As I think back on my 9 months at site and what I had hoped to accomplish and compare it to what I have actually accomplished I have two totally different lists. I came to my site knowing I would make a difference - I would bring the accounting records of my school into the 21st century, and I would figure out ways to improve the bottom line of this business and solve all their financial problems and I would influence the students to LEARN and know the value of learning! Boy was I wrong.
I have computerized the financial records, but to what avail. The drought is impacting everyone in this area so no one is able to pay their school fees, so there is very little money to account for. I plan on working on the computer, but in Kenya Powers' plan to ration electricity, this is the day they shut off power in my community! My students, as great as they are, have limited English and a moderate level of Kiswahili and therefore speak mostly in their mother tongue - Kikamba. I roll my eyes, and continue on in my Kimuzungu (part English, part Kiswahili) and hope they understand just a bit of what I have been saying. Karibu Kenya.
I walk to work from my humble home and am greeted by dozens of school age children saying "Obama" and extended closed hands to meet mine. One little runs hears the sound from afar and actually runs the equivalent of several blocks in her bare feet, over rocky, dirty streets to greet me. That is why I am here. I visit my ex-neighbor who is "bankrupt". Her husband is another city going to teacher's college, she is left with her two children and no money. It's okay because they know they will be better and are willing to make the sacrifice now. I buy unga, mafuta, sukari, kabichi, viazi, vitunga (flour, fat sugar, cabbage, potatoes, onion) and have her cook chapati and cabbage for me. I leave 2/3s with her family so they can eat. They are so grateful. That is why I am here. The children in my compound have improved their math skills by playing simple games, tossing bottle caps into rings (drawn with chalk) and scoring their points. That is why I am here. My 11 year old neighbor needs help with math. She is a good student, but struggles with math. I invite her in and tutor her and dividing fractions and working with decimals. (Granted, I needed to take a quick look at the book to review!) That is why I am here.
So maybe, it is not what I planned on doing that is making a difference. Maybe it just the fact that I am here that is making a difference. I don't know, and may never know, what kind of a difference I have made in anyone's life, but I hope that there is even just a little.