Thursday, May 24, 2007

Reflections from Heather

Submitted by Heather Lea
May 23, 2007

I recently returned from Kenya, where I was doing teaching practice through the University of Prince Edward Island in a rural village called Mukurwe-ini close to Mount Kenya. I have only been home for two weeks but I wish I were still there. The country is beautiful, the climate is ideal and the people are welcoming and kind. I once heard the saying "Westerners have the watches but Africans have the time," and it is very true. People are very laid back and willing to stop and help someone or chat with a stranger for over an hour before carrying on with their day.

I also had the privilege to witness how thankful Kenyans can be for donations that come from Prince Edward Island. There are little bits of the kindness of the Islanders all over Murkuwe-ini. Farmers Helping Farmers’ influence on the community, as you know, is outstanding and the hard work of fundraising in Island schools has really paid off in the community. Schools have been set up with feeding programs, have gotten money to pay an extra teacher that they were short, and have had water tanks installed because of the hard work that island students have put into fundraising for this community.

The Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty secured two classrooms by donating new doors and windows to the Mwati Primary School in Murkuwe-ini, Kenya. I taught in the Mwati school and I know how much these donations have helped the students. The classrooms are now sheltered from the elements and are secure enough to keep books in the classroom. It is currently the rainy season in Kenya and getting to school and back home is quit difficult. A teacher or student has to walk several kilometers up and down cliffs and hills in the rain and on slippery terrain to get to school everyday. Then when they reach school they have to deal with the wind and rain coming into the classroom. Donating the doors and windows has created a safe, warm and dry environment for the students and teachers.

Another donation that the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty made was a laptop computer for the head teacher of another school, the Gathukumundu Primary School. The computer traveled with us from Canada and when we gave it to Lucy, the head teacher, she was so thankful and excited that she invited all the teachers into her office to look at it and touch it. All their hands gently tested the screen and keys in giddy amazement. Then she took the computer home to practice with it before her computer lessons started the next week. She was a bit nervous to learn how to use the computer, as I remember being myself when I first started using one, but she rose to the occasion and learned to use a lot of the different functions of the computer. I think the person who benefited most from the new computer is her ten-year-old son Steven. I would teach Lucy different computer techniques during the day and then she would go home and Steven would be able to learn the lessons and then figure out many other things on his own. I was very impressed by how fast Lucy and Steven learned how to use the computer. Their school is now connected to the Internet and capable of doing so many things with their new computer.

I know that I was more warmly accepted into this community because of the kindness and dedication of all the hardworking fundraisers on PEI. When people speak of Canada in the village they only say good things and I believe that the connection between the Island and Mukurwe-ini is strong, unbreakable and filled with compassion for strangers.