feeling sad, slightly relieved, and excited all at the same time. We began, as the other days, with assembly and then sent the children to their classes so that they could seriously invest and practice their art all morning so that they would be ready to present what they have learned in the afternoon. We had scheduled a celebration time at YCT from 2-4pm; inviting each class to present, in addition to Slum Soccer jump rope team and Inspiration Center kids from Mathare. It was a wonderful time of appreciating the talents and abilities of these incredibly talented kids. At the end we gave the children certificates and a small gift to show the children that they had accomplished something great. After the event we invited the volunteers to come to CTM to have a time of fellowship and chai together and told the children to begin coming every Saturday for art art empowerment classes so that our same children who were with us in art camp will continue to be taught and influenced in positive ways.
The second day is always better than the first. The first day people are learning the schedual, how things will run, and what to expect. We must have done something right because on Friday people eagerly fit into the system Rodgers and I had set into place. I walk in to YCT expecting that I would need to lead assembly and I found the dance and music class guys standing up front leading the children in the song they had written about unity in order to teach the children:
Chorus: Unity Unity is what we want, Unity Unity in order to grow
Unity Unity is what we want in order for us to grow
‘Cause we belong [‘Cause we belong], ‘Cause we belong [‘Cause we belong] (go back to chorus)
To Help each other [to help each other], To Help each other [to help each other] (go back to chorus)
Once the song and assembly was finished we tweaked the schedule slightly and had children go directly to classes and then asked volunteers from each class to take cups and chai to the classes so that the kids where not disrupted and so that chaos didn’t break out so much. Also lunch was pushed later in the afternoon, after classes and before closing assembly, so that the child’s attention wasn’t not broken or disrupted. I think our willingness to adjust and make changes based on how day 1 went was wise and made the second day go well. The classes continued strongly, mural painting began the painting process on the wall, beadwork taught the children how to make paper beads, music class began recording a song for the children, fashion did their “fashion walks”, and dance class learned a dance to present for Saturday’s celebration. Kibera news broadcast came to interview us based on the arts activities we were doing and we also had our own camera documenting the event so that we can promote this art camp through the camera. The second day was even more encouraging than the first!
It seems to be a very long time ago that we had the first art camp in Kibera, although in reality it was only last Thursday through Saturday. In my head it had been going on weeks before and so when I woke up early on the first day of camp I feltl ike already I was on the last stretch of the camp; almost finished when we had only officially begun! I first went to CTM early to check on everything and make sure each location was in order…
Are the facilities unlocked? Are the cooks making chai? Who is leading assembly? Where are the packets for each class? How will we divide the kids into their correct arts groups? Is there water and cups at each location?
The first day is always the most stressful I guess. Rodgers and I probably looked like we were doing a relay race from Tumaini Church to YCT to Goldmines Foundation and back again- handing off brief phone calls, cups of chai, jerry-cans of water, and art supplies back and forth. Chai time at 10:30 am brought confusion and took a lot of energy to reassemble the kids, each class holding on to a long rope with one teacher leading. In dance class the artists from both Goldmines and GoDown Art Center did an amazing job. Photography and Beadwork were organized and thought out well. Mural Painting washed, primed, and sketched out their first mural. Fashion Class girls were taught how to run-way-walk by Grace who taught them about the true beauty within each person. The music producer of Goldmine challenged the Music Class to write their own song. Each art class explored their art on the basis of unity, and explored the 3 elements of unity, corresponding to our 3 days of camp… the first one being “We Belong”.
Lunch was delayed for at least an hour on our first day so actually the afternoon portion of class was lost completely on account of ugali that cooks too slow and food that was finished before everyone got some. We had the children return to YCT and Kevin and I led them in games, dance, and song until it was time to dismiss them after completing their first day.
The camp is coming so fast and so much is thrown into the mix at one time. But this is wonderful and crazy all in the same! Crazy = identifying local organizations to fund the camp; providing information of how much costs will be; figuring out a menu; recruiting artists; controlling the number of children that come; figuring out a good schedule of events; finding locations for classes; providing training; organizing buying supplies; organizing for food to be cooked throughout the camp; distributing responsibilities among artists; finding a suitable place for the dancers to teach- spacious with a roof; finding a way to appreciate the artists who are giving their time and expertise for free; finding a wall to paint on and then finding the security for the wall; sending out child registration forms; negotiating filming during this important event; finding a sound system, MC, location, ect. for the celebration with the Kibera community during the last day of camp.
This has been a large portion of what has consumed my time and thoughts lately but when there are barriers and when there is a fight to get to a goal it is so much sweeter when you have victory! This is how I have found it. We have struggled. There was no funding in the beginning, no way to thank the artists for their work, and no one who was willing to take the majority of the planning responsibilities. But slowly things have happened…
- GoDown Art Center has donated 5 amazing professional artists- 2 dancers and 3 mural painters.
- CTM has agreed to provide funding for food, based on the menu presented.
- Goldmines Foundation has given painting and beadwork supplies plus offered to record and produce a song for the children in music class.
- Slum Soccer Field is working with us to offer fashion class for many young girls and is helping to plan Saturday’s celebration.
- One of the GoDown painters put us in touch with a facility called YCT who have agreed to give us their building for free- to use during assemblies and for the dancers
- Kevin Ochienge is handling the morning and afternoon assemblies
- GoDown Art Center is buying and transporting all of the painting supplies
- BuildaBridge has allowed me to use some of the supply money to appreciate the artists after this camp by taking them somewhere special, which will honor their work and build up unity
- Olympic Primary has agreed for us to use the outside portion of their wall for our mural painting
- The art camp training went so well today and we now have a solid, unified and somewhat corky group of artists, who are now prepared and eagerly anticipating the children they will teach.
- Rodgers and Clive have been holding my head above my sea of to-do lists and I am so grateful because without their dedication it would not have happened at all.
- Goldmines and Tumaini Church have offered us classroom space.
- Shem has agreed to video for a donation price and this will help this camp to be sustainable in the years to come, since we will have solid footage to document and promote what is taking place.
- The artists are growing in excitement and eagerness to involve themselves in the art camp.
- We have 3 girls that we can pay to work in the kitchen for chai and lunch.
- I met a friend of a friend of a friend who knows a friend named Banykok, who is offering us security while the artists paint since he is a pretty tough guy who is respected and feared in Kibera.
- Registrations forms are rolling in for the children
- A church group from the US has donated for the children to be able to have certificates and a small gift at the end of camp.
Tuesday morning I got myself ready like any other tuesday… it’s my meeting day! Meeting starts at 9 am and Im always the secretary, so I grabbed my computer, phone, raincoat, and a few other items to get me through the day before heading out the door at 8:45 am and taking my normal route through an area called “Fort Jesus” towards Karanja road, which will take me to where I work on the outskirts of the Kibera slums. On my way I noticed two men walking next to me, then one walking on one side and the other on the other side. I said hi to the one on my left and tried to make out some of the swahili that the guy was saying on my right but couldnt understand much as we continued to walk passed produce stands, small dukas, and bars.
Suddenly there was a jacket in the shape of a gun pointed at my face and my bag was gently slipped off my shoulder. Looking down, the other man was pulling my phone and change out of my pockets. I pushed them back in and he pulled them back out. I was shocked, speechless, confused why the many people around me were just watching or not even paying attention to this scene. The guys walked away quickly and i stood there for a few seconds before looking around for help and telling people that my bag had just walked off with those two men. Commotion came and a group of men rallied quickly saying that they were going to go after the guys but as they ran off I doubted their promise and instead think they may have been going to see what the other men had found in my bag, but who knows for sure. Only one from the group returned, reporting that they did not catch them.
Women came around me telling me I should not be walking alone and always take a taxi- both of which I refuse to do. One man who I recognized came up and offered to as around and look into the incident to get information about the men and if they could return the items. My friend George, who works at the car wash on the same road, came out of concern and walked me the rest of the way to the CTM office, where the meeting was going on. The guys who took my bag had left me with the umbrella and cup of chai that were in either of my hands, but besides that I had nothing. At CTM I told the story to Gideon, who listened carefully and then advized me to fill out a report to the police and then go clear my head by walking around town rather than cooping myself up, which might just cause me to dwell more on what had just happened. As I walked out the door I explained to my friend, Rodgers, about how I might be late for our meeting in the late afternoon with some of the artists and he just smiled, put 100 shillings in my hand (since I had no money at that point) and said “Kaylie, just go, you don’t need to come back today. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
Shem took me to go fill out the police form and then offered to go to a park in town which I fondly like to call “Preacher’s Park” since there are always pastors walking alone talking to themselves in order to practice their sunday sermons. This helped me to sit and process things, but really, since the incident in the morning, I was amazed by the first feelings I felt of gratitude for safety, peace, joy, even laughing over the whole thing. I felt a way of refreshment- watching my possessions leave and still being ok with it. I was thankful that I was alive, to happy that I wasnt hurt, and even happy for the unexpected change in my day since i got to go to a park rather than sitting in on a full day of meetings.
Since Tuesday I have found out a bit more from my friends in Kibera who have been asking around. Apparently these two men have been watching me for some time. So they knew that Tuesday I always carry my bag and head to CTM by 9 am. The one tall man with a deep scare on his face is known i the community to be dangerous and carry a gun- so it was a real gun. Both men are from another area of town all together but still they have a presence here in Kibera. I have asked my friends to spread word that if I could have some of my things returned I would really appreciate it, many are silly things that wouldnt be worth much to others anyways… my bible (i miss this the most), biblestudy book, swahili dictionary, notebook, swahili notebook, hairclip, wristwatch, in a pickle card game, and my bright green whale raincoat. I have also found the serial number to my computer in hopes that if the men sell the computer it will be easier to locate, identify, and return it. All of these things I am holding very loosely though, and if nothing is returned, that is totally ok. God gave me that computer as a gift 7 months ago and He knew that it would get taken away so I know that whatever work I need to get done I can still accomplish what He has planned for me to do.
My reaction to the mugging has been delayed a bit. Initially I could only laugh and thank God. The next day I was determined to walk the very same route, same time of day, all by myself… just to prove to the people around me that I was not scared and certainly will not change what I am doing. However even on that walk there were two guys walking my same pace and one reached into his pocket which translated “gun” in my head. So I think I have developed a phobia. Then today, I am rode a matatu to town for a meeting and on the way the men in the matatu called out “police check, buckle your seatbelts”, which I know really means “let us pick your pockets”. So at first I ignored but then because many were saying this and I know that in the past sometimes police have checked seatbelts and have thrown people in prison for not having the seatbelt on I decided to buckle my belt without taking my eyes off my handbag. However, after this is where I started to panic because then the man next to me put a folder in front of my seat, which blocked my view completely from what the passengers in front were doing. I asked him what was going on and what he was doing. He repeated my panicking questions back to me and returned the folder to block my vision as I tried to push it away. I felt trapped and although it was just these men pick pocketting the lady in front of me, all I could think of was guns and hijackings. I struggled to get my seatbelt off and asked the tout to let me get off even though we were in the middle of the road. I got off that matatu and walked the rest of the way feeling very shaken.
I’m still trying to get over what happened last Tuesday, but I have a feeling it may take a week or even two before I am able to really feel comfortable and at ease walking around again, without jumping to extreme conclusions.
My friend, Isaac, who is in charge of finding and organizing events for Arts from Below found us a place to paint a mural. Talk of doing this began about a month ago when Isaac first discovered this place, Slum Soccer Field, deep within, a maze of dirt paths and little homes cemented to the side of a slope. The guy in charge was enthusiastic about getting a mural about peace put on the stone wall at the far end of the field. We had some leftover paint from the Diaspora of Hope Art Camp last December, which I nabbed from the Inspiration Center, so we just needed a few more cans and we were set to go! First came the undercoat… we headed out one thursday evening so that people wouldn’t kick up so much dirt on the wall it was drying (its dry season right now). We had a great time painting that first evening, even had many children come and help us paint. Only at the very end of our painting time, a group of guys started giving Isaac and some of the other guys in our group a hard time. They were demanding money, going on the assumption that I (since I’m white and sometimes people see money attached) was funding this mural project and that I was paying all the artists that were working. This was discouraging, personally and for the group. The guys were able to talk them down enough to let us leave without a fight but finishing our mural by the end of that same week was a stolen hope. The artists were discouraged, but at least we had accomplished painting the white, which is what we had set out to do.
For myself, sometimes I forget how much I stand out here. I feel so comfortable here and lose myself in exploration, relationships, adventures, ect. that I quickly forget the stark contrast… purely skin deep, and yet there is so much attached to my skin color. Sometimes I am saddened when my presence in a situation, such as this one, actually hurts more than helps. I totally feel loved and accepted by my friends in Kibera, but to those who I don’t know and don’t know me- I am first- a white person. I could easily be picked out in a crowd as opportunity, money, easy target for pickpockets, ect. But, once again, now that I have become so comfortable in Kenya and Kibera especially, I am usually oblivious to how differently people view me compared to others walking around on the street. I am only pulled back to sad reality in situations like the mural.
So mural painting was postponed for 2 weeks while Isaac talked to the guy in charge of the soccer field and we brainstormed about how to befriend this gang in the slum. In the end we are still working on the befriend the gang part and resorted to getting security from the guy in charge of the soccer field. When the artists met on Saturday to paint I was actually teaching the sculpture class so I couldn’t be there but another painter, George, was there to help those unfamiliar with mural painting. The artists spent the whole day working on that mural, till about 4. Many children came to help paint and the mural spilled over from the stone wall and onto the mabati (remember that word??)! The process was just as meaningful to the children and the artists as was the finished painting!