Practice What We Teach

Tomorrow we travel to Mombasa to hold a meeting with the Director and staff members of Reachout Center Trust. RCT is a Drug and Addiction Treatment Center. RCT offers help to those recovering from psychiatric disorders, as well. We had a brief phone conversation with Mr. Taib, who runs the Center. He told us that among the different programs they have at the Center, one of them is geared towards sexual and reproductive health for women who are addicted to drugs. They have been working with these girls for several years and those that have stayed on are now being taught how to manage finances and are being linked to microfinance organizations that will offer them small loans for business start-ups. RTC also has youth programs that run throughout the year. We look forward to visiting the various departments they offer and to learn more from them. This past week, we took it upon ourselves to practice what we teach. I have been urging my young cousins and their friends to make sure they help out at home as much as possible so that they don’t spend all their time on social media and TV. Parents are already complaining about the mischief the kids are getting into since schools closed. There is an elderly couple in my village who live with their 5 great-grandchildren. The mother of the children is rarely at home, so the elderly grandmother makes sure that the kids get up on time, prepares tea for their breakfast, and sends them off to school. We happened on this couple by accident, and since we’ve gotten to know them, we check on them as often as we can. Most of the time they barely have enough food to eat, and they appreciate whatever help they get. The old man is too frail to work, and the wife, though she is actually older than her husband, tills the land and ensures the family doesn’t go hungry. She is very dedicated to the great-grandchildren and the youngest of these follows her everywhere she goes. He has not started going to school yet, so he is home with her all the time. Despite the poverty they live in, the kids look well fed and always have a smile on their face. The old man fought for Kenya’s Independence, and he has very captivating stories to tell. Despite his age, he...

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Teen Pregnancies

Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies have been a major setback in Kenya and much the same the world over. When boys and girls hit puberty, they become very conscious of their bodies, and the new developments. Hormones play a big part in this development stage. For those that have been taught what changes to expect as they grow up, they pass this stage with little difficulty. There are, however, those that totally follow what peers are telling them, and the result is usually not good. We saw some of the girls in our Scholarship Program fall pregnant after school; thankfully they had all finished with their secondary education. The flip side, however, is they weren’t prepared or ready for the consequences of early pregnancies. They felt embarrassed and kept away from the other girls until they gave birth. They watched as the rest of the girls joined colleges and went on to finish with flying colors. The time  the other girls spent at home nursing their pregnancies and the babies when they arrived could have been spent in college. We are, however, happy that they did not opt for abortion. The girls who got pregnant and had babies are now done with nursing their little ones and are earning to join college. The challenge is that they come from impoverished backgrounds and acquiring a college education is not easy. The boys and men who got the girls pregnant took off as soon as they learned of the pregnancies. The girls are now on their own, raising their babies by themselves and trying to join college, so they can improve their lives. A girl from one of the schools where we offer the Choice Club Mentorship Program was narrating a tale of abuse and misery after she got pregnant at 15 years of age. Her parents told her to move to the boy’s home; the boy, himself a child, so she stayed with the boy and his parents. She was adamant on joining Secondary School, which her mother agreed to pay for on the condition that she continued staying with the boy’s family. Before long the boy kicked her out of the home because he didn’t want her to go back to school. She went to her mother’s home, where she was not wanted, and begged her mother to tend to the baby as she went back to school. The mother...

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Acts of Kindness

Restoring humanity in a world that has been plagued with so much evil is very necessary especially for the current generation. As we look at ways to keep the children busy during this long holiday season, teaching them to be mindful of others is extremely significant. We have a breed of children who are very selfish, and they have lost the values instilled in them. Growing up we were taught the importance of respecting our elders. We could not talk or interrupt when an older person was speaking. We were taught to give a seat to the elderly in public vehicles. When eating one could not leave the table before the elders, one was not to argue with their parents whether they were right or wrong. This helped us learn respect and the right way to live. Though times have changed, it does not mean that we forget who we are and what is expected of us and our children. Below are simple acts of kindness that children can practice: Visiting the aged relatives in the village and helping them with chores. Visit an orphanage and help take care of vulnerable children. Visit the sick in hospital and nursing homes. Help with chores in the house, like taking care of younger children and fixing meals. Help feed the poor and engage in other charitable activities. Volunteer in an animal shelter. Get involved in activities that improve the environment like planting trees, cleaning beaches and parks. Donate clothes and other items not needed at home to the less fortunate. Spend time with kids and teach them a new activity or read to them. Be a mentor and inspire others. Random acts of kindness help our children become responsible members of society. It teaches them to think of others before themselves. I have come across kids who answer and swear at their parents; they have no respect for the elders, and they behave like the world owes them something. The words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ does not feature in their vocabulary. These are the same children who will get into trouble at school because they keep going against school regulations. They do as they wish, and they are not afraid of the repercussions. Engaging the children with the right activities during this period will ensure that they stay busy and stay out of trouble. The churches in our community are busy...

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Student Holidays

All schools close this week for the December holidays. Some will close on the 24th and others on the 25.th As the students look forward to going home for the holidays, parents are gearing up for two months of bonding time with their children. As much as this may sound exciting, it brings mixed emotions to most parents. Having the children at home for that period of time without proper supervision always has its challenges. Most of these parents have 8-5 jobs they attend to every day. As the children enjoy the holidays, the parents are pondering where the money will come from to feed their children three meals in a day. Most households have between 2 and 6 children. The cost of living has become very high, and shopping for the household is not what it used to be.  Parents in the supermarket try as hard as possible to cut cost of the household budget by buying only the basic commodities. Still, when they get to the till to run the items, the cost of the goods often overrides the parents’ budget. Looking at the supplies, one wonders what items to return and what to retain, but again all these supplies are needed in the home, so they pay the bill, but that could well mean that another bill will remain unpaid. The cost of electricity, water, housekeepers and rent has really gone up. The children will spend a lot of time behind the TV watching their favorite shows not caring about the electricity cost. They will warm their meals in the microwave sometimes way more than necessary, and that will be a daily affair for the next two months. Their friends will come over to visit and the supplies that the parents had budgeted for a month will be consumed in less than two weeks. Christmas is also around the corner, and the children will be expecting Christmas gifts, special meals on the menu and holidays in prestigious places; they need to have a story to tell when the schools open. The parents, on the other hand, are thinking of the tuition fees that need to be paid when schools open (the fees keep going up every year), not to mention the many textbooks that will need to be bought as children progress to the next class. Uniforms have also become very expensive, and most parents will...

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Depression Awareness Written by Grace Wandia

Depression Awareness Day (mental health) was observed on the 10th of Oct. I was asked to speak to a class of 8- and 9-year old’s about mental and physical health in a school in my neighborhood. Initially, I thought the children were too young to understand the topic, but I was wrong. As young as they are, they totally related to the subject of mental health; some of them are already encountering it. One teacher told me her son, who always looks forward to the annual Bible camp in their church, attended the camp twice, and on the third day, totally refused to go. The mother was quite surprised.  When she asked her son what was wrong, he flatly refused to tell her why he didn’t want to go. She later found out, after a lot of prodding, that a certain boy in the camp had bullied him badly- the reason he did not want to return. He told his mother that he was both scared and stressed about the bully, and would much rather, just stay home. The mother went with him to the camp the next day to report the bullying. Fortunately, she was able to resolve the issue, and her son stayed at camp. As young as these children are, they also get distressed when certain things happen. I showed them a picture (below) and most of them recognized that while the man looks happy on the outside, on the inside, he is sad and lonely. Teaching the kids to be kind to their fellow students and not assume everyone is happy is very important. A child may be smiling, but inwardly, a lot of negative emotions could be going on. The kids identify with bullying a lot; most of them have experienced it either at school or home from their older siblings. Emphasis is put on the teachers to recognize when a child looks stressed out and to help them before the situation turns dire. Some of the children suffer sexual abuse from trusted relatives, and they will never tell. They feel embarrassed and most are threatened with ominous consequences by the perpetrators. The thought of what is happening to them causes them to be scared and shame-based; most of them will become withdrawn. The teachers are able to pick up on this as they spend so much time with the students. The teachers need...

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Sharing Experiences

Listening to the girls discuss the insights they’ve received in the last 9 months we’ve been together at the Choice Club, makes us feel proud that we are actually impacting the lives of the girls positively. This week we are visiting the schools and encouraging the girls as they get ready to sit for their exams, some for the final time as Secondary School students. Girls go through a lot of challenges as they grow up and most of the time, they do not know what to do or who to talk to for support and advice. Though most of them have parents, it is not easy for them to open up about the challenges they face. The new girls in the school will speak of stress brought about by being in Secondary School for the first time. They feel totally lost because they are in a new environment and adjusting to life away from their parents and home. They are expected to be ‘strong,’ and as a result, they don’t feel they can show their emotions in the presence of the other students. Their parents tell them they are not the first to go to a boarding Secondary School, and that they will get used to it. They put on a strong face, but most admitted to crying in their beds at night. They face bullying from the older girls, their self-esteem is low, and they are under a lot of pressure to fit in with their peers. They said the Choice Club helped them to cope in their new environment. Many said they began to understand that each person has their own life to live, and as so, falling into peer pressure is akin to running down a dead-end path. They acknowledged they were learning more about taking care of their mental and physical health, so they can enjoy school and their daily lives. Many of the Form 2 students are going through a crisis stage in their life. They have just graduated from Form 1 and feel that they are finally mature. Many tend to bully the new Form 1 students entering the school because they themselves were bullied. They are at a critical stage in that they are discovering who they are as a person. They are very cautious about their body image and spend a lot of time trying ‘to look good’ instead of...

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