Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Kibera School for Girls

More great news to share with you all. I have been officially accepted into the Summer Institute at Shining Hope for Communities! This means that I will be spending over two months in Kenya this summer.

My first month will be spent with Shining Hope at The Kibera School for Girls, tutoring, mentoring and teaching. The Kibera School for Girls is the first tuition-free, all girls school within Kibera. KSG has worked with an education specialist to come up with a curriculum designed specifically for these bright young girls who are at great risk for abuse and starvation. KSG uses a hands on and creative approach to nurture a love of learning.

Shining Hope has been an organization I have been watching and admiring for over a year now. I could not be more thrilled at the opportunity to work with them this summer. In addition to the school SHOFOC has created a community center with library and computer lab, a microfinance program, a clean water initiative, a sustainable garden to help support families in the community, and a recently opened medical clinic. The girls at KSG benefit from all of these programs. Shining Hope oversees their medical, nutritional, educational and mental health care. In essence the girls that attend KSG now have a team of advocates in their corner.

For more information on how to donate to my journey or help spread the word please see the links on the right side of this web page.

Thank you for your continued support!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

African Comfort Dolls


I've been waiting to get all the details sorted out to share this news with you. But the team going to Kenya has received a unique and very special pledge from Cathy McElhannon at Washington and Lee University.

Cathy and her group of knitting friends have pledged to make our team 350 African Comfort Dolls. These are knitted dolls often used as packing material to send HIV/AIDS medications to Africa and then are given to the children treated in the clinics. In this case they will travel in our luggage!
This amazing donation is going to mean the world to these kids. The kids of Kibera have hardly any personal belongs. During my last trip I did not see one doll during my many home and school visits. I can already see the excited looks on their faces!

Thank you Cathy and your fellow knitters!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

KIBERA

KIBERA IS LOCATED ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF NAIROBI. IT IS HOME TO OVER 1.5 MILLION PEOPLE IN AN AREA THE SIZE OF CENTRAL PARK. IT IS THE LARGEST SLUM IN AFRICA AND THE SECOND LARGEST IN THE WORLD.

THERE IS A TRAIN THAT RUNS DIRECTLY THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF KIBERA. IN MANY AREAS IT IS JUST FEET AWAY FROM PEOPLE'S HOMES. THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL INCIDENTS OF THE TRAIN DERAILING IN THESE AREAS WITH FATAL CONSEQUENCES.

KIBERA DOES NOT HAVE RUNNING WATER OR A SEWAGE SYSTEM. TRASH AND HUMAN WASTE ARE PILED ON THE SIDE OF ROADS AND IN STREAMS. THESE UNSANITARY CONDITIONS PUT ALL KIBERANS AT HIGH RISK FOR TYPHOID, CHOLERA, DYSENTERY AND OTHER POTENTIALLY FATAL DISEASES.

FAMILIES LIVE UNSTABLE, MUD HUTS WITH CORRUGATED TIN ROOVES, THE SIZE OF A TYPICAL AMERICAN BEDROOM (SOMETIMES SMALLER). THERE IS USUALLY ONLY 1 BED PER HOME, THE CHILDREN SLEEP ON THE FLOOR.

CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 16 MAKE UP 50% OF KIBERA'S POPULATION.

THE KENYAN GOVERNMENT DOES NOT RECOGNIZE KIBERA. IT IS KNOWN AS AN "INFORMAL SETTLEMENT" AND THEREFORE IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR GOVERNMENT AID SUCH AS EDUCATION AND HEALTH CARE.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kibera Walk

video

2010 Ecclesia Trip to Kenya

Kenya Team 2010 from brent johnson on Vimeo.

How You Can Donate

Details on Donating

Where is my money going?
Your donation will cover a multitude of things.
1. My Trip
- Flight
- Housing
- Food
2. Supplies for the camps we host for over 300 orphans and vulnerable children!
- Arts and Crafts Supplies
- First Aid
- Sports Equipment
3. Two full meals and late afternoon porridge. This is HUGE for these kids.
4. Buses to and from Kibera for the kids and our team.

Once I we have funded these needs I am taking on an additional goal. I want to give to all five centers the following:
1. Medical Supplies so that Homecare mentors can take care of wounds when they occur. Providing these teachers with gloves, antiseptic and bandages will prevent the spread of diseases such as Staph, Hepatitis A and HIV/AIDS, all which can be fatal.
2. Education Fund. The informal schools in Kibera have no resources to educate the children that cannot afford to go to government school. I want to supply them with books, paper, writing utensils and give the teachers books to teach from. We will also provide students in government schools with the books and test fees they need to STAY in school.
3. Clothing and Shoes. This not only will help with overall health but it will give the children a sense of pride, most have never owned a new item of clothing or pair of shoes.

A worthy cause! Now here is how you can donate:
Donate Online
-Go to http://www.churchinhollywood.com/#/giving
-Click on "Log in to Online Giving"
-Create new account or log in as returning member
-Select "Kenya Mission Team 2012" under "Fund" drop-down menu
-Choose "Paige Smith" under "Sub Fund" drop-down menu

Checks made payable to Ecclesia Hollywood

**PLEASE include in the memo line “Paige Smith – Kenya

Email me at paigerinkenya@gmail.com for the mailing address.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Help Send Me To Kenya!

Hello Wonderful Friends and Family,

I am overjoyed to share some wonderful news with you; I am returning to Kenya this summer!

Last summer I spent three weeks working with a team from my church in Kenya. The church I attend, Ecclesia Hollywood (www.churchinhollywood.com), supports the indigenous aid groups, Ghetto Light Youth and Homecare Fellowship in the Kibera Slum of Nairobi, Kenya. The main focus of these organizations is to care for orphans, teens and widows affected by poverty and AIDS, by providing everything from meals to schooling to developing sustainable businesses. They are supported by Tirzah International (http://www.tirzahinternational.org/), an amazing organization working to empower women and children across the globe.

My experience last summer was nothing short of life changing. These children are so hungry for love and attention. Despite the fact that most of them only own 1 or 2 outfits, their shoes are falling apart, they may not eat for days at a time and face horrendous abuse, all they want is to hold your hand and to know you will return next year. How could I say no to such a simple request?

I left Kenya hungry to do more. Asking myself, how can I help these children in a meaningful way? I have been reading, researching and emailing group leaders to learn as much as I can about organizations at work in Kibera. In my quest for knowledge and understanding I have come to know the importance of involving the people of Kibera in the solution. As westerners we cannot come in with our ideas for solutions, thinking we know what’s best. The organizations that I am working with this summer are all run by Kenyans, who are from Kibera. We come along simply to support them and facilitate growth.

A few facts about Kibera:

- Kibera is the largest slum in Africa, the second largest in the world.

- 1.5 million people live in an area the size of Central Park.

- One in five children will not live to see their 5th birthday.

- Only 8% of girls will have the opportunity to go to school.

- 66% of girls will have traded sex for food by the time they turn 16.

This summer I will be returning with Ecclesia to work with Homecare Fellowship and Ghetto Light Youth once again. I have also applied for a teaching internship at The Kibera School for Girls. This is the first all girls, tuition free school in Kibera. They are run by Shining Hope for Communities (www.hopetoshine.org), an incredible organization that not only runs the school but also a community center and medical clinic.

If accepted I will be spending two and a half months in Kenya this summer. The first month will be spent teaching at The Kibera School for Girls. Next I will have two weeks to meet with a variety of Kenyan organizations and NGOs working in Kibera. I will also be facilitating the purchase of medical supplies, school supplies and clothes for the children of Homecare during this time (a project I am spear-heading under Tirzah International). Lastly I will be meeting up with the team from Ecclesia to run the camp for Homecare and Ghetto Light Youth, in addition to working in the feeding centers and schools run by Homecare within Kibera.

My hope is to not only raise the money for my own trip to but to also raise funds for the purchase medical supplies, school supplies and clothes for the children of Homecare Fellowship. I can’t tell you how great the need is for these items. Running our first aid tent last year, most of these children had never seen a Band-Aid and most certainly did not know how to take care of their infected wounds. The schools that we visited had no books, paper or writing utensils. The teachers simply lectured from the few resources they had to a group of children ages 3 to 16. And clothes. Most of the children only have one or two outfits and shoes that are falling apart. In a slum with no running water or sewage system, this puts them at extreme risk for many diseases.

I know that I can’t fix everything that these amazing kids face each day, but I can strive to make their lives just a little bit better. We are looking to make a generational change, to help them to get a classroom education along with educating them on health and wellness. And most importantly we want to show them that they are LOVED beyond measure. Please help me to continue this movement.

I will be fundraising in phases since I am piecing together my own program this summer. The first phase is raising money for my flight, the Ecclesia trip and funds for medical, school and clothing supplies. Here is the breakdown and how you can help. Every little bit helps, even $10! And all contributions are 100% TAX DEDUCTIBLE. I will also be hosting a fundraiser in Los Angeles in April or May, so stay tuned!

- Flight Cost: Approximately $2000

- Ecclesia Kenya Team Cost: $1500 (includes lodging, travel, food,camp supplies, etc.)

- Medical, School and Clothing Supplies: my goal is to raise $7000, but the more you give the more we will be able to provide these amazing kids!

How To Donate:

Donate Online: www.churchinhollywood.com/Kenya

**Please make sure to mark under "Team Member Designation": Paige Smith**

Donate By Check:

Checks made payable to Ecclesia Hollywood

**PLEASE include in the memo line “Paige Smith – Kenya

Email me at paigecsmith@gmail.com for the address.

Other ways you can help:

Forward this email on to anyone who might be interested in the cause.

Tweet about it! Follow me @paigecsmith and post the link below.

Facebook me! Post a link to this letter.

Blog about it! Share your thoughts and this awesome cause!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter, I know it’s a long one but it is difficult to sum up just how important these people and their struggles are to me. They have given me far more than I will ever be able to give them but I won’t give up trying!

If you have any questions please feel free to email. And for more information check out my blog: www.paigerinkenya.blogspot.com.

Much Love,

Paige

paigecsmith@gmail.com

Mary's Story


Mary’s Story

My time in Kenya was filled with so many stories. It’s impossible to find one that encompasses my experience. There were amazing stories of triumph over adversity, heartbreaking stories of abuse, stories of hope and joy, stories of incredible violence. And everyone on our team heard different stories; had different experiences with different children so I thought I would share the experience that was unique to me. It is not the most horrific story I heard or experienced and not the most hopeful either, but it is the one that will not let go of my heart.

The Ecclesia team ran two one week camps that each had about 150 kids. We had 18 of our own American leaders and 10-15 Kenyan leaders depending on the camp. Needless to say different kids are drawn to different leaders, no two relationships are the same. Sometimes I think that their little hearts can just recognize something familiar in yours, without words even. I had the amazing privilege of having such a connection with Mary.

The second day of camp I noticed a little girl in our group tripping over her own feet. I looked down and saw that her filthy, tattered, converse-type sneakers were mislaced and knotted. She had folded down the backs of the shoes to cram her feet in but they were not staying on very well and she couldn’t keep up with the other kids. I asked if I could retie her shoes. After some pointing and hand signals she nodded and sat down on the ground. I took off her shoes to find paper pieces falling out that were used to try and plug holes and keep her feet warm. I took the laces out of the shoes and went to work on the knots. Once I had finally untangled those I relaced the sneakers and put them back on her feet. She looked up at me with a shy but toothy grin.

Most of the children I met from Kibera had shoes that that we would have thrown away years ago, socks with holes in the heels and toes, and so many with horribly infected wounds on their feet that have never been treated (some kids had never seen a band-aid). But what touched me about this first moment with Mary was the simplicity of the problem. No one had looked at her feet when she put on her shoes in the morning. No one had looked at her feet when she left the house to travel 40 minutes on the bus to camp. No one looked at her feet when she got on or off the bus. And no one looked at her feet when she arrived at camp. It broke my heart.

After I took Mary’s hand to help her up that day I was rarely without it interlocked in mine. She found me immediately at the beginning of each day and never parted ways with me if she could help it. I had to run an art project one afternoon and as I looked to the bottom of the hill that we were on I saw Mary standing there. My teammate, Naphtali, called up to me, “She told me she’s waiting for you.” While I was doing about an hour first aid and other kids were clamoring to see what treasures the first aid bag held she just patiently waited. During the days I spent with Mary I got to help her with a lost tooth and a bit of a bloody mouth, remove a bee stinger from her hand and dry her tears, help her make a necklace and a journal, meet her entire family and see her home in Kibera, meet her teacher and see her church. All with very few words. But I don’t think it was words that were needed. She would sit in my lap, take my hand and analyze every detail of my fingernails, crack my knuckles, wrap my arm around her as tight as possible, or take my hand and put it over her eyes and bury her face in my arm. God teaches us a universal love language that allows us to show anyone just how important and valuable they are. I can only hope that I was able to give back a fraction of love Mary gave to me those two weeks. And strive to love in the beautifully, open-hearted, humble way that she does.

A Little More Information on Mary and Kibera:

Mary is a 6 year old little girl born and raised in Kibera. She lives with her Mother (Margaret), brothers: Samson (8) and Eugene (2), cousin (Quinta, 12) and her mother’s friend and daughter. They live in a mud room half the size of an average bedroom. There is a bed that takes up half the room and crude wooden furniture that fills the rest. Mary sleeps on a wooden bench every night.

Kibera is the largest slum in Africa. Approximately 2 million people live in an area the size of Central Park. There is no plumbing within the community so a stream of garbage, human waste and dead animals flow freely down the streets and paths. The children play in piles of trash. 1 in 5 children in Kibera will not live to see their 5th birthday and 66% of girls will trade sex for food by the time they are 16, many begin by the time they are 6 years old.

The education of these kids is their only hope of getting out of Kibera. But education is hard to come by. Although Kenya claims to have “free” primary education students must pay for desks, uniforms, school supplies, extra classes and state tests. Most families cannot afford this; in fact only 8% of girls in Kibera will ever get the opportunity to go to school. In response to this, informal schools have popped up in many of the churches that scatter Kibera. But these schools have no desks, no books, and no supplies. The teachers are not paid and most have no formal training and very little, if any, education themselves.

Let me know if you are interested in getting involved! I would love to chat with you, just shoot me an email.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Officially Going Back to Kenya!


As of today I am officially going back to Kenya with the team for Ecclesia! And back to see my friend Mary! Let me tell you, this is the best news I've gotten in awhile. We are taking a team of 20 people 2/3 of which are returning. I know that the kids we've worked with before will be so happy to see so many familiar faces coming back to see them! We have our first training meeting this Sunday and I've got to get fundraising.

This year I am hoping to spend a longer amount of time in Kenya. I am applying for a teaching fellowship with The Kibera School for Girls, and if accepted I will be in Kenya for over two months. My goal is to fundraise not only for my own trip but also to raise money for Homecare Spiritual Fellowship. I am going to raise additional funds to buy medical supplies, clothes and school supplies for the children Ecclesia works with in Kibera. Stay tuned for details on the fundraiser!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Radiant Rita

Rita was our youngest camper. She is the daughter of Lynette, one of the volunteers at Homecare. Lynette lives in Kibera caring for her two children, Mercy and Rita, as well as her younger brother Collins; her mother passed away when she was quite young. Lynette is a volunteer with Homecare and at their home church in Kibera. At the church she is the only teacher of over 30 children ranging for the age of 2 to 16. She isfairly uneducated herself and struggles to provide these children with some sort of education since they cannot afford government school. With all that Lynette is trying to tackle, Rita sometimes gets left by the wayside. She is hungry for attention and love, while Lynette is exhausted. It is so difficult to see. At first I was angry with Lynette, wishing she would simply be a better mother, pay her young daughter more attention. But I did not understand her situation, I was ignorant. Later during my time in Kibera I was able to visit Lynette's home, she the conditions of the school she teaches in, meet the children she teaches. I cannot imagine fighting the uphill battle she must face everyday. There is noquick answer or easy solution. But I can hold Rita and give Lynette a little bit of a break while I am with her. Here is a little bit of precious Rita for you.


Photo By: Gena Peterson

Photo By: Gena Peterson

Photo By: Paula Thorrington


Tan Team Tricksters

Photo By: Kirsten Bosch

I Left My Heart In Kenya

Welcome to my blog about all things Kenya. In August of 2010 I touched down in Nairobi, Kenya for the first time. I spent two and a half weeks getting to know 300 children from the slum of Kibera as well as the adults that work with them on a daily basis, trying to get their needs met. These people captured my spirit and will not let it go. They gave me far more than I will every be able to give them, but what I can do is share their stories. Perhaps they will touch you in a similar way.

I am planning to return to Kibera this summer. Possibly for as long at 3 months. I can't wait to share the journey with all of you!

Much Love,
Paige