Hello everyone!

On Tuesday, the Penn State group left Kenya to fly home. I had been asked to stay behind to continue our efforts here at the CYEC. I hope to continue this blog to keep everyone updated on further progress at the CYEC.

Late Tuesday morning was bittersweet as another year of Penn State at the CYEC came to a tangible close. The kids were sad to see their new American friends leave for home as the Penn Staters were sad to hug the kids goodbye. Our short three weeks here have taught us invaluable lessons about the differences between cultures as well as the many similarities that we share with people half a world away. We will be sure to keep in touch with our Kenyan counterparts so that we may learn from and teach each other how to make the world a better place. While most of the Penn Staters are no longer here physically, they remain here in the work that they have done and the hearts of the kids whose lives they have forever touched. Penn Staters, the kids all still ask about you and miss you all very much. Be sure to keep in touch with them through email and Facebook as this means the world to them.

After the Penn State group left, only Brad and I remained. We left for the small town of Chogoria only hours after the others had departed. After a few very crowded matatu rides and the cheapest taxi ride either of us had ever had, we arrived at the Chogoria Guest House at almost 11pm. The next morning, after a breakfast of fresh papaya, we walked to the offices of Village Hopecore International (VHI). This NGO was founded by a native Kenyan who lived in California for 40 years. VHI provides micro loans to groups of villagers living in the Chogoria area. We spoke with the officers of the NGO and gained valuable information about how to structure microfinance loans and policies. We even got go venture into the field with them and meet loan recipients. They taught us a lot about loans and the benefits and obstacles of the work we are trying to do.

We had quite the adventure coming back to the CYEC. It involved taking five different public matatus home. Each matatu was designed to hold 12 people. In reality, the drivers squished 23-25 people on each matatu. Many of the other passengers stared at us and we heard the word “muzungu” (white person) said many times. We even came upon a few passengers who were angered by our presence. At one point, a matatu driver had us leave his matatu and to get on an express vehicle. I supposed this gesture was meant to be helpful, but it was quite the experience to be singled out. We were indeed the minority and there was not a matatu that we took where it didn’t feel like we were aliens invading the vehicle. It was a jarring taste of reality.

While we were gone, the Ag Extension Education ladies had arrived at the CYEC. They have spent their time touring town and holding a health fair for the kids. They even brought nail polish and painted both the girls and boys nails! Some of the ladies taught some kids how to crochet. They picked up on it right away and now many of them have almost completed their first scarves!

Yesterday, the J-Kwat baby banana trees arrived! They brought us 20 trees comprised of 3 different varieties. I helped Titus plant the banana trees along the fence of the Shamba. He said that the trees would be producing fruit in one year! So hopefully by the time Penn State returns next year, the kids will be eating bananas!

After the planting, we had another staff meeting with the ag-side of the CBO. They once again stressed the importance of bookkeeping. And to my delight, everyone had started using the binders that we had all spent so long compiling. There is always the chance when doing this kind of work, that our efforts will be left in some forgotten corner to collect dust. But in our case, the youth are using and appreciating all of our hard work. I hope everyone on the Penn State team can share the sense of accomplishment that I felt when seeing the binders put to use. All of our hard work is really starting to make a difference!

I hope everyone had a safe journey home. I look forward to keeping you all updated about further progress here at the CYEC. Until next time!

In other random news:

There was a fire at the Samrat grocery store today!

The Ag-Extension ladies brought nail polish and some of the boys put it on their teeth! Yikes!

“Kwanza” (like the holiday) means “first”.

I learned how to make Chapatti today so in the fall we can have a Chapatti night! :)

The blue shower is now warmer than the dungeon shower. :(

The K-Staters wanted me to let you know that: “we have much love for our Penn State peeps and hope they are having a great summer! Don’t forget about us!”.

The internet is becoming progressively worse so I apologize for the delay of this blog post.

Ed Babcock
6/13/2011 05:56:57 am

Hey Caroline,

Great update.....keep them coming. I had goosebumps this morning picturing the Youth Enterprise and team coming to the meeting with binders in hand and forms being used as you described. You and the rest of team are to be commended for your "sticktoitiveness" in getting us all to that point. It is indeed a huge accomplishment..........I can almost see the loan funds flowing now and it gives me great joy to know that you all are changing lives for the better. Please give everyone my love. Let's talk this week.
Baraka Sikufikie!!!

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