After learning how to acclimate ourselves to the thin mountain air of Mt. Kenya during our four day hike to the summit, we have begun acclimating ourselves to the culture and community of Our Lady of Grace School in Kisumu. As our patient hiking guide, Richard, reminded us throughout our journey to the summit, “pole-pole,” which is Kiswahili for “slowly by slowly.” This phrase and its implied philosophy are not something that come easily to me, but just as one must pace herself for a half marathon, or a four day hike, or a long term organizing campaign, I must accept and embrace this philosophy so as not to burn out before my gifts flourish.
Today was our first full day in Kisumu after arriving yesterday evening and sharing a delicious Kenyan meal with the Dominican community at St. Martin de Porres. The Kenyan culture of hospitality and warmth has been a true blessing throughout this whole journey. After meeting with the principals of the Upper and Lower School, spending some time with the children and meeting with Dominicans and administrators for Our lady of Grace and Father Tom’s Kids, we are beginning to understand the complexities of running a non-profit, especially in a country very far away from most of its donors. I expect that more clarity will develop in the coming days and weeks.
Our focus for our precious time here, though, is to create healthy and formative relationships with the students who long for care,attention and role models. Each of the four Smith Fellows, plus our friend Anna from Dartmouth College, has received a schedule of responsibilities, assignments and suggested activities. This week I will be working with Class 3 of the Primary School, which would be the American equivalent of 3rd grade, additionally I will visit the Dispensary, or school nurse, and help with an agricultural class. I look forward to meeting and forming friendships with the teachers and students tomorrow. Our day will start again, bright and early with morning Rosary at 6:10 a.m. You will all be in my thoughts and prayers during daily Rosary and Mass with the students of Our Lady of Grace and the Dominican community in Kisumu.