getting their picture taken and then seeing how it looked on the camera.

Susan took several snapshots, but I thought this one was funny.

Susan took several snapshots, but I thought this one was funny.

The children play jump rope under the banana trees in front of the building.

The children play jump rope under the banana trees in front of the building.

A slightly better picture of the school. The children eat lunches under the gazebo, and behind them is the school building.

A slightly better picture of the school. The children eat lunches under the gazebo, and behind them is the school building.

After Sue and I left, we went to a “Thanks Giving.” Here when someone feels especially thankful about something, they throw a party called a Thanks Giving. They invite their friends and share how they are thankful about something God has done for them. Then they eat. We got there in time for the eating part. Apparently we have very good timing. Then Sue and I and Grace (a teacher at the school) walked back to the apartment compound. Grace lives next door, she is a very nice woman who is teaching me Swahili.

And now I am going to bed, right after planning my Sunday school lesson. It is strange here, one minute time seems to stand still, and the next you seem to have run out of it.

I forgot to mention if you wish to leave a comment, there is a button on the left hand side of the post that you can click on.

Trip in Kenya, Uncategorized

Finally Here

So it took me forever, but I’m finally in Kenya! I meant to post at least once more before I came,  but with finals and being sick I put it off.

This is my first day here, I spent the night at Cindi’s house (the woman who runs the girl’s school I am working at) and later today we are heading up to the school in Keragoya. I don’t have any pictures at the moment, but hopefully I can post some later on today.

Last night, Cindi and her son picked me up at the Nairobi airport. It was raining really hard, and for a moment I wondered if I got the seasons wrong and it was the rainy season! Cindi assured me it was not, but that it was just raining. My first experience on the highway was slightly scary; there are no traffic lights. Her son, Lorenzo, told me that there are only three in the downtown, and otherwise driving is kind of a “free-for-all” (which, when looked up on the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is described as an uncontrolled fight or competition that involves many people).

Instead of traffic lights, the entirety of the road (that I saw) was composed of merging lanes and roundabouts. On the way to their house we saw two busses that had ran into ditches, most likely because of the rain, and they told me they had seen three on the way to pick me up. I found the whole thing rather exciting (sorry mom). I couldn’t tell if people were honking to let others know not to hit them, or because they were cussing them out in a controlled road rage.

In any case, by the time we got to their home, it was 11 o’clock their time, 4 o’clock my time. I was pretty tired, so I ended up going to sleep pretty quickly. And now it is morning, and I am off to find me some breakfast.


Tips for raising money and asking for donations

Today I had my last fundraiser for my trip to Kenya. I’ve learned a lot this past year in fundraising and asking for donations, so I thought I would share a few tips with you.


  • Make sure your heart is in the right place. I made a post about this, how I realized I needed to trust God to help me get the money I needed. Before you send out your letters, make sure to pray over them, and over yourself. Make sure your heart is right before God. If He told you to do what you’re doing, he will provide for you. You have to trust Him.
  • Be direct. Explain clearly. Don’t beat around the bush when writing your letters. I learned this the hard way. I didn’t explain well enough that donations needed to be sent to my church (I was following a template I found online. Next time I will be more clear) and got a few checks made out to me instead, which made it impossible for me to be able to send them a tax-deductible receipt.
  • Have a middleman. This can be your church or the organization you are going with. This will keep you honest, and honest looking. Even if you would never abuse someone’s donations, it will prevent any future issues where someone might try to slander you.

  • Write thank you notes as you go. I didn’t know this, but you are supposed to send thank you notes within two weeks of getting a letter. Also, I would suggest personalizing the thank you note, and writing it by hand. This shows the person you did not write them simply because you wanted money, but that you appreciate what they did for you.
  • Give a receipt. This should be obvious, but it’s best to give a receipt along with the thank you note, with the amount they donated and a date, so they can use it as a tax deduction. Also, you should keep track of your expenses on your trip, so that you can show donators what their money went towards. I wrote that if they wished for an account of my expenses, they could ask for it at the end of my trip.


  • Be open. Be open to suggestions from friends and family. I had one friend who offered to let me wear origami owl jewelry-for free-and also host a party where the money went towards my trip-for free. I didn’t make a lot this way, mostly because I am not that good at selling things. At first I was really nervous, I’m a terrible salesman. But then I realized, it was all for free, it wouldn’t take a lot of my time, and there was no reason not to do it. So I did. I only sold two items. That’s still money towards my trip.
  • Count the cost. The first fundraiser I did was for Cindi Mendoza’s girl school. I hosted a pancake breakfast on a Saturday, and invited several churches. I worked really hard and spent a lot of time on it. I believe I got maybe 40 people. 40 out of 500. In the end it worked out and I got about $300 for Mrs. Mendoza, but I learned my lesson-don’t start out with grand events. Start small, and as you gain a following and experience, grow big. If possible, try to get a head count at the beginning, and get a feel for how much are going to come.
  • Have a core group. I cannot stress this enough.  Those 40 people who came? They were my friends and family. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were my core group. These are the people who will root for you, that want to help you, and that support you. They are very important. Never forget them, because without them, you would never have gotten off the ground.
  • Branch out. You cannot rely on your core group forever-they are not a bottomless pit. I don’t have a lot of experience in this area as this past year is the first time I started trying to fundraise. I believe the best course of action is to be friendly and get to know more people-as well as your friend’s friends. I think the key here is to not get to know them for fundraising purposes, but because you like them.
  • Get to know the insiders. A friend of mine is a teacher at a private Christian school, and the advisor in charge of the student’s ministry group. She was excited to hear I was going to visit Mrs. Mendoza, and helped me organize a pancake fundraiser at the school. She spoke to the people in charge, and helped me get it all set up. The student’s ministry group even bought the ingredients for me- all I had to do was show up to cook the pancakes, no jumping through hoops required. It was a wonderful experience. I am super grateful to her. If I had been on my own, there is no way I would have ever gotten to do this.
  • Be flexible. Today, as I mentioned, we had a fundraiser at a private school near my house. We had done one in December, and this was our second one. We were all prepped, and ready to go when-surprise! There was a hiccup in the plans. Another group was already using the kitchen; we had accidentally been double booked. My mom and I put our heads together and concluded to cook the pancakes at home and bring them over (since it’s not a long drive). It worked. The pancake fundraiser went off without a hitch. Despite the slightly stressful beginning, it went better than the first.
  • Always be grateful. No matter if 10 people show up at a 100 people event, or if you made $100 instead of $500, be grateful. These people did not have to help you. They worked for that money, and they deemed your mission, your dream, important enough to donate some of that money to you. So be grateful. Make sure to thank them and remember them. Don’t worry about the other 90 people that didn’t show up, and don’t let it hurt your feelings. Be grateful, and remember them.
Prepping for Kenya

Third Step

Yesterday I went and got a shot for yellow fever and typhoid. Those things are expensive! But I am now apparently immune to yellow fever for life, so that’s a good thing.

In other news, I am currently selling origami owl jewelry to help with fundraising. My friend wanted to help me fundraise, and is basically letting me host an online party where I get 75% of the profits. I’ve never been very good at selling things but since it was free of charge without any strings attached I figured why not?

Alas, I didn’t get a picture at the doctors office, so I had to borrow one from the interwebs. But seriously, what kind of kid is that happy?

A child looking much to happy while getting shots at the doctors.

A child looking much to happy while getting shots at the doctors.


First Step

So for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Annie, and I am a Twenty-one year old college student. At the end of this May, I am traveling to Kenya to help in one of Cindi Mendoza’s girl’s schools. I am going as a teacher’s assistant, and as this is my first trip overseas, I am very excited.

Tonight I am finishing up my letters for donations, but right now I am working on some dolls for the girls.

Crocheted dolls

Crocheted dolls