Christmas in Misufini

Trip Start Nov 16, 2009
Trip End Apr 08, 2010

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Flag of Kenya  , Coast,
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This past week my time and energy have been spent on planning and preparing for our annual Christmas celebration. The most challenging task is trying to establish with the Kenyans that even Americans are on a budget. When I tell them that we're on a budget, they often don't believe me. Many of the Kenyans that I work with insist that the Americans will be able to
come up with the money if I ask them for it. So I'll contact the American Board of Directors and see what can be done. But I'm afraid I'll have disappointing news.

For the Christmas celebration, the lack of donations has resulted in one less goat, and a delay in the ordering of school uniforms for unsponsored children until January. Regardless, the celebration still went on and there was music, dancing, rice (5 kilos) for each family, and school uniforms for the sponsored children and their siblings.

While sitting in an afternoon meeting in Masheheni at the Imani Project headquarters, I realised just some of the logistical nightmares that are encountered when working in an area that has so much poverty. People want to help everyone, and while we financially can't afford it, the Kenyans are insisting that we share the little that is available to us for anyone who wants to participate. How can you argue with that? 'Tis the season after all!

December 22nd was the big event. We had approximately 400 people in attendance. The children and their gaurdians were fed chai, chapati, goat, and pilau. We successfully distributed hundreds of school uniforms and an additional shirt and shorts to the sponsored children (and reassured the unsponsored that they would receive theirs shortly). I was given the task of weighing out 5 kilos of rice for each family and filling whatever type of container they brought with it. This occassionally meant filling kangas (skirts) with rice and having to learn to tie it
properly (Phenie saw the HELP expression on my face and laughingly ran over to complete this task for me).

In the afternoon we brought in giriama dancers to entertain the masses. Of course, nothing is as
entertaining or as funny as making the mzungu (foreign) attempt to giriama dance and therefore I was hoisted out of my seat (against my will) and told to copy the dancers. Several days later people were still commenting on my “nice” dancing, including the village's chief, who promised that in his next report to government he would tell them that the mzungu visitor is good at shaking her hips (...great).

The most difficult part of this week has been the budget issues. The American Director of the Imani Project told me that this would be a challenge and she was right.  People really don't believe that we are hard up for cash. Even when visiting the orphans, people from the village (and I mean grown men) will approach and tell me that they would like gifts from America too. The Project only gives school uniforms and financial assistance in the form of food, school fees, and medicine. The men will often list their gift wishlist as Ipods and televisions (although I don't
understand why this is their list if there is no electricity). It's frustrating to keep laughing and explaining that we're not giving electronic gifts to children and that we're focused on educating people on HIV/AIDS and assisting those who need us the most.  Everyone here needs something and it's tough to have to say no to so many people all the time. Fortunately the Imani Project does an amazing job with the people they are able to help and at the end of the day helping kids go to school, teaching people about sanitation and HIV/AIDS, and being a part of an prganization that is honestly saving lives is really the best feeling!

I do have one grievance to air.  The children often get gifts of candy from passerbys.  The kids who didn't get candy will fight with those who did, and always someone feels left out or hurt. To anyone reading this who may be visiting Malindi, or other developing countries, there are tons of gifts you can give (if it's culturally appropriate e.g. it's insulting to give gifts to Loatian children because it's telling their parents that they aren't providing well enough for their children). In Misufini gifts of pens, books, booklets, paper, pencils, sports equipment, etc is wonderful.  Better yet, you could donate these items to a local school (we would do it in front of the children, otherwise, sadly, the headmaster/mistress will often keep it for themself).  Also in need in rural areas is basic medical supplies: antibiodics, bandages, cold medication, Ibprofin, etc at the local community clinic. You could make a huge difference to a community by giving really needed items. I know giving candy to children is fun and they love it! But please think about those kids who don't receive something.  If you want to give something, donate to an organization that works in the community. Think about the Imani Project the next time you have some extra cash! It does make a really big and important difference!

Enjoy the photos! And for those who are curious, no they're are not any photos of me dancing (thankfully).

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