Bonding with Mothers, and The New Library (Day 5)


The floor of the new library at the Children of Kibera Foundation

Today was the first day I didn't feel like I was going to pass out in the early evening. Perhaps because the Power Women celebration and Skype with some of LitWorld team in the New York office was just so great; perhaps because departure is nigh; or maybe I'm simply just now getting my bearings on how these days go.


Today I also ate a lot of reddish brown dust. It covers everything in Kibera. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon sorting through the non-book stuff that had been deposited in the library when they moved stuff over the other day. It was a really interesting process, seeing how much or how little LitClub notebooks had been used; unearthing hidden treasure troves of crayons and markers.


I got a solid glimpse of how hard it is for the people who live here to throw things away, because for one thing they are in real need of so much, and for another, the trash lives in endless heaps in their neighborhoods, so they can't actually escape it unless it's burnable.


Today we sent the Power Women off into initial Moms Club-ness with a great meeting and Skype. Before we got online with the LitWorld team in the New York office, we read a book called "Owl Babies" where 3 baby owls are worried because their mom isn't coming back and then she comes back and they're happy, and that's the whole plot, it's very sweet.


We then went around the circle and told stories about when the Power Women had made their children worried or their children had made them worried, but then it all turned out fine in the end, and those of us with no children yet told stories from our childhood. Lots of stories of children worrying while their parents were away or vice versa, with some humorous versions here and there.


After our great story-sharing circle, we handed out bags and certificates with cheers, and sang some songs while we were waiting for the Skype to get set-up, and some of the Power Women's children wandered in while we were getting ready. They were as cute as could be and it was my pleasure to have one of them snuggle with me for the Skype. It was so perfect that the LitWorld team grabbed "Llama Llama Red Pajama" to read because the theme went right along perfectly with our other book and our stories- it was like we planned it somewhere other than just in our hearts, but so often it turns out that is all it takes for things to be in sync.


Tonight Jen and I packed our bags so we can load up the car with our (now much smaller) luggage in the morning when we head out for our last day with our Kibera friends, for this time around.


The photo above is of the library space near the end of the day today. It may not look totally organized yet, we are still waiting for the shelves to come over from the other room, and then they'll still need a fresh coat of paint, so there are still stacks of books on the floor, but all the floor space you see there used to be covered in all kinds of stuff, just stuff, stuff that didn't belong in a library for children, so those clear patches of floor were a big achievement for today.

A Rewarding, Long Day (Day 4)


LitWorld Friend Jen Estrada working with Young Women in Kibera

Today started out with a morning of sorting books for the library, working on the furniture order, and choosing paint colors for the new spaces (outer doors will be orange!). So the painting can start tomorrow, and I should be able to see at least some of the rooms in their new colors and take pictures before we leave. The kids and Children of Kibera Foundation staff are all very excited about the new space, and about making it a place centered all around the children and having fun together.


I then met up with the Power Women, who are honored to be one of the first Moms LitClubs. They cheered when I said I would be giving them certificates tomorrow! I recorded them singing songs they would like to share with other Moms and they had a long discussion to nominate 3 leaders.


We talked about things they would like to do in the clubs, which included playing football (yes!) and hearing from other moms around the world about what to say to your children and do for them when you can't give them everything you want to give them. Several of them would like to be trained on how to use the computer, and we talked about how their children and families would be involved as well.


I did some more sorting of books and miscellaneous supplies that had gotten themselves mingled with the books, and then Jen and I hung out with the first graders who were having library time, and we did some read-alouds, and I showed them my camera, which they thought was pretty cool, and snuggled a bit. (Todd Parr's "It's Okay to be Different" is really just a fabulous read-aloud, every page is a great, unique conversation prompt, and it works for such a range of audience members.)


And then we went back over to the middle school and I chatted with some of the kids about themselves and school and what they love to eat, and whether or not the 7th grade girls are smarter than the 7th grade boys (they are), and then some of the LitClub girls gathered and made up a few fairytale style stories together, moving from girl to girl around the room, so I filmed that while Jen helped the story move along.


A rewarding, long day. - Dorothy

Books and Wheelbarrows (Day 3)

Wamae took Jen and me to see some giraffes and elephants in the morning today, and we bought a great basket by the side of the road to hold some of the dress-ups (the rest will be out on low hooks) in the library, and then we headed over to Red Rose, where Sunday is LitClub day!


When we first arrived, the kids who were there early were helping the Children of Kibera staff moving a bunch of books from the back room of the office, where they were hard to get to, over to the new space. They were all working together, passing books out to a wheelbarrow on one end and from the wheelbarrow into the new library on the other end. 


All the clubs meet at overlapping times, and Jen was busy with focus groups for her research, so I worked with the facilitators and jumped between all the different clubs. We did some brainstorming and writing about ideas of things they would like to have in the new space, from cubbies or pockets for their stuff, to singing and dancing groups, to interesting storybooks and computers, and then they drew pictures of things they'd like to see in the mural they'll all be working on with Madison!


Tomorrow I'll be sorting through the jumbled books that were just moved, to integrate them with the new library (the one Pam and Denise made) and put it all in a bit of order so the library will be more browsable, and working with Jeff on final decisions on paint colors, curtains, floor mats, furniture, etc, before and after several hours with the Power Women in the middle of the day.


Jen and I are going to head to bed on the early end tonight so we don't burn ourselves out, but I will be back with more updates soon!



Dorothy Arrives in Kenya (Day 1)

First of all, and i know everyone from LitWorld who has come to Kibera has said this, but Wamae (Eddie, our driver) is just so caring and observant and thoughtful. A true guardian spirit in human form.


Secondly, everything at Red Rose and the Children of Kibera offices is smaller than it looked to me in pictures and videos. The doorways are shorter, the children look younger, the teachers are more petite. This makes their palpable strength all the more powerful in person.

It was raining during the usual assembly time this morning, so we didn't officially meet all the children then as planned, but the tiny baby class boys and girls had already come up to hug my legs and grab my hand before getting in their lines without having any idea who i am. They radiate love.


We then went around and did introductions in each of the classrooms. (Some of them are truly like caves, amazing that anyone can learn in that darkness.) The older students were reserved in their classrooms, hiding questions and yearnings to share behind shy smiles.Tthe little ones burst into joyous singing and clapping at the slightest invitation.


I've attached here a snap i took (with one hand, while filming with the other hand...) During Jen's facilitator training session. The footage is raw, but i am excited to see how it will look edited together and primed for the Power Platform training materials. The teachers were giggling away, having a great time thoroughly engaged and asking questions as they practiced community building games and learned about their importance; they did not want to stop.

We did as many of them as we could outside in the yard, and the kids lining up for gym were intrigued to see adults untangle themselves from a human knot, and cycle through their silly sounds and movements for in motion.


We took measurements and brainstormed about furniture for the new space and made arrangements to meet with a local kibera carpenter tomorrow morning with Jeff, but went with Wamae to check out the furniture shops run out of shacks by the side of a main road in another part of town. We looked at cushions and stools and tables and bargained with the furniture-makers and took down prices and phone numbers so we will have a frame of reference for tomorrow morning's meeting, and people to call if we don't like what we see tomorrow.


Now i really do need to rest up so I can be fully present for Day 2, but looking forward to sharing more soon.


- Dorothy