02 Oct Challenges and Victories During Quarantine
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13
As we hit the six-month mark of social distancing in our Kitalale and Kikuyu homes, one thing has become very clear to us: health is wealth, and we are incredibly grateful for the health of our kids, Aunties, Uncles and community members. Together with God, and the support of the generous contributions of donors from around the world, we have been able to keep our 100 kids safe during these unprecedented times.
Even though the past six months have been unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before, they have been nothing short of amazing. In this piece, we’d like to take the opportunity to share some of the challenges and victories we have faced while staying safe at home.
The New Normal
Early in the pandemic, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, mandated the closure of all schools and said that all kids in boarding school were to return home to help prevent the spread of the virus. We didn’t know how long this mandate would last, and soon, one week turned into two, which then turned into a month. It took us about three months to fully adjust and accept that this would be our new normal. As we adjusted to spending more time together at home, we briefly had to deal with some behavioral issues with the teens and preteens. At the same time, the Aunties, Uncles and staff members were working incredibly hard to support an increased number of kids 24/7 and keep them all engaged. Through this unsettling time, the kids and staff members were able to build an even stronger and deeper relationship than they previously had, which has allowed them to get through this together.
Learning Must Go On
With all schools shut down, the government started rolling out a number of educational TV and radio segments. Because a large number of people in Kenya don’t have access to the internet, this method made learning accessible, and helped many kids continue their learning. In our homes, these segments were helpful during the first few days while we collected study materials directly from the teachers and set-up a study plan for the kids.
Of all of our kids, those who are in class 8 (grade 8 in the U.S.) had the most challenging time adapting to studying from home. This additional pressure was a result of the class 8 exam, which all class 8 students must take towards the end of their school year. The results of this exam determine where the students can go to high school, which in turn plays a role in where they can attend college. Preparing for this exam from home added a lot of pressure to Blessing, Joshua, Zakayo, Faith, Viola and Ivene from our Kitalale home and George, Peter, Jacob and Grace from our Kikuyu home. But to their surprise, the government announced that school will likely not resume until 2021, and all students will have to repeat the grade they were in before the pandemic hit. Though there is still some speculation about what will actually happen, this has allowed the class 8 kids to have some peace of mind and allows them to focus on their studies without stress.
With a bit of extra time on their hands, many of the kids were tempted to watch TV to keep busy. After having a conversation with the kids, we opted to introduce new activities and take learning out of the classroom to focus on practical skills. With help of the Aunties and Uncles, the kids then learned how to weave, bead, garden, farm and cook! These skills are just some of the ideas the kids came up with and expressed interest in. Thanks to these activities, the kids have spent less time watching TV and more time focusing on developing their new skills. Moses Kemboi in Kitalale has even started making and selling bracelets with people’s names on them. After a few of our staff purchased them, he bought two chickens to start his very own entrepreneurial project.
All Hands on Deck
Having every child at home all the time for 6 months straight is not something we’re used to. Feeding and cleaning up after this many people can be taxing, but with the right support, anything is possible. The kids continue to be responsible for tidying their own rooms and common areas, which in times like these is crucial. As a result, this initial tidying helps our cleaning staff do an even better and more effective job.
Every day, each of the kids gets assigned a chore to help out with in the home. The chores can range from supporting the cooks in the kitchen to doing laundry and even babysitting. Some of the kids have favorite tasks, like Kevin Kiplang’at, Sammy Elisha and Ezra from Kitalale, who love helping out at the farm.
To accomodate feeding 50 people multiple times a day, each of our homes is equipped with two kitchens. One is a firewood kitchen, which is where most meals are prepared. The other is a propane gas kitchen, which is where smaller meals and snacks can be made quicker. The firewood kitchen is energy efficient and makes it easier to cook for high quantities of people. To avoid monotony, we’ve altered and updated our menus to provide a variety of food for our kids.
Supporting Mental Health
During the first few months of the pandemic, the kids had a lot of questions about what was going on in the world. With many unknowns, the only thing our Aunties and Uncles could do was to listen to them express their fears and offer unconditional love and support. By splitting the kids in small groups and creating a space where they could ask questions, they started feeling more in control of the situation and slowly let go of their fear. Even though the kids miss their friends and going to school, they know that staying home now will help things get back to normal later.
Similarly to all of our friends in the U.S and around the world, we’ve experienced things during these past six months that none of us have ever gone through before. Learning how to navigate these emotions as a family has allowed us to learn more about each other and most importantly, ourselves.. In the end, we are incredibly grateful for the chance to get closer as a family and our health. We thank God for these gifts every single day.