Jambo from Kisumu, Kenya! There is so much to tell and finding wifi this weekend here in the city was another unexpected joy. Kisumu is a major city about a two hour drive from the village of Alendu (above) where I’ve been teaching and once again photographing with Rafiki Africa Foundation. So far this week, we’ve been woken up at night to the echo of hyenas whooping, reaching out to move a chair at lunch to nearly grab a Battersby’s green snake wrapped around it (and I’m quite thankful it wasn’t a Green Mamba…). There have been heavy rains every evening, with one night finding it’s way through the roof of the mud hut (also thankful for waterproof Pelican cases to store my gear). Believe it or not, I’ve enjoyed all of it so far, minus the sun poisoning on my neck from maybe eight hours in the sun over two days.
Today we drove to Kisumu to take care of some errands and connect with Calvince, a 22 year old who was one of the first to grow up attending primary school with LightHouse Academy. He will tell you he has come from nothing and is now a nursing student working diligently to finish his program. Jessica & I personally help sponsor Calvince along with Roger & Dorothy, but with all they have going on, finishing Calvince’s education will be a steep climb. His hope is to finish and specialize in pediatrics. In Kenya, nurses attend a four year program and when finished, can prescribe medication, so functionally they’re doctors. Each year as students finish LHA’s program, more students join, and the older students need a path to continue their education in high school and beyond. It’s always at a financial cost to parents (if alive) or to sponsors, and basic skills can go a long way here in making a career, which is where teaching photography comes in.
It has been especially humbling spending every day working personally with Roger & Dorothy. My first trip with them to Kenya in 2012 was in conjunction with a large team of nursing students, and Roger was in the states at that time. This week I’ve spent a great deal of time with two students, Daisy and Violet, who both reached the end of their formal academic careers with no options to move forward. Violet has been paying for her own computer courses and working at the school assisting teachers, I believe at 250 kSh/month, right now a dollar is equal to about 92-96 kSh depending on the bank. Daisy on the other hand had never touched a computer, and neither had ever used a camera. A few days in they understand composition basics with the point & shoot cameras, zoom, and the girls have imported their photographs onto the MacBooks while also selecting their strongest images in Aperture. Teachers at the school are already trying to book photo sessions which is incredibly encouraging, and none of it would have been possible without the donations of books, older MacBook computers, and camera equipment from many of you to help get the program started.
There’s so much more to do, and I am 100% certain I will leave this trip with the feeling of abandon, wishing I could have taught them more. It plagues me hourly and I know there will be so much more work to do in the future. Return trips will require additional time beyond three weeks, permanent solar power for the school, Nikon DSLR cameras and lenses (since it would be compatible with other donations) for the students to develop better skills, financial support and for my business to be stable enough for me to leave for 1-2 months if I am the one who will help continue to teach these and other students. We doubt education like this is happening often in all of Africa, so as I put this out there into cyber space, if you wouldn’t mind sharing our challenges and successes, that would be deeply appreciated. Any questions, drop them in the comments below or shoot me an email via the contact page.
This is totally the short version of this week thus far. I have about 30 pages in a new journal scribbled with events, notes, challenges, lessons and questions, and the depth of the experience is what I expected it to be. I will post more in the coming weeks and hope to include a profile on Calvince. It’s hard for me to think of another young man I’ve been as humbled and impressed with as him. I know when he graduates he will return to his home of Alendu, to give back to his community and to Rafiki with his medical skill. It has been very rewarding getting to see the growth and progress of the students at LightHouse Academy first hand, and to bring back those images to show supporters and those interested in what is truly a beautiful country & community.
All images & MacBook Air use powered by Goal Zero.