Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Last Mama-Mtoto meeting

Hello everyone!

Today was the day: the final Mama-Mtoto meeting! After 4 months of meeting, writing and sharing, the mamas came in one final time to talk about the final storybook, their experiences and the responses of their children to the Hyena and the Fox!

The mamas were surprisingly on time, and we started with sharing some general thoughts on Mama-Mtoto and what it had brought the mamas. Maria shared her experience of the Mama-Mtoto program, which I thought I would share with you!

But going through this program, it has been a warm-up, it has awoken some spirit inside. Most of you had given up, you were doing your business, getting money, but now you know about the books, and empowering your children through books. Even such a small program involves so many people, Jennie from Canada, Susan and Harmke from Holland and Ariel from America. And now if you go to Lamu right now, it is like they knew you long ago isn't it? A library it is more than books, it brings people together, I don't know how to talk about it, I am very happy. The way we advertised this program, there was an application, which is not easy for you and most of the people here want money for the program. But you can't buy this knowledge! Here we have benefitted from the good works of so many people. And I hope you will bring your friends, and once in a while you will come to the library and bring your friends. […] I want to thank you very much for contributing your time and your money, may God bless you!”

As usual, the mothers shared their experiences with the storybook of the week, The Hyena and the Fox. The children really enjoyed the wordsearch we included in the book and the “connecting-the-dots” assignment, Susy created for the book! The kids commented on the dress of people in Garissa, some noticing that the women are completely covered and one of the children asked his mother, “aren't they hot, because it covers everything? Why do they wear that?”

To finish my report and get some reflective comments from the mothers, I conducted the last focus group, focussing on sustainability, cultural exchange and evaluation. The mothers were very positive about the program and some thought I would share some of their comments with you.

My kids learned something that they had not been exposed to, they learned new stories.”

“The acting assignment really build their confidence, they would not just act in front of their parents and peers like that but now they feel like they can.”

“The books have enriched my children and I would never have had these books if I hadn't participated. I feel like it has stimulated my educational path and I realize I am still learning something new. My husband asks me, are you going to class? He sees that I am using my time usefully and properly. He knows I have to do something to advance myself.

My children wonder, did our mother really go to school? They would look at me like I a illiterate and like I had never been to school. But now my children respect me and see that I am literate. Moreover, the MM program gave me the opportunity to sit down with my children and read a storybook to them, […] there is more of a reading culture. At school they spend all the time on the curriculum so they have no time to read, but now we do it at home. I had never imagined I would touch a computer, I thought I would spoil it when i touched it, but now I am on track, now I can learn.”

We finished the meeting with an update on the celebration meeting next week and decided that we will all go to Maria's farm for a small lunch next week Saturday to celebrate the accomplishments of the mamas!

Have a great weekend,


Monday, September 26, 2011

Computer classes

Hi everyone!

Ariel suggested I write a blog about the computer lessons I've started giving to the mama's of the Mama-Mtoto project, so I'll give you all a little update!

From the first moment Susy and I met the mama's and asked them if they had any suggestions for extra meetings we could have, or projects we could work on, they suggested computer lessons. We were immediatly enthusiastic, but couldn't find the time when Susy was still here, we were simply to busy with the Mama-Mtoto project and our BA thesis. So during Susy's last week I promised the mothers I would set up the computer lessons when I got back from Nairobi.

Setting up computer lessons wasn't without any bumps in the road; the projector I had ordered fell through in the hour before the lesson (the guy suddenly wanted to charge me 3000 KsH instead of 500 KsH we had agreed on!), leaving me with one netbook to teach 10-15 mothers Word and e-mail on. Moreover, the power supply had been especially shaky the past couple of days and I was hoping my netbook would make it through the whole lesson. And finally, how was I going to teach these mothers how to use a computer? Computers are definitely something I take for granted - growing up with a dad who works for IBM who let me use his laptop and PC's from a very young age - but most of these mothers had never used a computer before. I prepared a powerpoint presentation (when I still thought I had a projector at my disposal) and decided to go with the flow, and see how the mothers would interact with the computer as we went along.

We definitely had to start from square one: using a mouse was a huge struggle, but once the mothers got a bit more used to the mouse, we started using some basic Word features, such as changing font and font size, saving a document and underlining a sentence. Esther brought the netbook she had been given by Smallbean for the Citizen Archivist project, so we ended up splitting the group into two smaller groups, with 5 mamas sharing a netbook (and at the end of the meeting 6). We spent a great deal of the meeting just practicing, because, as I noticed early on, practice definitely makes perfect when it comes to computers, and the mamas were quick to catch on, eager to take notes, try new features and patiently waiting their turn to highlight a word and make it bold.

We immediately scheduled a second meeting, which was yesterday, and it was another great meeting, with a recap of the lessons learned last week Thursday and a bit of new information on how to print a document, how to align left/centre and right and how to change the font color. We did a short introduction on how to use the internet, which we will further expand on during the next meeting (next week Monday). I am super happy to tell you that Katy Kirby, who moved here last week with her husband Miles who works for IPA, will be taking over the computer lessons and is planning to volunteer at the library when I leave!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Hey everyone!

It's already been a week since the last mama-mtoto meeting, sorry for the late update! However, in the mean time, a lot of other exciting stuff has happened here, so I will update you on that as well!

Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about having a Mama-Mtoto meeting with the children of the mamas present, since the mamas could not just bring their 4-6 year olds, they would bring all their kids. Which would mean a minimum of 60 people (15 mamas with a minimum of 3 kids, but most of them have more!). However, Esther and Maria were really enthusiastic, so we decided to go ahead with planning this special meeting. Instead of our normal MM day, the meeting was on a Saturday, so that the children would be free from school and Maria arranged a couple of women to come and cook rice and beans for all mamas and their children. Esther picked up a big party tent from Maria's farm and about 30 chairs, and we were ready for Saturday morning!

When the mamas and their children arrived, it was great to finally meet the children the mamas have been telling us so much about over these past few months. Around 11:00 we decided to start and more children and mamas came in as we were going through the assignments. After a round of introductions and the usual opening prayer, Esther asked the children if they could perform the plays they prepared (which was the assignment for the Elangata Wuas book). The result was amazing, some of the children had worked together during lunch hour at school and had come up with new endings and extra characters for the stories. Three children even prepared their very own story, which they recited in front of the whole group! The mamas looked on proudly, clapping and laughing at every play and story.

After the plays and storytelling, we went over the assignments for the new book, “The Hyena and the Fox”, from Garissa. This book tells the story of a hungry fox, who eats all the sheep in the area where nomads live. The community decides to set a trap to catch the fox, to punish him for stealing their sheep. When the fox is caught, the people tie him to a tree, dig a big hole and fill it with firewood to burn the fox. The fox cries loudly and a hungry hyena passes by to find the fox still tied to the tree, as the people have left to let the fire get hot. The fox explains to the hyena that his uncle tied him to the tree because he is too thin and wouldn't eat the sheep his uncle had caught for him. The hyena decides to untie the fox and promises to eat the sheep. The fox quickly flees the scene, as the people return and ask the hyena what he is doing. When he explains, they decide he is too foolish and greedy and burn him instead of the fox!

The Garissa book was illustrated by Sammy Wafula, and printed in 3 languages: Kisomali, Kiswahili and English. The kids and mothers really liked the story, but they were getting hungry, so we decided it was time for lunch! As the children ate their rice, beans and greens, Esther and the mamas discussed the coming computer lesson meeting (on the 22nd). The meeting was this past Thursday and it was very exciting to see the mothers working on the computers, for some of them it was their first time. We dealt with some of the basics – what is hardward/software?, how do you use the mouse – and I taught them a little bit about how to use Microsoft Word. You realize how difficult seemingly easy things can be, such as making the text bold or underlined. However, I do know the first time I started using a computer, it was all very alien to me as well, so practice makes perfect!

Before the computer meeting, this past Wednesday, Esther and I visited 5 of the mothers at their homes in Mayenge. These mothers live the furthest away from the library, a 2 hour walk, but Esther and I took a piki, which took about half an hour. The mothers were very hospitable, and I drank enough coca-cola for a whole week! At every mama's house we talked about when the mother reads to her kids, which is their favorite book, how the program has impacted their day-to-day routine and what they would add to the program if they were the directors! Overall, their answers were very helpful for the report I'm writing and it was also just great to meet the husbands and other family members of the women that I feel I'm getting to know a bit better every day.

Finally, Esther and I have been working on the celebration meeting (October 5th) already, deciding on the guest list, meeting with the district commissioner, who has promised to be our guest of honor, and creating certificates for the mamas, besides other logistical issues that need to be figured out for the big celebration!

I will keep you updated on all our progress, but for now: Kwaheri and have a good weekend!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Elangata Wuas Book

Hi everyone!

After a week and a half of travelling, and of course, coordinating the printing of the Mama-Mtoto books from a different location, I have been back in Busia for a couple of days! Susan flew back to Holland last Thursday, and she will be starting the introducation to her masters program tomorrow.

This past Thursday we had our seventh Mama-Mtoto meeting, with the newest storybook created by the mamas in Elangata Wuas. But before we discussed the new book, the mamas were excited to share their experiences with the Lamu book, the White Spot. Most of the children drew one of the scenes depicted in the book, and all the children were curious about the snake going into the stomach of the lead character. Maria was afraid that this part of the story would be too scary for the children, but none of the mothers mentioned their kids being afraid. However, the children did ask why the stars were red and green, “they are supposed to be white!”, as one of the mothers remembered her children saying.

Related to the cultural exchange aspect of the project, the kids did indeed ask their mothers why the people in Lamu dressed so differently and lived in different houses. “So why are the mothers covered in veils”, asked one of the children, pointing at the picture in the Lamu book of the participating mothers. “Why does Busia have so many languages?”, asked another child when she noticed that the Lamu book was translated into 2 (compared to Busia's 4). Since none of the mothers had ever been to Lamu, it was an exciting experience for them and their kids to get a small look into the differences and similarities between Busia and Lamu. Some of the mamas mentioned that they didn't imagine this was also in Kenya, it was so different!

After discussing the Lamu book, we moved on to the Elangata Wuas book: “Entito oo Ntoyie and Children in a Bush”. In the book, a young Maasai mother gives birth to a son and daughter one day, while she was walking through the forest. The mother would collect milk for the family with a white calabash, and sing to her children when it was safe for them to come out and drink the milk. When ogres visiting the villages heard the mother sing to her children, they planned to sing as well, to be able to eat the children. However, their voices were too deep and the children didn't fall for the singing. To be able to sing like the mother, the ogres visited a diviner, who adviced them not to eat insects for two weeks. In the end the children come out of the boma, get attacked by the ogres but manage to escape. When their mother returns, the children initially do not come out of the boma, but they realize it is their mother singing and they tell her everything. From that moment on, the children are very careful when leaving the boma.

The mothers really liked the Elangata Wuas story, but they did think it was a bit too short. Therefore, the mothers and their children will create a different ending to the story, as next meeting's activity! What will be even more fun, is that the mothers are bringing their children to the next meeting, so we can see the interaction between the mothers and their kids. Moreover, we asked the mothers to have their children prepare a short play relating to the Elangata Wuas story, so I'm very curious to see what the kids come up with!

In the meantime I will be working on promotional material for the Mama-Mtoto project and finalizing the results of the research Susan and I conducted on the recruitment, effectiveness and sustainability of the program. Moreover, Maria has expressed great interest in further fundraising for the new library, so I will assist her in her pursuits as much as possible!