【Why we do it】
On June 28, 2015, I departed from Taiwan. With two connecting flights in Hong Kong and Ethiopia, I eventually arrived in Kenya, Africa. On that day, June 29, 2015, my volunteering life kick started
In about 10km southeast of central Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, there exists this place called Mukuru slum. Looking tiny, it is in fact home to 75,000 people. I was assigned to provide assistance at a hospital and elementary school..
Special slum schools.
I first heard of ‘Joycare’ from words of mouths of other volunteers for the first time, by accident. Surprisingly, even for Mukuru slum, one of the gigantic slums in Africa, there are only two private schools (note that public schools receive governmental preferential treatment) dedicated to children with special needs. And one of them is ‘Joycare’. Joycare currently has 12 kids studying there, in 2 tiny rental rooms (less than 10 feet). There is 1 teacher, and correspondingly she takes up all the workload. The kids are ranged from 5 to 15 years old, and they have various degrees of physical and mental disability. Essentially everything (inc. eating, sleeping, learning, games) are conducted in this little dark house. The only teaching kit is a rough wooden table.
On the first day of my visit, I decided to stay here. This is the beginning of the story between me and CIS.
In the following days, I slowly immense myself at this place. I started to write down their names and ‘characteristics’ with a small note, gradually I could even spot the absentees. The children were shy from the beginning, though by time they started to open up. There was this kid who had never spoken in class, and one day he simply called my name. It is hard to grasp their strength and optimism, especially because those are often being exaggerated, but here is authentic and vivid, they have indeed made an impact on me.
Here is this question every volunteer will ask: Is there anything we can change? Looking at the surroundings, those dreams and thoughts just seem so distant to everyone of us, and I am no exception. But we have not given up. We cannot change the world, but we can contribute a little bit here and there. “To do” or “not to do”, I think, is already a clear crossing line here.
Every child here has got their own uniqueness. Pius, 15-year-old, the eldest kid, suffers from cerebral palsy, which affects both his physical and mental development to different extent, nevertheless this does not affect his ability to take care of himself (he can go to the bathroom, eat …). He can help the teacher with classroom management, house cleaning and other administrative work. He sometimes even play tricks with me when we play game together. It was only when I taught him writing and logics, did I realize that he was still a child in much need of help. Keith, is an autistic boy. Every autistic kid is different, and Keith is a particularly quiet one. He likes keeping his hand busy to play with something, anything. But his organisational ability is, to my surprise, very strong. When we were finished with the games,
Keith can always tidy up the mess in less than 1 minute. There are many more stories like Pius and Keith’s. I can’t help thinking, given their talents, if there was such chance, that these children living in the slum area can have access to better educational resources, or even can go out and see the world, what would the result be? Grace is the only teacher here, responsibility for everything from meal feeding to class teaching, from helping the kids to pee (or poop), to taking care of their snivel and saliva; day after day. This is the second year since the school established, and also Grace’s second year with the school.
Project original intention:
The tuition fee for ‘Joycare’ is KSH200 per month, which is close to USD2. Although it does not sound much in international standard, to most slum dwellers it is still a huge burden (here each family has 3-4 children on average, and most of them are single-parent families). When parents cannot afford tuition fees, school can only depend on donations from outsider for its continuity. This is by no means a long-term solution.
Grace has kept a large book dedicated for school visitors. Each visitor, in one line, writes down their name, email address, and message to the school. There are still a lot of empty pages, while only the first few pages are occupied. “God bless you” “This is a great undertaking” “Come on” … Looking at the messages written in different languages, I could even sense the warmed and pleasantness it brought about. The sentence carried a lot more weight than this one single line.
Perhaps It was also the moment, that I thought, we got to do something.
- Upgrade School Facilities: expand school space, set up infrastructures (tables, chairs, mattresses, writing utensils, etc) and basic
sanitation (toilets). This is to provide a healthy living environment for children living in slums so they would at least have a decent learning environment.
- Help the school to survive and sustain: build a small garden for fruits and vegetables in school. It does not only reduce the school’s routine food expenses, but also generates revenue through selling of extra fruits. Meanwhile, we are thinking to integrate this program into the curriculum, in particular, participation in gardening can also be part of a rehabilitation education curriculum.
- Figure out long-term economic revenue by introducing the business model of social enterprises: We are setting up online store in our official webpage, which is dedicated to selling handicrafts and souvenirs (limited edition T-shirts, bads, postcards, etc.) in relation to this school. Our designers come from Taiwan (Eslite bookstore), China (Academy of Art College), …
- Enhance educational resources:
(1) By cooperating with local public school, Kilimani primary school, we held counselling sessions for the parents. Legal counsels were invited to provide opinion on various preferential policies, at the same time it provides the parents a platform sharing educational resources
(2) Link up international volunteers (through AIESEC platform) around the world, who possess knowledge towards kids with special needs. As a result the kids can also have assess to quality global educational resources
Project deadline: 2015/8 / 1-2015 / 11/1;
- Visiting major institutions and schools in Nairobi. The aim was to find out their educational resources / setups for children with special needs, and also the relevant development in the area. On the same note, we have received some wheelchairs sponsored by schools and NGOs.
- Survey conducted in major universities in Nairobi. The aim was to assess local students’ awareness on educating children with special needs, especially in the slum areas. Through introducing our project, we also had built up a database for potential volunteers which we could work with, in the future
- Conducted field trip studies with local Kenyans (Mukuru slums). This helped us to make a realistic budget
- Legal advisory. The aim was to get acquainted relevant laws and regulations in Kenya, in order to make better use of existing preferential policies, and to cross out infeasible plans from our list.
- Respectively visited the family of these 12 kids, to get to know more about their living environment and family dynamics. We helped parents to understand the importance of education, encouraged them to support children’s education, and insisted for such actions to be taken.
[What else can you do?]
- Friends who have relevant knowledge and experience in “special education”, you are welcome to join us (changemakerinslums.com) as volunteers.
- You are welcome to support us in the form of donations.
- If you have comments and suggestions, please let us know.
Want more feeds?
- Official website: changemakerinslums.com
- WeChat public account: changemaker_in_slums
3.Youtobe video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_UpNdMivN4
- E-mail: email@example.com
2. WeChat Contact: Yang Wenjing (ID: Azad_Yangwenjing)