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Asante sana (Thank you)

Tuesday was our final day at Kilimahewa School on this trip. It was a snapshot of our entire experience in this village community.

At 8:00, the students crammed into their benches for another day of note-taking in math, English, Kiswahili and alternating subjects taught by a mix of local volunteers (advanced studies students who are available for a variety of reasons), paid part-time teachers and U.S. volunteers. For many of these teens, however, the day began hours earlier in the dark when they set off to school. The stories that we in the U.S. associate with pioneer days are still the order of the day in the developing world. So – without exaggeration – a two or three mile walk to and from school is simply the way life here.

Today the students proudly sported their new “uniform” shirts – bright orange Ts with the EdPowerment logo. They will wear these shirts every day and wash them on the weekend for the following week. Once again, they hung in there with me as we worked through some English lessons – the “lower” group from 9:20 – 10:40 and the stronger group from 10: 50 – 12:10. Like all students, some are more eager than others, but all are respectful and cooperative, and the desire of many to learn is palpable.

After lunch break – a roll and tea eagerly awaited each day (funded by EdPowerment) – it was time to say goodbye. This is when the simplicity and sincerity of these young people was most moving.

Thomas, a young man in his early 20s who teaches math and always helps me with translation (and is now pursuing an advanced degree in information technology on an EdPowerment sponsorship), walked several miles through dirt roads and fields to school. Today, though, he wore shiny black formal shoes – because it was my final day. He explained later to Mama Grace that he stopped to polish them when he got to the main road so that he would look good for my send-off.

Alex, the young man who sleeps down the road in a storage room on grain sacks from Monday through Friday and returns to his family in the hills on the weekend, stepped forward to thank us in English for all our help and to wish us a safe “journey” home. The students joined in a touching farewell song and rousing cheer to mwalimu (teacher) Stephanie and Moira, followed by circles of hugs and good wishes.

Asante sana. The real thank you is from us to these young people who have so little but share so much.