Photo by Tony Cece

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wednesday 7/25

On our third day of service in the surrounding community, we continued the same activities, shifting groups so that most everyone served somewhere new. One group was positioned at each post: staff training at the IAA compound, meeting at homes near our compound, counseling in the IDP camps, and student and faculty training at a nearby high school.
My group and I spent our day at St. Christopher’s Catholic High School working with students in forms III & IV (grade 11 & 12) and teachers from all grade levels. The team was energized as we lead the students through a lecture on self-esteem and two practical exercises. This included drawing a self-portrait using both positive and negative adjectives and writing 10-year goals on the other side of the page. We asked the students to circle those self-descriptions that would help them reach their goals (make it to the other side of the page) and cross out those that would hinder them.   The students also created a “Shield” with the shape of one used by a warrior in battle. The shield contained descriptions of their most cherished values and experiences, serving as protection against an attack on self-worth.
The instructors at St. Christopher’s appreciated the presentations as a new way of understanding problems that arise while educating children. The two presentations included the topics of impact of trauma on a child’s psychosocial development and the impact of stress on a child’s learning capacity in the classroom. In small discussion groups, the instructors drew from memory cases that fit the criterion discussed. It was as if a light came on. Now that they have a better understanding of the motivations of disruptive students, they can adjust their approach to discipline for the individual student and the entire class.

A new group worked at the IDP camp today and visited homes in a separate “block” of the camp than the previous two teams. Based on reports, today’s team seemed to have a somewhat different experience. The evidence of poverty was still present, but the people much more hopeful, even in the midst of stress and trauma. The homes in this block also seemed to be cleaner and generally better put together, with plenty of light and roofs that adequately protected residents from the elements. After hearing reports from the IDP camp visits over the past three days, its seems that the willingness to receive therapy increased as we spoke to residents that had more hope and whose basic needs were met. While some members of this camp are “better off” than others, simply meaning that they have slightly more possessions, All of these people lack the basic needs for survival: FOOD. WATER. CLOTHING. SHELTER.
Another group remained at the compound to present a seminar on parenting skills and child development to the IAA staff. In a similar observation as the day before, a team member said that attendees did not show much interaction during the didactic portion of the seminar, but came out with questions and comments during the small group discussion. As the presentation was psycho-educational in nature, the staff was able to identify signs of trauma in the children they cared for and learn skills that can be used in their own homes. One of the staff members had the fortune to immediately practice the skills as she walked downstairs to greet an unruly child.
The last group continued visiting homes in the community surrounding IAA, interacting with different types of families. Some families were poor and in great need of care while others were hard working and economically well-off. As they spent quality time with people in the community, team members remarked, “I felt like I was meeting a need.” Another person described it as, “It was like meeting with people in church.” They welcomed us into their homes, they told us their story, we learned from each other, and we prayed together.
Some in the community posed peculiar questions to our team, such as the types of contraception generally used in the U.S., and more specifically, those used by our female team members. Although it is awkward to respond to such a question, we realized that this is a prominent issue, as Kenya faces staggering population growth. In it’s concern over the distribution of resources, the government supplies contraception to citizens. Today, however, we saw on the front page of the local newspaper today that the Catholic Church is in protest on moral grounds.

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