Hello, my name is Kaylie Sauter and on August 31st I arrived in Nairobi Kenya for the first time! I will be living with a family here and working with the Center for Transforming Missions Organization (CTM) as a BuildaBridge Artist on Call Teacher. I am here in Nairobi for six months to facilitate art-related projects including art teaching in Mathare Valley slum, network with Nairobi artists to facilitate community, plan for the annual Diaspora of Hope Art Camp, and begin work on a website for artists to post their arts and crafts.
I have started to meet people involved in CTM and along my way to see the Center a few days ago I was introduced to a couple who has just recently started an art ministry right across from the largest informal settlement in Africa- Kibera. Kevin and Brenda Ochieng have started a progam through the various art programs they offer to the children every day throughout the week! Its incredible what they are providing, which include beadwork, painting, music, drama, and dance as well as also weekly sports clubs, leadership seminars, and bible studies. Their vision to impact the youth of Kibera by providing quality art teaching and learning opportunities is truly remarkable. They even are putting the finishing touches on a recording studio! As I met with them I got excited about the possibility to begin networking with artists that Brenda and Kevin know and possibly using their facility as a potential meeting place. For more information, here is their website: www.goldminesfoundation.org.
Last week I also visited The Inspiration Center, where I will teach Saturday art classes in Mathare. Mathare is the second largest in East Africa and was pretty devastating to see since there are so many children and so much waste around where they live. Yet amidst a harsh setting, the Inspiration Center, headed by Moses Boyyee Okonji, holds a huge vision to bring hope, possibility, and opportunity to the children in this exact place. During the weekdays they provide free childcare for women who are working outside of the slum, so when I went there were about seven babies just sitting in the corner on an old mattress, as they wait for provisions for the childcare facility. And although it was a sad sight to see, these babies are better off here than many because they are being looked after and fed during the day.
I was also able to meet many of the Mathare children at an End-of-the-Summer Picnic! We piled 70 people (mostly kids) in a matatu van with our chapatis, lentils, juice, biscuits, and cake. For some kids this is the first time they will have left the slum. Once we got there, before we ate we introduced ourselves and also shared what we want to do when we grow up. This was so neat to hear… each was unique and the children were so proud to share their dreams. A man came through offering to paint the children’s faces for a very low price so they were also able to have their face painted! They were so proud. We played soccer and other group games and also got to watch the guy’s dance group preform to music coming from a cd player hooked up to a generator.
I was amazed at a few things during this picnic. One is how happy and eager the kids are to share- they actually boast about sharing! I thought this amazing because for some of these kids this was their only meal for the day and yet they were not grabbing but receiving with an open hand. Even the cake that we had- for all 70 children- was 10 by 10 inches and so we literally tore off small bite-sizes pieces of cake and passed them around in a cup for each child to receive only one piece and yet they were so happy for it.
Another thing that struck me was how my perception of the children changed based on their surroundings. When we waited for the bus at Mathare the kids were playing in dirt but when we were in clean air and open grassy field laughing and playing games the kids changed in my mind or something. They transformed from these unfortunate children with little hope to children who had such potential, gifted-ness, and beauty- which I had somehow missed when we were in Mathare. I was so encouraged by this time with the kids, that though they live in awful conditions- their “kid-ness” has not been stolen from them.
I am very excited about working with these children, and will begin this coming saturday morning. They have a movie time in the afternoon and a few other classes so it seems like morning is best for me to teach. We’ll see how it goes! Also I am still thinking about a theme and am now stuck on “what is Beauty?”. I would like to show the kids beauty in themselves, other children, and even in Mathare Valley.