Day 2 – Street Smart

Think you are thirteen and living on the streets…

Will you ‘tolerate’ some art/learning time and maybe a few inquisitive questions about youself for some free snacks and a hearty lunch?

I definitely would …

and that is exactly what being ‘Street Smart’ is all about.

Street Smart is also a  program of Child Rescue Kenya that ‘sources’ the children who are to be rescued from the streets – either back to their families or in the. rescue shelter.

The objective of this program is to identify and engage the fresh kids out on the street everyday -before they can become addicted to substance and goes astray..

On my first day at Child Rescue Kenya office – I exchanged greetings with the Director and also all other colleagues working on the different programmes of the organisation.

The first natural stop was to spend the day with the Street Smart to see, feel and understand what they do at street level each day.

Let me just mention here that this is a team of three amazing ladies- who may not be doctors but are similarly saving several lives every single day……..

They will make people realize that one doesn’t always need higher education or qualifications to make a difference.

So each morning Elizabeth, Victoria and Billah (and today me tagging along) go for their morning round – walking the streets of Kitale town.

They look out for new children on the streets, talk to them and also engage old known street kids to come to the Street Smart office for a shower, free food and some activities like learning alphabets or drawing…

I don’t know how the other days go but today there was a buzz because “mgeni”- meaning the foreign visitor- aka me – is here too.

I got many many handshakes, most wanted to know my name and talk to me.  Some hugged and kissed and touched my hair and wanted me to take their photos. There were a few hostile ones who didn’t like being on photos – most probably because they were high on glue sniffing.

Walking over old railway tracks, open markets and dodgy corners we got a few new additions and assurance from old ones saying they will come for lunch.  we went stopped at ‘gateway hotel’ where free snacks were being distributed to street kids for free (sponsored by a Good Samaritan).

We helped out serving the kids and then walked back in SS office – (which includes a room with a long table, a bench and a few plastic chairs, another room to hold the jaricans of water bought by the organisation for showers and drinking and lastly a classroom) to do some drawings and to have lunch.

The boys were all drawing different things for me and I was seriously impressed with the latent of a few. What impressed me the most was that if any child was even slightly regular for a few days a week SS team managed to teach them to write their names and to write and read the  basics…

These amazing ladies then also did some counselling on a one to one level with the new kids to write their case reports before deciding what is the best way of keeping them safe.

For instance – today there were 3 new kids who came to Kitale because their father died in December. They never knew their mother and now with their father dead – they are on the streets of Kitale looking for an unknown aunty whom they can’t name or locate. The eldest sibling who is 7 is a girl with two brothers of 6 and maybe 5!!! Such tender age to be orphaned and to have no relatives to take them back in.. SS team decided to send them to Berunda -the rescue centre- straight away.

Saying the above – it is not always a success story of rehabilitation.  As an example Victoria mentioned that just last week they sent one boy home after a lot of coaxing. Only to see him back on the streets again today..:( When asked why he is not home -he said that his parents didn’t want him and told him to go away!!!

There are thousand and one stories like these.

And I wish I could share atleast some of the ones I got to know about today with you all….but  truth is it is not possible in this blog.

Just like the harsh truth that even tonight hundreds of children as little as 4 or 5 years will be out on the street on their own not only in Kitale but also in many many other countries of the world.

Think about it when you go to bed today……

And if you really think hard enough…. I promise you will change at a cellular level.

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Day 1 – 15th Jan 2017

So after 2 long haul flights I landed in Africa! From Nairobi I then took another domestic flight to Eldoret…. Interestingly I observed how the size of the planes went down for each trip .. From a BOEING 777 to AIRBUS A320 and then to a Lear Jet. In that Lear Jet I made my first kill in Africa … yes ..a mosquito :).

The only relief is going back it can only get better. I think the last flight will be on a A380.. love those…

After those flights  the 2 hours road trip to Kitale felt as relaxing as a spa trip. And the roads felt soooo like home… Kenya felt indeed like Bangladesh but just with less people. Nurseries selling dusty plants by the road side, men loitering on the streets for no good reason, Bata store…. it didn’t feel like I was in a new country for the first time at all.

The man who came to pick me up from the airport and drove me to Kitale was friendly too. I was too knackered to be socially chatty but I asked about him and his life in there … Oh! I got acquainted to two people on two of the flights – one Parisian man who was flying to Vietnam for 2 weeks to visit his best friend and his family.. and another Canadian Lady travelling to Kenya for work. I also got to say Hi to another Afid volunteer who flew in to Nairobi and was doing similar kind of work like me for another charity. It is always nice to know about other people .. I am always curious ….

Once in Kitale and in Karibuni Lodge, I settled into my home for the next two weeks… I plan on either doing a vlog or a picture upload of my lovely nice cottage once I get permission from the owner and of course have better internet speed!

After a nice cold shower ( I am feeling a bit stuffy at 28 degrees).. and relaxing for an hour or so… Eric Mochoge – the gentleman responsible for Child Rescue Kenya’s Finances – came over to meet me. Even though we skyped each other before, the line was terrible, so it was rather good catching up in person.

We talked about our backgrounds, expectations from my stay, outlined our work schedules for the next couple of weeks and in general chatted about many things and nothing…

His story  and motivation inspired me and I am sincerely looking forward to working with him.

After he bid farewell with the promise of a 9 o’clock pickup to meet the Director and the other colleagues tomorrow… I think I dozed off for the while .. the tiredness of the last 24 hours finally creeping in.

Now I am just blogging in the main sitting area of the lodge (unfortunately no Wifi in my cottage) and waiting for my dinner.

So… I think my arrival and first day in Kitale couldn’t have been any better. 🙂

The environment is so peaceful and quiet.. I can hear the different birds (even though no clue what they are) and there is a mosque nearby so .. hearing the melody of Athan after so many many months now is quenching my heart right down to its core.

I am so glad I am here…it is definitely worth all those nervous long haul flights..

I am just a bit disappointed at myself on one thing though… I am still struggling to take a proper selfie with my newly bought selfie stick 🙁 Didn’t realize it needed special skills I clearly don’t have!!

I will try putting in a few photos with this blog too…. just so that you can laugh at me 😛

 

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Nervous flyer…



In the last twelve months I had more than twenty four takeoffs and landings .. but each time I had been all sweaty, anxious to the point of a nervous breakdown

I get irrational thoughts of dying in such a claustrophobic helpless space!!

And if you are anything like me .. then maybe even the following dos and don’ts most probably will not serve its purpose..

8 mistakes made by nervous fliers

15 Effective Tips for the Nervous Flyer

But hey .. no harm in trying….

Please do keep in your prayers because I want to come back to my baby in one piece!!

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I am not lucky!

 

Sometimes I am told that I am rather lucky to have a husband who happily looks after our daughter when I am travelling on my own. I personally think that it is rather silly! What does luck have to do anything with it?

Surely in this modern time and age – parenthood should be shared 50/50 and a woman doesn’t have to termed ‘lucky’ only because daddy has the child/children for a few days or weeks on his own?!

I know of families where the father- being the bread winner- stays away for months and years at a time and it is the mother who is left with the kids without any Oohs..Aaahs and Issh.. Does any of you call that man lucky? I am sure you don’t..

Hence I am not really sure why I am lucky!!

I know a mother is a mother .. but surely a father can be a father too! You only need to think objectively and understand parenthood and just just motherhood..

The first time I left Raaida alone with daddy was when she was 7 months for 9 days. Since then I have travelled to numerous destinations without my family for work and pleasure.

I am sure some people (maybe mostly women than men) will judge me for being a careless, selfish mom but does it matter? Not really…

Each time I leave my now four year old behind. I tell her to look after daddy as much as daddy will look after her. I love her unconditionally and sometimes I think being away from her now and then makes her appreciate me more.

I believe she is learning not to take her mother for granted. She is learning that mummy is entitled to go about doing her own business and things for her own pleasure without feeling guilty about it just as much as daddy.

And above all- she is learning that when she is a mother she will not have to feel 100% responsible for her children all the time and will definitely not have to sacrifice her dreams and wishes just because she didn’t get ‘lucky’…

 

 

 

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It is a mission….

My bags are packed. I got less than 48 hours to start my mission. And Yes! It is indeed a mission… !!

My husband started calling this ‘my mission’ rather than a trip when he saw how sincerely and methodically I have planned and worked for this.. (rather unusual)….and you know what? I kind of agree….

It is indeed a personal mission for me. A mission to challenge myself in every single way possible. A mission to test my professional qualifications, my adaptability to work  in a new culture and work environment with new people in a brand new country!

I am very sure that two weeks in Kenya will teach me things that will last me my entire lifetime. I will come back full of memories that I am hoping will always make me smile and fill me with gratitude that I got the chance to do it in my rather ordinary life.

Now, In case you are wondering what this ‘great mission’ of mine is.. it is to work for an amazing organisation called Child Rescue Kenya (here is a link to their website: www.childrescuekenya.org)

Child Rescue Kenya works with vulnerable children in and around Kitale to protect the children, empower their families and promote children’s rights. They provide key interventions and solutions for homeless and vulnerable children to alleviate poverty, prepare them for the future and strive to preserve and promote the family unit. They also run a rescue centre which provides food, accommodation, health care and has a team of social workers who will try to understand why the child has run away/ is homeless and help to work through any family problems that may have caused it.

It is run by 25 workers and 4 volunteers…And I ….will be the first finance volunteer!!

CRK has reached out seeking international expertise on organisation financial management and development of and advice on the strength of the existing controls, programme value for money and impact evaluation. They can do with some training and mentoring, particularly around internal controls, financial monitoring tools for their various programmes, financial analysis and the preparation of financial reports. I will be also be conducting an internal review of their systems, procedures and controls and making and implementing recommendations for best practice.

I got this opportunity to do something this extra ordinary in my ordinary life with the help of Afid.  (http://www.afid.org.uk). I dont want to make this post extra extra long – so please check their website and if you are an accountant …I would definitely encourage you to try doing something similar. We accountants can sometimes become rather mundane and grey  in our corporate lives living with numbers… and doing such voluntary assignments, even if for 2 weeks, can give us a complete fresh perspective, challenge our learning and take us to colourful destinations… like Africa in my case!!!

Cant wait for my mission to start 🙂

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Travel alone….

Has anyone ever done any surveys on what % of Bangladeshi women venture out in the world to travel on their own? I looked for some statistics on the internet but couldn’t find anything….

Being just another Bangladeshi girl – I grew up learning that it is never safe to travel alone….. Whether it was to go to your tutor’s home or to the market. Travelling to another city or country? Are you mad??

But that was the 90’s – world has changed surely … and brave Bangladeshi solo female travelers are a bit more visible these days… but even then being a number person it would have been nice to have this in a trend analysis or a graph..

So, as I was saying – like most middle class Bangladeshi girls – I was protected and over protected again and again till I was maybe 15? Taking the local bus to university is what I referred to as Solo Travelling in those days…

But in the last 20 years – I have crossed the bridge.

I have been there and done that…. and I just wish more Bangladeshi women would do the same….

It is with sadness I see the modern ladies of my origin (living outside and within the country)… free from the sleeves and scarves; and high up there in heels… but beyond the posh exterior … I still see how tightly shackled they are to our old learning….

 

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Doing something ordinary takes extra ordinary efforts…

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I am just an ordinary person. But sometime extraordinary things happen.. even to ordinary people like me.  You may wonder what is extraordinary and what is not… and I totally agree that it’s totally subjective…

For instance it is absolutely normal and day to day ordinary basic for you to eat 3 meals a day? But don’t forget that it might not be for some people in the world and on any good day they have actually had 3 meals – it is considered a day of extraordinary fortune….

Anyway – moving back to my own self – Do you think going on a trip to a remote part of Africa for two weeks to do some voluntary work alone is just another normal part of our daily lives …? I think it is …

Controlling the tug in my heart or the ache building up in my uterus is not turning out to be any other ordinary task though. I think this is where most mothers give up…. leaving your four year old daughter may be easy but handling all the mixed feelings ranging from guilt to anger to desperation  for doing just that – is definitely not.

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