I just finished cleaning up the library after yesterday's celebration meeting, so I wanted to update you on the great day we had yesterday!
After a lot of preperation from Esther, Maria and I, the big celebration day was finally here! The certificates were printed and signed (just not by the district commissioner, more on that later), the snacks and drinks had arrived, the tent and sign-in booth were set up and the mama's were preparing a dance for the celebration, as we were putting the final touches to the Mama-Mtoto banner. One of the mamas, Lennah, had suggested early on that we all buy T-shirts for the function, to promote the project. The mothers were really enthusiastic, and Maria ended up sponsoring all the mamas for half of the costs, the mamas contributing the other half themselves. Susy and I also bought a T-shirt, and Maria bought a couple of extras for other "friends" of the project.
In the morning, I once again went to the District Commissioner's office, to confirm his presence at our celebration and to have him sign the certificates for the mamas. I had been to his office a couple of times already, but he hadn't been around. This particular morning I had a classic run-in with bureaucracy, waiting for hours for one commissioner, finally meeting his deputy, who sent me to another officer, who eventually confirmed what I had seen coming already: the DC was not in today and would not be coming to our function. Therefore, the mamas received their certificates yesterday, symbolically graduating from the program, but handed them in at the end so I could have them signed today. This morning, the DC apologized for not being able to come to the celebration and signed all the certificates, which reaffirms an old Dutch saying: de aanhouder wint (the one who perseveres wins)!
The celebration got started an hour and a half after the scheduled time, but Maria insisted we were on Kenyan time, and the guests who arrived on time wouldn't mind. Geoffrey Mbweke, a teacher from Busia and the artist who created the cover of the Busia “Wonder of Friendship” book, was the host for our event and he kept everyone entertained throughout the day. Maria spoke of the success of the program and the future library to be built in cooperation with KNLS and Maria's Libraries. Just that morning she received the model of the library and she showed it with great pride to the guests and the press. I gave a small speech on the achievement of the project and the mamas, and my experiences with the Busia Community Library. The mamas read the story from Busia in the 4 languages it was published in and the children from Busia Township, the neigboring school, reflected on some of the classes they had attended at the library.
We finished the meeting with a small speech from the Probation Officer of the District Commissioner's office, the official they had sent after my regular visits to other offices. It was pretty hilarious to see how he tried to connect his line of work to the library, but in the end he concluded that illiteracy and crime go hand in hand, and therefore, the library was a great help to his efforts to rehabilitate people into the community. He handed out the certificates to the mama's and we were invited by Geoffrey to enjoy the pillaw and soda's Maria had provided for everyone!
I think we all had a great day and the mama's were all very proud and excited that they were the ones being celebrated. They loved being graduates and they wore their t-shirts with pride. But, this wasn't the last time we all saw each other! We have a visit planned to Maria's farm this coming Saturday and most of the mamas will come to the computer class on Monday! So thankfully, we didn't have to say goodbye just yet :).
I will update you on both events in the coming days, writing some of my last blog posts before I finish my work for Maria's Libraries and trade Busia in for Rotterdam in just two short weeks!